Liana telling the story in a nutshell

Love is the twin of a beautiful dream that survives birth to reality; but my love was a reality that survived arduous parturition only to remain a beautiful dream

Blog Archive

January 25, 2005

8. Synopsis

He’d never done it, even when I was a kid. He was neither hardhearted nor callous. Quite the opposite, as he never tended in nature or character towards violence or cruelty. It was the first time, however, in my entire twenty-nine years that dad slapped me—so hard as to knock me off balance. it was also the last time, and he got my two brothers to promise not to ever coerce me into it:

“She’s the flower of this house, and my wish is that she remains so. Take good care of her when I’m gone. Love her always, cherish her and treasure her as much as I do. My soul will never rest in peace if she’s ever forced into a marriage against her will or desire, even if she prefers to remain unmarried for the rest of her life”

This was what Auntie Dina unfolded to me two years after my father’s death, providing the clue to the unusual tolerance my household was displaying towards my obdurate refusal of countless marriage suitors. Given his failing heart, Dad somehow sensed his days were numbered. And having become amply aware of how stubborn and uncompromising his daughter was in feelings, he grudgingly succumbed ultimately to the bitter reality that I was never ever to give a man again the love that I had already given once.

Dad’s sole slap was motivated by love rather than by a desire to discipline. I was blessed with the most loving and broadminded parents one would ever wish or hope for. Think of any characteristic of ideal parenthood and they would fit it superbly. Dad’s love for his only daughter was prodigious, and he was awash with great concerns for my life after he was gone.

Those from the same or of a similar culture to mine would fathom the indispensability of marriage for females and the capacity it holds for determining their fate. Like other caring and affectionate parents, they wished to secure me happily in marriage. Their enormously protective affection stood toothless, however, in the face of the inscrutable contriving of fate, which turned the tables, rendering their wishes mere chimeras. Eight years before that slap, a quirk of fate had brought about a peculiar encounter in the republic of fear and horror

I was at the age of roses— a pampered, impatient, vivacious twenty-one year old Iraqi female, with beauty that turned heads—having been freshly appointed assistant(only two months following my graduation from the prestigious Baghdad University) at the same department where HE, an American executive, worked, on contract to one of the governmental businesses in Baghdad. Handsome, smart with an incredibly appealing personality and dangerous charisma, he was love smitten the very first moment he laid eyes on me, and decided it was I among the tens of others working with or around him whom he crazily wished to take down the aisle

We survived six months, the age of our doomed romance, in a twenty-five-square-meter office swarming more often than not with workers. Our romance was hidden circumspectly throughout, escaping the eyes and ears of countless informants who would have been only too eager to report every single move caught or word captured in the foreign section. And the regime into the bargain was cynical and disdainful of the Americans as of no other race. But not the least of the impediments came from a stern society that held falling in love an utter sin and disgrace. He tackled gently, patiently and cautiously my extremely bashful nature, teaching me the alphabet of love, and freeing my circumspect feelings and emotions of the reservedness that tradition and religion had planted deeply in my mind and my heart. Shunning, nevertheless, any unwarranted nearness, as we painfully abided by the two-meter-distance rule we set for ourselves lest we stir any fatal suspicions about our ongoing covert relationship, and jeopardize my safety in the republic of fear and horror

Our pure chaste romance continued blossoming and thriving by the day, even with the hurdles callously positioned by our dissimilar cultures and the tyrannous regime. And it rejoiced ultimately in breaking through hurdles of obstinacy posed by the most loving parents, who, against their better judgement, granted their blessings to the marriage of their only daughter to the American who would take her far away. But we conceded defeat for failing to jump over only one last impediment: the code of a stringent church that gripped tightly the social and religious life of its Chaldean parishioners. Simply put, we were both Catholics and he was divorced. The Church would not countenance our marriage, and I could not face the prospect of a civil marriage. Quite apart from the ‘dreadfulness’ of living in sin, Iraqi Chaldeans regard civil marriages as nothing short of being scandalous and disgraceful, particularly for a family like mine, which was greatly revered for its religious devotion and for the many men of the cloth that both sides of my family had offered generously to the church over the course of a century.

And we went on our ways separately. I never heard of him, nor he of me. Despite trying my hardest, I never got over him. The finest years of my youth went laden with silent grief and agony, while I engaged in waging a fierce unrelenting war rejecting countless marriage suitors, and disappointing the hope of my loving parents by remaining single in a male dominant society that shielded its females mainly through marriage. It was way beyond my imagination, integrity and capacity to have another man replace him, or to give a husband the body only while the heart and the mind remained wholly with the lover.

It’s been years now since he and I last parted, throughout which I sustained the silence of the dead, yet I never banished his memory from my innermost thoughts, but rather cherished it with utmost fidelity, and tenaciously embraced and held on to my overwhelming grief, the only ‘precious’ thing I was left with. Those memories were my sole spring of survival, incessantly endowing me with some will to move on with life.

He was the one, and he remained the only one. I lost the love but the hope refused to die. Every moment of pain and grief was well worth it. For valuables we do pay preciously, but love is priceless and remains its own reward.