“Did I hurt your feelings?”he asks, ” Sorry, just a gaping void here. No heart darling. ” I take a deep breath and sigh softly at the full impact of his words and for the millionth time, I wish we were face to face. I keep wondering what his facials are. Do his eyes hold a haunted look, are they as dark and empty as the place where his heart used to be? I guess I’ll never know because beggers are not choosers and I literally begged and nagged endlessly for this interview, down on all knees and all, and so when he finally agreed I had to agree to his terms; the interview was to take place online in the private chambers of our inbox where he could mask his feelings with the curtains of emoticons.
‘How about you begin with how you met?” I type and close my eyes imagining that we are in New Muthaiga Mall in Thigiri enjoying coffee from Karura Coffee House. I would take a sip of my cappuccino as I asked but his dark sugarless espresso would remain untouched throughout the interview. Following my question, he would sigh probably regretting why he allowed my long journalistic nose into his business. ‘Her younger sister and my younger sister are friends. So one day she came by the house to bring her sister for a play date,” he begins nostalgia filled in his voice. He seems to be staring at something behind me but he is actually in a totally different place. A place called the past, back when the gaping void had a heartbeat. She was a timid little thing and when Mr. Gaping Void sauntered from the kitchen carrying a bag of crisps he scared her making her almost fall over (coz you know, he is that kind of a guy who walks into a room and all the girls fall to his feet. Literally in this case.) As she was about to fall, he quickly stretched out his arms and she fell into them. “Take it easy habibti, we don’t want you breaking that dainty nose you have there” (Okay, I made that up..but let’s get on with the flow here). She didn’t fall. “I was amused by the terror in her big beautiful shocked eyes” he says. “What color are they?” As usual the inquisitive me wants to know about this totally irrelevant matter. He sends me a photo of her. Saving himself the agony of my curiosity. Just as well since I was to ask about the shape of her nose next. I have no other words to describe her apart from absolutely stunning. Her face is half covered by a blue silkish hijab.But what arrests you first are her big beautiful black eyes. They take you in and hold you captive until the seduction is complete and then you are no longer a hostage but a willing slave. To put the icing on the cake, she possesses the highly coveted ‘rangi ya thao’. I stare at her photo a few seconds longer than what may be considered appropriate. She reminds me of the first born princess (her name evades me) in the novel The Sheikh’s Untamed Bride. “She reminds me of a princess”, I tell him but all I receive is a shrug and a sacarstic yeah yeah. After another failed attempt at humor, I urge him to go on with the story.
So Mr. Gaping Void did what any other man could have done faced with this rare beauty, he asked for her number and we all know how the story goes from there.
” I texted her, she became less frightened, asked her out, and we started dating,” but fate had something else in store for this arabic-fairytale couple. “Suddenly she became really quiet and I knew something was wrong but when I asked she told me she was going through stuff at home and she’d tell me later.” By now the haunted look in his eyes has been replaced by a turmoil of sad emotions. The memories were flooding back in torrents and he was quickly losing the battle between him and his emotions “She shut me out for a really long time then she contacted me to tell me. Her excuse was she didn’t know how to tell me. Anyway, the rest is history.” He says with a shrug. I’m taken by surprise like huh? Dammit! We were making such good progress! I glance at his eyes; black, empty, cold. He won the battle.
Mr. Gaping Void’s princess was getting married and no not to him. To a man she barely knew, a man tried and found fitting by none other but her parents; an arranged marriage.
An arranged marriage in the twenty-first century.
“She made her choice,” he says but he says it as though he is telling himself. Still unable to come to terms with it. Like the words are in a foreign language that needs to be spoken slowly and repetitively so he can comprehend.
“Do you think it was really a choice?” I ask in a timid voice as if I’m afraid I might enrage him and not live to tell his tale.
“Everything is a choice”
“Do you wish she could have defied her parents?”
“We were dating and in love what do you think?”
I want to ask more questions but he senses it “Fill in the rest of the interview with your own words” he says then takes a swig of his cold espresso, cold like his eyes, cold like the void where his heart used to be. Case closed
I want to scream that the interview isn’t over yet. I want to ask him if he felt his heart break when she told him of Mr. Arranged Marriage. I want to know what he could have done if she could have done as he secretly wishes every night; that she could have said no. Would he have eloped with her in the case her parents chased her out?
I want to know her side of the story. Why she couldn’t have said no. Whether she still loves Mr. Gaping Void and if she knows he is living without a heart because of her. I want to know Mr. Arranged Marriage story too. I want to ask him how it feels not to have to work hard for a woman’s love because she is handed to you on a silver platter. How it feels to marry a woman who has another man’s heart in her pocket.How it feels to rob a man off his woman his heart? How it feels to know he disrupted a modern fairytale.
But mostly I want to know what her parents were thinking. Was theirs an arranged marriage too? Didn’t they think their daughter was capable of choosing a man fitting enough? Was it about wealth or were they just blindly following Neanderthal customs?
But we can only want so much and get so little.
We sit in silence. Him behind his emotional wall and me unable to come to terms with the fact that its 2019, the age of feminism where we can walk braless, have random sex with men without being stoned or shamed and yet some of our very own are still being hindered by medieval nonsensical customs. Where is the freedom we brag to have achieved? Are we still too timid to fight for what we want? Can’t we just shove the submissiveness up…(let me not type that) and dare to be defiant? Isn’t it up to us to stop this degratory systems that are infused with culture so as to make them unbreakable?
Suddenly he breaks the silence,”And if you are going to use this crappy thing you call an interview, make sure I see it first” I nod absentmindedly only to ask later, “Did you just call my interview crappy?” We both laugh and the sun comes out from behind a gloomy dark cloud. Suddenly the mood lightens. It feels like a heavy veil that had been resting on our shoulders has just been lifted. Mr.Gaping Void goes into hiding and Mr. Make You Fall At My Feet returns, the man I first met that hot Saturday afternoon a couple of months ago. We chat aimlessly for a while then towards the end of the meeting he asks if I’m in relationship. I reply in the affirmative. He grimaces, gives me a serious look and says,”Don’t hurt the poor guy… You don’t want to create a monster like me do you?” His words hit me like a slap on the face. I swallow hard and promise to try my best not to. Well bae, I guess I’m not dumping you anytime soon!