Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Opposite of Love

Jamina was a pretty little girl. She was her parents' pride and joy; the pearl of their existence. She was, for the most part, happy. Now and then, there were days when she was a bit anxious, wondering what it would be like to discover more of the world. She lived an extraordinary but sheltered life under her parents' care. Her parents had money and ran a very successful real estate business. One day, shortly after her eighteenth birthday, to Jamina's delight, her uncle paid her and her parents a visit. Jamina's parents had a lovely house in the country side and it was among the fairest of the lot. People loved to visit and Jamina's parents always enjoyed entertaining guests - when they could squeeze it in. This visit, however, was not a typical visit. Little did Jamina know that her uncle and her parents - his sister and her husband - had been talking about her for months. Her uncle had finally convinced her parents to let Jamina go to live with him just outside of the big city. He knew how to take care of her, he'd said. He did not have as much money, but he loved Jamina and knew that, with him, her life would be full of adventure and prosperity, he'd said. Although Jamina's parents were well-off, they also wanted Jamina to be on her own - in a manner of speaking. They knew they were far too busy to give her the full, well-rounded life that she needed. And she, too, had convinced them that she wanted to enter the world of work, instead of continuing her education. She would do that later on, she'd said. Jamina's parents let her go with a heavy heart. But, her mother made it clear that she would be keeping an eye on Jamina from a distance. And, with many good wishes, her parents let her go.

For the first few years living away from her folks, Jamina tried to find her footing in her independent life. Yes, she was under her uncle's supervision, but, he respected that she needed room to grow. He introduced her to his close friends; co-workers, and their children - many of whom were about Jamina's age. She had found a job at a bank and was earning her own money! Her uncle impressed upon her that it was important to be a good steward and encouraged her to make use of good opportunities. Everything was not perfect, but, they were fine. She loved her uncle and she trusted that he had her best interest at heart. She kept in touch with her parents - but barely. If anything, she knew how to reach them.

When her uncle perished in a fire about two years after, Jamina's marriage to Lopaj was only one month old. Lopaj had asked her uncle for her hand in marriage. Her uncle had made Lopaj promise that he would take care of Jamina. He did. He would take care of her, he'd said. He loved her and would do anything for her, he'd said. Her uncle's death dealt Jamina a hard blow. It took her months before she was able to begin to allow herself to enjoy the marital bliss everybody had raved about. For the most part, she was back to her normal self. Life returned to her chocolate cheeks and her gait and beauty oozed confidence.

But, the bliss was short-lived. In Jamina's mind, it had lasted only days. Too soon, she realized that Lopaj was more in love with the idea of having her as his wife than he was with her. He had a smile that could melt a woman and he was far more educated than her. In time, she felt smaller and smaller, wishing more and more that she had kept in touch with her parents. She hardly heard from them now. And, the two or so times that her mother had visited in over ten years, they hardly knew what to say to each other.

Lopaj bragged about bedding her; he ordered her around; he showed her off to his friends and, at home, always demanded more and more - more sex; a cleaner house; more attention. Within six and a half years, they had five children. One day, as he ordered her to bed, she said no. Jamina noticed that he literally did a double-take. The thrust and burn of his stare hurt her long before the pain she felt from his forced penetration. And, that day, he took a particular delight in making it all the more violent. For the duration of that ordeal, she screamed in the pillow, her body convulsing with pain and rage. The time after that, she cried. And, the times after that, the fight having long fled, she simply lay there and let him. It was incredible that Lopaj actually enjoyed doing what he did to the woman he claimed to love. But, the smile on his face was always there when he rolled off her each time. 

It became more than rape. Over and over, after each ordeal, Lopaj tried to convince Jamina that he loved her and that, soon, she would come to enjoy it, too. She would see. But, Jamina could not see. Jamina had known love. Shortly after she had become "independent" under the loving care of her uncle, Jamina had known love. But, what could she do? Her only hope was in her children. And, even then, not in all of them. When they were old enough to "have sense," it was clear that the children had begun to take sides. As adults, two of the them stood defiantly with their father; two, lovingly, with their mother. Out of sheer frustration, the youngest, who was on Jamina's side, went to live in another country.

Jamina heard from her daughter sometimes. From her adopted country, she wrote imploring her mother and her siblings to stand up to Lopaj. Every letter rang with a more urgent call to demand that he treat her better; that what he was doing was the opposite of love. Finally, she promised to come home to take action against him.

Jamina sat at the kitchen table, hands trembling, as tears streaked her cheeks. She held the pen against the paper while the ink made a huge blot. She tore that leaf out and tried again. Her reply to her daughter was short: "Why bother? He is too powerful. What would be the point?"

Her daughter never replied.


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