Last night I dreamt I fell in love. I dreamt I fell achingly, breathlessly in love after an abduction, and it all ended when we were on a jetplane over an ocean when my alarm woke me up.
I was working in Africa, North Africa – Morrocco maybe? And I was new to the country, the customs. I had different hair, a different job, I spoke French and a spattering of Arabic. I met your family. Through an aquaintance at work, we came across each other, and your mother and aunts in particular took a shine to me. I was invited to dinners, I helped prepare food in communal living areas with my hands, surrounded by women who chatted freely in the absence of men. I learned more about this country, its traditions, I began to trust your family, and as a foreigner was allowed to eat with the men. I took it as an opportunity to discuss politics, my country’s positions, my enjoyment of this country. Perhaps I was naive.
I had yet to have any knowledge of your existence.
Your family lived in a rural area, far from paved roads or neon signs. I was unaccompanied by foreigners, and your relatives assumed, reasonably, that if I disappeared it would be months before anyone worried. They thought that by then we would both be used to our new situation and it would matter little.
So they came for me one evening, your male relatives. Inviting me for tea and cakes at your house, but as we left I could feel a strangeness. Perhaps it was a nervous energy in the air, but when we arrived and he held me by the upper arm I knew something had gone terribly wrong for he should not be touching me.
I arrived to see your female relatives dressed for celebration, and yet no one was smiling. They begged me to change into clothes they had bought, if only to make this easy, for decisions made in male minds are not to be fought, but borne as easily as possible. And after all, what more could I want than to marry their son returned from the city and remain forever in the country I had grown to love, with a family that had grown to love me?
They were willing to overlook the dowry, my lack of male relatives for I spoke English and would bring honour to your family. Without realising what they were doing, and perhaps because I always was led too easily towards my own slaughter, I followed their gestures, and entered a room they could not. Perhaps a part of me wanted to see exactly what it was they had in store, for surely it couldn’t be what I thought.
I saw you there, kneeling in a corner, your head turned away from me, a small cut in your cheek dripping blood on your fine clothes. The room was all stillness, but i could see from your heaving shoulders and the looks on peoples faces that this stillness was filled with violence, and I was not the only one borne to this place against my will. I was sat down beside you, and after a few gestures, mumbled words and a book clapped shut, we were whisked into a room with a bed, alone on our first night as newlyweds.
You never spoke to me, being so humiliated as I was curious. Already you appeared electric, with flashing eyes and strong shoulders that I came to know well in the nights you spent turned away from me. But your family expected this, and after three days locked in together we began speaking. And then we spoke for three more days without end.
You had run away from your family at a young age, filled with hopes and dreams of seeing the world and moving beyond your circumstances. You had gotten a job bussing tables at a restaurant owned by a rich man, who took you under his wing, taught you to read and when his own family was killed in a car accident, bestowed on you all the love he would them, and you went to the best university, spoke 4 languages and had recently began working as a teaching assistant at a local university.
His family had lured him here with stories of a serious illness, it was her dying wish, and wasn’t it the least he could do given his abandonment of his filial duties? So he had come, and found me – a misguided gift, an attempt to please him, for they had found a woman who would fulfill his unique needs in a wife, an intellectual equal, who also loved his family and their simple life style.
You begged me to forgive you, promised you would help me escape and I said we would escape together. We were both victims of abduction, I said, and we would both get out of it together.
On the seventh day of our confinement, I awoke to you turned towards me, and I needed only to reach out before we locked together in passion that only this type of shared desperation can convey. You moved into me quickly, and attempted to slide back, but it was only seven deep movements, one for each day we’d known each other before we were both finished. But it would be a long time before we would disentangle ourselves.
Our consummation meant our confinement was over, and was interpreted as acquiescence by your family. Suddenly we were permitted limited access to the town and compound, but this freedom only increased our feelings of captivity – we were rarely permitted time in each other’s company during the days, for women and men are not friends and kept apart. During the day my body longed for you, and I often had to relieve this torture with my own hand slumped against the wall of the latrine to help myself last until dusk.
And then, one day, it was announced we would be visiting my family, in my country that there were plane tickets purchased and of course, as newlyweds our families should meet each other. The neighbours were talking, your family said, it was time to do the right thing. The arrogance of their gesture, the thought of the leaving the country, gave us hope of moving forward. Our passports, long since taken from us, would be used to go abroad, although not given back. We would be able to go to the police in Canada, to solicit help from my family, we would be free.
And it was when we were curled together, sleeping in our airplane seats, wet with desire and anticipation of a new life together that my alarm woke me, and I left that version of me, married by forced and in love with my husband, and woke up into my own life.