While the cigarette functioned as a discreet cover for expressing my bashful love, jealousy, in its turn, scooted zealously into action, trumpeting it. Thinking of Fattin? No, no, it wasn’t Fattin. For she had altogether melted into the background once I stepped into Martin’s life. Back then, however, I was still on shore, and hadn’t waded as deeply yet in the stormy sea of love. Who was it then this time? Well, who else would it be other than Jocelyn? The most ‘wonderful’ Jocelyn, who, while she truly wrecked my nerves, inadvertently did Martin a great favour.
It started during one of Martin’s rare mid-week absences. Early morning, on the way down to the office, I was surprised to find that his car wasn’t in its usual parking spot. A sweeping glance around the parking lot obliterated my fervent hope that such vanishing was a mere shift of location compelled by someone having taken prior possession of his customary parking spot. An immediate sensation of dispiritedness and disquiet struck through me so acutely that I strove to obscure it from Fury’s hawkish eyes, while trying to avoid responding to her untimely persiflage. For the best part of the day I impatiently remained on the lookout for his appearance. The anxious backwash from such unwonted absence exacerbated when he surprisingly didn’t call either. Having been copiously featherbedded with his affection and invariable availability, I couldn’t put up with such an atypically unexplained disappearance especially when I realized that Tom too was futilely trying to reach him to resolve an urgent professional matter. Tom, however, obligated by his attendance at an urgent meeting, abandoned the effort sometime around noon. He suggested that I keep trying and, on reaching Martin, should pass on a message for him to call Tom immediately on a specific number. Well, tasking me with such an assignment was the brass ring that I had hoped for. Shunning gratuitous perils, and notwithstanding our romance, I had never, prior to that day, called Martin at home; circumspectly, neither did he call me at home. Anyway, just when I was about to hang up on my last of several fruitless attempts, a feminine voice, much to my surprise, replied on the other end. On looking back, I wonder if it were the vigilance, bred by my parlous surroundings, or my incidental inquisitiveness, that prompted my decision to talk to the woman in English rather than the usual Arabic. However, being an Iraqi myself, and familiar with the lame English of the majority of my people, recognizing the nationality of the voice wasn’t a hard task especially given her distinctively accented English. The voice on the other end apologized for Martin’s unavailability. ‘Who’s she?’ I wondered, thinking uneasily as I hung up. ‘And what’s she doing there in his place?’
I rushed impulsively to Fury with my dismaying news. Well, Fury’s various placatory suppositions proved to be altogether ineffectual in disarming my suspicion and dispelling my anxiety, and I returned to my office fraught with endlessly obnoxious scenarios crowding one upon another. After fifteen minutes into the nail-biting wait for his direly awaited call, I jumped on the phone again. The same galling voice affirmed that my message would be imparted to ‘Mr. Mondelli’ as soon as he returned. Having fully eaten out my heart, jealousy now scourged my sanity sufficiently that it befogged my mother wit. For I misread the woman’s use of the honorific, which I mistakenly took for an ‘outrageous’ barb at my relative casualness. I eventually hung up with an infuriated bang at what I considered to be her extraordinary ‘brazen-facedness’. Minutes dragged torturously on, yet the call I longed for didn’t come. The fidgety wait of ten more minutes seemed like ten years. Patience altogether worn out, I rang again. On hearing the same voice, the notorious Iraqi temper, which I had been strenuously suppressing hitherto, uncorked, flaring up now. ‘Give me Martin’, I demanded brusquely.
‘He’s not here’, she replied timidly, obviously taken aback.
‘Where is he? When is he coming back?’ I attacked with a barrage of questions.
‘I don’t know. He was already gone when I got here’.
‘Oh my God, already gone when she got there! What’s she doing then in his house, while he is away?’ I wondered, in high dudgeon.
In such a state of fretful disarray, my wonted circumspection was in abeyance, and the danger from the omnipresent and beleaguering landmines seemed less imperative. ‘Get him to call me as soon as he’s back’, I demanded, imprudently giving my name. ‘Tell him Liana called; it’s urgent’. I hung up burning with rage, ‘It’s your bad luck Martin that I caught you’.
I hung up, wishing that I could somehow get to her neck, whoever she was, and strangle her, which was an impulse that was altogether discordant with my peaceful nature. Bemused, fidgety and preoccupied, I engaged in a multilingual bout of stigmatisation against whatever pertained to the world of masculinity. Sanity gone hugger-mugger and reflexes all helter-skelter, the refined and sophisticated female within me gave way to a frantic-with-rage big cat that lashed out in Arabic, spiced up with Aramaic, flavoured with English, and drizzled with some German, too. Fury tried in vain to calm me down, but what could poor Fury do to a volcano that was spewing forth a continuous lava of jealousy?
To Be Continued.......