Chapter 12: Send My Love To Your New Lover
Four days after Waleed’s accident my phone rang. It was his father shouting, “Did you report me, Nadia?”
I replied coldly: “Aren’t you supposed to be in prison now? Why are you calling me?”
“How could you do that? Have you lost your mind? How could you ruin my wedding?” he continued, shouting loudly.
“I didn’t ruin anything. I just did what should have been done in a situation like this.”
“Situation? What situation, Nadia? Is it that hard for you to forget me? Was it that painful for you to see me get married again? Do you still love me or something?”
“I can’t forget you. That’s why I chose to help the poor woman who was set to become your third wife so she wouldn’t have to go through the same misery!”
“Listen to me carefully. I never thought of hurting you or any one in your family, in spite of the harm you caused me; not because I’m afraid or being a coward, but out of human decency. But you should know that you can approach a lion’s den with ease, but if you venture too near its cubs the ferocious lioness will devour you! Do you understand?”
He laughed all of a sudden. “As if he’s your son alone. Don’t forget that he carries my name!”
“Yes he carries your name, but he carries my heart within him.” I paused for a moment and then hissed sharply at him: “Don’t you dare hurt my son again, do you understand?”
“Are you threatening me?” he giggled. “It seems even the men can’t control you any more, Nadia! You ignored the decision of the tribe. Anyhow, the matter’s over and done with. Did you really think your silly report would stop my marriage?”
“I don’t care about obstructing your marriage! I only care about my son’s rights.”
“And did you obtain those by giving that report?”
“Yes I did. I realized that when I heard the fear in your voice. If you ever allow any harm to come to my son again you’ll be sorry!”
As I hung up, the doorbell rang. My uncles were at the door, their faces full of rage.
“What were you thinking when you did that?” my eldest uncle began.
“Come inside, Uncle. What have I done?”
“You reported the shooting to the police after we had reconciled with their tribe. Don’t you have any respect for your elders and their decisions, Nadia? Don’t you care what they’ll say about us?”
“With all due respect, Uncle, not when my son’s life is on the line.”
I looked silently at my uncles, who believed they had the right to make decisions on behalf of all the women in the family just because they were men.
They hadn’t realized that a woman who, unaided by any of her uncles, had drifted from court to court defending her and her son’s rights, would not allow them to have any control over her life. They had failed to realize that I wasn’t like any other woman in the family. I wouldn’t turn a blind eye when my son had been shot because my ex-husband’s cousins had decided to congratulate him by using their weapons recklessly, causing my son to pay the price. They didn’t have the right to make decisions for me just because they were the elders and because they were men!
My uncles obviously hadn’t realized that a woman who had defied all domination and communal traditions to gain her freedom would pay no attention to whatever gossip might pass people’s lips, nor would she fear the indignation she might arouse in people’s hearts.
I wondered how, when I had been tasting the bliss of freedom for eight years, they had still not understood that their condescending attitude towards me on account of me being divorced meant nothing to me, and that after almost a decade of freedom, communal views and traditions were the last things on my mind. Even when one of my lifelong friends had decided to end the friendship on account of me being divorced, I hadn’t regretted it for a single moment. I had later discovered that her decision was based on a fear that I might snatch her husband away. I had simply left her as prey to her own thoughts.
Didn’t my uncles understand that there had been no authority but my own over me since I had broken free? Maybe they would come to understand it better now than at any other time.
“Well, fortunately we managed to interfere in the matter through our respectable connections. Your ex-husband has been released, and —”
I interrupted my uncle as I served the tea. “You resolved the matter and released him through your connections? Isn’t it a bit strange, dear Uncle, that you’re seeking a resolution when the casualty is one of your own?”
My uncle replied angrily. “You lost us all our rights through your foolish behavior. Of course we had to resolve it. The tribal conciliation can’t be overridden by a woman!”
“A woman who faced her and her son’s lawsuits for eight years by herself! Where was the tribe back then? Or is a woman only considered a woman when it serves your interests?”
My uncle was unable to control his nerves any longer. He stood up and walked towards the door. “It’s impossible to converse with you. This was my mistake. That’s what happens when you try to argue with a woman!”
He left and the others followed suit. I didn’t care about his reprimands. I shut the door and lay on the couch. I switched on the TV, looking for something to watch in order to forget what had just happened, but my preoccupied mind was more captivating than any TV show.
My phone rang and an unknown number appeared on the screen. I hesitated, trying to decide whether to answer or not. I wasn’t in the mood to listen to some salesperson offering me a dishwasher or medical insurance or whatever their company was selling.
It kept ringing, so I decided to answer. “Hello?”
“Hello. Is that Nadia?”
“Yes, who’s this?”
Reema was my ex-husband’s second wife. What was the matter? Was she also calling about the report? What sort of vicious cycle had I got myself into?
“Yes Reema, what is it?” I said coldly.
“Actually…” she stuttered, “I don’t know why I’m calling you. I got your number from my husband’s phone behind his back, so please don’t tell him I called you!”
“I just called to say thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Reema, but for what?”
She remained silent for a moment and then said, in a brittle tone, “For everything.”
She hung up, leaving me totally confused. That short call had triggered so many thoughts in my mind. I looked out of the window onto the street at the people who were carrying countless untold stories inside them. There was an absent-minded man, a girl passionately listening to music, and another man arguing with his wife beside their car while his children sat on the back seat staring out of the windows indifferently.
Despite all this, Reema’s voice echoed in my mind and I felt pity for her. She was grateful to me for a decision I had made that she also needed to make. She was thanking me even though I had done her no personal favors. Yet the victorious tone behind her sad voice was suffocated by her intention to seek vengeance for the abysmal mistreatment she had suffered at the hands of her husband; my ex-husband. Unable to avenge her own injuries, the vengeance I enacted had extinguished her anger.
Had I really reported him to the police out of vengeance? Was that why I felt so elated when I finished that phone call to the police? Did the ultimate freedom imply a legitimization of everything? For the sake of freedom I had retaliated and sought revenge. There were no boundaries or authorities; whoever had the ultimate freedom imposed his or her own authority. Ultimate freedom is a flowing river; its banks sustaining its people with glory and power. It compels them to extremely reckless actions with rapture, solely to please their deep, insatiable desires.
It was freedom that had driven the tribe to control its people with their judgments, and freedom had also been behind my decision to report my ex-husband on his wedding night. On the contrary, Reema’s freedom had been to obtain my phone number behind her husband’s back and to ask me not to tell him. But I knew that Reema wasn’t really free, even if she had only obeyed her husband until now for the sake of love.
I put an end to these thoughts. Nothing mattered now. Why should I dwell on the past? In the same way I had decided to be free, Reema and her husband and everyone around her could have the same freedom if they wanted it.
He had the freedom to take a third wife, and the freedom to love or hate Reema, and she had the freedom to seek revenge. What did I have to do with all of that? I only cared about myself and my son.