We were strangers really. We got talking by chance, her lil girl grabbed my attention with her big blue eyes. I am a sucker for children and ones as cute as this was irresistible. We found that we had so much to say to one another, almost as if we had known one another for years. The connection was hard to explain, it was as if something inside of us had reached out and touched the other person. I don’t know how long we stood there, it was the clanging of a shops shutters that brought the conversation to an end. We exchanged numbers and promised to catch up. I walked away thinking of the global Muslim community, was that why we clicked?
It was almost a year since we had met and we sat now at her house, drinking coffee. The kids had finally relented and went to bed. I didn’t want to ask about her red eyes and blotchy skin, I know she would tell me in her own time. We sat for a long time in silence before she started to talk. Much of the story was familiar, but there was so much more that I had no idea about.
She was fifteen and a nerd at school. Never one to hang out with the cool kids, she describes herself as a social retard until one day she was invited to a birthday party of a friend. The friends brother saw her and fell in love. It was love at first sight and not long after his family had proposed for her. For the first time, she was popular and everyone wanted to be her friend for she had attracted one of the most popular guys that every other girl wanted. There were three brothers and they were all good looking, drove the latest cars and dressed to kill. It didn’t take much for her to agree to marry him. She got married just after her sixteenth birthday.
Her eyes glaze over as she recalls.
She tells me how she cried the first night of marriage, she wanted her mum. She laughs at how ridiculous she behaved. The fairytale she imagined from the Mills &Boons that she had stuck behind her headboard was so far from the reality and the responsibility of marriage. She tells me she had no idea how to be a wife. She continued to study and fell pregnant within the first year of marriage. Her pregnancy made her so ill that she spent weeks at a time in hospital.
She stops. She gets up a to get a glass of water. I realise she is composing herself. She sits down and tells me it was in her eighth month of pregnancy when she realised her husband was having an affair. It’s weird, she says. She tells me she was having breakfast and it came to her, everything finally made sense. He was never home. Every night he went out supposedly to play cards and drink coffee with his friends. All the little signs added up. The same day she followed him to find the proof of his infidelity. He promised it meant nothing and he promised to be faithful and that he loved only her. He said it was just sex and that was only because she wasn’t feeling well. She shakes her head as she speaks. She forgave him and moved on. A month later her beautiful baby was born. A girl who looked just like her mother.
He was still never at home, She would hardly see him, but then she was equally busy. She was always rushing around, going to uni, rushing back home to breastfeed, going back and it was all getting to be too much. He never helped out and the little bit that they did have seemed to have died. She tells me it was such a rude awakening to know that this was what marriage was about. She had a few friends at uni who introduced her to chat. MIRC.
All of a sudden, life changed. She made so many friends and she couldn’t wait to get onto the computer in her every spare moment. She chatted to girls and guys from all across the world. She took on different persona’s and flirted and messed around. She was free to do what she liked and in a way live out every fantasy. She knew it was all just abit of fun and she never gave out her real details. Then she met “Charming Man”, she thought his nickname was corny but she chatted to him anyway. She chatted to him again and again. She’d never really done that before. She normally chatted to people once only and always changed her nick. He was different she says, he was intelligent. From wanting to chat all the time, she became obsessed. He was everything she ever hoped to find in a man. She tells me that she realised things were getting out of control, she was virtually ignoring her child and more often than not, the house was in total disarray and the responsibility was falling to her parents. They happily took it on, thinking her studies were causing all the stress. They realised that she was young and was coping with a failing marriage because everyone knew he was never at home and could see that neither even bothered, when he was.
“Charming Man” was her support and her only friend at the time. He made her feel special and she could talk to him for hours and hours. He taught her so many things and she tells me he knew something about everything. He was older, she then says. I can’t help my curiosity, how much older, I ask? Quite old, he was 43 but he was so young in his ways. I can’t stop myself quick enough and she sees the expression on my face. I want to know why he never married or had he been married. She is silent. I’m faster this time, I keep my face blank but my mind is racing. Do I even know this girl sitting next to me because that is what she is, a girl? I’m disgusted that she, whose husband cheated on her is having an on-line affair with a married man. My silence says everything. The air is thick with accusations. I know she feels it.
I calm down abit and remember that I am her friend and she needs to tell me this. I sense that. I try and be kinder, I try and put some of the love I feel for her into my voice and ask her to continue. I tell myself that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and I try and listen with no judgement. He was unhappy in his marriage, he had 3 kids that were almost her age. He didn’t have a relationship with his wife and they were together only because of the kid. She tells me that she believed what he said because that’s what her marriage was like.
After almost 2 years of chatting, he asks her to meet him in a different country. He lived half way across the world from her and he wanted to meet somewhere in between. At first she resisted, she knew what she was doing was wrong but soon he wore her down. Deep inside she knew she wanted to meet him just as much. He would claim he was travelling for business, he ususally did anyway. She would claim that she was travelling to a conference that was imperative to her degree. She was going with her female University Professor who was delivering a paper. It would open so many doors for her. It would be too hectic to take her daughter or anyone with her because she would be attending the conference most of the time. It amazed me, knowing her husband, parents and in-laws, that she got away with it.
Her memories must be good, there is a bit of excitement in her voice. I don’t think she even realises it. He, “Charming Man” paid for her ticket. She arrived hours before him, sitting in her hotel room waiting. She tells me she almost chickened out. I ask if she knew what he looked like, what to expect. She tells me he was not physically attractive at all, from his pictures, he looked his age. She answers my unasked question, and tells me it was the person that he was to her that attracted her even though physically she was a bit repulsed the first time she saw him. She tells me that he grew on her and she got over what he looked like long before she met him.
She tells me about the poetry then, he loved writing poetry and would write about her all the time and created such inspiration that she began to write herself. There was a knock on her door and a note slipped under, her heart almost jumped out of her body, he was here. It was a poem written for her, inviting her to dinner. She gets up again to refill her empty glass, I know she wants to be alone with her memories. I feel it. I get up and go to get something from my car. I sit there for awhile ‘cos somehow I feel like I’m intruding on something personal, I feel like a voyeur and it makes me slightly uncomfortable. It’s getting cold out, I go back inside and she is sitting down, she touches me as I pass her to take my seat.
Something has changed in her, she doesn’t seem so down, so depressed, so dark. The short time we had together was the best time of my life, she tells me. Leaving him and having to come back to reality was very difficult. She tells me how it felt like she was someone else, living a different life and sitting on the plane trying to adjust and f figure out who she was and what she was doing was incredibly difficult. My mind though, is still on her time there. I realise that I am a voyeur of her memories and I want to know hat happened. I want to share in every detail. I don’t know why I want to know but I do. I don’t say anything, I let her go on. Not long after she came back she decided that she would never chat to him again, it lasted 3 days before she couldn’t go on. He told her they couldn’t leave their families and that they could continue as they were and whenever they could, they would see each other. She agreed, life without him, had no purpose.
Months later, her second daughter was born. She had striking blue eyes. She is still so beautiful, like a living doll almost. She is the closest thing to perfection that I have ever seen. Life was getting busy with her job and her two kids and she was continuing to study. Everyone told her she was taking on too much and she knew she was but she wanted to keep busy. I’m about to ask her why, and it’s half way out of my mouth before my lips snap shut, she looks up at me. I’m getting some water, would you like some? I don’t recognise my voice, I need to get some fresh air. I walk outside, I need to smoke, I’m trying to quit, I light up. Can it be true? No, Yes, But… Oh my God!, NO! I see the child’s face in my mind and I know it’s true. It’s Charming Man’s child. The lil girl who slept next to me last night, who breathed her baby’s breath on my shoulder is from some strange man that I know nothing about. Why do I feel betrayed? Is that what I’m feeling? My cigarette is finished. I know I have to go back…
I avoid her eyes, she knows I know. She goes on anyway. He wants to meet again and she refuses him, tells him it’s impossible with everything in her life. Her husband is home alot more these days and he is trying to be a father. It increases her guilt which in many ways started to consume her. Charming Man kept demanding the attention he used to get and she kept avoiding him, she wanted him, she loves him, but she cant help thinking about how wrong their affair was and she felt like they should both leave their partners and get married. For the first time ever, they were fighting and arguing but they continued their affair anyway.
She woke up one morning and called her service provider and stopped her phone contract. She threw away the sim card and deleted all the stored messages. She cancelled the internet connection. It was over. She’s quiet.
I’m going out for a cigarette. I don’t have much to say. It’s all still sinking in. She comes outside and takes a cigarette. She has never smoked in her life and yet it seems fitting that she smokes now.
It was hard she says. Her whole world was crashing and yet she had to smile and pretend everything was normal. She tells me how she cried herself to sleep for nights and nights and moved around on autopilot during the day. I hear the sadness in her voice and see how hard it was for her in her eyes. The pain still seems fresh, even now.
We go back inside.
Months later, she tells me, she took a hard look at herself and realised that she needed to snap out of it and that she needed to do whatever it took to make her marriage work. I sensed there was more there, she looked up at me and explained. Her oldest daughter told her friend that her parents didn’t love one another, married people didn’t. Only boyfriend and girlfriends did. She tells me that it shocked her to her core that this is the way her young daughter saw love and saw her parents. My heart felt funny at that point. I love these two little girls, I want so much for them. I ask her what happened when she worked at it. She told me it took all her energy to keep motivated and to try and she often felt like she was the only one trying. Nothing changed for him, he was still a passing ship through their lives. She tells me she accepted that and tried to not stop him but rather be understanding. She tells me he did start to try eventually when everyone around him kept pushing and prodding him to make his marriage work and to be a good father.
Things started to work out better and she tells me she was happy and in a way she began to fall in love with him, the real him. She was happy to see him, she was proud to be with him and call him her husband.I knew there was more because I know things are not good with them right now. I wonder… She interrupts my thoughts. They went on a honeymoon, left the girls at home and went away together and she tells me that she felt young and happy and in love. She looks so wistful. She says that at one point holding onto him in the swimming pool at the resort they were staying at, she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.
It was just before her holiday that we had met.
When they got back, she asked him if they could try for another child which she was previously hesitant to do. He was so eager, he was wanting this for awhile. He really wanted a son. It took her a few months to fall pregnant and she didn’t suffer from morning sickness at all which was a blessing. It was such a good sign of everything going so well. It made me look down at her belly, five months in and she wasn’t even big yet. Hardly showing at all. I focused my attention back on what she was saying. She tells me it’s over. I don’t know what she’s talking about. Pardon? It really is. No, wait, I don’t know what you talking about. I didn’t hear that last bit.
My Marriage is Over.
I know the words but they make no sense. It’s almost as if there is a curtain drawn between my ears and my brain. he is having an affair and he loves her and it’s been going on for a year and i followed him and i confronted her and she said she was sorry but she loved him and he loved her and he just sat there and didn’t say a word even though i was screaming and shouting at him. It’s just coming at me one long monotone. unfeeling sentence
She is not even beautiful.Her house was so dirty, isn’t that funny when he is so fussy here at home. She laughs this bitter acid laugh. My instinct is to go into damage control. Im the fixer, I always have been but there’s more, I know there is. I know that whatever it is, it’s bigger than anything else so far. It’s more than the fixer can handle. It’s unfixable, I know it.
He followed her home. She was ranting and raving and he is trying to explain, but this time nothing will work, she will listen to nothing. This time things are different you see, she loves him. He is telling her he loves this woman, he knows its wrong but he cant help how he feels. This is the ultimate betrayal and her own instinct is to hurt him. To cause the most amount of damage and she tells him how she loves someone else also, she loved and lost because she took this commitment of marriage and she rather marriage first. He is shocked, he is silenced for only a brief second before he explodes at her, not believing her, not believing such a thing is possible. He accuses her of being pathetic and she tells him to take my lil doll for a DNA test if he is so disbelieving. She flinches as she says it, almost as if it too hard to remember, as if it causes her pain.
“I divorce you!, I divorce you!, I divorce you!”
You see she says to me, my marriage is over.