When I tell you about Asad there are two versions of him that exist. There is the sweet chatty guy who came suddenly into her life and swept her off her feet. And there is the bitter man who came back into her life to stomp on her heart.
I believe the latter one was created by our families. Asad and Aisha’s love story was nothing lesser than the classic love story. Two hearts that fell madly in love just to be separated by their families.
The way she told her story;
My blood-stained his fishnet white t-shirt, he hangs it on the door. And it was staring me in the eyes. I could hear the t-shirt yell at me “you are a disgrace to your father. This is why girls should be kept in cages” I looked down. I knew why he hangs it there. It was the declaration of manhood. It was the proof he was man enough to take my virginity and also the proof needed to show that I was a virgin. Untouched by other men before him. I knew mothers and aunties did this when a new bride came to the family. Every bride is suspected of being unlawful until proven innocent. So, the bed is made with white sheets the newlyweds must lay on their first night together. Early in the morning, the females of the groom’s family would come knocking on the door of the newlyweds. They would take the groom outside to drink fresh camel milk as the bride is shooed to one corner of the bed to see her blood-stained sheets and clothes… the more her eyes show signs and proof of distress and tears, the better. She would be either comforted and told it is all right, “we all go through this, now you are a married woman” or they would look at her and run out the with blood-stained bed sheet cheering “eleleelel” making a sound of joy so that the whole neighborhood hears about it. “our son married an innocent good girl.” Aka a virgin.
But there was no white sheet on this single bed I laid up on. Asad was sitting shirtless talking on his nokia mobile phone. It rose a faint sense of hurt to see his bare smooth back turned to me. He should be laying next to me comforting me not bragging over the phone. I stretch my arm to touch his back. He just scooped forward and continued speaking on the phone. – Oh my God. It felt like a fist hit me in my belly. it is true what they say. Now that Asad got what he wanted from me, he is done. I am nothing more than unsealed meal. You know what they say when they argue why a girl must remain a virgin until marriage? “would you rather eat a meal that has been laying on the table unsealed? The flies landed on the plate for hours… or would you prefer a fresh cooked meal, that came to you with a sealed cover so no insect or fly landed on your plate?”
I would always think to myself when I heard people(men) argue on this matter, it depends on how hungry you are. What do they know about hunger by the way? When I cook for them the men eat first always the men. But I never said that out loud of course. That would mean a taste of belt on my back and lectures how I disgraced my family by speaking my mind.
I wonder if I would have laid with this man if I had a mother who raised me with love? Or if I had been told that I was beautiful. Or if anyone besides him ever talked to me while insisting to look into my eyes.
Asad was the only breathing human being who ever showed me, love. He looked at me and spoke to me directly. Not above my head towards the elder ladies or asked about me to my cousins, while I am standing there… no, he looked at me, and said: “thank you.” When I served him tea? No one ever said thank you. As the only child from my mother, I was the servant of the house. All through my half-siblings both elder and younger than me were in the house. I was the second servant beside the other servant. She got paid once a month I did not. Yet I worked as much. When she was preparing meals, I was swiping the ground the whole compound housing 16 people under one big roof with many rooms. When she was swiping the floor, I was washing the clothes by hand of course. This is Africa in early 2000 we are talking about.
It was only given that I too fell in love after he professed his love for me. I had watched men cry for love and sing for love trough the Indian movies, they also said I love you in Somali. “waan ku jeclahay” Now I know they were dubbed. So yes, I said I love you too, but truly I fell in love. I anticipated his next visit. He was related to us so he was allowed to come with my cousins from Mombasa when the schools close. I thought of him while I made laxoox(injera, pancake looking like dish) I thought of him while I hang the clothes. Suddenly I had learned to blush and smile by his thought.
I used to love when the lights went out and I was sent to go get paraffin oil, for the paraffin lamp. He would come with and no one suspected anything. We would walk and he would hold my hand. The touch of his hand felt like lightning struck me.
I remember the first time he attempted to kiss me. As we walked to the little kiosk to buy paraffin, he stopped and grabbed my shoulders facing me. He came closer, I could see his half-closed eyes and pouting lips come towards me. I hit him right in the nose. “what? Why did you do that?” he held his nose and stepped backward. I stood there wondering what the hell just happened. What was he doing? I had never seen people kiss. Not in movies not in real life. How could I have known that it was a thing that people did? or that there was nothing like it once you have had your first kiss?
I had wondered many times why on earth Asad choose me when Layla was a taller and lighter-skinned cousin.
Aisha, habebti, you are beautiful, you are like the night. The stars come out at the night. Not in the day time your eyes are the stars that shine in the night. And your skin is like the roasted coffee beans. I love you my coffee bean I want to chew you like the elder men chew the roasted coffee beans. He would say and imitate the elder men chewing coffee beans. That always made me giggle.
Suddenly I felt beautiful when all my life I was told I was too dark as my mother. And not as attractive as my other siblings.
But here I was swaying my head with the music that played from the neighbor’s cassette player while washing jeans with my hand. Listening to love songs I would pretend the song was for me and the man singing was my Asad. House chords were not as dreadful as they used to be. I enjoyed that no one spoke to me. No one interrupted my daydreaming. “naya(hey you,) Aisha make another pot of tea” – haye walal(ok brother) I would replay to my little brother and went ahead and put charcoal, then start fanning it to make fire. I served the family with pleasure now because I had someone to think about. Soon I would have my own little arish(tiny room) I would not slave for others but my own husband and children. I wanted many children, I would birth boys and girls for my Asad. inshaAllah(God willing) God may he have mercy on me and bless me with many kids. That was my prayer.
After a year of love letters heart drawn in red pen and blood dripping professing love for one another, we decided it was time he asked for my hand in marriage.
Asad did what any noble man does. He brought two of his well accomplished cousins and asked my hand in marriage. But his faith was sealed. He was the son of a thief therefore he was un deserving to marry the daughter of a man who lives abroad. The fact that Asad was a relative and a decent guy who goes to school did not matter. He was going to high school and wanted to be a doctor.
Asad was raised by his mother. His father lived in a remote village with his other wives. Asad was raised as an only child by his mother. Granted we all heard about the thief who stole camels from people way before Asad was born.
He never met his father, his mother escaped her abusive husband with her unborn child in her womb and came to Kenya to live with relatives. People pitted him and allowed him come and eat with them. “he is such a decent guy for being a son of a thief.” They would say.
So, when he asked for my hand, I was sure that my father would give me away in a heartbeat. It would mean one less child to bring to America. Especially since I am a girl, I thought he would be relieved that he didn’t have to take me abroad. That it would be better for his motherless daughter to marry and stay in Africa instead of going abroad and most likely disgrace him by behaving like a white woman. – I could hear my father’s thoughts and what he would say when a man asked him my hand in marriage.
We hear of the stories of Somali girls who act as if they are white by wearing trousers as if they were men. And showing off their hairs with no shame or regard for their religion. They are loud, they laugh loud, they jump and run like men. They have left all that is Somali and decent. Our father would say when he comes to visit his young wife in Nairobi. “Girls should be left home where they can be controlled and looked after. Out there you can’t control a girl or beat her if she misbehaves because they say men and women are equal. But we know women are like a big child. They don’t have smart brains like us men. And if you don’t control and guide your child she will misbehave or be lured and bring disgrace and death upon our name.”
My father had strong opinions on how a girl should behave. Like the rest of the family did. But no, Asad did not get my father’s blessing. Instead, he got cursed. How dare he, the son of a thief desire to wed a daughter of Sheikh Ahmed Khalif?
So like every young teenager in deep love we did the best next thing. Meher xad(marriage in secrecy) Something many lovers practiced. It was halal. We had a witness and a sheikh.
Asad looked back at me as he sat upon the bed. The act was long. I had kicked him off with my foot twice before giving in. “please my love it only hurts once stop kicking me.” To think back now we were kids what did we know about the lovemaking. He was 19 and I 18. I was told it was going to hurt the day I was sewn together FGM, so it was no surprise but pure hell.
I held his arms tight every fiber in me fighting him to stop but I didn’t kick him off. He was wearing his fishnet t-shirt and thrust in with force. Hence the bloodstains on it that he hangs on the door.
“what are you thinking of darling, are you in pain? I am so sorry” Asad says and comes closer.
He hushed me and tried to soothe me for 30 mins or so. We had no time to dwell on what is done now. I was his wife. Without my father’s blessing or any member of my family’s knowledge. I returned back home that day. And went on with my daily chores.
“I have the normal thing” I replayed and prayed that she didn’t notice any difference in my walk.
“Why are you sighing Aisha?” my auntie asked.
The period was the best excuse in case bloodstains came through my pads.
How could I know that my father would change his mind and send me off to the States? How could I know that he had given me a way to an elder guy close to his age?
The horror to them when they found out that I was a wife already.
How could I know that not even marriage could keep me with my love?
Our love was cursed. Our marriage was proclaimed to be false and I was a divorced girl by force.
Here I stood in front of the mirror with a white gown people are dancing and cheering over 100 people came to celebrate a wedding I wasn’t happy to participate in. I was the bride and I was crying.
A child and 5 years later.
I went to Kenya and married my love again. He had a daughter and an ex-wife of his own. Also married by force to prove that he was a worthy man when he stopped going to school and cried my name for months. He was taken by force, his uncles hit their chests “nin rag ah.” You are a man damn it, man up they said. Did she put a spell on you? Look at your cousins choose amongst the beauties and marry one or two. They said. And marry he did. And father he had become yet our hearts belonged to each other. Or so I thought the day I married him again this time in a small ceremony with a sheikh and his cousins as a witness. We had a little party after the sheikh had gone. I rented a gown from the beauty parlor in Nairobi. We had a cake and 16 people his friends and cousins and us. I had saved money for this day. I had rubbed toilets and washed asses to make the money needed. My husband could not tame me, and by now I spoke fluent “human rights” to scare him off. He divorced me and I was a free woman. I left my daughter with my sister and flew out to be Asad’s wife.
After the act…
He kissed me and held me as if it was the last time he was going to see me. we did’t make love no, we sang together. our bodies sang for one another. Now I know it was the last time together so he made sure to leave a burning memory in my mind. Every where his hand touched kissed was him marking a territory he did not intend on owning.
The cheerful young boy was now a man with anger. Bitterness. Every word was critics. On our wedding night, I heard him talking on the phone.
Asad, still talking and bragging over the phone I see, I thought to myself and smiled at my reflection in the bathroom mirror.
” so who is unworthy now?”
My heart skipped a beat, I stopped wiping the makeup off and tried to listen eagerly. but he stopped talking. Despite my gut telling me something was off I ignored it. I put on a green baati dress, the soft material was hugging my body
My love was cursed…
How could I know that even my grown ass still belonged to my father?
He sent men to knock at the door… my husband did not stop them as they drag me out of the hotel room…
And why did they wait until out wedding night?
Why did they not come we when called my uncles and father again to ask for their blessing to be married? They said No, we neither approve nor bless your marriage. We did not care and since I was already a divorce, a grown woman they had no say over my life. But they didn’t send a relative to intervene with our wedding. Until it was the first night together.
Why did he sit back with a smirk? As if I was the thief? He was punished for his father’s crime… what were mine? Until this day I wonder did he call them? Who told them were we were staying?
Did my Asad’s male ego and pride take over? And was this marriage a revenge over my father for shaming him?
Asad, do you think you could become again that cheerful, free, loving kid? Do you know that night our child was planted in my womb? And that it left me like you left me the day you called to say dalakh over the phone tree times… “you and you family are cursed, I want nothing to do with you” you told me that and my stomach started hurting. I thought it was my broken heart that was the reason… turned out to be our un born child also deemed me cursed and left my womb.
17 years and 34 days later…
Single mother of a daughter.
With every Failed relationship
I think of him.