Disclaimer: The events of this story are true, however the names have been changed to protect victim privacy.
Mary and I met in a different cafe yesterday. She was wearing a killer “causal dress” that I might wear on a night out. Her false eyelashes were carefully applied and her hair was newly colored and cut. Mary had lost a considerable amount of weight. She was never an overweight girl, more on the curvy side, but when I saw her, it was clear she wasn’t eating enough. When Mary saw me, she screamed my name in delight and hugged me as if we were sisters.
We ordered our hummus and chicken shawarma like old times (old times meaning six months ago). I brought my laptop so that I could help her submit papers for the interpreter contract she secured. I read her story aloud since English is her second language (Mary’s Story: Leaving Her Abuser (Hopefully Forever). She loved the post. Mary was surprised at the level of accuracy and asked that I email the story to her so that she could read it to her mother. I also read the comments section, which only affirmed what her mother and I had been saying all along.
One thing she did ask me to clear up was her situation with her son. Her son is living with his paternal grandparents, so thankfully he isn’t living with her abusive ex-husband. She also pays them monthly support as they are his guardians until she can take him full time.
Mary filled me in on her new life. She is still living with her mom. Sahib had threatened to go back to Egypt. He sent her a screen capture of the one-way ticket. It sounded like a great idea to me! Mary agreed, cursing his name several times during the course of conversation.
“It would be the best thing for me,” she said.
Unbeknownst to me, Sahib extended his stay in the U.S. to be with Mary, which lasted over a year. After his divorce from his first wife, he met Mary, went back to Egypt briefly and came back to be with her. I’m still unclear if he was staying here on a work visa since I’m pretty sure he never applied for citizenship (weird for a man married and living in the U.S. for five years).
Mary was on a dating website and had flirted with the idea of dating again. She is a very pretty girl and as I said before, has tons of personality to match her countless dating prospects.
Her mother and father determined she should marry a family friend living in Egypt. As I learned, arranged marriages between Christian Egyptians (who are pretty devout) are not uncommon. The man, who is about 45, is well known as an upstanding gentleman around the local community in Egypt- a carpenter. Mary’s parents arranged for her to fly to Egypt in February to meet him. According to Mary, the man already asked her father for her hand in marriage. If they like each other during her visit, Mary will begin the process of engagement, bring him to the U.S., help him find a job and live separately until the marriage is solidified.
Of course I had my doubts. But who am I to judge a person’s traditions and lifestyle, especially when I thought arranged marriages were an archaic practice? I see her parent’s side of the matter. Mary’s mother is protective of her child, very religious and believes Mary’s judgement in men hasn’t served her well. Surprisingly, Mary is very supportive of the potential marriage. She feels similarly.
“I talk to him often,” she said. “He tells me that he has 100% trust in me. I need that. For someone to let me be myself and trust me. It’s about what is inside, not what he looks like, anyway.”
I warned her about the necessity of physical attraction for marriage to survive the long haul. She tentatively agreed but reminded me that personality can make a person appear more attractive. She has a point. I’ve dated men solely based on their personality and wit.
Mary has pledged herself to celibacy until she is engaged. There have been too many men in her life that were users and abusers. On the occasions she gave in to quick intimacy, she was cast aside for the next woman.
Some of the men she met online didn’t take the idea of engagement before intimacy too kindly. Celibacy is a foreign concept when it comes to American dating. Before the idea of getting engaged in Egypt surfaced, Mary was seeing another Egyptian-American she met through her cousin. She told this man, Ta-Ta (nickname), that she wouldn’t have an intimate relationship with him until there was a ring on her finger. He dropped her like a bag of bricks. This only solidified her resolve.
We stayed and talked in the cafe for hours. It was a great feeling to catch-up and hear about her new, stronger self. I had to pick up my son from his father’s apartment so we asked for the check. As I packed my laptop and paid, Mary’s expression grew cold. I was facing the wall while she was facing the entrance of the cafe. She got up immediately and walked over to a nearby table. It took a minute for me to register who the man was. It was none other than Sahib, looking down, pain written all over his face.
“Mary, I’m going to wait for you outside,” I said.
She nodded briefly and continued her angry tirade. I was angry. Had she told him where she was? Were they still talking? I made a mental note of everything I needed to ask.
Mary didn’t sit down and talk to Sahib as I had seen countless times. In the past, she would sit, talk and soothe him and make me wait for fifteen minutes or more. Her anger and surprise was genuine. When she met me at the entrance, she shook her head.
“I cannot believe it!”
“What is going on?” I said.
“I don’t know how he found me. Maybe he called the owner?”
“Be honest Mary. Did you tell him?” I asked.
“I swear, Habibi, I didn’t.” (Habibi: friend in Arabic).
“So he’s stalking you?” I asked.
“Yes! I didn’t tell him anything. My mom thinks he should be put in jail.”
I had to agree with her mother. The man had no boundaries. He didn’t have a car, so he took the bus everywhere. I imagined he was taking the bus, checking all her old haunts in a process of elimination.
“Mary, this has got to stop. You need to do something. At least tell him you will call the police unless he stops. Otherwise, you know I can’t be in your life with this happening over and over again. It makes me think you are hiding something from me.”
Mary kept promising that she had moved on and he wasn’t letting this “relationship” die. He was the aggressor, 100%, she promised.
Time will only tell if Mary is telling the truth and if I continue our friendship.
I’ll keep you posted…