I realised yesterday that I don’t like my husband any more. It was an odd sort of realisation, like when you lose something you don’t use very often – one of the gold earrings your mother-in-law gave you when you last saw her, a book you could swear you owned or the spare heads to your electric toothbrush. And you hunt for it, turning over each drawer, each shelf, your fingers scrabbling through every handbag and finally, you give it up for lost. When did you misplace it? Does the loss begin when it first went missing, even if you didn’t notice it as it slipped away? Or did the act of looking for it cause its loss? I just put it down there, just, I just looked away, and now it’s gone.

It’s dark outside already – March – but spring is late this year, it’s still a little cold. I have my pyjamas on, soft thick cotton, patterned with little dogs marching up and down the legs, against a vivid pink background. The dogs are pugs, repeating, not my favourite breed, but they have cosy, indoor faces. Not for the pug the questing outdoors. Instead, the faces look almost sleepy, as though the designer has added an extra droop to the eyes, tampered with my pyjamas somehow, when I wasn’t looking. The news is on because I have let my mind wander, lying in the dark, the remote next to my stomach, stretched out on the sofa.

We pay a lot for TV we don’t watch very often, but Mukund – my husband – likes to switch channels rapidly sometimes, instead of picking from a drop-down internet menu. He likes that we have five different kinds of sports channels and all the world news and also all the screaming news from India, floating heads in a grid, all talking at once. He never watches the news though, unless something major has happened, and we’re too new to have witnessed anything major together. When 9/11 happened, I was only 19; when the 26/11 Mumbai attacks happened, I was at work, 26 then, thinking about a party I was going to that weekend, and suddenly, the television was on all day, and because it hadn’t happened to anyone I knew, it just became one more thing to talk about at the party. Mukund was in France then; we didn’t know each other.

A woman’s voice, in a clipped British accent, says, “The death toll from the virus continues to rise in Italy. Alam Tranber reports.”

I hear the key turn in the lock. Mukund is home late, and grumpy. We’ve been married for a little over two years, together for about three. We got together and serious pretty quickly for what it was, but we were both in our thirties when we met – early for me, late for him – and I suppose there was no point in waiting around to see who came along next.

There’s only so much choice at the end of the day. You go round and round on the same dates with the same people – the long-haired chap who likes metal music and thinks he’s so original; the one who’s the life of the party and has had the same group of friends since he was eight years old, and no one thinks that’s especially strange; the one who barely seems to have any other friends besides you, and keeps using the fact that he’s just moved to the city as an excuse, even though he’s lived here for six years; the one who was slightly deviant in bed; the one who is so diffident about kissing you, you began to kiss him out of boredom, which he took for enthusiasm and told you he wasn’t used to women with “so much passion” like it was a bad thing, and so on and so forth, bad choices stretching into the distance.

Mukund actually came along just after that “you’re too passionate” guy, a lawyer I had been dating on and off, trying to conjure up some sort of sexual spark out of nothing. In comparison, sex with Mukund had been nice – is nice. Not earth-shattering, but certainly not lacking for anything. I’m being lukewarm, but I like the sex we have. Also, he can be quite commanding every now and then, which gets a bit much but I liked it in the beginning – I thought it was a sign of his decisive nature, but it turns out he just has a thing about being in charge.

I watch him from my spot on the sofa as he walks around the house discarding things, first his shoes, one kicked off by the door, the other by the dining table, his bag dumped on top of the table, his tie draped on the bookshelf, his shirt and pants crumpled on the floor. I can tell he’s in a mood because he barely looks at me as he does all this: I might be a ghost, part of the decor, a house plant.

I hear him run the tap and keep it running while he washes his hands vigorously. It’s a little battle we have – I tell him to turn off the tap while he’s scrubbing, he says it’s not going to make a difference to the world if he runs it a little longer.

I feel like we need to be a little kinder to each other tonight. I feel like I’d like him to come and sit down next to me, in his underwear, and I could lean into his shoulder and I’d like him to say something like, “What fun to be just you and me for the next few weeks.” Except it won’t be just me and him, because he still has to go to work, and since I am between jobs, I’ll be at home all day with no one to talk to. I half reach out my fingers, wondering if he’ll notice and take my hand, but he’s looking at his phone again, even though he’s just walked in through the door.

“They’ve told me to work from home,” Mukund says, standing in front of me, “We’re all going to do it. They don’t want to take chances.” He stalks off to the kitchen and I hear him open the fridge and close it. I hear the fizz of a beer bottle being opened, the clink of the bottle cap on the counter. Sometimes I feel like I could say nothing at all and just be carried along on Mukund’s soundtrack. He’s back, standing by the kitchen door, looking at me. I can tell by how he’s smiling when he puts down his beer that he thinks he’s about to say something particularly smart.

“It’s so dumb telling everyone to work from home,” he says, “I mean, this whole virus isn’t even a vague threat for us. We’re a massive country and we have like, what, 2000 cases? That’s fewer people than those who die in a car accident every day across the country.” I’m not sure where he’s gotten that statistic about road accidents because I’ve googled it since he brought it up, and have found nothing conclusive.

I’m living my life with this man though, and I suppose our feelings and thoughts about things should align at some point. I have no strong emotions about the virus, no pet theories like everyone online or my friends; I don’t really care if it exists or not, so I’m happy to go along with Mukund’s point of view. It’s comforting that he thinks nothing bad will happen to us. It makes me feel like nothing will.

Excerpted with permission from Soft Animal, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, Penguin India.