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

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August 12, 2009

73. "Say it for God's Sake, Say it" Part XVIII

I sensed a delicious warmth pervade my whole body as I walked next to him the nearly two hundred meters that took us outside the building. It was an incredibly sensational feeling, something novel that I had never experienced before, and which, much to my surprise, swept away all the abominable sense of desolation and despondency, let alone the bruised ego, and the silent fury that had gripped me, eating on my nerves for days; all seemed to have magically vanished, becoming more like a thing of the remote past. And the occasionally inadvertent brushing of my shoulder against his arm, as we walked side by side, was so stirring. We were like a wonderful twosome that must have been created and made only for one another. And the two halves of the one apple did seem like they were finally placed closely together.

My emotions for him flared up, and became so hard to suppress, or inhibit. It didn’t truly matter much then if the whole world was watching our togetherness. My preciously guarded reputation, or even the potential perils of being accused of high treason and thrown into one of the dictator’s deepest dungeons, seemed trivial concerns.

We both proceeded in absolute silence. He was serenely self-possessed, and in full control of his faculties, while I was struggling for normalcy. My heart was thumping wildly, and sorely conflicting emotions took turns invading my body. I felt uneasily cold, yet feverishly anxious, and all the more disquieted about how my rawness would react to what was lying ahead. I was absolutely clueless about what to say, or how to act. “What if he pinned me down forcing me to talk love and emotions?” I was shy and bashful still, and not quite ready for such a step-up yet.

We passed one workshop after another. Our togetherness outside the usual office area had aroused some curious attention in the workers around, or was it perhaps the reflection of my inner emotions that must have been drawn clearly on my face that induced such curiosity? I sensed him, however, slowing down shortly after we passed the main gate that opened up to the parking lot; a few meters in he stopped, and, mechanically, I followed suit. My heart fluttered when I lifted my head and managed a brief look at him; his smile was encouraging and characteristically reassuring. “What is it Liana? What is it that you want?” he forthrightly initiated the talk, tenderly and affectionately, “Tell me what you want me to do, and I promise I’ll do it.” The situation seemed so dauntingly decisive. It was apparent that the matter had reached a climactic point wherein no errors or faults could be afforded. Any foolhardiness at this point could prove all the more costly. Actions and words were to be guarded and weighed with kid gloves. “You told me to follow you in two months,” I replied, “I guess you’ve done more than enough.” The obvious sarcasm in my tone and the quivering of my voice must have communicated my suppressed choler. “What do you mean?’ he asked with the same placidity. “Yea, like am an American living in the States and it’s easy for me to follow the man I…..” I halted, having realized the much bigger mantle of bravery my tongue was about to assume. I dared not say “the man I love, or the man I want to marry.” I just couldn’t say it, the utterance sounded awfully weird and foreign and so out of keeping for my tongue. Women in my culture, after all, are strictly warned never to take the initiative, giving tongue to their feelings, risking the shedding of not only their self-esteem, but their families’ stature too. The half-said words did not escape his quick perception. He shot me a meaningful smile that was coupled with the same old spark of fervor that I usually perceived in his eyes every time he held my emotions at bay; he, nevertheless, continued to remain silent. “In case you’ve forgotten about the traditions of my culture,” I proceeded, “I’ve got parents, you know, who must have the first and final say in such a decisive matter concerning my life.” As I talked, my hand was running nervously through my hair, and my diffident eyes roamed nervously, endeavoring to shun any contact with his eyes. And only on concluding my last statement I looked at him. The meaningful smile had broadened, and it was plain that his eyes were burning with passion and communicating love, crazy love, crazier than ever, yet also prudent. “Set me a meeting with your parents Liana, I’d love to meet them soon, very soon.” Not that I had ever distrusted the intensity of his emotions for me or in anyway suspected the positive outcome of the romance, but the precipitous conclusion left me speechless for a few moments. My heart pumped furiously, and the abruptness with which the dream eventuated was more than my young heart could take in. All what the naïve and raw and inexperienced female could afford, however, was a shy and diffident smile to which he responded instantly with “I love you kiddo.”

My eyes, while casting bashfully around, suddenly fell upon two guards at the gate who had their spine chilling looks fixated on us. The ecstasy of the occasion was brought to an immediate end by their shocking presence, which struck me dumb and had me turn helplessly to Martin, who must have been alerted by the patent change to my bearing, and so he, too, turned towards the same direction. Having realized the hazardous condition, he whispered a few words calming me down, and suggested that we part, which we did, he to his parked car, and I made my way to the administration building that was about two hundred meters away from where we had stopped, ensuring that my departure had all the appearance of fulfilling a hasty errand that had only been interrupted by a transient conversation with a “colleague”. Shortly afterwards, I turned to a horn honking behind me to see that he had chosen to drive on the same road I had taken. He smiled waving to me, and drove away.

I wasn’t quite myself when I stepped into the administration building. Quiet and oblivious to the world around me, I let my legs take me mechanically to the elevator. I fiddled with the buttons randomly, and when the door closed on me, I stepped backwards leaning my back against the wall, shut my eyes and savored the replaying of the heavenly occurrence. The universe in all its vastness seemed way too small to contain my joy. I was on cloud nine, and still incredulous about the magically rapid tempo of the event. My random trip, however, was aborted sooner than it began, and I was brought down from my Shangri-la by the “hateful” elevator that opened its door. Walking on air, I left the elevator, and returned to my office.

“I’m going to miss you loads, Lu,” Fury said on hearing of the felicitous highlights of the meeting. She jumped excitedly high in the air and hugged me tight, while choking with tears. Dina, however, received the news with understandable coldness. But while Fury’s contribution seemed to have almost concluded now that we, Martin and I, were seemingly embarking upon the last phase before tying the knot, what was still to come relied mainly on Dina’s intervention. Having already succeeded with her discrete and cool-headed diplomacy in absorbing the brunt of my parents’ shock upon their first finding about the romance, Dina’s contribution at this point was more called for than ever. She was the pivotal dynamo that would set events in motion. And so Dina, wasting no time as there wasn’t much to be wasted, sprung instantly to the phone, imparting the latest happening to mum. As I stood listening in next to her, I could hear Mum’s voice fall into shocked silence upon hearing the crucial part. But she only said the usual thing that is culturally said when any marriage suitor knocks on the door, “I’ll inform her dad.”

I was in Dina’s bedroom in the second storey later that afternoon when I heard the doorbell ringing. From Dina’s salutation I realized my parents’ had arrived; their promptness was a patent indication of the urgency that the issue had induced. I zoomed instantly out of the bedroom, and stood, heart pounding, next to the banister, eavesdropping. I couldn’t make out much from the voices issuing from the living room where the family had apparently gathered. A short while later I heard footsteps approaching. I scurried to bed, jumped into it, and wrapped myself up with the bedspread, feigning sleep; it was Uncle Sam. He sat on the bedside trying to awaken the sound sleeper in his lovable way, kissing my head, and tickling my ear, “You have grown up so fast Lu, and here you are getting married soon.” I opened my eyes, and smiled shyly. “Come on honey,” he encouraged, “let’s go,” he whispered, teasing me. “A summit meeting is awaiting you downstairs.”

I dragged behind Uncle Sam, clinging firmly to his hand, hoping it would endow me with legs. The moment we stepped into the living room, the voices suddenly hushed up. Obviously, Uncle Sam wasn’t the focus of attention. I sat head down, squeezing myself close to Uncle Sam, so close, and still unwilling to let go of his hand. I dared not raise my head and look my parents in the eye. Grandpa, however, assumed the role of the sole speaker, trying with his usual sense of humor to lighten the intensity of the situation, as he lovingly remarked on how quickly little girls grow up, “behind their parents’ backs.” “Rightly put, Grandpa,” I thought. For it did truly seem as if I had grown up fast and stealthily, “behind my parents’ back.” And here I was, having come to my parents only six months after my graduation, asking “audaciously” for their blessings to my marriage to a man I had fallen in love with, and who wasn’t even a national. My crime of the heart seemed way too big to pardon. I felt so small and insignificant, and fully enveloped in embarrassment and shame. A few pregnant moments dragged before I sensed someone getting up. Well, dad wouldn’t have been the same marvelously broad-minded, caring, and large-hearted dad I had always known had he left his little girl caught any longer in the mire of such a mortifying situation. He came up, and sat close to me, hugged me and planted a kiss on my cheek while patting my head. “Tell prince charming we’d love to meet him the day after tomorrow, if it’s alright with him.”

The smooth sailing of events for the second time that day was incredible. It just seemed like the stars were all on my side. And I was only hoping that such state of luck would linger on, and the engagement rituals would conclude in similar simplicity. Was I dreaming? Apparently yes. For once the family began discussing the place of the meeting, things did really sound much more tortuous than I had envisioned. Well, bearing in mind the ‘infamous’ nationality of the suitor, the fallout from any irrational and hasty decisions or inept planning could have grievous effects; hence, even the tiniest details of the situation had to be seriously and carefully measured. Therefore, the family gathering blackballed unanimously receiving Martin in my house for the perils they thought it could plausibly entail. The residents of my neighborhood never ceased passing along hush-hush stories about some of the neighbors who maintained unwavering loyalty to the regime, and served the dictator’s intelligence service steadfastly through their secretly gathered information, regardless of their reliability. In the time of the dictator, such reports were used by some to win favour and to climb fast the ladder of personal gain, power, and wealth. The worst of our neighbors, though, were the parents of one of the dictator’s cabinet ministers whose dwelling was only a few houses away from mine, and who were notorious for spying upon the neighborhood. The family regarded Martin’s arrival bearing a “temporary import” plate on his car as a forthright declaration of his foreign nationality besides, of course, there were his tellingly foreign features. Receiving Martin in my grandpa’s house was an alternative that mum and dad vetoed with vehemence, not wanting to place Sam’s life in jeopardy should news of the visit filter back to the regime. Dina was in a relatively more susceptible situation than Sam. The dictator’s rapacious wolves, so ill-famed for their insatiable hunger for anything feminine, would salivate over her beauty such as to marshal all their resources to devise a thousand and one grounds to legitimize their knavishly contrived accusations. Also her being one of the Christian minority, which was, and unfortunately still is, regarded as one of the most vulnerable denominations in Iraq, would undoubtedly make her a perfect prey.

Throughout the debate that dragged on for over one hour, I remained tight-lipped, experiencing much guilt for the anxiety I was subjecting my family to. My worries over the prospect of the marriage being miscarried by the prevailing obstacles increased. I couldn’t help but wonder if just receiving Martin in my house was going to be this challenging, then how about the long train of hurdles that lurked ahead? Things began looking increasingly bleak, gloomy, and offering little hope. Much needed mirth, however, was finally brought into the serious occasion thanks to Uncle Sam who approached the issue with great acumen which, while having initially made everyone crack up with laughter, maneuvered cleverly around the deadlock, and proved that Sam could be one heck of a schemer who could vie with, and, possibly, beat the sly men of the regime.

Uncle Sam suggested that picking Martin up from a cautiously appointed location, and taking him afterwards on a drive around the city would be the best option. He believed that it would not only maintain the safety element, but also provide sufficient time for checking out the “credentials” of the suitor, away from the prying eyes of any chance visitors or relatives who might turn-up unannounced at any time, a phenomenon that is not quite atypical in our society. Sam also suggested that putting Martin in the driver’s seat, instead of dad, would help to camouflage the nature of the encounter and introduce an element of normality. He stressed that safety required that only my parents, accompanied by one, or both of the boys, should attend the meeting, emphasizing that I shouldn’t in any way be part of the scene.

Sam’s plan was one good example of how Iraqis throughout the brutal dictatorship forged means to turn around the regime’s hard-and-fast rules and the capriciousness of its decrees. Sam’s proposal, despite its unconventionality, was regarded as the best strategy, and was ultimately approved by the overwhelming majority, save one, me, the reticent observer. For even though I murmured my acquiescence, I, truthfully, loathed it. Not that I was expecting my engagement to be similar to any other that is conducted with the copious abundance of customary rituals and practices, or brimming with the cheering and merriment that usually accompanies any such ceremony had the circumstance been otherwise; I felt intensely, however, the cruelty with which the imperiling conditions confiscated my hearty wish of receiving Martin in my house, and living the personal joy that one associates with such an once-in-a-lifetime event. Well, life doesn’t give it all, does it? Or was it perhaps that life was teaching me my first lesson on how to settle for less, much less, until there was nothing more to settle for? At any event, while my family was so intent on its figuring out how to ward off the danger of the eyes of the regime, Martin, as it turned out, was also working out his own set of safety measures.

He arrived late the next morning. I was busy with a load of paperwork that Jack had handed me prior to his leaving for a meeting in the administration building. A few other advisers were gathered in Tom’s office, having their usual technical morning conference. After the usual cheers and brief chit-chats that he exchanged with the advisors, he turned around, faced my office, winked at me, and shot me a meaningful smile. I smiled back, and made a pretence of getting back to my work. A few moments later, I sensed him entering my office, approaching my desk, and stopping somewhere near. When I raised my head, I saw him standing close to my desk, with his back turned to me. On looking at his back, I saw both his hands cupping each other behind his back, with a small folded piece of paper held between the fingers of his right hand, which he was gesturing for me to take. I looked around ensuring that no one was looking, and swiftly snapped the paper. He then silently stepped outside my office, but before leaving, he winked again, giving me the same meaningful smile.
To Be Continued.............................................


l said...

Oh wow, such an interesting story, please continue

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AngloGermanicAmerican said...

I am unable to read most of the prior comments, but I feel confident that they are expressing their earnest desire for you to continue with your story. I know that I am.

P.S. At this rate, I fear I may not live long enough for you to complete your work. :) I hope that all is well with you, that your work life is productive, yet managable, and that your personal life is fulfilling. But please "Say if for God's Sake. . .

網站設計 said...

hooray, your writings on theater and writing much missed!