WARNING:- CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND GRAPHIC SCENES!
It was a wild, stormy night when my dreams, my hopes and my beliefs crumbled around me. The day started off so well, sunny and cheerful like my mood. Mickey had treated me to a spa appointment, which included full body waxing, a facial, manicure, pedicure, haircut and styling, the works. I’d spent a blissful morning at the spa, come home in time to have lunch with Mickey then kissed him goodbye when he left for work again. At seven Mickey phoned to tell me that he was taking some clients out for dinner and drinks and might get home late so I shouldn’t wait up for him. I had just settled infront of the TV with a bowl of popcorn, ready for a night of marathon movie session when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find my brother inlaw, Joe…his name was Yusuf but everyone called him Joe…and his young daughter, Maria standing there. Joe looked at the huge bowl of popcorn in my hands and raised his eyebrows.
“Yup,” I laughed, “but all alone. Come in.”
They followed me to the lounge. Joe inclined his head towards Maria.
“She forced me to bring her here. Don’t know what you fed her to make her like you so much,” he joked.
“Oh,” I said, feeling flattered. I didn’t know I had such an influence on kids, especially an unruly wild-child like this one, “ermmm, you can leave her here if you want. She can spend the night with me. I don’t know what time Mickey will be home anyways.”
“Nawh, we’ll watch a movie then head home. What you planning to watch?”
I turned to Maria. “What do you want to watch?”
We settled down to watch Clash of the Titans, which I thought a bit hectic for a child of eight to choose but Joe didn’t object so I left it.
“So where’s Mickey gone?” Joe asked half-way through the film.
“To dinner and drinks with some clients, he said,” I replied.
An odd, knowing look crossed Joe’s face. “Riigghhtt. When will he be back?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. He said he might be late so I shouldn’t wait up for him.”
“How late is ‘late’ usually?”
“I don’t know,” I repeated, “I usually go to sleep so I don’t know what time he gets home.”
Joe raised his eyebrows. “You know what sort of clients he’s got?”
“Business clients, of course!” I retorted, getting annoyed now. What was this, an interrogation??
Joe said nothing for a while after that and I got engrossed in the movie. It was on one of the suspenseful scenes when he suddenly picked up the now empty bowl of popcorn and stood up.
“I feel like having more popcorn. Let’s go make some, Humz.”
“But…” I began, frowning at him. Joe gave me a look and jerked his head towards the kitchen. I rolled my eyes and stood up.
“Maria, you carry on watching. We’ll be back just now,” Joe said. I followed him into the kitchen then turned to him.
“Humaira, Humaira…I don’t know whether I should keep my big mouth shut and let you figure things out yourself…if you ever do, that is,” his look made it clear he didn’t think that was likely, “or spill the beans then let you figure things out from there…”
“Ag, just tell me man, since you’re bursting with it,” I said irritatedly. I was not worried…yet. Must be something silly, I thought.
Joe indicated to the empty bowl of popcorn. I got the packet of popcorn seeds from the pantry and put the large pot back on the stove. After pouring the seeds in I closed the lid then turned to him, waiting.
Joe sighed. “Mickey is an idiot. I been telling him that all these months and I’m telling you now. I’ll probably tell him that again a thousand times but he won’t listen. He’s stubborn, that owe, he’ll only do what he wants. I told him from the beginning…come clean, I said. Let her know what she’s getting into. Take me for example. I was dating my wife before I married her. I even had a live-in relationship with her before marrying her. I was upfront with her from the beginning and she was cool with all of it. That’s when I married her. I told Mickey, you do the same. Be honest with her. If she loves you she’ll marry you no matter what. But he didn’t listen. He had fallen in love with you, wanted to marry you no matter what,” Joe snorted disbelievingly, “he said you was different. Well of course you’re different! You’re an Indian!” He snorted again, “Indians are not like us. They are not brought up like us. They’re softies. Like you. Was your lifestyle like this??” He waved his arm to encompass the room, “your popcorn is burning.”
“Huh?” I said stupidly, “oh!” I quickly removed the popcorn into the bowl then turned back to Joe.
“Ya, what was I saying? Oh ya…you’re an Indian. What do you know about our lifestyle? How can you adapt when you’ve never been in this environment till you got married? You so dom, even after all this time…so blind and stupid! The moment I saw you when you first came here I knew. You were starstruck, looking around with stars in your eyes. You didn’t know anything, you just loved who you thought Mickey was. How can you love anyone like that?? How can you claim to love someone you don’t even know?? My Tasha knows me in and out and still loves me. That’s love, not this blind love you have. Will you love Mickey after knowing who he is?? Will you???”
“I don’t know what you’re saying. Can you get to the bloody point??” I snapped. My head was beginning to pound.
Joe leaned forward. “My dear, Mickey hasn’t shown you half of what he is yet. He’s only shown you his tame side, not his wild side. You don’t know him. You don’t know nothing!”
“I know everything!” I snapped in return, “which is more than you do! Now go watch that movie or get out of my house!”
“Oh, you do? What is everything? Huh?”
“That’s none of your business!”
“It is. If you don’t tell me how much you know I won’t be able to tell you the rest. You wanna spend your life blind? You like it there in the dark? It’s kif, huh?” He goaded me…and got the reaction he wanted.
“He’s shown me his playroom!” I hissed, clenching my hands into tight fists, “he’s introduced me to all his fantasies! He even took me to that swinger party, though I told him I never wanna do that again. And he agreed to stay away from it! The rest we still do! There…you happy now??”
Joe threw back his head and laughed loudly. “You stupid fool. That’s all he’s told you? That was just the beginning mos,” he shook his head at me pityingly, “you know where he is tonight? Don’t give me that business kak he told you. You know what his ‘business’ entails??”
I shook my head, my brief spurt of anger gone, leaving me drained.
“How does Mickey earn his money? I’m sure you know that much?”
“He said he does business deals…I don’t really press him for details…”
“We own high-end casinos and nightclubs. Yeah, the ones he takes you to. We…me, Mickey and Momo (their other brother) own them. Stupid owe couldn’t even tell you that much. We’ve got a rich clientele. Rich shots who pour money into our places. When folks got bucks they expect certain…perks in return, hmmm. We gotta please them. Happy folks empty their pockets faster. Of course we don’t have to do any of it but we go along sometimes. We enjoy ourselves, they enjoy themselves…got it?”
“What exactly do you do to please these rich shots?” I interrupted, a sour feeling in my mouth.
“We play games with them…in the casinos. Buy them drinks and dinner, have some late night entertainment…get down and dirty with them,” he smirked.
“Does Mickey sleep with any of them?” That was my main worry.
“Duh, woman, what have I been trying to tell you all along??” Joe laughed, “where do you think Mickey goes the nights you don’t satisfy him? You think he just sleeps it off?” He saw the embarrassment on my face and laughed even more, “God, you’re even more gullible than I thought. You think you can work Mickey up and think he won’t want satisfaction after that? If you don’t give him what he wants he goes to look for it somewhere else. Simple. Which is your fault in a way so you can’t even blame him. I would have done the same thing,” he looked at me accusingly, “Mickey tried to introduce you to our lifestyle the night he took you to that swinger party but you made such a big deal out of it. He told me you didn’t take it well so he left it, saying you needed more time to get used to it…to our lifestyle. If you hadn’t freaked out that night he might have told you all of this. I told him he married an uptight bi***,” he shook his head in disgust.
I barely heard that. “But he told me he wouldn’t do that again!! And he agreed when I said we both wouldn’t do that again! Why would he lie to me???”
“He didn’t lie to you, he simply went along to keep the peace. He’s a fu**ing coward! He should have told you long time back man! I don’t know how he can be happy with someone who loves the mask he puts on, not the real him!” Joe banged his fist down on the table.
“I…I don’t believe you. My Mickey isn’t like that,” I whispered. I wrapped my arms around my middle and rocked myself back and forth, trying to keep the pain at bay.
“I think you need to know why we are like this. Has he told you anything about our parents? Our childhood?”
I shook my head numbly.
“My mother was a prostitute. She was not a Muslim. My pa was. He was married with kids but he was an unfaithful bas****. He kept visiting my ma. He used to visit other whores as well but my ma was his favourite. After a while his first wife found out about him and ma. Credit to her. She didn’t walk out on him. She told him to marry ma instead. Big hearted of her, huh. Should have bliksem him one. Anyways pa married ma and she became a Muslim. You’d think that would stop pa and his whoring ways. It didn’t. That old ballie could have fifty wives and still want fresh meat. Ma realised this and she also realised that he didn’t want to jol on his own. He wanted her to join in. Ironic huh. He removed her from a life of whoring only to give her to other men. Theirs was an open marriage. Nothing was off limits. They went to swinger parties, sex parties, orgies, you name it. They drank, smoked weed, partied. Like a couple of teens who never grew up. And that’s how we grew up. They never hid anything from us. We would see them walk in at all times of the night, drunk or stoned, sometimes with other people. The orgies, group sex, everything was done infront of us. When we were older pa would laugh and invite us to join in. We all lost our virginity early. At the age of twelve infact. Since then we’ve been exploring everything that our parents did. We haven’t been brought up to be monogamous or faithful. It’s not in us. We’ve got our pa in us. That’s why when I met Tasha I told her from the beginning how it would be between us. She agreed to it. She knew how I was and she still agreed to marry me. You knew nothing. Look how shocked you are. You look like you’re gonna faint. This is the life you’ve chosen, babe, like it or not. Mickey isn’t gonna change. He was just gonna introduce you to his way of life slowly, not change his way of life for you. Infact that reminds me. He mentioned he’s holding a party here next month. A swinger party, babe. Nothing innocent gonna happen there. Be ready to go along with whatever Mickey says. He doesn’t like disappointments so make sure you don’t disappoint him. I’ve warned you so you can prepare yourself mentally. You’ll have to adjust to our way of life or you won’t last. Mickey was telling me how you can’t even last through the rough sex. Toughen up, babe. This isn’t some tame Indian playground. This is our playground, and baby, we’re wild!” He mock-roared at me before picking up the popcorn bowl and sauntering away.
Very slowly I straightened from my hunched position, walked over to the sink and threw up. I vomited till my stomach was empty, leaving me with only the sick feeling in my heart. Then I walked back to the lounge and sat down again with a smile, watching the movie till the end credits rolled in.
And still…even after watching all my hopes and dreams go up in flames…I still clung to the hope that I could somehow make my marriage work. After all, it wasn’t like I could just up and leave. Where would I go? My parents had disowned me as thoroughly as I’d disowned them. I had burnt that bridge completely and it could never be rebuilt. Same with all my relatives. I had rubbed my marriage so thoroughly in all their faces that I could never face them again if my marriage failed. How ironic that the same actions I’d used to damn my parents would come back to haunt me. My glory was now my downfall. I knew I had brought this on my head with my own actions. The only family members I was in touch with were Ahmed and Faz, and I couldn’t impose on them. I was stuck in this marriage but I also clung to the hope that all would be right in the end. Mickey did love me and I loved him. Surely that was the main foundation that we could build our marriage on? So I said nothing to Mickey, carried on like nothing had happened even though I died a little more inside each day.
It was almost a month later when two things occurred which changed everything for me.
The first thing was unplanned and shook me up badly as I stared at the slim white stick I held in my shaking hand, the two bright pink lines seared into my head.
My first reaction was panic. What horrible timing! Of all the times to have a baby, now when my marriage was on the rocks and I wasn’t even sure of my own life anymore. What kind of environment would I bring my child in? Was this any way to live for a child?
After the panic wore off, steely resolve set in. I could not bring an innocent child into this messed up environment. I remembered Joe’s words, “that’s how we grew up. They never hid anything from us. We would see them walk in at all times of the night, drunk or stoned…” They grew up messed up because their upbringing was like that. I couldn’t let my child grow up like that. The very thought of it made me nauseous. Now I knew that I had to get out of this…for my child if not for myself. And soon. It would have to be soon, before Mickey found out about the baby, or else he would never let me leave.
The second thing was planned very carefully. I needed a good reason to leave Mickey or else he would hunt me down and bring me back. I needed evidence, damning evidence that I could use to annul the marriage.
I also needed to act before the party Mickey was planning to hold, which was next week. For the next few days I watched Mickey’s comings and goings closely but there was nothing out of the ordinary. He went to work and came back. No late nights, nothing. The night of the party was looming closer and I was starting to panic. In desperation I squeezed my eyes closed and turned to Allah for the first time in months.
“Oh Allah, help me!”
The plea was wrenched from my heart at the height of my desperation. I’d learned that Allah is closer to a person than his jugular vein, that He always listens to His servant in need. I was such a sinful servant that I didn’t think Allah would listen to me. But He did. The ease with which things finally fell into place continued to amaze me months, even years later.
Two nights before the party Mickey told me he was having a late meeting and would be home late and I shouldn’t wait up for him. His usual speech, except this time I was ecstatic…and nervous.
“Where you holding it?” I asked innocently.
“At The Boardwalk,” he answered briefly as he knotted his tie and shrugged on his coat. He pressed a brief kiss on my cheek and strode swiftly out the door.
I waited till the door closed behind him then quickly ran to my room, threw on a pair of jeans and top, slipped my feet into soft-soled sneakers then removed a scarf from a corner of the bottom drawer. It was a wide shawl-like scarf. Perfect cover. I grabbed my keys and handbag and left the house, locking up after me.
I spotted Mickey’s car as soon I pulled into the parking lot of The Boardwalk. I parked at a spot where I could watch his car without being spotted then scrolled through my phone aimlessly, trying to control the pounding of my heart. I knew this wasn’t his final destination for the night and I wouldn’t find anything here so I didn’t bother going to look for him, just lay low and waited.
Almost an hour later I finally saw Mickey emerge, accompanied by three women. I instinctively hunched lower and peered at them over the steering wheel. They were laughing and chatting when they got into his car and drove away. I followed at a safe distance. Mickey eventually pulled into the parking lot of a nightclub, one I hadn’t been to before. They disappeared inside. I waited for around ten minutes then slowly came out and locked the car. I wrapped the scarf around my head and lower half of my face to hide my identity then walked to the entrance of the club. The bouncer gave me a weird look but let me enter. I walked in and was immediately assailed by uneasiness, I felt so out of place there. Within a few minutes I knew why Mickey had never brought me here. It was kind of like a swingers party, except this was more public and more uninhibited. I saw people engaging in all sorts of acts everywhere and felt slightly sick. This was where Mickey came? I almost dreaded finding him as I weaved my way slowly through the crowd, trying not to touch or even look at any of them. I saw and heard invitations to join in several times but I ignored it all and carried on slowly, phone in hand. When I finally spotted Mickey, right at the back in the corner, I almost puked. He was there in a state of undress with all three women and the things he was doing made me want to throw up right there. I quietly slipped behind a pillar and recorded the vile acts, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. I forced myself to record enough to provide damning evidence against him then turned and ran out of there, not caring about how many people I bumped into this time. I ran out the back exit this time and threw up again and again there in the quiet alley till my stomach stopped churning. Then, feeling a blessed numbness steal over me, I drove back home, packed all my belongings into my suitcases and left the house I had called home for nine months for the last time.
It was a cold, rainy night in December when I crushed my dreams under my own foot, threw the broken pieces of my marriage over my shoulder and walked away without looking back.