Never in my life would I have believed that I, a married woman of twenty-two years with four children, would be where I am now.
One day I decided to take an exotic vacation using credit card points. I made the arrangements four months in advance and asked for time off work. I was looking forward to spending some time alone with my husband away from the kids and the hectic life we had in the United States and hoping to work out our marital problems. But the night before leaving for Morocco I found myself begging my husband to go away with me. He refused, saying I was selfish to book the trip without consulting him and he wasn’t in the mood to go because we had financial problems. Convincing myself that I’d go on the trip even if it killed me, I began packing my bags. I’d been called selfish and many other ugly words before in my life; why should they stop me now?
So, that is how I ended up alone, in a country I’d never visited before. I went straight to my hotel room and locked myself in for two days because, according to my religion and culture, I was not supposed to be traveling unaccompanied. I had done so in the past to visit my family, but never to a vacation spot. Everyone around me had been making me feel guilty.
After two days I hadn't seen anything other than the hotel lobby and my room. However, I had been given a brochure with a map showing exciting places to visit and things to do in Marrakech. So, I swallowed my pride, wiped away my tears, called the front desk and asked politely to book a trip with a camel ride.
That afternoon, while waiting for the bus to come and pick me up, I got engaged in a conversation with a guy at the hotel coffee shop. I didn’t notice that the bus had arrived and everyone at the hotel was looking for me because I was making the others late. Finally, they found me and told me to meet the driver in the lobby. To cut a long story short, we were driven by a really handsome guy to the camel-riding place. He was cute, but I’d seen such guys before. Why did I keep finding myself staring at him? I kept my distance and talked to the other tourists and indeed I did ride a camel and had fun.
I was ready to return to my hotel room for a nice hot shower. The driver dropped off the other tourists and I was left alone with him. I began making small talk. I told him I speak Arabic but found it difficult to understand what he was saying due to the difference in dialect. We talked and suddenly I realized that I should stop, I needed to return to the hotel. I’d heard all sorts of scary stories about what can happen to tourists and I was alone in a country where I knew no one. He asked me out for a cup of coffee and after hesitating I declined but agreed to take his phone number without giving him mine.
That night I couldn’t sleep; all I could thing about was the conversation I’d had with the driver earlier on. He’d asked me to take off my sunglasses, saying I had beautiful eyes that told a sad story. How in the world could this guy know what was I going through, and true enough I wore my shades all the time because I was afraid of people seeing what a miserable and lonely person I was. I had two more days in Morocco, so what was I to do? I sent a short text message to the guy, who I knew only by his first name, asking if the offer for coffee was still on? We set a date to meet in front of my hotel and he offered to take me to the city and show me around. I had never been on a date before in my life, only seen couples on dates in movies. The only person I had ever been out with was my husband. How would I prepare and why was I nervous? I was just going to tour the city with him, have fun, get to know the culture and have a cup of coffee − right?
The first thing I told him when I met him in the street was: ”I am not one of those girls, I am married, well not happily married, but I’m married and I’m a good clean girl who doesn’t sleep around with guys.” He said he wasn’t expecting anything from me; just wanted to have fun and show me around. The day went by quickly and we visited places not usually frequented by tourists. We had coffee and ethnic food; we took pictures and I even smoked a cigarette with him. And I opened my heart to him, told him about my sad lonely life and he listened the whole time and when I glanced up at him once he had tears in his eyes. He asked me to go with him to his apartment for some good Moroccan tea and strangely, I agreed.
And, again to cut a long story short, I ended up sleeping with him. Yes, me, who had been with no one else in my life other than my husband! No man had ever touched me before other than my husband. How could I do that! It was adultery! I could be lashed in another country. How could I live with myself? What about the kids? What about my husband? How could I defend myself? All these questions were swirling around my head.
I went back to the hotel, took a long hot shower, hoping to wash away this terrible sin and assured myself that, like they say in America, it was just a one-night stand and I would never speak of it to anyone. I would go home and things would return to normal.
I talked to my friend a few more times, and for some mysterious reason I felt comfortable with him, at ease around him. Let me tell you also that he was eleven years younger than me, twenty-one years younger than my husband, and eight years older than my daughter. You do the math!
That is the beginning of my story…
On the plane home I made the decision to divorce my husband, take the kids and live in another state, just move on like so many divorced women do. But, man − that guy wouldn’t leave my mind and every time I thought of him I’d get this funny feeling inside me. No one would know of this, I kept reminding myself, but it felt so good to be in his arms and in his bed.
After long fights and arguments and getting my whole family involved, I felt like a small child who couldn’t make up her mind; my family was deciding for me. In my religion [Islam], a woman cannot initiate divorce; the husband has to grant her the divorce. My husband finally agreed to a divorce on one condition: he’d get custody of the kids. For the life of me, I agreed and told myself I’d fight it later. I just needed to be free.
Now came the tradition and the religious part of my miserable life. I left my home and moved to my parents’ house for three months. I was forbidden contact with any strange men and from going outside the house except to run errands. I kept agreeing to whatever they were putting me through, but in my head I knew exactly what I wanted. I kept up my relationship with my Moroccan friend and I was to go to him after my three months lock-down. During those long months there were many fights with my mother over the shame, embarrassment, humiliation and disgrace that I had brought to the family and her community. She had no idea that I had slept with the guy; she didn’t even know he existed. She couldn’t understand why I had to leave my husband after twenty-two years and abandon my kids. I kept quiet and dwelt on my one-night stand and my new-found love. I survived for three months on this and on secret phone calls to him. I was a grown woman acting like a teenager. Was that love? Or was it the sexual revolution?
I made my peace with God, asked for forgiveness knowing that my God is great and forgiving. It was some of my family members who could not find it in their hearts to forgive me. If God could forgive sinners, why couldn’t we humans, God’s creatures, not forgive, too?
I chose this man; he was not chosen for me. I left my home, my kids and my job to be with him. Why? I still don’t have the answer to that. I do believe and trust that my God wanted this to happen.
Why can’t they see this if they are true believers?