Part 2 – Waiting to exhale

22 July 2018

The punch party was not yet the turning point for me. A few other things hap first. One night in particular, stands out as what I can easily describe as one of the worst nights of my life. I’ve had a few, but those are for other chapters. My husband and I had returned from some or other party and he was embarking on a new experience with something he got from someone at the party. He really wanted me to join him in trying it out. Me being the control freak that I am and deathly afraid of being in any kind of altered state, I resisted several times but eventually gave in, taking it as a one-time deal. I followed the instructions on how to go about the inhaling. Not that I was new to smoking. Shortly after I met him at Varsity, I started smoking cigarettes to be cool at the time, a habit which I only gave up 18 years later. I remember his offering that night was rather fat looking, not like ones I had seen friends smoke before. Apparently, the method was somewhat different from smoking cigarettes as it involved holding one’s breath after an inhale for so long that a novice like myself would inevitably choke, gasp and start coughing. Initially I felt like nothing was happening and then it began. I was crouched in the rounded cane chair in the lounge and I felt a sensation of fear and paranoia waft around my senses like a mist that grew thicker until it wrapped around my mind and every cell of my body and squeezed me like an anaconda. I felt trapped in this intensity with no way out. I was frozen and couldn’t move my limbs. I felt like my thoughts and actions were not synchronised and that the thought impulses from my brain were coming faster than my body could react. To this day I don’t know what I inhaled. I finally made my way to my bed and found myself weeping. I can’t remember why but I suppose it was because I felt so helpless and trapped. Eventually I fell asleep and when I woke, the memory of the previous night seemed like a bad dream.

My husband had always been loving towards me and probably just wanted someone to enjoy and share the things he liked doing. It became increasingly apparent that I was probably not that person. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, was when I asked him one time whether he believed in God. This was always an important aspect for me. He said that he wasn’t sure about that. I felt like cold water was thrown in my face. I asked why he went to Mosque on a Friday and he kind of shrugged and gave some excuse. I had always thought that his indiscretions were a phase and that eventually he’d come around and we could continue our lives. This new information, however brought home to me the reality that we were essentially different and our ideas for a life path were truly divergent. No matter how I erred, the centrality of God in my existence was core and my soul seemed to be pulling me in that direction, despite my actions moving in another. I felt like I had lost myself.

I think that was the point of no return for me. Ironically though, instead of turning a better page, I regressed. By that time, I was doing articles at a prestigious human rights firm. I fell in love with my Principal who was a die-hard warrior for the oppressed. His antics in defending political detainees in the apartheid courts against conservative racist magistrates at the time ignited something within me. Alas, he was married with 3 children as was I at the time, of course without the children. It didn’t stop me from falling crazy in love to the point of absolute obsession. I was watching a British series in which a young university drop-out gets a job with an older washed out broke private investigator. He is an amputee and his pain, commitment to finding the truth and his sheer brilliance draws her to him and she refuses a better job, against the wishes of her young good-looking fiancé. She starts falling for him. I immediately thought about my experience all those years ago. I still don’t completely understand what I was looking for, but something in the character of my Principle made me lose my sanity and want to give up everything for him. I am ever grateful that I did not. In retrospect, I think I had to convince myself that I could love someone other than my husband, or I may never have mustered the courage to leave my marriage. It’s no coincidence that I fell for someone who was not Muslim and that was married and unattainable. Irrespective, I knew I could not remain in my marriage. As kindly as I could, I broke the news to my husband that I was leaving him, knowing full well that I had no-one to go to on the rebound. Unfortunately, everyone thought I was leaving him for my new love, which much I would have wanted at the time, was an impossibility.

I had not articulated any of my feelings about our marriage to my husband prior to what I said to him that fateful day at the laundromat while we were doing a cycle of washing together. A friend of mine had seen us that day and told me years later that we looked so loving when she glimpsed at us, never guessing that we were talking about separating. The whole ordeal must have been distressing to him, to say the least. I was so caught up in the difficulty of what I was about to do that I didn’t focus on the pain I was inflicting on him. I left the house and stayed with a close friend for a while. My husband, being a decent person made the process uncomplicated and kindly asked me to move back into our rented house and to keep the furniture that he had bought when we got married. I returned the bedroom suite which was purchased as a wedding gift by his parents, but graciously accepted his generosity for the rest. I realised that I never asked his forgiveness, nor thanked him for the good that we had during our marriage. I was heartbroken and torn apart by the huge changes I was experiencing and developed a spastic colon from the stress. Except for one of my closest friends, most of the inner circle in the group naturally supported my ex. At the time and for a long time after I felt abandoned, but the truth is that I appeared every bit the villain, having deserted what looked like a perfect marriage and falling in love with someone else. I heard rumours that it was said that “every dog has its day”, me being the proverbial dog in question. I’ve always thought this idiom to be quite unfair to dogs, who are quite loyal faithful creatures. I guess if I am objective, I understand their reactions. In fact, I learned that most of them are still close friends today.

That period was a blur of chaos and mayhem that I would rather forget. In fact, much of it I did forget, pushing it out of my mind like a serum would kill a virus, almost as if it never existed. But it did. I was alone for the first time in my life. I was terrified.

Shortly after our divorce, my ex connected with one of the single woman in the group. A stunningly beautiful young woman. They hit it off and got married soon after, and I believe are still married with several children, who must be grown up by now. I have to this day not seen or met them since the divorce. I have always been sincerely happy that they found each other. It almost takes the sting out of the hurt I must have caused, making me feel vindicated in some way. It seems like the best thing for him was the divorce. My life got considerably worse…

Till next time God-willing.

With love and peace, Radia❤