Given their relatively closed society, the majority of Iraqi females, particularly those in their teens and twenties, were, by and large, less instructed in the ways of life than their peers from the more liberal western countries. Nevertheless, being excessively innocent and unduly bashful by nature, I did not necessarily typify a trend among Iraqi females.
Underestimating the rigorous hand of culture, tradition, and religion could take one down an injudicious path to no light moral crime. Stories about throwing religion and conventions to the wind were by no means scarce. As a response to such audacity, households resorted to various inhibitory measures, in order to salvage honour and reputation. A hasty coercion into kin marriages, mainly cousins for Muslims, or to any other opportunely available suitor, was the usual fate in store for any audaciously venturesome female. In the ‘unfortunate’ absence of either, escape from home confinement lay in the hope that providence would bring a suitor, whose unsuitability mattered far less than his capacity to salvage reputations threatened by ruin, or to preserve appearances of propriety. For such marriages were mere subterfuges for sparing the family’s priceless reputation, or for extricating it from a difficult quandary. Drastic lapses of conduct in other cases triggered even more dire outcomes. Less fortunate females paid with their lives for their miscalculated rashness. Not only were they discarded by their lovers for having fallen from virtue, and having failed to save themselves for the first night of marriage, but they also wound up as victims of heinous honour killings, which, while they undoubtedly existed, was less widespread in Iraq, given its relatively liberal and progressive orientation, than in other countries of the region. Notwithstanding, matters of honour and reputation were, and still are, extremely sensitive domains that will involve, at least for the foreseeable future, inviolable taboos.
My inherent innocence was traceable to my parents, particularly to my mum, whose bashfully blushing cheeks often vied with mine for intensity of colour, and frequently won. One could say that in this ‘sophisticated’ arena involving relations and matters of love between Adam and Eve, which was too embarrassing for my mother ever to discuss with her daughter, the title of a ‘beginner’, even following those few months of romance with Martin, would have been more than what I could have claimed. For thanks to Martin, I had only just started my infancy-crawling phase learning its first rudiments, with a shy modesty that hid a stupendous thrill. I also happened to have a tremendously patient ‘tutor’ whom I adored very much, and trusted even more.
A little more than five months had elapsed between the storeroom episode and the time that I had first joined Martin in working for the foreign section of the same establishment. During this period, our circumspect romance, which was strictly pure, chaste and reverential, as well as mindful of the stringent surroundings, had further intensified. Despite all the beleaguering perils from the wide-open eyes of the ugly minders, we providentially survived. And while it was obvious that I had solely and incontestably mounted the throne of his heart, it was equally evident that he had an entrancing effect upon the subtle emotions of the unduly romantic girl that I was, overwhelmingly occupying her present and taking possession of her future too. The merest hint of not having such a marvellous man in my life threatened to cast a devastating pall on my world.
Martin, having graciously gained my trust, stamped triumphantly down on the lifelong wariness and chariness that tradition, culture and religion had implanted deeply in my innermost being through their sedulous warnings against any proximity to the “perilous” world of masculinity. My love for him, twinned with trust now, rocketed to the ultimate heights.
My first experience with this ‘peculiar’ emotion called love was so compelling that it seemed much like a fairytale, too splendidly good to be true. My Prince Charming was like a grace that divine providence would bestow only upon the deserving, amongst whom I was, yet, the most blessed. Describing my wonderful man in a nutshell, I could say that even my most fabulously romantic dreams would have come short of creating a better version than the magnificent one reality had provided me.
And I was beguiled by the marvel of the experience and filled with awe for such a tremendously captivating lover. Martin dominated my thoughts. I yearned for him even when he was in proximity. Martin’s remarkable manhood was far too enthralling for my dewy-eyed innocence to contain or cope with. Like a thirsty sponge, my heart soaked up the inebriating and dulcet taste of heavenly love. Despite the lack of a yardstick, considering that I had never fallen previously in love, the intensity of my emotions for him was by no means overestimated. Every day I would return home pie-eyed with heady love talk and exhilaratingly affectionate gestures. They lulled me to sleep at night. Hoping that tomorrow would come quickly, I would drift off into sound sleep while replaying them back in my mind. And he, Martin, was the full lead of the colourful film that monopolized my romantically innocent dreams afterwards. Our partings? Absolute hell! They were truly sheer torment. Given the inconceivability of meeting outside the fences of work, love taxed heavily my nerves during those few hours when we were apart by necessity. Weekends and holidays were even worse. My enthusiasm and excitement in the mornings must have seemed odd amidst the blatantly languid postures of yawning employees, but the situation was reversed at the end of the day, when it was I who departed with heavy reluctance in contrast to the alacrity of others. Each morning of the working week I would be impatient to get back to my nirvana at work.
To be Continued.......