The Singlehood Series: The Bet With His Friends That Messed Up My Life Despite The Sacrifices I Made
Salim’s birth simmered things down between his father and me and for a moment, I thought our relationship was back on track. Omar became a completely changed man when he held our son in his arms and this newfound joy made me believe that he’d put the past behind us.
I met the father of my child, Omar, a year after joining campus. He chased me down in a white Volkswagen all the way to the Catholic church only to say that he’d never seen a woman as beautiful as me. We exchanged numbers and I remember smiling stupidly throughout the entire mass that morning, thinking of this new man.
Father Oji preached about Christ’s love for the church and reminded the husbands in the congregation to love their wives like Christ loves the church. He made all the women chorus when he stated “And women?” He posed the question and allowed us to respond. “Submit to your husbands as….” I mumbled the rest of the words as we did back in high school during Biology classes. We formulated songs using catholic songs to master essays.
I have never been more eager for mass to end than that day because I couldn’t wait to get on the phone with Omar. At 22, he was in his final year in high school for the second time in a row because he didn’t really achieve the target he’d set for himself, so he decided to give it another go. He’d scored a B plain, but he wanted an A- at least to enable him to pursue a medical course at a reputable institution.
I found this very fascinating, a man that goes after what he wants no matter what it takes. Omar never really cared what people thought about him, he only cared about what mattered to people. This is why, when the National Examination board had doubts about the stellar performance his school registered with claims of cheating, he sat his national exams for the third time. Unfortunately, the probe into the cheating scandal threw the students to the wolves because they received Ys, for their results.
I particularly found his drive appealing and stayed by his side throughout the storm. When he finally joined campus, I was due to finish my Diploma and we both studied at Universities around the city. To date, I still regret my decision to move into my boyfriend’s house, because it resulted in major setbacks in my life.
I played his dutiful wife in the tiny bedsitter apartment in Juja, doing all the house chores while he studied. He made it feel as though only his studies were important, that a career in medicine was a hundred times more than my diploma in community management and I believed him.
The elephant in the room, religion, sneaked up on us when Ramadhan began soon after the Lent period and he made it known that he expected me to fast alongside him. Church had been a refuge for my single mother and all of my siblings, so leaving Christianity seemed like a big sacrifice, so I fought for it as my life depended on it.
Omar was very displeased with my choice and complained about heading a house that lacked direction. While I had thought that we’d come to a consensus in the long run, Omar started cheating with Muslim women soon after Ramadhan was done, and I felt very betrayed.
“How dare you bring Aisha into our house in my absence?” I asked him as I hurriedly took off my clothes to change into a Dera.
He looked at me with a sarcastic smirk on his face then said, “She’s Muslim. I can only marry a Muslim lady or one that’s willing to convert”.
“What are you telling me now?”I asked, pulling the Dera by the sides and safely tucking it in my panties as I often do, well most women do, at least I think I’m not the only that does that.
“Christine, if you are not willing to convert to Islam, then I can’t marry you, I’ve always made that clear. Stop screaming, you get the neighbours interested in our business.” He ordered.
“That’s very unfair Omar. You need to be considerate, I have told you times without number, what the church means to me and my family, I can’t just throw that away,” I pleaded.
“And I can’t convert my religion because of a woman when I can marry a woman that’s willing to take my lead. You have a choice to make here, it’s your call.” He said switching on the shower and he proceeded into the bathroom, passionately singing to his favourite Westlife playlist. That playlist only reminds me of a dark past.
The house had grown quieter and felt more like a dark shade that grew even darker than our silence. We talked only when it was necessary, asking what we’d have for dinner, where someone had placed something until I ran to the bathroom that Friday morning, to throw up. Omar was home, ironing his Kanzu because he had to go to the mosque at noon.
“Are you feeling okay?” He asked as he helped me up from the toilet sink.
“I don’t feel okay. I probably should go to a hospital”, I muttered.
“I’ll take you”, he offered.
We realized we were pregnant on that visit and my life changed forever. Omar was elated like he forgot all of the challenges we had been experiencing as a couple and informed everyone in his family about the pregnancy. I wasn’t so happy at first, but his joy was contagious, so it soaked me in.
The months leading up to Salim’s birth were easily the best in our relationship. He was loving, and adoring and spent most of the time by my side, rubbing my back, and feet and preparing me some of the nicest meals. Converting to Islam sounded like the best thing to do. It felt like the perfect reward for my dotting partner, so I announced the news to him when I was seven months gone. You can imagine the joy, he gave me a Muslim name, Subra.
Subra was unable to finish school because motherhood, a new religion, and wifey duties all came knocking at the same time. Omar seemed to believe that the best woman put her family first, and I did, happily. I had always wanted a small, tight-knit family that would flourish with love and happiness. My mother was very disappointed with my choices, as she had hoped that I’d help her cater for siblings’ needs after I was done with school. But she supported me nonetheless because that’s what she always did.
You’d expect that converting to Islam and having a child would make Omar a better person, but soon after, I caught wind of his flourishing affair with Aisha and I confronted him once again. He walked in as I was just putting Salim to sleep, and I gunned for him.
“Aisha? Again? Really Omar?” I asked, speaking in a low tone not to wake up the baby.
He quietly removed his shoes and didn’t look up to meet my eyes until I spoke again.
“Will you fucking answer me? ” I asked, agitated.
“This is my problem with you Subra. This!” He said as he packed his shoes away on the rack.
“What Omar?” I quipped.
“Disrespect. As a Muslim woman, you should know that I can have up to four wives Subra. So why are you acting up?” He was looking at me dead in the eye like he’d caught me stealing.
“I can’t allow that. No, Omar.” I screamed and Salim moved, we all turned our eyes to him. Omar walked to the side of the bed, looking at Salim, then turned to me,
“Woman, you don’t tell me what to do. Umeskia?” I went silent.
Feeling defeated, I decided to serve him a dose of his own medicine, so I started seeing this older lecturer at school. Barely three weeks in, he’d gotten wind of the affair. Omar beat me up and demanded that I leave his house, but leave Salim behind. I escaped with my baby in tow when he went to school and we had a bitter exchange over the phone when he came back to an empty house.
However, when they say the devil is the detail, I obviously overlooked the possibility that my own family could be the devil. One of Omar’s many women he’d promised marriage was my little sister who sneaked Salim to go see him without my knowledge until my mother bumped into them at the supermarket. I felt betrayed, and confronting my sister resulted in creating another enemy for myself.
Deep in my heart, I prayed that my family would be reunited again, but how he openly professed his love for my sister on social media sank my hopes. During the furious exchange of words with my sister, he apparently had told her ” Subra was just a bet. Some friends saw a pretty lass and dared me to get her to my bed. Getting pregnant was a desperate move to lock me down”. The words didn’t hurt so much, it’s the tone, the disrespect, the belief with which my sister spewed these lies around. Feeling dejected, I quit.
Their relationship fizzled out rather quickly when she moved into his house, regardless of the warning from family and since I’ve been under pressure to be the bigger person and forgive my not-so-remorseful sister. Salim has been living with my mother since I enrolled for my diploma all over again. I had wasted my time trying to be a wife, juggling motherhood and depression for far too long than time would allow.
While Salim and his father have a relationship, it still feels like I’m the loser in this scenario, even though things have been looking up for me this past year.