Chapter One | The Enemy Within
I loved my husband.
He was all I have ever known to love. Cliché as it sounds; he was my Prince charming. He was the most beautiful man I have ever laid my eyes on. He was tall, dark and was filled with kindness and love.
We were married for fifteen years with three beautiful children; Ahmed, Anwar, and Awo. He was a role model to our children. Our nights were filled with laughter and talks as we held onto memories of our old days. We never slept without fulfilling each others’ desires, because we had some much love to give.
Our children were a reflection of our love.
Our home was blessed.
It was spring of 2013, when my childhood friend and cousin called to tell me that she was coming to stay with us temporarily. Shamso wanted to start a new life in a new place. I was excited. All of my relatives were hundreds of miles away, it felt good to have a family nearby.
She was a divorcee who didn’t bear any children in her last marriage – “I am a free woman!” She often would cheer jokingly but I knew deep down she was concerned. She was thirty-two-years old, which meant that her chance of another marriage was only thinning in her mind.
I let two of my boys share a room, as I gave her a room for her privacy. I was a stay-home mom and only cared for the wellbeing of my children, as I drove them to school and afterschool activities.
Awo, my thirteen-year-old daughter, wasn’t fond of her auntie but the two boys were careless of her presence. Shamso didn’t understand the psychological behavior of teens and would question the way I raised my children. She’d point out that I spoil Awo, and that I submit to her needs more then I should.
Nevertheless, I’d listen to her advice, and befriended her words because she was family.
When we were younger, my mother used to say that family is everything in this world. So I would drive her around to look for subsidized housings and even helped her cope financially.
It was that same year, my husband lost his job. He was an engineer for a top technology firm for three years. He got into an altercation with one of his managers, which resulted in him being fired.
I remember that day, the disappointment in his tone.
“Love, I was fired today,” he voiced angry as he sat down on the bottom stair to take off his shoes. I asked him what happened.
“My manager said something racist, and I totally lost it.”
It was hard to imagine my husband this way –angry and frustrated. He never spoke ill or cause any harm to another human. He was religious and believed his actions would carry consequences in the hereafter.
“That is unlike me. I don’t know what took over me,” he continued to express. It seemed he was more disappointed in his actions, then the racist remark his manager spat at him.
“It’s okay, you will get what God has written for you.” I spat.
Things took strange turns that year. I had two miscarriages, and my daughter Awo was getting bad grades in all of her classes.
My family was falling apart, and I didn’t know how to fix it. As time went by, my husband became angrier. He was raised to have Imaan and to put his trust in God, but it seemed no matter what he did, the world has become his new enemy, including me.
Most nights, he’d fall asleep in the living-room, on the couch whilst watching television. He lost the urge to love me, and the determination he had for his family slowly faded in thin air. It made me sad to see my husband battling to find the light while I was struggling to find him in the midst of his darkness.
One evening, he came home enraged as I was in the kitchen cooking dinner for the family. He walked over to me and said: “we have to move out, and find something affordable.” I knew those words were coming, but I was afraid to hear them.
“We will be fine,” I replied back calmly.
“You don’t understand, Khadija!” He shouted as he knocked a cup off the kitchen counter, breaking the glass into pieces. It startled me.
He has formed an impulsive behavior, and it scared me a little. For fifteen years, he never showed this type of manners. “I know you’re distraught but your behavior does not help the situation get any better. Calm down Abdi, please.” I usually found myself begging him.
My family was in distress.
Shamso left a week before we moved into a smaller apartment. Our children hated the new apartment. They complained about the neighborhood, and the lack of attention they were getting from their new teachers.
My husband barely came home. He’d spend hours with other Somali men, something he’d always frowned upon – “Husband belongs home with his wife and children,” he used to declare.
I started to resent him for not being stronger, for not having enough imaan. I felt as if he gave up on us.
I befriended with a neighbor, Muna. While the kids were at school, we’d share stories and she would be an ear to my misery. She was kind and filled with patience.
One day, on my way to the grocery store to pick up some eggs to make malawax, I saw my husbands’ car stopped at a stoplight ahead of me. I could tell it was him because I recognized the license plate. I trusted my husband, but something inside me was curious to know where he was heading. When he left home this morning, he said he was going to the masjid but ironically the masjid was on the other side of the city.
I followed him.
We drove for thirty minutes through familiar streets. My curiosity grew as we headed in the direction as our old home. I stopped and watched him signal right into the street we used to live at.
I was confused. Why would he come all the way to our old house, I pondered? I drove slightly forward, where I can see him but he wasn’t able to see me.
My thoughts froze. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
It was my cousin, Shamso, approaching my husbands’ car. She was well dressed and looked as if she just stepped out of a fashion shoot. What was she doing coming out from my old home? And what is my husband doing picking her up? I was filled with questions, as my heart raced a million miles per hour.
Strangely, I have never seen my cousin engage in a conversation with my husband when she was staying with us; at least not while I was around. She would run in her room, whenever he came home. How were they able to form this type of…bond, I wondered?
I followed them on autopilot, as I was thinking about the lies and the truth that was never spoken. I didn’t know this man. I never married this man. I was angry at myself for falling into a pit of lies.
The car came to a halt at the parking lot of our local masjid. This was weird. Why would my husband bring my cousin to the masjid, I thought?
I came to find out, my husband married my cousin that day. Their love was legally chained together by the local Sheikh, who spat blessings onto their new marriage while mine ended.
I always thought people exaggerated their feelings when they spat ‘my heart was broken’ but it was in that parking lot, I have felt the truth in those words.
I asked for a divorce and told him that I saw him with my cousin that day. He didn’t feel any remorse, instead, he spat simple words while my heart weight heavy in betrayal. This was not the man I fell in love with.
I packed him a bag and told him to tell our children that he will be gone for few weeks until we figured out this situation. I wanted a divorce, but it was clear to me that he wasn’t going to lodge a protest. I felt angry and wanted to stab him in his chest for betraying me. “I hate you,” I whispered not wanting to alert the kids who were in the next room.
A week went by and his scent still lingered in the room. Voices in my head kept me company when I felt the loneliest. I started to whisper back to them as they made sense to me.
Most days, I felt zombie-like. I didn’t feel like cooking or cleaning. All I could think about was him and her –as scenes of them together replayed in my head like an endless movie.
I began to hallucinate from lack of sleep. Awo, worried about my condition, she called her father to come and check up on me, but instead of taking me to the hospital –he took the kids.
I didn’t even notice their absence, because I was locked in my room going through a mental breakdown.
There was a particular voice amongst the voices in my head, that started to convey more authority. He called himself my Qareen, and when he spoke, the rest remained silent. His presence grew more powerful inside me.
I’d black out, as he takes charge sometimes.
One morning, I woke up in a puddle of blood not knowing what happened. The trail of blood led me to a small body, barely recognizable because the head was badly bashed in. But I recognized her. It was my neighbor, Muna, lying dead in my living-room.