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

June 16, 2005

39. "How Could You Be So Cruel?...And Three Times In One Week?'/Part Two

Entirely bewildered and confused, I slumped into my chair, sapless and devastated, my anguish spilling over and obliterating any liveliness surviving from the previous three days. ‘How could you be so cruel, Martin? Much as you love me, you have also hurt me’. I was incensed, too. The harsh obnoxious surroundings quelled a sudden, insane impulse, which stormed through me, to run after him, and stop him from leaving. He was still around, in the vicinity of the building, and breathing the same air, yet everything around me seemed suddenly to be shifting colours and losing warmth, turning cold, dull and lifeless. I wondered how I would stomach his absence. Pain exacerbated. I sat there engrossed counting: ‘Seven days, seven long agonizing days, twenty-four hours a day, a hundred and sixty eight hours a week, and thousands of minutes’. Without him being around, I was like a fish that was taken out of water. The place was going to be a real hell for seven days. I couldn’t endure staying there any longer. I wanted out of that bloody place. ‘You’ve got your vengeance, Martin, if you were after any’. I called mum and told her I was going to Dina’s after work. I wanted to talk, to cry, to scream, to let loose. I wanted to talk about him and about his love and about the anguish and the pain he and his love were spawning. Talking was my only solace during those seven tormenting days. Talking would make time pass faster. And it was about time that I sought Dina’s advice and assistance.

My radiant face had disappeared under a cloud of glumness and grief, which didn’t escape Dina’s perceptive eyes the moment she opened the door. ‘Are you alright Lu?’ she asked while she hugged me. She had arrived from work an hour earlier, and she was waiting for me so that we lunched together. But I had no appetite for food and couldn’t stand the smell or sight of it. Grandpa Mathew was having his usual afternoon siesta in the second storey; and Uncle Sam was still out on business. Dina sat at one side of the rectangular kitchen table while I sat facing her at the other end, shrouded in reticent sadness, totally immersed in my remote excruciating world. Yet I could sense her eyes riveted on me, scrutinizing my face in silence while having her lunch. All of a sudden she threw it to my face, calmly and straight-from-the-shoulder, ‘Are you in love, Liana?”

Talking about love and talking about the lover were the main reasons for my going over there. All that anguish, all that anger and all that suppressed passion poured out in an ocean of tears. She hugged me, patting my hair and my shoulders. She walked me into the living room and shut the door. She didn’t want grandpa to hear me crying; I sobbed until I reached saturation point. She endeavoured to calm me down, but the spurts of hot burning tears were unstoppable. The more I thought of him, of the cold office, of the thousands of miles stretching between us, and the long anguish of separation for seven days, the more my eyes swam in tears. She wet a hand towel, and just as a mum would do to her little child, she tenderly wiped the coursing tears that dribbled down my cheeks and my neck.

I was sprawled on the couch, extremely enervated and debilitated. She suggested I go upstairs to her bedroom, but I was too weak to climb the stairs. She threw on me a light bedspread and in a few moments I was dozing off. But the anguish wouldn’t spare me even in my dreams. I saw him standing on top of a hill, looking at me, sad and bewildered, both his hands stretched out to me. I stretched mine out too, calling out his name again and again. I was helpless and sad, so sad that I felt its unbearable excruciating pain palpably, as if it were happening in reality, not in a dream. I could even hear my voice through the deep sleep, echoing shrilly in my ear. I started climbing up towards him, but the closer I got to him the further he would recede from me, as if he were a phantom, near yet beyond reach and unreal. Had it ever occurred to me then that my dream was heralding the bitter and painful reality that my destiny would soon start unfolding?

I woke up a couple of hours later to gentle pats on my head and my cheek. Uncle Sam was sitting on the edge of the couch trying to wake me up. He placed one of his tender kisses on my forehead the moment I opened my eyes. ‘Why didn’t you sleep upstairs, sweetheart?’ he asked. I tried getting up, but everything seemed spinning around me, and turning black with tiny colourful dots flashing before my eyes. I closed my eyes and tumbled over the couch. I felt so weak, dizzy and debile. ‘Lu, sweetheart, oh God, Dina, Dina’, Uncle’s worried voice was calling out to Dina, who was at a distance. ‘She’s as pale as a lemon, Dina’. Those were the last words I heard, as I slipped into unconsciousness. As I came to awareness, I sensed some drops of water being splashed onto my face. It must have been the lack of food, the sadness and the anguish of three days, which caused the momentary black-out.

Familiar with my habit of boycotting food in times of sadness, she berated me, ‘When was the last time any food entered your stomach?’ She hastily dashed into the kitchen, while uncle tenderly wiped the reviving water off my face. Hearing all the noise, sweet grandpa came down the stairs, worried sick. He, too, sat kissing and hugging his dearest grandchild, and asking what was up with me. A typical Iraqi familial atmosphere took over, emotional, warm, loving and caring. A short while later, and with Dina’s eyes riveted on me, I was compelled to swallow some of the food that she had prepared, which both my mouth and my stomach were threatening to reject, so that I had to drain a glass of freshly blended juice.

I was still in uniform, shirt and skirt. Dina brought me my pyjamas. I always had some clothes left there for my frequent stay-overs. I went upstairs to Dina’s bedroom, changed my clothes, and made straight for bed. I lay down thinking of him and of his cruelty, my sad tears coursing down unceasingly. Once done with the afternoon tea, grandpa’s early dinner and tidying up the kitchen, Dina came upstairs. Hearing her footsteps approaching, I quickly wiped my tears, but I couldn’t hide the fresh marks that crying had left on my face. She closed the door and sat on the edge of the bed. She was concerned; that was obvious. Love is ominous, and always associated with suspicions and troubles. ‘You’re crying again! Let’s hear it now! Who’s this hero that has finally invaded the stubborn heart?’

I unburdened my secret, in its tiniest details. She listened attentively, without interrupting even once. When I finished, she maintained her disquieting silence for a while. Her expression, however, was not what I was hoping for.
‘American… and divorced… are you insane?’ She asked calmly, stifling evident ire.
‘Do you think your parents will ever approve of such a marriage? American means leaving the country, and setting off to an unknown life far away from them; and they would NEVER EVER allow that to happen. I know your parents, and I know how enormously attached they are to their children, and I’m absolutely certain that there’s no way they would okay such a marriage. Besides, who knows what kind of a person he is for them to entrust to him their only daughter, and in such a far country that is entirely different from ours in culture and tradition. Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t if I were them. Iraq, after all, hasn’t run out of men for them to let you marry an American’.

My eyes were fixed in a glazed gaze at the ceiling, while my fingers were fiddling with the edge of the bedspread I was snuggled in. I remained silent, sad and overwhelmingly assailed by concern. This wasn’t actually the kind of start I was really hoping for.

‘And divorced?…’, she proceeded, ‘you must be totally out of your mind. Any other girl would have been thrilled to have half the marriage suitors you’ve got. Turning them all down to marry a divorced man! God only knows how many times he’s been married before’.

Two rounds already lost; my concerns were shooting. Things weren’t looking good at all. ‘If that’s the case with Dina, then the confrontation with my parents is a definite failure, even before it starts’.

‘Is he Catholic?’ She asked. I remembered him once asking if I were truly Catholic as he had heard. When I nodded, he told me he was one himself.
‘Yes’, I replied softly.
‘You know you’re Catholic too, don’t you?’
I nodded.
‘Great, this means that NO church, I repeat, NO church in Iraq or anywhere in the Middle East, would ever approve your marriage, meaning your marriage has to be a civil one. And do you know what that means, sweetheart?’ she asked in a sarcastic tone.
I shook my head.
‘It means living in sin; a civil marriage is never deemed a rightful marriage, EVER, in a religious or social sense, at least, not here in Iraq, and not for the Christians of Iraq’.

She carried on disclosing facts that I had never been aware of, or even thought about. Well, until I met him, the idea of marrying a divorced man was not even remotely to be contemplated. The majority of Iraqi Christians are Catholics, whose marriages are sacred irrevocable institutions, lifetime bonds. Divorces, second or civil marriages are outside their religious and social lexicon. With my unremarkable life experience, I guess love was the only imperative and I had just started learning about it.

‘Assuming church approval is granted, though it’s pretty doubtful’, she remarked as she carried on with her onerous litany of facts, ‘marrying an American would mean entering a dark tunnel full of the most dreadful consequences that you and your family would suffer once this Iraqi-American marriage is disclosed’.

Dina didn’t leave the slightest hint of hope, and I was beginning to lose interest in the painful ‘enlightenment’ that she provided; only she wouldn’t spare me her tormenting probings.
‘American, Liana? Of all God’s nationalities, you picked on an American?’ She asked sarcastically, while spiralling her forefinger in the air, ‘and in a country ruled by the Baathists?’
‘And by the way, how old is he?’ She asked as if she were recalling something really crucial that she had missed. I shook my head again, gesturing ignorance.
‘You don’t know? How nice!’ she mocked. ‘What sort of love is this when you don’t know the slightest details of your so-called darling?’ She started getting jittery, dressing me down further. ‘What do you know about him then for heaven’s sake to cry your eyes out because of his absence for one week? Are you crazy, Liana?’

‘Love is blind’ is a famous Arabic saying, which was most applicable to me then. I was so blinded with love that I did not realize or recognize most of the snares and traps that Dina had unfolded. The source of these dismal facts was unquestionable; it was Dina, with her level-headedness and her logicality. The bits and pieces she brought to my attention had not occurred to me in the slightest. The present, I guess, was all that mattered to me, with which I was quite content and happy; tomorrow was for tomorrow to take care of itself. With him on my side, handling any problem never seemed a big issue. But Dina was talking facts, sets of rules, laws and regulations that religion, society and the Baathists had enforced. If we could’ve by any means jumped over the first two, we would have most definitely failed jumping over the third, particularly when the beloved was an American, from the enemy’s camp, and marrying one of the ‘subjects’. I believe God would have been far more merciful and tolerant with the sin of civil marriage than the dictator and his regime would have been with the perceived dreadful ill-doing and high treason of marrying an American.
To Be Continued.......