Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Very Short Story: Opening Pandora's Box Part Two

Kian and I would arrange to meet every time he was in town, and when he was transferred to my town, we met every afternoon and evening for lunch and dinner. Then a month after our regular lunches and dinners, he asked me out.

Visibly shaken and almost choking on my drink, I said no. Indeed, my reaction must have confounded him because he didn’t ask until six months later. And once again, I said no, but this time he was ready with a retort. He told me he knew I enjoyed his company as much as he did mine and was finding it hard to understand why I was vehemently opposed to dating him. He also demanded that I state the objections I had, if any, to taking our friendship to a higher plane.

Obviously, I had none except the vow I had made to myself, and since I wasn’t ready to harken back to my past, I told him I’d give it a think. Later that evening, I sent a text with the word ‘yes’.

We dated for three years. And as beautiful as those three years were for us, they were also the most trying times, in terms of trust and intimacy.  When I moved into his flat, I still kept my apartment as insurance. He didn’t think it made any sense, but after countless arguments and counter-arguments, he threw in the towel.

The walls I had built over the years were so high that every time Kian climbed them, he came crashing down. The first time he tried to make love to me, I recoiled and quickly left the bedroom. Evidently, he was flummoxed by my reaction and asked if he’d offended me. I simply shook my head and muttered something about my period. The second time he tried, I started sobbing uncontrollably which stopped him cold in his tracks.  At first he looked puzzled before asking if I had had a bad sexual experience. Nodding, he hugged me tightly asking if I wanted to talk about it. I didn’t and told him so.

I never spoke to him about my past, even when he prodded relentlessly. And when he suggested I visit a therapist to talk through it, I laughed derisively like he was out of his mind. I had no desire to disinter my past, for in my mind I was in control. Or so I thought. For three years, Kian tried valiantly to pull the thorns encasing my heart, but each time he tugged, they grew thornier and tore at him until he was left weak and bleeding. In the end, he couldn’t live with the stranger I was and we ended our relationship amicably.

After we split, I still held onto the hope he’ll return to me but that wasn’t to be because, on one rainy November morning, I received a wedding invitation from him. I was in shock and by myself for an entire month.

On the morning of his wedding, I visited him in his hotel room where he was getting dressed. A look of surprise greeted me as he opened his door, and I could tell he was nervous because he didn’t want the bridal party seeing us together. Sensing his discomfort, I told him I wouldn’t be long and proceeded to tell him about my turbulent past. I told him about my mother and how she’d abandoned me. I told him about the rape and how my friends ostracized me after the horrible incident. I told him about the vow I made to myself thereafter and why I could never trust him implicitly.

The room was silent when I finished narrating my story. Then Kian walked towards me, embraced me tightly before planting a kiss on my lips. He whispered I’d always have a special place in his heart, and I told him I’d always love him before walking out of his room.

I didn’t stay for the wedding. I couldn’t. I drove straight home where I nursed my heartache with alcohol. The one person who actually cared about me I had lost and life now seemed bleaker than ever. Any desire to live became nonexistent. Desperately seeking to dull my pain, I medicated with alcohol which worked perfectly well for a while until that fateful night I ran a red light.

Sitting up from the couch, I look up at the therapist who’s been quietly taking notes. “It’s been 10 sessions and you’ve succeeded in opening Pandora’s Box. Now, how do you intend helping me, Dr. Ngozi?”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Very Short Story: Opening Pandora's Box Part One

Where do I begin? I’ll just start from the beginning.

I was abandoned by my mother as a kid. I never met my father because he and my mom split before I was born. At the age of two, my mom dumped me at her sister’s doorstep, and that was the last I saw of her.

My aunt tolerated me for a few months before she let the foster care system take care of me. I constantly moved from one foster home to another with the result that forming any close and meaningful relationship proved to be futile and impossible. However, school was a refuge for me. It was the only constant in my life where I didn’t worry about adjusting to new rules or new faces on a regular basis. Consequently, I made friends with my classmates and got along handsomely with my teachers until Mr. Eric came along.

Mr. Eric was my Physics teacher, and for a while he was the only adult in life I was comfortable conversing with about my life at home until the day he violated me. I had approached him with some Physics problems I wanted him to clarify, but he was busy and suggested I come over to his place later that day. As he’d always been avuncular in his manner towards me, the thought of his hurting me never crossed my mind.

Later that evening, I went to his house and once inside he offered me a glass of orange juice which, unknown to me, had been laced with drugs. It wasn’t until I awoke from my drug-induced sleep without any clothes that I realized something was awry. Dazed and traumatized, I ran out of his house without uttering a word to him.

It took nearly a month before I garnered the courage to tell my friends about the incident. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t because I’d have saved myself a lot of pain. In a shocking turn of events, my friends accused me of attempting to drag Mr. Eric’s name through the mud. To them and many others at school, he was their beloved football coach and Physics teacher who could do no wrong. In a matter of days, I found myself ostracized and alone. The way I’d been treated led to my vowing never to trust anyone. Finally, my school life was on a par with my life at home.

A year later, I graduated high school which was a huge relief as I could make a clean break with my traumatizing past and embrace the anonymity that university provided.

By the time I started university in September, I had built high, impenetrable walls. I knew not to let my guard down, and each time an acquaintance lamented about how they’d been betrayed, the vow I’d made to myself was reinforced. Eventually, I went through university neither dating nor befriending anyone which saved me a lot of drama and allowed me to focus on my studies. Four years went by quickly and my hard work was rewarded with a job offer from a prestigious management consultancy before I even graduated.

Within three years of joining the firm, I was given more responsibility and leeway to manage my projects with little supervision. Some of my projects required my travelling to and working from client sites, and it was on one of such trips that I met Kian. Kian was a beautiful man - both inside and out. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word and his patience could easily rival that of a saint. He was also the first person I’d trust enough to date, but persuading me to date him was no easy task.

On the last day of my visit with his firm, he invited me to lunch, but I declined saying I needed to return to the office to file my report. A week later, he sent a text message informing me he was in town and inviting me to lunch. Once again, I declined the invitation with the excuse that I was busy. Later that afternoon, he sent another text inviting me to dinner with a promise not to pester me again if I accepted his invitation. Begrudgingly, I accepted to have dinner with him just so I could rid myself of him.

Much to my surprise and delight, I enjoyed his company at dinner immensely. He was quite versed in a plethora of subjects, and we chatted about everything and nothing until I apologetically ended our conversation in favor of an early meeting at work the next day. We said our goodbyes and agreed to meet the following evening.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Interview on Marriage

Question: If you fell deeply in love with someone, would you marry them if they met your criteria for a good spouse?
Why should I have to marry them? If they felt the same way about me then we should be secure in our love for each other. I don’t have to put a ring on it to cement our love. Besides, a ring and a marriage certificate wouldn’t intensify my love for them. The way I see it, people think marriage is a guarantee or an assurance that their spouse wouldn’t up and leave them in the darkest night, but that’s an inaccurate and absurd notion. If they loved you, they’d be there through thick and thin – just like a true friend. I’m not married to my best friend, but I can count on her support and presence should I find myself in a jam. Marriage to me is a somewhat selfish agreement.

Question: Are you’re saying it’s a means to an end?
Yes. Marriage can be likened to sex. In the minds of the naïve, marriage and sex are often associated with people who are in love, but in reality we know that’s not the case. People don’t have to be head-over-heels in love to be married, the same goes with sex. For what it's worth, marriage is used in the same way sex is used to procure something or to satisfy a need.

Question: Would you mind elaborating on your last sentence?
A friend of mine who just got married said to me in confidence, after her engagement, that she wasn’t in love with her fiancé, but was only marrying him to get away from her family. She hated living at home with her parents, but couldn’t afford to rent a place of her own, so the only options for her were to find a better paying job or marry someone with one. As luck would have it, she found someone with a cushy job and a nice home. For her, marriage was her ticket out of hell.
There’s also a friend of a friend who married into a political family. In his case, he was looking for an avenue into the world of politics which he found through marriage.
So you see it’s evident that marriage is a selfish agreement. It’s a means to an end.

Question: Do you think marriage is a contract of sorts?
Definitely! As with any relationship, people go into a marriage with written and unwritten rules that both parties have to abide by and respect. However, what makes marriage a bizarre institution is that people make these senseless vows at the altar that are untenable. How can you agree to remain with someone ‘for better or worse’ even when they treat you like dirt? How can you stay with someone who thinks you’re a punching bag?
People think marriage insures them against abandonment from the slightest altercation or provocation, but it doesn’t. What society needs to understand is that if the primary needs or obligations of the parties involved aren’t met, then just like any contract, the terms of the marriage have to be reworked or renegotiated; otherwise the marriage will end in divorce.

Question: Are you anti-marriage?
No, not at all. I’m anti-deceit. I don’t believe people marry for love, but society is hell-bent on telling us otherwise. If someone told me that love was their sole motive for marriage, I’d ask them what it is they fear. Society should quit telling us that cohabiting couples are defective or that their love or relationship isn’t genuine simply because they don’t have a marriage certificate. As a society, we ought to stop looking at unmarried couples or kids from such unions with contempt.

Question: Do you have any last words on marriage?
A marriage certificate is a psychological placebo. It creates the illusion of commitment, but the key ingredient to any lasting relationship is morals. Marriage per se doesn’t keep warring factions together, morals do. It’s morals that make parents responsible towards their children regardless of their marital status; not marriage. Marriage doesn’t make people more tolerant of their spouse’s idiosyncrasies or differing perspectives; love does. Marriage doesn’t prevent one from cheating on one's partner, morals do. So if you’re banking on marriage to keep your lover from going rogue, you’ve got another think coming.