Against Nature

Against Nature

“You need a man to protect you. He’s the father of your child. You know his flaws.” - My father.
“He had a right to do what he did to you.” - My mother.
“Why aren’t you married?” - Every guy I meet.
“We both need each other. And you’re not one to talk much.” - Someone I know.
“You can’t keep living this way. It’s against nature.” - My father.
“People won’t leave you alone. You know what it’s like to be a divorcee.” - People.
“I’m going to beg him to take you back. No wonder he couldn’t keep living with you.” - My mother.

I thought I had achieved everything I wanted in life.
I was married to the man I was in love with for 7 years.
We had a beautiful boy.
I worked as a school principal.
What more could I possibly ask for?
All I wanted was to see my little boy growing up.
But everything suddenly changed.
The arguments escalated to a divorce.

I started a terrible governmental job.
I wasted eight hours a day there.
I used to love my old job.
I loved my coworkers.
I took that terrible job because my parents convinced me that working for the government was a great opportunity.
And because at the end of the day, money talks.

My son wasn’t even seven years old at that time.
He was in first grade.
My life was destroyed.
I could see nothing but darkness.
Everything changed.
What was I going to do?
How could I get divorced after seven years of being in love? After seven years of marriage?

My son and I lived with my parents.
My parents and I had changed.
We were not our old selves.
I wanted to stop being miserable.
I didn’t talk to anyone and I didn’t want to hear anyone’s advice or consolation.

I searched for something to keep myself busy.
I wanted to do something I loved.
I wanted to be around people I didn’t know.
I didn’t want anyone to ask me about anything.
I managed to do that and I was happy.
But I wasn’t spared the interrogations.
“Where are you going?”
“Where were you?”
“Why were you late?”
“You don’t pay any attention to your son.”
They even went through my stuff looking for a secret marriage contract or something.
All I wanted was to find myself.

I was lost.
I was trying to figure things out.
Where did I go wrong?
The anger I had inside me for wasting years of my life was projected onto my poor son.
I wanted to be selfish.
I wanted to love myself.
I’ve been through enough.

No one knew what I was going through.
I couldn’t find solace in my father.
“You brought this onto yourself.”
I isolated myself through my job.
That asshole of a dentist.
And the nice physiotherapist.
And others who treated me differently once they saw my wedding ring.

I was ashamed to ask my parents for money.
I’m the one that’s supposed to be providing for them.
Asking anyone for a favor meant I had to give them something back in return.
That’s not how things work.
I’m busy thinking of the days to come.
Private lessons, trainings, errands, etc.
I wasn’t in love with anyone.
Sleeping pills and sedatives helped me sleep like a log.
I didn’t think or dream of anything.

I wasn’t open about my divorce.
I couldn’t tell anyone what happened.
But I was always happy to be a mother.
I didn’t deprive my son of anything.
I wasn’t ashamed to ask my friends for used clothes to give to him.
I made sure he maintained a good relationship with his father.
Even though his father didn’t really care.

The years that passed all looked the same
The only things different were the storytelling workshops I attended and the theatre.
That’s where I get my energy from.
It takes my mind off things.
It introduces me to a whole new world.

I discovered something strange as the years went by.
My heart stopped beating for the things I loved.
I stopped crying while listening to sad music,
I stopped feeling nostalgic while listening to Abdelhalim’s songs,
And I stopped missing him.
I wasn’t attracted to anyone.
I stopped caring what people said about me.
I was becoming apathetic.
I couldn’t even be moved by romantic movies.
I was cold as ice.

I was convinced that a person falls in love only once in their lifetime.
The illusion of first love, as Salah (played in the movie by Abdelhalim) says in The Empty Pillow by Ihsan Abdel Quddous.
Who am I?
Am I okay?
Should I see a doctor?
I’m okay.
No, I’m not okay.
It’s fine. There are things we have to compromise on this journey.
But not this.
Yes, this.

There was no one I could share my new interests with.
Like acting and writing.
I found a new me, which made going to work a lot easier.
I made use of the time I spent at work to read, write, study, and work on myself.

Seven years went by.
My son grew up, and I travelled alone for the first time.
I had my own little family.
I made new friends.
I made peace with myself.
I forgot that I was a woman.
I wasn’t spared the nagging to get married again,
Especially since my ex-husband stopped keeping in touch.

I got all kinds of suitors.
Those who wanted me to travel abroad with them,
To leave my son behind,
To be with them two days a week to get their minds off things,
To be pampered,
To make me provide for them.
Some ask whether I have a problem wearing bathing suits.
“Do you wear a bikini or a one piece?”
“Can you dance?”
“Who’s more important to you, your son or me?”

I met a lot of creeps and sickos.
None of them bothered to ask what I needed.
Or what were the qualities I was looking for in a husband.
They’re all driven by their sex drive.
They assume I’ll automatically say yes just because I’ve been single for a long time.

I was the one that took care of all the errands, even when I was married.
The doctors’ visits.
The grocery shopping.
Getting the car fixed.
Changing the lightbulbs.
Fixing the tap.
I know how to do it all.
I don’t like asking people for help because I’m not willing to offer them anything in return.

I saw a lot of doctors.
They’re only good at prescribing antidepressants that make you sleepy all the time.
Those antidepressants bring your life to a halt.
I’m lucky my family stood by me and helped me.
Other people weren’t lucky like me.
I’m lucky I was able to find work.

I’ve broken down several times.
I’ve overdosed on pills.
I didn’t want to be saved.
I didn’t want to keep living.
My father stopped speaking to me at times because he didn’t like the way I was living my life.
I’m still struggling on the inside.
Should I be selfish and think only of my happiness?
Or should I stick to being a mother, my one true calling in life?

I’m losing my passion in the midst of all this.
I get scared sometimes.
I make erratic decisions.
I listen to my heart and overburden myself sometimes.
But God helps me out.

The strange thing is that I got back with my ex-husband seven years after our divorce.
Just for the sake of my family and son.
I needed to listen to their advice for once.
I was a different person this time around.
I had my own conditions.
But he was the same person.
He didn’t change.
But me?
I was another woman.

“You should thank your lucky stars that I agreed to take you back.”
“You’ve become so old. You should probably see a doctor.”
“You think you’re a woman?”
“I should have listened to them. You shouldn’t go back to rummaging in trash you already threw out.”
He didn’t like anything I did.
Or anything I wore.
Even when I tried to be sexy with him, he said I didn’t know how to.
From 6:00 am to midnight, Iwas on my feet.
I had to cook, do the laundry, and get his mother’s ironing done.
I bought gifts when needed, took my son to sports practice, supervised his studies.
And on top of all that, I found time to do stuff for myself.
He hated that.
He wanted me to exist solely to fulfil his every whim and desire whenever and wherever.
“Baba, I can’t do it anymore.”
“Your son is an investment. You’ll have God to answer to if you don’t take good care of him. You’re the backbone of the family.”
“I can’t do it anymore; I’m dying.”
“You’re the one who decided to go back to your husband. All homes are run this way. All men are like that.”
“It’s like I don’t exist!”
“What else do you need from this world other than to look into your son’s face and know he’s healthy and happy? That’s worth this entire world.”
“Pretend your husband’s a sick man. Find ways to please him.”
“You need to be there for your boy.”
“You’ve destroyed me. You’ve played the victim all your life.”
“You yell at me because you’re unable to tell him anything.”
“Why are you taking it out on me? Your problems are none of my business.
I’m going to leave you.
The only person you love is yourself. You don’t pay me any attention.”
My son is 16 now. And still they blame me.
The divorce process this time around wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
“I can’t stay married to you any longer.
Any bitch who refuses to do what I say (he means to be his slave) is of no use to me.”
I was alone again.
He made me give up all my rights again.
“Satisfied? Now you can come and go as you please.”
So, I left him.
My father still won’t speak to me. He’s stopped giving me advice too.
I no longer feel like doing anything.
Even the things I love.
I can’t bring myself to tell people I’m divorced again.
“You’re older now and you’re free to make your own decisions. And I’m free to treat you as I please.”
“Are you happy now? Are you crazy? Divorced for the second time? What am I going to say to my friends? Leave me alone from now on. You got what you wanted, didn’t you?” - My son
“You deserved what he did to you. I obviously didn’t know how to raise you because of how you turned out.” - My father
“I’m going to beg him to take you back.” - My mother
I’m now older now.
My father no longer gives me advice.
He refuses to give me advice.
It’s true that I’m broken, but at least I’m no longer a servant.
I’m a little lonely, but I’m not nonexistent.
Am I still pretty? Am I still sexy?
Do I still know how to do it?
Am I still desirable?

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