Struggling Through Life

I’m a woman who has been struggling her entire life.
Ever since I was a little girl,
I’ve been struggling.
My father was a national railways inspector.
He passed away.
I got married to a man who came from a modest family.
I thought they’d care about my wellbeing.

I continued my education until high school.
I travelled with him to his city.
After we got married,
He started treating me badly,
And didn’t provide any money for the house.
When I complained to my family, they said,
“Aren’t you the one who wanted to marry him?”
I never loved him.
I only wanted a way out.

I got married when I was fifteen years old.
It was before the results of my high school diploma results came out.
I got pregnant right after we got married.
I had two boys and a girl.
I’ve been married for thirty-seven years.
Soon after,
He travelled to an Arab country.
He sold everything I owned,
Just so he could travel.
He would send me money every other month.

Two years later,
He came back with a woman.
He would disappear and leave me with no money.
He had been beating me ever since we got married.
“Why’d you marry me, if this is how you were going to treat me?”
I’d ask him.
“I only married a servant,
To cater to me, my mother and siblings.”

One time,
He tied me up to get me pregnant by force.
It’s because I forbade him from touching me when he hit me.
He wanted to show off his wife in front of other people.
After giving birth to my fourth son,
He left.

I visited his parents,
And they tried to help me.
I made the decision to give my children an education.
And started working at a plastic factory.
My children were around ten years old at the time.
Later on,
I started working at a medical institution.

My children went off to college,
And then he came back.
My father had passed away by then.
My husband apologized then and said,
“I’m going to be a good person.
I’m going to provide for my children.”
That made me happy,
But he went back to his old ways,
And he refused to provide for me and his children.
People would see him hitting me,
And would shout and try to pull him away.
“I was drunk,”
He’d later say.
“I was in a bad mood.”

I put up with it,
And gave birth to another girl.
And then I got twins.
Later, I forbade him from touching me.
That’s when he lost it,
And kicked me out.
The neighbors started collecting money for me,
Because they could see how stingy he was,
And how he refused to provide for us.
My parents would even give me money when I’d visit them.
I would buy the girls clothes from Al Sayeda Zeinab or Al Wekala.
And he would make fun of the clothes.

My children got married as soon as they finished college.
He didn’t provide them with any money.
He used to hit them,
And shout at them.
They were scared of him.
Our lives revolved around fear.
They would pretend to be asleep,
Or reading a book,
Whenever they heard his car approaching the house.
It was humiliating.
He would sometimes give his daughter five pounds to go to college and back home.
Then he’d ask her for the change when she got back.

He married off his third daughter.
The one he got a job for at the school where he worked as a driver.
He’d take her salary and beat her.
“Don’t go anymore,”
I told her.
He married her off to his cousin.
He didn’t allow me to attend the wedding because I told him,
“Buy her all the things you need,
And buy me all the things I need,
Before you marry her off.”
“You’re going to get married.
You don’t have a say in it,”
He told her.
When I went to her henna party,
I found that he didn’t get her kitchen utilities.
Nothing for her to cook with.
“Get her the stuff,”
I told him.
He beat me in front of everyone and kicked me out.

I asked for a divorce,
But he refused to divorce me.
Two of my daughters,
And my son hadn’t gotten married yet.
I stayed home after my daughter got married.
I’m a devout believer,
And I’ve never done anything wrong in my life.
Why, then, is God keeping me in this misery?

I lived with some relatives of mine when I left home.
Then I stayed with my son and his wife.
I would see my children behind their father’s back.
I found out that he had been hitting and beating them,
And locking them in the house.
He even refused to give them money to buy books for school.
One of them was in the Faculty of Girls,
And her brother was in the Faculty of Tourism and Hotels.
He made her stay at home so she could clean his car,
And tend to his needs.
Even my children who got married,
Would take their father’s side,
Because he was the more powerful one.

Unfortunately, at that time, I couldn’t work because of my deteriorating health.
I used to go to the hospital frequently.
My friend once told me about a home for the elderly.
My children didn’t care that I was seeking state-funded medical treatment.
I told my son once,
“I’m mad at you,
Because you never ask where I’m going.
You see me seeking state-funded medical treatment,
And you’ve never offered to pay for it yourself instead.”
“It’s not a big deal,”
Was his reply.
“You sound like a bastard.
Just go.”

I don’t want to depress you.
They started treating me really badly.
Whenever I’d try to watch a program on TV,
They’d change the channel.
They’d never wash the dishes.
And they’d eat without me before I got home.
I’d sometimes go sit by Al Qanatir,
And think about throwing myself in the water.
When I went to the home for the elderly,
There were little girls,
Elderly people,
And two men.
They’re the ones that helped me get through life.
“Why am I doing this to myself?”
I thought.

We became like a family.
They’d call me “Teita”,
And “mama.”
We’d all sit and chat.
If someone needed work,
They’d find them a job.
And they gave literacy classes.
They wanted to help me divorce my husband,
But I was too scared.
Because I heard of a woman,
Who was kidnapped and beaten by her children,
When she tried to divorce her husband.
I stayed at the home for a year.
Then I stayed with a kind lady,
Who lived alone.
She used to give me money,
And take care of me.
She fell ill later on.

My children searched for me for a while,
But then forgot about me.
My husband told people that I was staying with my family.
And my son told his colleagues at work that I had died.
I only found out when I tried to visit him at work.
My other children only found out the truth,
When people started sending their condolences.
My husband started tying the children to the bed.
“So you don’t run away like your mother,”
He’d tell them.

A businessman, who was giving out zakah (alms),
Decided to provide for me,
And rent an apartment for me.
I fainted when I saw my daughter as a married woman.
I’m 59 years old now,
And I don’t see my children,
In fear of their father.
I see two of my daughters now.
But they don’t know that I’m living in a home for elderly people.
They’re not very compassionate,
But I understand.
It’s because they’re scared of their father.
I’m too scared to ask for a divorce.
One of the women from the home,
Met my husband to kindly ask him to divorce me,
So that I could take my father’s pension.
But he refused.
“Let her go to the family court,”
He said.
And he told the children,
“Your mother is running out of options.
She’ll soon come back to us begging.”

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