Structural Failure

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About Amin Ahmad

Amin Ahmad recently moved to the D.C. area after many years in Boston. He has studied fiction at Grub Street, The New School, and New York University. His short stories have been published in Narrative, Harvard Review, The Missouri Review, and New England Review. He is particularly interested in genre fiction. His first novel, The Caretaker, will be published in 2013, followed by Bollywood Taxi a year later.


  1. This posting brings back memories of my separation and divorce. The thing that can happen that a lot of people don’t understand is that divorce because there is a lack of love.

    Shoot my separation was over twenty years ago and I still love my wife. Can’t help that. But when you are in an abusive relationship as a victim; love can get you killed. Recently (about seven years ago) a man here in the mountains walked into a shelter where his wife was and shoot her dead.

    In my case I was emotional battered really bad; like Amin is relating. That can beat you down over time. When I got thrown out I had been married over 12 years! I immediately had a nervous breakdown as part of the decompression. So it may not be nearly as easy as it sounds.

    Even though you may know its what is necessary doesn’t make you feel good about it. I still feel like a failure!

  2. Oh, I haven’t seen my son since he was twelve. He Just turned thirty.

    • Heriberto Vizcarra says:

      I haven’t seen my daughters in about 4 months and it’s killing me. I can’t even imagine what 18 years is like. I would say I offer you my sympathy, but at that scale, the word seems lame. I wish you the best. May he and you turn out to be the best friends possible.

  3. For the kid’s sake, I hope the father gets primary custody in this story. If not, it’s gonna be really really important that he stays heavily involved in his son’s life. Leaving a kid with a suicidally depressed parent is just about as bad as leaving that kid with a drug addicted parent (assuming a nonviolent addict, of course).

  4. Dear Mr. Ahmad:
    Thanks for writing this. It was very, very well done. One of the best things I’ve read on GMP.
    My eyes teared a little reading about the love for your child, the troubled relationship with your wife, and the difficulties of transition.
    There are some differences in variables, but I’ve been in a similair place to where you are now.
    If I may, you *will* survive this. Focus on healing, focus on fathering your child, and despite all of your current troubles, you willl both thrive.
    I left when my son was 18 mos. old, because staying would’ve meant my son would’ve grown in a war zone. Not a ‘hot’ war, but a ‘cold’ one. The future I saw with her was no communication, no warmth. Just a couple functioning, do what had to be done, but inwardly resenting, and probably growing to hate one another. What kind of life, what kind of modeling is that for a child?
    He lives with me now (16 y/o). He chose to leave his mother’s house. He compared the life he had with her with the life he has with me. Despite the fact that my household is less secure financially, he chose to live with me. I won’t go into his reasoning here, but suffice it to say, the day he chose to live with me full-time was one of the happiest days of my life. It made all the pain of seperation, visitation, etc. worth it.
    I wish you well on your journey, Mr. Ahmad.

  5. I wrote two other comments on this piece. The first I lost to the refresh, the second I don’t know…I thought it said ‘waiting for moderation.’ Came back to see if it had been accepted- not here…oh, well, C’est la guerre!. Not writing this out a third time. So, in the name of brevity:
    Mr. Ahmad:
    This is one of the best pieces I’ve read here at GMP. I was very moved by it. I look forward to seeing more of your writings.
    Be well, sir.

  6. Heriberto Vizcarra says:

    I was recently checking the Facebook profile of one of my junior high friends, and saw a picture of him with a guitar and his boy, a full teenager, with an accordion. They play together, non professionally, but spend many hours rehearsing, sing at family gatherings. That has to be the memory we all want to have with our boys. I have girls, so I am still trying to figure out what will bond us more.

    • I’m so encouraged by your post about wanting to really bond with your daughters. I have a son who’s now 17 (yikes!) and we’re very close. From when he was very young, I just watched him and noticed what he was interested in, and then tried to spend time with him doing those things — dinosaurs, space and astronauts, robots, exploring nature, etc. I followed his lead, and we would read about his interests, build forts, go on hikes, go to museums and star-gazing nights at the planetarium, take things apart to see how they worked, etc. Some of these things were new to me, but I wanted to encourage his interests so we explored them together. We also talked a lot about everything, and I encouraged him to openly express himself and ask any questions that were on his mind. I think the same thing applies between fathers and daughters. Find out what your girls are interested in, and also try things that may be new to them. Keep it light– “hey let’s try this out and see if you like it” opens up new ideas that may turn out to be great fun for them. Best wishes for many wonderful bonding activities and conversations with your precious girls!

      • Heriberto Vizcarra says:

        My daughters come up with basic science experiments they find on youtube and they teach me, we celebrate and take pictures, they and my wife love making fun of me, of my snores for example and I bear it, I pretend to be offended and make funny angry faces that add to the laughs. I teach them about grown-up world, they know bad words, I let them know what they mean, and tell them that I would love it if they don’t use them often, especially in public, I tell them about the secrets in my family, the good and the bad ones, I am trying to build that trust, but I still know, from my wife, that there are things that my eldest daughter lies about, like boyfriends, she has had one and has always told me that she hasn’t, but told her mom and asked her to not let me know. I will not force her, but I wish I found the way to let her know that she can trust me too.
        Also, I have always told them, it doesn’t matter how bad something they do is, I will always love them the same, even if what they do, hurts me. Maybe they took it to heart because they have no qualms as to telling me about what they don’t like me to do.

  7. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you.

  8. I found the GMP website while reading a horrifying story about Trey Malone’s suicide after being sexually assaulted at Amherst College and not getting the help he needed, and should have received. This website is superb, and thoughtful and beautifully-written pieces like this one help illuminate the struggles of individuals like Amin who struggle with marriage, work, and his son. So often we look at others and make all kinds of assumptions based on external factors, never knowing what’s going on with them, and what difficulties they’re facing. It’s been said that women “tend and befriend” to get through difficult times, but as this story illustrates so well, men do the same, but in a slightly different manner. At the core, all human beings want to be deeply listened to, understood and supported. I wish the very best outcome for Amin and his son. Please do everything possible to maintain your relationship with your son. It is so very important!!!

    • Heriberto Vizcarra says:

      I am a survivor of sexual abuse, as well as psychological, and with a neurologically-based suicide obsession. The Trey Malone’s story shook me, too. I felt rage and sadness. I wish we could learn to approach the kids who feel alone, discriminated, bullied, outcast. I (almost) always noticed them during my High School teaching days and stood for them, show them my appreciation -very carefully as not to look like I was “grooming” them-, defended them, but though I tried to connect with them, my own inability to trust/open and create rapport left me out of them. I can I connect with them? We need to learn that.


  1. [...] Structural Failure – Amin Ahmed tells the story of his life as an immigrant, a man married to a depressed wife, and the friendships with other men that have saved his life and his sanity. [...]

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