Self-destruction is a hard thing to deal with. Can you not see you are destroying your life?
It is easy to see from the outside. But I guess when you are engulfed in pain and grief you don’t really see it.
I am at my wits end trying to deal with Ozayr destroying everything he worked so hard to achieve.
He parties and clubs every other night of the week while he passes out during the day.
He is ticking time bomb and it has become so much to deal with.
He smokes all day every day. And who knows what he gets up to wherever he goes to at night.
I can’t take it anymore. And with Rahma teething is has become a misery.
This evening I had enough.
“I had enough with this destructiveness of yours!”
“Oh… you can go if you want”
“Ozayr I am trying to help you!”
“Help me? You nag all day. That is not helping!”
“I cannot believe how ungrateful you are. I dedicate my life to you. I look after your bastard child while you go out partying! How dare you say all I do is nag all day?!”
I am furious. But I instantly regret what I said.
“I am sorry Oz. I am really sorry. I just think that your mother would not be pleased with the way you are living these days…”
“You don’t know anything about me. Let alone what my mother would want.”
“That’s right. But no mother would want to see their son throw their life away.”
“I am not throwing my life away. A good party drowns out the world at the world. Would you stop harping on?”
“Oz… please. You are going to wake up Rahma.”
“Why do you even care? To you she is my bastard child.”
“I said that in anger. Stop punishing me. You are hurting.”
Ozayr sits and holds Rahma tight and shudders as she screams in distress.
He doesn’t try to sooth her.
He won’t hand her over to me. I plead with him in tears.
“You can’t punish this innocent baby, Ozayr.”
He doesn’t give in until our domestic worker, awoken by the screams, comes and intervenes.
“Baas. The baby needs her mother. It is a sin. Jesu, give the baby to Maam.”
Finally he lets Rahma go… I give her a bottle and sooth her.
Her cries are piercing. Like she senses all is not okay.
It is not okay.
Ozayr sits on the balcony, in the freezing cold, as he chain smokes the night away.
By 5 am he finally passes out on the couch. He wakes up at 7.30 and gets ready for work in silence.
Masquerading his pain behind a crisp tailored suit.
I get ready for work, too exhausted to function.
The day passes in a haze.
I hope tonight is better. I hope Ozayr actually comes home.
After work, as I get Rahma ready for the night, I realise that I am at my wits end.
I need to try to help him, help us, one last time and then I am throwing in the towel.
So I call Ayesha. She is oblivious to what we were going through.
“I was hoping I could take you up on that baby sitting duty you offered?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Nothing… I just need a little break.”
I arrange to drop of Rahma at Ayesha and then call Ozayr’s PA to find out if he is still at work.
She confirms and I make my way to his office with no plan in place.
This is my last straw and I am going to improvise along the way.
When I arrive I am not surprised to find Ozayr chatting friendly to some associate.
He is surprised to see me but he is not one for a spectacle.
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to abduct you.”
The hallway erupts into a chorus of “oooohhh’s”.
He smiles at everyone but me as I wait for him to gather his stuff.
“No. I am driving.”
I still don’t know where I am going to or what the plan is. But I have some hidden strength to keep going.
Finally we leave, as Ozayr awkwardly settles in the passenger seat.
I am surprised he gave in with little protest.
I drive to my old flat. And I sit in the car park.
“How was your day?” he asks calmly.
“Okay. I was very tired. But at least I didn’t have any clients to meet.”
“You saw on the news. The enquiry has been postponed….”
“I saw in a debate about how it’s a waste of tax payers money. There was a two minute feature on how much you charge… I laughed because it was actually a low figure.”
“Not my fault the justice system is like a crippled horse sometimes.”
I took grip of his hand and just sit in my car.
“I just want us to be simple. “
“Me too,” he agrees.
I think we making progress.
“Do you know what I did today?”
“No… tell me?”
“I asked my associate to work out a divorce settlement for us… how it will work if you took me to court… and what you entitled to in terms of Rahma…”
My heart sinks. Ozayr is ready to pull the plug.
I am not going to try and savour a marriage that he honestly wants out from.
“Do you want a divorce?” I ask.
“Not really… but I can’t have things continue this way.”
“So what now.”
“Maybe you can come back here for a bit… until we figure things out.”
“And what does the possible settlement look like? You know I won’t ever opt for litigation. We don’t have to go to court if it does happen.”
“If it does happen, you are not legally bound to visit the baby…”
“I know that…”
I start tearing now. I don’t know what would life be without this child.
“But we can arbitrarily agree for you to visit her. As she grows up we can introduce you to her as her god mother. If we get a divorce.”
“Okay… you going to get that nurse to look after her while we figure things out?”
“Hmm… would it be unfair to say we will decide in 2 weeks whether we are getting divorced?”
“Two weeks is fine. So what now?”
“I don’t know. I am hurting a lot since my mother’s death. I am not sure what I want out of life.”
We talk a little more and I start the car and drive back to Ozayr’s house where I quickly pack a bag and leave for my apartment.
It feels like my heart has been ripped out.
Even though things have not been easy with Ozayr, the thought of being alone again makes my knees tremor.
He and Rahma have become my life. That child is the reason why I wake up each day.
It is weird that although we share no biological link, I am so close to her.
She has become my best friend. It still shocks me how much of an effect a small baby can have on your life.
The first night back of my apartment is traumatic. I cannot sleep and I cry most of the night away.
This place does not feel like how it used to. It feels foreign, alien.
The next day I call in sick at work as I am too tired to function.
If it is over… I might as well get the last word and tell him a bit of what’s on my mind.
So I send him a long text message- resigned to the fact that my marriage is over.
Loosing a mother is like loosing a limb.
You never expect your arm not to be there anymore and you could never get used to its absence.
How are you going to function without a critical limb like an arm?
I have no doubt you are asking yourself the same question… how will you exist without the essence of your being.
What would life be without he one that brought you in this life?
It is not like any physical pain you will ever endure.
There is no morphine for loosing a mother.
No band-aid will help.
Nothing or no one will replace your mother.
She was yours only.
But while the pain will always be there, the great memories of her will make you stronger, it will force you to endure on. Her love will sustain you forever.
You are lucky that you had more time with your mother than I had with mine.
Her memory will always be there, keeping you afloat.
She would want you to float when guilt and grieve weighs you down.
You could never be the best son to her… never in a thousand years.
Her greatness to you, as your mother, is too profound to be equaled.
As the selfless being she-and every mother is- she would want you to succeed.
She saw you excel in your career. She saw you raise a beautiful daughter. She saw you be a loving husband to me.
But the guilt of being an absent son will always stick, so would the guilt of being an absent father and a stone cold husband.
You are angry at yourself. You let her down.
But it is never too late. Your mother’s wish is to see you completely successful.
You can still be. You can make things work- for the memory of your mother, if not for your own sake.
I love you (believe it or not).
Moments after I send the message Ozayr calls.
“Get ready. I am coming to pick you up. You are coming home.”
I hold back tears until I can’t anymore.
We are going to work through this. We are going to make this work. We are going to support each other. We have to.
Today I choose to work through what seems like insurmountable problems.
Others choose to walk away.
But whatever choices your make in your life, be sure to understand the gravity in it because your choice can become your destiny.
Sometimes cliches are the best expressions of things. So here goes: all good things must come to an end. And this is now the end of Choices. I trust and hope you enjoyed reading it is as much as I enjoyed writing it. Also, I am very sad to announce that henceforth, there will be no or little activity on this site www.diaryofagujigirl.co.za. Since June of 2013, it has been a crazy ride and I enjoyed every minute of it. Fictional blogging has become a major part of my life but I sincerely believe that all good things must come to an end.
I developed and learnt but now it is time to move on. I have a lot planned both professionally and as a creative outlet. For now, I am going to take it easy- promote Diary of a Guji Girl- the novel and focus on my professional and personal life.
No words can define how truly appreciative I am for your support and your encouragement.
More than anything, it was the loyalty to this blog that kept it alive.
If you are interested in following some of my future projects, follow me on twitter @QaanitahHunter and on my personal site www.qaanitahhunter.com.
Much love, Q.
Life has a funny way of convincing you that in good times things will last forever. The most certain thing in life, death, is never on our minds as we believe with conviction that things will remain as they are forever. But it never does. And even in its definitive certainty, it catches us by surprise. Every single time.
It is a normal Tuesday, I wake up to feed Rahma, pray my morning prayers, make Ozayr his protein shake for breakfast, run 5km on the treadmill, get done for the day, bath Rahma, change and feed her.
It is just like any other day.
I leave Rahma at my mother in law’s wing of the house with my helper and leave for work.
My day is filled with back to back meetings with clients and I pretty much get through it all.
As I prepare to leave for home at around 2pm, I see around a dozen miscalls from my helper. She knows my phone is on silent at work.
I panic. My first instinct is something awful has happened to Rahma. Ever since I started looking after her, I had an irrational fear that she could die in her sleep. Or fall off form her cot and suffer brain damage.
I return her call instantly only to find out Rahma is okay.
“Ma… the Makoti… she is not okay. She is saying she is sick,” my helper says.
My mother in law has been complaining of pain but we just reduced it to old age. Up until now she was fit as ever, running after Rahma and cooking up a storm.
“Okay, relax. I am coming home now.”
I arrive home to find my mother in law struggling to breathe. It looks serious.
My first reaction is to phone an ambulance. Then I try to get hold of Ozayr to no avail. His phone is off.
I phone his PA and she says he is not in the office. She is not sure where he is.
The ambulance arrives and once the paramedics take a look at her I notice deep worry on their faces. It doesn’t look good.
They rush her to hospital while I frantically try to get hold of Ozayr.
I call Ayesha- Zubair’s wife- to look after Rahma while I go to the hospital and at the same time try to track down Ozayr.
For the first 30 minutes after I arrive at the hospital, doctors are frantically trying to treat Ozayr’s mum.
I sit outside the room as I try all means to get hold of Ozayr.
Finally he calls back.
“I think your mother is in cardiac arrest. Where are you?”
“What? Where is she?”
“I am here with her in the hospital. It doesn’t look good.”
“I will be there in an hour. I am coming from Pretoria. I was in meetings all day.”
But he does not arrive in time.
A doctor comes out of the room seemingly defeated and calls me.
“I think you would want to pray for her. She is in her last moments. It is any time now. We tried everything we could.”
My chest tightens and my knees freeze. I am also ice cold.
I am not prepared to pray for a dying woman. But I know I have to.
I am not dressed properly even. But I go in and I pray for what seems to be a lifetime until the machines screech and the doctors rush in.
It is the end. I just witnessed a woman die in front of me.
I am shaking.
The only thing I can think about is my mother’s face as she was being prepared for burial.
That is the last image I have of my mother. A cold, serene look on her face.
Ozayr’s mother was no different. Both of them looked calm.
I don’t show any emotion. I am more in disbelief as I sit in the waiting area trying to process what just happened.
Ozayr finally arrives and rushes over to me.
“Doctors said they did what they could…”
“It can’t be. No. It can’t be.”
Ozayr is angry. I remember how angry I was when my mother passed away.
He rushes in to his mother’s room as he sees the doctors remove the tubes from her- possibly preparing her for the mortuary.
He comes out moments later, shaken but not tearing.
“I don’t even know what to do when someone passes away,” he tells me.
I tell him to stay at the hospital to grasp the magnitude of what just happened while I go home to prepare everything.
I call two extra helpers as we rearranged the furniture for hundreds of people who are expected to attend the funeral and pray for the deceased.
I also call the local Moulana, who arranges a hearse, the pre-burial washing known as Ghusal and the grave.
People start streaming into the house shortly after my mother in laws death was announced.
All I can think about is my mother’s face as she lied in the centre of our lounge, clad in white as I stared at her in disbelief- unable to accept that she has left me.
I can only imagine what Ozayr must be going through right now.
It was also a lot easier for me because my family is very cohesive and everyone played a role when my mum passed on.
Ozayr doesn’t have that. No family members or even a father who can help out making the rational decisions while he mourns his loss.
I try to make everything easy for him.
As per Islamic rules, the funeral and burial should never be delayed.
So in a daze, everything gets executed. People come to show their support. They only have good to say about Ozayr’s mother.
She was a fantastic woman.
She treated me like her own and was filled with love for me.
Ozayr has a brave face on and shows no sign of deep emotion. He is strong-stronger than I was.
After the initial three days of mourning, things return to some form of normality.
It is just me, Ozayr and Rahma in the house.
“You know… Sometimes I wouldn’t see or speak to my mother for days but it was always comforting knowing that she was around…”
“I know. I think even Rahma feels it. She loved her.”
“Thank you for everything Za. I appreciate it so much.”
Ozayr and I take a week off work to recover and readjust from his mother’s sudden death.
He does the admin while I sort out the house.
I am also stressed about how I am going to leave Rahma alone with the helper while I go to work.
The Friday after my mother in law passed on, while Ozayr was at the graveside, the gate bell rings.
The security guard tells me a man is identifying himself as Shabir and he needs to talk to Ozayr.
I tell him to wait in the car until Ozayr gets back.
I didn’t know the man and I didn’t want to allow a stranger in to the house.
Finally, when Ozayr gets back from the graveyard, he comes in the house furious.
“Why did you let this man in?”
“I didn’t let him in. I told the guard to tell him to wait for you. Who is he?”
“The… I can’t believe it. I can’t. I am calling the cops to remove him from the property.”
“Is he an intruder?”
“No. It is my father.”
Wow. I am shocked beyond words. How does a man show up after 30 years of absconding a little child and his wife.
And he resurfaces days after his ex wife passes on.
“Just find out what does he want. Maybe he came to make amends.”
“It is too late.”
Eventually, Ozayr went outside to talk to his father. A man he can barely remember.
After loud shouting and tons of swearing, I hear Ozayr kicking him out the property and storming back in doors.
“I can’t believe this man!”
“What does he want.”
“He wants his share of my mother’s inheritance. The damn cheek. How dare he?!”
“Turns out… my parents were not formally divorced. Even after thirty years. And now he is claiming whatever little he managed to earn after he ran away like a coward.”
I have never seen Ozayr this angry.
He is so enraged, he is banging everything in his sight.
I take Rahma to our wing of the house, hoping Ozayr will cool down.
Days go by and he is still not okay.
I give him his distance and let him grieve in his own way.
But I am concerned now as I see him sit outside and chain smoke the night away.
Then the next night he returns home at 3am.
He sleeps in the entire day.
The next night he doesn’t come home at all.
I let this continue for a week until I feel it necessary to intervene.
“Oz, what’s going on? I know you grieving but where are you going every night?”
He ignores me and lights up a cigarette instead.
“Please what? If you have a problem you can also walk away too. I am used to it”
This is the pen ultimate post of Choices. We thank you for your support and loyalty. Tell us why you enjoyed this series?
I have new found respect for working mothers. My mother was a dedicated mother and that is why she raised me so well. Trying to juggle the enquiry and Rahma and dealing with the house is becoming a modern day nightmare. Although, I am pleased that Rahma adjusted well to not having me around all day. In fact I am a little heart broken that she moved on so quickly. She doesn’t seemed perturbed in the least when I leave her. Traitor!
My part of the enquiry is soon coming to an end and then I will be back to work. I made a request to work a half day- from 8 to 1 every day. Even though my salary would be slashed in half I don’t really need the money that much. Quality of life is more important at this stage.
Ozayr is thoroughly enjoying the enquiry and his celebrity status. He has no qualms about the fact that he thrives on attention. He loves it. I guess as an advocate, the more ‘bad-ass’ you seem, the more business you get.
Also, doing the enquiry has allowed for a lot more family time than before which really helps our relationship.
His mother also loves having him around in the evenings.
With a lot more structure in his life it allows him to be more religious. He has the time so he no longer has excuses.
Since we got married, I refused to be that wife that nags her husband to practice his faith. I refused to be that nag. And that approach really worked because now he voluntarily joins me in prayer and has become a lot more family centric.
And Rahma is growing so fast and she is in that phase where she is more responsive and absolutely adorable.
I am trying to force her to say “mama” but Ozayr is countering my efforts.
“Say Ozzy,” he insists while Rahma just laughs.
“She can’t call you Ozzy. It is so disrespectful.”
“I am not ready to be called daddy or papa. I am just Ozzy,” he says.
I disagree. I think it is completely wrong for kids to call their parents by their first name. It is cute in their formative years but imagine when they become teenagers. Wow. I cannot even fathom Rahma being a teenager. I am not ready for that. And I don’t think I will be for the next two decades.
For now, let us get through the teething phase, get her walking and past diapers.
Then we can start thinking of schools etc.
Finally the enquiry comes to an end, and Ozayr and the two other advocates have to now compile a report to hand over to the president.
I return back to my firm, and every morning I leave Rahma by my mother in law and pick her up after we have lunch.
It is a good balance because I don’t feel like I am completely abandoning her but I am still able to stimulate my mind.
A lot of change has happened in the firm and there is a raging debate about transformation which is about time.
The black attorneys are complaining that they do all the hard work but are never considered for senior positions.
It is true though. White males still occupy every senior position in the company.
And honestly, we cannot call for the transformation of the judiciary if law firms are still stuck in the past.
And the truth is, institutionalised racism is still a thing. Regardless of how people in the legal profession claim to be progressive.
You still hear complains about “that stupid black clerk” and no one had the courage to single people out for such comments.
We just cringe and continue our work. But now with an obvious debate on transformation these comments can be isolated and dealt with.
Although on the other hand those white male bosses present the debate of skill vs racial quota.
Basically they argue that they can’t compromise on skill to fulfil racial quotas. One of the partners argued that they promote people based on their abilities and achievements and not on their skin colour.
This is such a flawed argument- and I made it known to them.
It is the same debate that is raging in cricket at the moment. They argue that if you are black you don’t have skill but you placed there because of affirmative action.
Ozayr and I have a two hour conversation about this tonight and I press him to call a public debate on transformation in the judiciary and mobilise white lawyers to support the call for transformation.
The Chief Justice screams at every podium about transformation but no one really listens.
“If we win the debate in the legal profession, the debate will spill over to other professions and we will have meaningful conversations with the end of seeing real transformation,” Ozayr says.
And I agree. There is nothing like an old white male lawyer telling junior interns to “get over apartheid and stop feeling entitled”.
But it is okay for them to enjoy the lovely spoils of apartheid and the big plots of land in Sandton.
I think Ozayr and I both get very very emotional about the topic of transformation.
Maybe one day I will do a masters on transformation in the judiciary.
For now, I must make sure this child does not spit out her solids.
Also, I need to get back to my BM (before marriage) era, where I did my nails at a nail bar once a week and got my hair touched up every two weeks.
Female lawyers are notoriously well dressed. It is so funny, that even if the lifts are not working in the High Court, they will trek up 9 flights of stairs and the first thing they will reach for is their face powder.
I was or still am a bit like that. I must have an expensive firm blazer on. Ozayr is the same. He takes pride in his appearance. I guess in a business where respect is important public appearance plays an important role.
I am talking to Ozayr about new blazers I bought for work and he suddenly brings up the hijaab talk.
“Do you think you could wear hijaab to work?”
“Why? You said you wouldn’t want it.”
“I know… I am just becoming more and more inclined to it.”
“I guess I understand the wisdom now… and it is actually quite beautiful.”
The conversation ends there. It is difficult sometimes to understand how Ozayr’s mind works.
Although he has calmed down greatly in the last few weeks and has become more of a family man.
I am surprised that on a Friday evening he is okay with watching a cartoon with Rahma and he doesn’t even mind to drive his mother to Lens in the weekend because she is not ill.
I guess if we hit the 6 month mark without killing each other, there will still be hope.
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The idea of therapy doesn’t last and our dreams of a time away to work on our marriage drowns.
Life, once again, catches up with us and then over takes us.
First Rahma gets awfully ill. It is a flu from hell and has her crying all day and night for over a week.
Eventually she has to be hospitalised for 5 nights.
It is the most devastating thing to have a child in hospital. I feel so helpless as I see this child burn in an unexplained fever.
Thankfully Ozayr is available to relieve me as we take turns to spend time at the hospital.
My mother in law can’t help out because she seems sick and irritable.
The worst is the doctors unable to pinpoint the cause of Rahma’s sickness.
Finally, they just reduce it to a flue and pump her with meds.
Only three weeks after she first started showing symptoms does she recover.
As soon as Rahma is better, Ozayr starts the enquiry which is nothing what we expected.
It is covered live on every news station in South Africa, live blogged and tweeted.
His every move is analysed and broadcasted.
I wake up to the news papers have his picture splashed everywhere.
Basically, the President set up a team of three advocates to investigations allegations that the head of public prosecutions used his position to stop investigations and prosecutions of his family and friends.
Also, there is an accusation that he maliciously got involved in prosecutions and prosecuted the wrong man in an effort to protect a politician.
Any one can tell you that this is huge.
The National Prosecuting Authority ought to be the most independent organisation in the country.
If the police, NPA and judicial services are corrupted this democracy is as good as nothing.
Also, for legal hacks like me- this is legal heaven.
So Advocate Ozayr Mohammed, Advocate Sihle Dumela and Advocate Faith Dlamini are heading this enquiry.
Now if you know these lawyers you wonder how did the President put this team together.
Ozayr is a ruthless legal animal, Sihle is so passive he falls of to sleep in his chair and Faith is the pragmatic one.
Then comes in the legal representative of the NDPP- Advocate Jonathan Mafu. That guy is so colourful and dodgy- he is currently facing a case to have him disbarred because of misconduct.
After watching 3 days of the enquiry on TV I ask Ozayr if I can come watch in the public gallery. I think every lawyer wishes they can be present as lawyers tear into each other.
Its like watching a reality TV show but better.
First Ozayr is hesitant because “I don’t mix home and work” but I manage to strong arm him.
“But we take two separate cars,” he says cheekily.
I go and watch the proceedings with intrigue.
There is a bunch of journalists frantically trying to tweet every word that is said, camera crews trying to get the best shot and the lawyers and evidence leaders trying to get their work done.
As I am watching, the guy who was apparently falsely prosecuted stands up to give his side of the story… a poor old man that was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.
And he is so poor I can’t even afford a lawyer. And, LegalAid has a waiting list of 3 months.
So this man is defending himself.
The secretary of the commission makes says they are going to try to get a pro bono lawyer for him but I know that most good lawyers won’t give up so much of their time for free. Lawyers who bill R5000 per hour are not going to spend everyday for a month at least at a commission.
Suddenly I think this is my chance to get back on the wagon. Also, it would be fulfilling I think.
So during recess, I call my old boss, say I am back at work but the first case I am doing would be a pro bono.
My bosses are just happy that I decide to come back and didn’t take any counter offers.
Then I go to the man and introduce myself and offer my services for free.
He is so happy- he hugs me in excitement.
When the session starts again, the secretary announces to the commission that Attorney Zahra Mohammed will be taking up Mr Cele’s case pro bono.
I look up to the main desk and see Ozayr turns red in the face and he he looks angry.
“I would like to call for a five minute comfort break,” he announces and everyone looks around weird because we just came back from recess.
He calls me to a back office and takes off with me.
“Do you know what a conflict of interest this is. And the media. They will have a field day! What were you thinking?”
He calls the Presidential legal advisor David Shabangu who says legally there wouldn’t be any issue and gives us the green light.
We argue for a bit until we decide that he will disclose that we are married and wil have to create strict guidelines to ensure no one is compromised.
Finally, the enquiry resumes and he makes this announcement that we are married and ensures everyone that it will not be a cause of conflict.
Suddenly a million cameras are on me zooming on my face as Twitter erupts.
This evening, all the prime time news bulletins are discussing legal ethic and whether it is acceptable for spouses to play different roles in one enquiry.
At least according to the schedule I don’t need to be present at the enquiry ever single day. I can read the transcripts on some days.
So three times a week I will have to leave Rahma with my mother in law and helper.
Tuesdays I work from home and the enquiry doesn’t sit on Fridays which is great.
On the weekend I cook for the week ahead and pre plan my life to the last detail.
“Oz… will you keep Rahma this evening for an hour, I have an interview at SABC,” I tell Ozayr.
“Mrs big time lawyer! SABC doesn’t even care about me anymore. They are more obsessed about my wife. I feel offended.”
We laugh and he volunteers to drive me to the interview and take me out for coffee afterward.
It is very rare that we do spontaneous mid week outings but I am not complaining.
He spends the entire trip to the SABC studios schooling me on what not to say.
I think taking this job was the best thing for me- more so my marriage.
It is almost as if Ozayr has immense respect for me now than he had before although he would never admit it and still insists it’s a bad idea.
He watches the interview from the foyer of the studios and when I am done he smiles broadly- as if he is proud of me.
“Sam, I see you guys here at SABC have forgotten about me these days. It is all about my wife,” he jokes with the producer.
“Well, we can’t help that your wife is doing so well and looks good on television. You need to do something about the bald patch,” she says.
We laugh, exchange pleasantries and leave.
“You know… I didn’t believe you were such a confident lawyer. I have never seen you in action before this. When we worked on that first case you were doing background work. You really surprised me. All my colleagues texted me shocked. Regardless of how I feel about you taking the case, I am proud of you,” he says.
Sometime life throws you off course but sets you firm on another course that is actually meant for you…
Author’s note: Dear all. Thank you for the patience while I was away. I am officially back and will continue updating the blog as per the usual two posts per week. Thank you for your loyalty. At the same time, I would like to invite you this Saturday to the Cii Stores in Trade Route Lenasia from 1 to 2pm as I will be in conversation with Cii’s Safeera Kaka. I am looking forward to seeing everyone there. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two weeks goes by in routine. Ozayr leaves every morning at 6 am and returns home after 9pm.
Baby Rahma wakes up at 5 am, sleeps at 7, wakes up at 10 when she is fed, bathed and put back to sleep.
Ozayr’s mother wakes up at 4 am, prays until 7 am, makes breakfast for her helpers, cooks lunch, listens to the radio, eats lunch with me, takes an afternoon nap and then looks after baby Rahma from 2 to 4.
I wake up to the sounds of Rahma’s shrieks, pacify her, change her nappy, give a bottle to drink, make her sleep and pray.
Then I check in on Ozayr getting ready for work.
“Do you need anything?” I ask him.
He shakes his head.
I potter around the house until he leaves. Then I run 10km on the treadmill, shower and get done for the day.
Then Rahma wakes up, and so starts her routine of drinking, bathing, playing, more drinking and falling asleep.
Once Rahma takes her mid morning nap, I hit the kitchen and cook dinner; usually something healthy with an elaborate salad and absolutely no carbs.
Almost robotically, I finish in time when Rahma wakes up and is ready to play.
I take her across to her grandmother, who is waiting eagerly at the door for us.
Rich, spicy aromas of indian food and butter fills the air and the sounds of a local radio station plays softly in the background.
Her wing of the mansion is more homely than our side.
We eat an unhealthy lunch followed by slowly brewed tea with spices and freshly made indian rusks.
It is a warm feeling- eating a meal with a mother figure and making small talk over comforting food.
It is worth the calories.
At 2pm I leave her with Rahma and pursue my afternoon activities.
Mondays and Wednesdays is Pilates. Tuesdays is book club and Thursdays is volunteering at a township clinic and Fridays is dedicated to shopping.
When I return from my afternoon activities, it is time to feed and bath Rahma.
I send Ozayr a picture of his baby, usually making a cute face.
Once she is asleep, I read a book- usually legal thrillers- watch the news and effectively wait for Ozayr to come back home.
By 7, I eat dinner by myself resigning to the fact that he won’t make it home for dinner. I lay with Rahma on chest as I channel hop.
Ozayr comes home just after 9pm when Rahma is put to bed.
I generally get a smile and “how was your day?” before he goes to shower and later joins me on the couch when he watches the sport headlines.
We make small talk, usually pleasant, and then we retire for the day.
Just like that the day ends. And every other day.
Routine allows for functionality but can be mind numbing. It makes me restless although I have nothing to be sad or unhappy about.
Weekends have little variety too. Ozayr and I have a late breakfast together then we take Rahma for a stroll in the nearby park. We have Saturday lunch with his mother, go shopping in the afternoon and if I am lucky we would have a date on Saturday evening.
Sundays is for errands and visiting Ayesha and Zubair.
My routine is comfortable, safe and starkly boring.
I need purpose. Conflict. Attention.
I start browsing social media more often than healthy. It helps to live vicariously through media personalities who post every part of their lives on social media.
I use Twitter to get news updates, Instagram to put on a facade about my fairytale life- married to the #MOMD (Man of my dreams)- and Facebook for gossip.
That is until I get a friend request on Facebook from a familiar looking Zayn Abrahams.
I go cold. It has been what? Like 8 years since our last conversation which put a lid on our 3 year whirlwind relationship.
I am a married woman- there is no way one can justify accepting a friend request from a past boyfriend.
Although social media is very superficial and ‘friends’ on Facebook mostly constitute people you have never ever spoken or would ever.
I mull on it for two days, until I hear Ozayr being overly friendly with a female colleague of his.
In a fit of jealousy, I don’t react but I accept Zayn’s friend request.
Obviously, I made sure that my profile picture was a clear picture of Ozayr and I on our wedding day.
I spend the rest of the day stalking him likely a nail bitting teenager with daddy issues.
Zayn works in the Presidency- of all places- as a legal advisor to the deputy minister of the country.
He was always politically aligned. Even on campus, he was active in the student movement and very aligned to the ANC. I couldn’t be bothered, quite frankly.
He has come a long way. Besides his prestigious job, he has won numerous accolades for youth leadership across the world.
He was even a visiting scholar to Havard university.
I feel a pang of guilt as I try to imagine what would life be had we gotten married eight years ago.
And then the beep of disaster happens: a message from Zayn.
Zayn: He treats you well?
No greeting. No introduction. No small talk.
I don’t respond. I opt to check on Rahma. She is sleeping serenely.
I check on my helper. She is singing along to the words ‘Koze Kuse’ as she mops the deck.
I return to my phone like a junkie drawn to his next fix.
This is bizarre as I am usually averse to my iPhone as I would much rather sit with a book.
That message stares at me, enticing me like the devil with the forbidden fruit.
I buckle. This is so wrong.
Me: Absolutely. Could not be happier.
Zayn: Interesting. You in human rights?
Me: Never made it there… sold out to corporate.
Zayn: That is disappointing.
Me: You are surely living your dream.
Zayn: I have been quite fortunate. I met a girl on campus who forced me to believe in myself even when the odds are against me.
I melt. My emotions cannot take it.
Zayn: So you newly married?
Zayn: He is a charming man.
Me: How do you know that?
Zayn: I was tasked with vetting him for a presidential enquiry into whether the national director of public prosecutions is fit to hold office.
Zayn: So are you happy?
Me: I said so, didn’t I?
Zayn: I don’t believe it.
Zayn: Because you would have not accepted this friend request if you were happily married.
Me: You don’t know what you talking about. Are you married?
Zayn: I could never marry anyone.
I freeze. I don’t know why I accepted Zayn’s friend request or responded to his message for that matter. I think it had to do with being idle and the pleasant feeling of getting some attention.
Instead of abandoning the conversation, I continue- opening up to him about some of my best kept secrets.
He is as a good as a stranger yet I feel emboldened to share the details of my private life.
I chat to him incessantly while I try to take care of Rahma with one hand.
I loose track of time as lay on my bed, typing furiously in respond to his texts.
Suddenly I hear Ozayr clear his throat.
He is leaning against the door frame watching me.
“How long were you standing there for?”
“Long enough. How are you?”
“I am well,” I say as I push my phone under my pillow like a guilty adolescent.
“You didn’t set the table for me tonight?”
“I… you never come home… so I thought it would be a waste of time.”
He comes and sits next to me on the bed holding my hand and staring at me in the eye.
This is awkward.
“So I was selected to be part of a panel of enquiry set up by the President.”
“Oh you got it? That is great.”
“How do you know about it?”
“I…I think through the papers. I am so happy for you.”
“So I decided to take two weeks off to go for holiday… I owe you a trip abroad. And I am happy to say that following that, I will be home every evening for dinner. The firm has given me 3 months to focus on the enquiry and because it is government work the hours are really short. I will be home, madam, in time for bath time. I am looking forward to it.”
Ozayr hugs me.
“I am really glad.”
“I have been a terrible husband. With work- I was barely able to meet clients. At least now we will have time for each other. I plan on being in your face until you get so tired of me,” he says and I chuckle.
Rahma starts crying and Ozayr volunteers to pacify her as I sit and watch the two of them.
He brings her on my bed and lies next to me and tries to make her sleep.
Finally Rahma falls asleep and he puts her between the two of us.
“I know I did not say this in all of our marriage… but I appreciate everything you do for me and my family. I love you Zahra…”
I gasp. Those words stab me with emotion. My knees are weak.
“I am such a terrible person but you are always there- to support and take care of me. And you never expect anything in return. I didn’t think I would be able to say this to anyone but I really love you.”
“Where do you want to go?”
“I have something to tell you?”
“What’s up?” he asks me affectionately.
“In a moment of weakness, I started chatting to a guy on Facebook.”
He frowns and sits up.
“Hmm… I am listening.”
“It is nothing. I was just lonely and emotional. And stupid. I got this message and I was supposed to ignore it but I got carried away…”
“It is him isn’t it?”
How does he know?
“How do you know?”
“Because I know how to read people. You won’t talk to a stranger. Also, I know he would want to mess with me. He is vindictive. I was not his preferred candidate for the job… Do you want a divorce?”
My heart skips a beat.
“Do you want to be with him?”
“No. I was just… I just needed some attention.”
“It gets lonely… I am around you but its like I never get your attention. I… I know that does not justify anything. I am sorry.”
“I understand… it is not easy being married to me. As much as I understand it, it stings.”
“I am sorry… I really am. You can read the messages if you want and if that would make you feel better.”
“No… I am not a erratic teenage boy.”
“So what now?”
“I only managed to admit I have feelings for you now and we have been married a while… You are the best mother to my child. Your presence gives my mother immense joy. And now I find out that you emotionally cheated on me… I think its time we actually go for that therapy…”
Author’s note: Thank you all for reading the blog and sharing it with others. Please note that the blog will be paused for the next two weeks as I will be travelling. Enjoy the long weekend with friends and family and stay safe on the roads.
By Tasneem Basha
You’re looking for something that will work to take away that dreaded feeling of loneliness…hmm, I can tell you what won’t work; ignoring it, trying to bury it, bawling your eyes out in bridal boutiques (actually, maybe that was a breakthrough for you). Seriously though, there is no salve in this world – no husbands, babies or careers – that can heal the aching gash of loneliness.
Loneliness is a monster that must be faced head on. You must, at all costs, look it in the eye. You must dare it to do its absolute worst. Loneliness must, by its nature, pursue you as long as you run from it. When you turn around and stand your ground you will finally see that what once overshadowed your every moment stands barely a foot tall. I’m not saying you are imagining your pain but you might be overestimating it. The more you replay your past hurts in your mind, the worse you will feel. It sounds like common sense but very few of us realise that we absolutely cannot have a feeling without thinking a specific thought first. And you are after all the only one who thinks your thoughts – get that in reign and a large portion of your battle is won.
At some point we must all face the truth that no one is coming to save us, and if you look at that with wisdom you’ll see that it’s actually very liberating. It leaves you with the responsibility of lifting your life up and into the light. Your happiness is not dependent on anyone or any situation. It’s a choice.
When we feel lonely it’s often insecurity; a fear that we are not good enough, that we will be rejected. And so we board up our lives and refuse to venture out into friendships or relationships, fearing the worst should we risk our hearts.
But this is life. And love. A glorious breaking and wholeness. A shattering and piecing together again. A sowing and a reaping.
Anais Nin said “If you do not breathe in writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write because our culture has no use for it”. I like to think this applies to life too. If we won’t admit our vulnerabilities to ourselves and those close to us, we’ve lived a very vanilla flavoured, fat-free version of life and while that may sit well with your current eating plan, it leaves no room for the wonder that is found just beneath the surface.
That brings me to your marriage; I’m a little sceptical about a man who would use your psychological state both as a bargaining chip and as a weapon. Would he look for another weakness once you are mentally stable to convince himself that you are benefitting too? Would he be insecure once you were the best, strongest version of yourself? You have somehow managed to do the thing you say you hate your mother for; staying with a man for the sake of a child. I wonder if you are trying to understand your mother or rewrite history…either way the outlook of an innocent person now depends on you.
I believe you need a good deal of time with yourself, to learn be comfortable with and like who you are. Until you can do that, all your interactions will be a power struggle.
I am sorry that you have become disenchanted with life; my wish is for you to regain that sense of wonder, that you come to know it is within you. Every person is a mirror and we only see in them what we reflect.
There is a feeling where you not happy but not sad as well. Just somewhere in between. I think that is where I am in my life. But I am content too and that has a calming effect on me. For a large portion of my adult life I was constantly in a state of angst and turmoil- so this is a welcomed relief. .
I am so happy that the move is over and I am settled in our beautiful house. Although Ozayr’s wing needs a womanly touch. It is too magazine-like and cold.
I try to make it a bit homely with flowers and rugs. What excites me though is creating Rahma’s nursery all by myself. There is a satisfaction from DYI that you can’t really understand.
Ozayr thinks I am crazy to be painting and applying wall paper by myself.
Also we have a huge argument about the colour scheme of Rahma’s room.
“Just go with what the interior decorator chose.”
“No. It is boring an impersonal.”
“Why do you want to make life difficult?”
“I am not making your life difficult. It is self imposed and I am not complaining.”
Silly arguments are healthy, I think. I compare our first weeks of marriage to now- we have come a long way.
It is not nearly where it ideally ought to be… but we are trying. At least we are civilised and have normal human interaction.
But he still doesn’t come home for dinner and spends a little time with us on the weekend.
I try my best not to be negative when he is at home. Being selfless is one of the best things my mother has taught me.
Things will get better.
In other related news, my dad decides to surprise us with an impromptu visit.
He is going to China on business and had a few hours between his connecting flight from Durban.
Thankfully, we are moved in Ozayr’s house and he is visibly impressed by how “well looked after his daughter is”.
That is code for: You married rich, daughter. Well done.
We don’t really dwell on the fact that Ozayr had a child from a previous relationship.
But he doesn’t know any details like how old Rahma is… or that I am actually her full time caregiver.
I am grateful that Ozayr responded to my text message and came home to greet my dad and join us for lunch.
“So we are thinking of moving to Australia,” he finally gets to the point of his visit.
“And your business?”
“I am retiring now. I have some good investments. Now I just want to enjoy life. My health is not getting any better.”
“Well at least you will finally enjoy life.”
Ozayr and my dad chat about viable investments when I get a phone call.
It is form the HR department of Walford and Associates offering me a position in their firm.
I didn’t even apply for a position.
Basically they are looking for a senior partner, the renumeration is a 40% more than my previous job. But it comes with a long, long list of responsibilities and expectations.
Being head hunted is always a good feeling and had the offer come three months ago, I would have jumped at the chance.
Now I have to me more prudent- perhaps even more responsible. There is a child dependending on me. I cannot be selfish.
So I do the responsible thing and turn down the offer.
I don’t think a career makes it worth it. So I don’t tell Ozayr about it and quietly turn it down.
But, being as well connected as he is, Ozayr finds out anyways.
“Hey… I hear that Walford offered you a job?”
“How did you find out?”
“That is not the point… Why didn’t you tell me?”
Because you are never home? Is what I am tempted to say.
“Well I turned it down.”
“I am not looking a massive salary hike right now… there are more important things in life…”
“Like looking after Rahma?”
“I suppose so…”
“Well just be sure you are doing what you want to do…”
“Of course. Are you coming home for dinner?”
“So by you turning down this job offer you turned in to a nagging wife?”
I don’t respond. He wants to fight. But it is not worth it.
“To answer your question… no, I am not going to be home for dinner. I am invited to a gala dinner…”
“May I come with?” I ask in the spur of the moment. I don’t even know if I really want to go with.
“Erm, ja sure. Just didn’t think you like socialising. I will pick you up at 6.”
I guess I have to make an effort. If he can’t come home, I may as well try to join him.
As I get ready to hand over Rahma to Ozayr’s mother, I get a text message from the man: “Wear something pretty.”
I tense as I read his message. He does not mean it in a sweet caring way. Ozayr believes that his wife is his property that he should polish and show off to the world- like his Merc.
I tolerate a lot from him but I will not tolerate him objectifying me as an accessory on his arm.
I am furious, so I decide to wear a head scarf- if only to spite him.
I wear a pretty black dress I picked up in Singapore, do my makeup emmaculately and tie a black head scarf.
This will teach him a lesson.
When he arrives to pick me up he looks annoyed at the sight of my head scarf.
We don’t talk on the way to the gala dinner- he clearly doesn’t want me there.
When we arrive at the sparkly event at the Sandton Convention Centre, Ozayr looks annoyed and glum.
I don’t care about him… I will make the most of the evening out.
So I am extra friendly when his associates greet us.
“So what do you do?” one over enthusiastic exec asks me.
“She is a house wife,” Ozayr says rudely.
“Actually, I am just taking a break to look after Ozayr’s baby. He works so hard, that child wouldn’t get any affection had I not made this choice. But I am in the process of starting an NGO.”
Ozayr raises his eyebrows at me. I may have exagertaed the truth but I will not allow him to belittle me.
At the end of the evening- Ozayr seems quite happy that I am extra sociable and entertaining to everyone around the table.
I am quite a great actor…
“I apologise. This is your child and you should make these decisions. I am sorry, I was a little selfish,” I say and Ozayr looks shocked. He certainly didn’t expect such a calm and collected response.
It is funny actually, how he was so tensed in anticipation for a fight and my reaction totally diffused the situation.
It is a trick you learn in law, never let your opponent get the reaction he is ready for. If he comes prepared for a gun fight, offer a rose. It works every single time. It is an empowering tactic too. I simply refuse to live a life of screaming matches and lame apologies. As suffocating as it may be I will be the better person- it’s the last thing a person prepared for combat expects.
And it totally worked.
“I didn’t mean to be so harsh. It has just been really tough lately.”
“No worries. I understand,” I say smiling as I pack away the groceries.
Focusing on my ‘happy space’ is really what is keeping me going. I honestly cannot be sad and depressed my entire life. I refuse to be that miserable old aunty who makes it her duty to bring other people down to feel better about herself.
I remember my dad’s aunt who would pick on all young girls. At every event she would find an imaginable crease in your dress or criticise that your curls weren’t curly enough or there was a bump in your hair.
I remember one day my mother politly old her that throwing shade wouldn’t stop others from shining. My mother was much cooler than I could ever be.
“What’s going on? You are smiling to your self,” Ozayr says as I realise he has been watching me all along.
I just laugh and finish up.
“Seriously though. You amaze me.”
“You couldn’t care less that I am not playing my part in this situation…”
“I do care. That is why I set a plate for you each night for dinner even though you never come home. It is also why I send you a text message every day saying the same thing; I hope you have a pleasant day- even though I never get a response. It is also why I email you a picture of Rahma every day at bath time- to which I get no response. So yes I do care. I just choose to not let it negatively affect me.”
He just stares at me with no response. Almost as if he is trying to actively register what I just said.
I turn around and heat up dinner, while I make a quick salad.
I am really starting to enjoy lentils in my salad. I just can’t seem to make a nice homemade dressing.
As if on cue, Rahma starts crying as soon as I am done with dinner preparations. She needs a feed and bath.
I pick her up trying to sooth her with garbage baby talk.
It is funny, my “objection, Your Honour” has now become “shushu my nunu pie”.
Rahma is an easy baby, thankfully. Once she is fed she is a pleasure to look after.
“Drink sweety… come now,” I tell her… or myself- she can’t really understand.
Once she is fed and burped I lay out her PJ’s and go run her bath water.
As I return to my room I jump in fright as Ozayr leans on the door frame watching me.
I don’t say anything. I pick up Rahma and take her to the bath- which to her, is play time. This child absolutely loves the water and taking her out is often a nightmare.
And obviously the squeaky duck evokes her excitement. Every child must have that weird squeaky duck although I don’t really understand its function.
As I try to avoid Rahma taking a dive under water, I forget that Ozayr is watching me.
It is only when I mindlessly reach over for my phone to send him a routine picture of Rahma that I realise him standing there.
He just stands there and so I smile at him awkwardly.
Rahma screams as I remove her from the water and try to change her as quickly as possible.
“All good things must come to an end my dear,” I tell her as I furiously squirt baby powder on the screaming child.
Eventually she calms down and falls asleep. I put her in her crib clearly aware of Ozayr staring at me quietly for the last hour or so.
“You are really good at this,” he finally says.
“Well practice does make perfect. Almost at least.”
“Come sit down with me…”
“Sure… I just need to pray. Care to join me?”
He looks uncomfortable… I suspect he doesn’t pray much outside of the Friday prayers at the mosque.
I don’t force it as I get ready to pray the early evening Maghrib Sallah.
He eventually joins me and volunteers to lead.
This was our first prayer together- and had a weird sense of intimacy and closeness between the two of us.
It is difficult to explain really. But it feels like we bonded for the first time since we met. Maybe bonded isn’t really the right word.
We certainly connected more than we ever did. Admittedly the bar wasn’t really high as we didn’t really enjoy the same levels of closeness typically experienced by newly weds.
After Sallah, we sit there in silence until Ozayr motions for me to sit forward close to him.
He puts an arm around me and holds me tightly…
“Do you think there is a difference between religion and spirituality?” he asks with his mind clearly in a far flung place.
“I think perhaps religion is the means to the end- which is spirituality… what about you?”
“I have battled this for a while… it sometimes baffles me how we were thought mostly about punishment… and it concerns me- or the liberal me at least- how we can only live our lives in fear of going to hell.”
“For me personally… I think there has to be a balance between hoping for Jannah and dreading hell. When I was on campus there was a frequent debate about how religion enslaves people… I would think about it a lot. Especially when feeling guilty about doing something wrong. I think now I feel like it doesn’t really enslave people- but serves as a moral navigator…”
“It does. I think now when I look at my troubles it really has to do with not following the prescribed practices. It sort of come back to bite me…”
“I guess its never too late until its too late…”
“Hmm,” he merely says as he embraces me while we both sit on the floor.
It is really fascinating how being positive can affect those around you. Had I reacted earlier to him… we would probably be signing divorce papers by now.
It is not a perfect situation. I cannot hide away from that. But perfection is relative. And I have to make this work for me.
In this moment, sitting in his arms I realise why my mother didn’t just pack up her bags and leave. Sometimes you are put in a situation as a test and it is up to you how you fare in that test. In fact, it is up to you whether the test actually becomes a breeze.
“So is it too late for us to have dinner together?” he asks as I smile and get up.
I serve dinner and we talk about random things in lightened mood.
He tells me about how an old Judge in the high court fell asleep on the job and how he made them repeat their heads of argument.
“There was a constitutional law lecturer at UCT who would snort mid way through a sentence. It was hilarious!”
Ozayr laughs and tries to mimic that and I am basically falling over my seat in laughter.
It feels good to laugh hard- you know the stomach hurting, tear inducing laughter? It has been a while…
Choices is a fictional journal written by political journalist Qaanitah Hunter.
No lawyers were harmed in the making of this series.
Follow Qaanitah on Twitter: @QaanitahHunter
I take a deep breath and jump right in it- no life jacket in sight.
“You are right… I was a mess on one day. And you helped me. Had you not forced me to seek help I would have probably been in a really bad space right now. Suicidal perhaps. So I must thank you, you have helped me and I am appreciative. I was in a terrible space when I met you Ozayr. As I have confided in you, I have an irrational fear of being alone. That is what essentially drove me to marrying you. I wish I agreed on normal superficial basis. Your money really does not impress me nor does your flagrant personality. I thought you would be bearable because you experienced tough times and your survived. And I thought that would humanise you. But it clearly didn’t. You walk around like you invincible. Like the world owes you one because you triumphed and made something of your life. It is great that you did, but the world owes you nothing. I realise that now after spending a better part of my twenties moping around like an entitled brat. Sometimes things don’t go the way it ought to be or how we would like it to be, but you have to deal with it. And the choices we make thereafter are our choices and cannot be blamed on anyone or anything. You chose to have an affair with a woman you didn’t know and it is a choice you will have to live with until you die. I chose to marry you despite my rational mind warning against it and it’s a decision that would be with me forever. None of us in this room can pretend that this marriage was made to last… but I hoped you would have at least pretended for a month… a week even. Now we need to decide right now if we are willing to fight for the little bond we have or if we are going to give up we may as well do that now. But if you choose to be in it then we have to meet each other half way. I have nothing to loose from walking away- just so you know. Maybe a few aunties will gossip about me- but that’s where it ends…”
“Then walk aw….” Ozayr snaps quickly and Ayesha steps in.
“I am in charge now. Both of you listen to me. Alright. Oz, go get a book and pen. Zahra go get water for everyone.”
This is an appreciated pause in a tense complex conversation.
We come back and the mood is a lot calmer.
“Alright. You two are adults. You cannot under any circumstances bicker like teenagers. This has to stop. There has to be respect. Mutual respect. Before we carry on, Zahra do you want to get divorced?”
“No. Not without trying.”
“Oz, what about you?”
“Of course not.”
“Then you cannot continue to coexist in such hostility. Now what are the problems?”
“There are no problems. We barely know each other,” I say.
“Alright. That is a good start. So what are you going to do to change that? Oz?”
“We can go on an oversees trip if she wants to…”
“That is not going to solve anything,” I retort.
“Then what do you want from me?”
“Let us keep the tempers under control,” Zubair chirps in.
“I want family dinners. Gym sessions together. Family picnics.”
Ozayr look defiant as he shakes his head. I am not asking for a lot.
“But she knows I have to take clients out to dinner. I can do one dinner a week.”
“That is pathetic bra. There won’t be anything different between you and your father. An absent husband and father is as good as a man who walks out on his family,” Zubair says.
Ozayr does not take kindly to that. He is angry. I see it from his bulging temple vein but he says nothing.
“Guys calm down. Ozayr, you can do Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at home for dinner? Wednesdays you can take clients out. Friday night you guys can go out. Good compromise?”
It seems fine.
“Yeah. That seems reasonable.”
“Good. We are making progress. Now what about the baby?” Ayesha asks.
“She doesn’t need to look after her. I can pay someone.”
“A baby is not something you can throw money at and it will go away. This baby is a full time commitment. Zahra, until when will you be at home?”
“I am home for a month and then after that I will work half a day.”
“Fine. What compromises will you make for the child Oz? How much time can you commit?”
“I was just offered shares! There is no way that I can cut back from work.”
“How about commitment to a full weekend? Friday night until Sunday evening?”
“Why… okay fine.”
“Zahra, are you fine with that?”
“I don’t mind.”
“Okay. Now when will you tell your mother about this situation?”
“We agreed to tell her in three months,” Ozayr says.
“Honestly, that is going to cause more heart break. I think you should sit down with her as soon as possible. Get over the elephant in the room…”
Ozayr takes a deep breath and exhales loudly.
“It is going to be a mess. I will handle it this weekend…”
“We are making progress here,” Ayesha says as she jots down the commitments we made.
Everyone is quiet for a moment until Ozayr bursts out laughing.
I don’t think I have ever seen him laugh as much.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“I am a 34 year old successful lawyer. I have made prudent investment choices. But I am still so scared of my mother. She is going to kill me when she finds this. I am actually scared,” he says with a laugh.
We all chuckle.
“You are going to be sent to the naughty corner,” Zubair jokes.
This helps ease the environment and we are a lot more comfortable. I has been an emotionally draining night.
“Guys, we are not done. Let us iron out a few things and then we can chill,” Ayesha says and the guys groan.
“Alright, therapy. Both of you need separate and combined therapy. Ozayr how much time can you allocate for this in your week?”
“You want me to do dinners and therapy. No ways.”
“How about every Saturday morning you go- one week seperately and one week combined?”
“That is a lot!” I protest.
“At least for the next 6 months. Trust me, you will not regret it,” she says.
“3 months,” Ozayr negotiates.
“Okay, deal. Now how are you going to separate chores and finances? Zahra, are you sure you are willing to take care of the baby?”
“Yes, I don’t mind.”
“Alright… now Ozayr, I am not going to define your chores when it comes to your child but you need to pitch in. You remember you teased Zub for becoming a sissy and changing nappies? Well, I hate to break it you brother- you make a baby, you change nappies. That’s the way the world works.”
We all laugh and Ozayr seems annoyed.
We chat for a little while longer before Ayesha and Zubair leave. It was great meeting them and after the intense conversation we had- it seems like I know Ayesha forever. She is a lovely person and I think we could really get on well. Also she has twins, so she has experience with kids.
It will be okay… it will all be okay…
For the first few days after we had the ‘intervention’ by Ayesha and Zubair, things are okay at home. Rahma was back home and I am running around looking after her. She is a lot more responsive now and she smiled this morning. It was such a heartwarming experience seeing her smile at me.
It is difficult to explain love for a child. It is an all-encompassing love that makes you want to dedicate the rest of your life to this tiny, tiny being.
I look at Rahma when she’s asleep next to me and I try to imagine what kind of adult she will be. Independent and hot headed or timid? I wonder if she will be a girly girl or a tomboy.
Do you think she will choose to become a lawyer like her parents?
Things seem okay between Ozayr and I until Sunday afternoon when he goes to tell his mother about Rahma. I decide not to go along with him because it is clearly a matter between him and his mother.
He comes home red faced and visibly upset.
“How did it go?” I ask.
“Not well… let us not talk about it.”
And so we didn’t.
On Monday is his first official day back at work so I guess it is time to work out a routine.
I wake up early, to pray and to make Ozayr a good breakfast, only to realise that he has already left for gym. His work bag isn’t at home so I assume that he would go straight to work.
For 9 years of my life I would start my day with gym. I guess that can’t be an option now that Rahma is in the picture. Perhaps I can myself a treadmill so I can run at home while Rahma is asleep.
Today seems quite a challenge. I can’t stop wondering what happened between Ozayr and his mother.
I decide to draw up a full menu for the week ahead and cook early. I am so used to cooking the same thing every day for myself: grilled chicken fillet and veggies.
I guess now that I am a stay at home mum I have no reason not to experiment in the kitchen.
The words ‘stay at home mum’ used to freak me out before but I have come to appreciate how important it is to be there for a child. Also, it isn’t as boring as I thought it would be- at least for now it isn’t.
I decide to cook steak and mushrooms for dinner after which I set the dinner table in anticipation of Ozayr’s return home by around 5.30 or so.
By 5, I bath Rahma, feed her and put her to bed. My helper leaves. Everything is quiet. I sit and wait for Ozayr to come home.
He doesn’t come home for another 4 hours. By 9 I decide to eat and retire to bed.
What a fail!
I am asleep when he comes home and asleep when he leaves the next morning.
I try hard not to give up hope. It is too soon. I need to keep trying. Perhaps tonight I must wait up for him, regardless of what time he comes home.
I wait up and eventually he arrives home just before 10, surprised that I am up waiting for him.
He greets me softly.
“Go for it… I know you upset,” he says.
He expects me to shout at him because he knows that he hasn’t kept his side of the bargain.
I don’t give him the satisfaction of being right.
“Would you like me to warm the food for you?”
“No. I ate already.”
Again he looks around waiting for me to lash out at him but I don’t.
I simply go to the kitchen and pack the food away. I have taken a decision; I cannot be filled with rage or anger. No matter what Ozayr does to make me upset, I will not allow him to make me loose my cool.
The Doc says that I should create a happy place in my head in the wake of sadness and anger. My happy place is Rahma’s beautiful face. Everything else seems secondary.
As I finish up in my kitchen, I walk to the lounge to find Ozayr sitting with Rahma sleeping on his chest.
His legs are reclined and he is watching soccer highlights on mute.
I haven’t seen him like this before and it is hard to find a suitable reaction. Instead I quietly sit across him.
“How was your day?” he asks.
“Great. Rahma has learnt how to smile. It is the cutest thing ever. How was your day?”
“Could be better.”
I don’t say anything.
“We were finalising things with my shares. They are offering me 4% shareholding which is more of an incentive to get bigger clients. I am off from court for this week- we go to trial in the Gilson matter next Thursday.”
“I read about it today. It was postponed right? Do you think the state has a water tight case?”
“Not really. We will go after them on administrative errors. Get the case thrown out of court.”
“How are you doing though?”
Ozayr tenses instantly.
“What do you mean how I am? I am sitting here. I am fine.”
“Don’t fight. Alright I am glad you are okay…”
He just stares at me for a few moments.
“I told my mother… She was devastated. Hardly because of the baby… more so of me apparently ruining your life.”
“You are not ruining my life…”
“Try telling her that… She has really taken it hard. She won’t speak to me.”
“I am sorry…”
I can imagine how tough it must have been for him- considering how much his mother means to him.
For the rest of the week I hardly see Ozayr- he leaves before I wake up and returns while I am asleep. I get a glimpse of him when I wake up to feed Zahra in the middle of the night but besides that there is no communication. Not a text message even.
I really can’t loose hope. I was in a really bad space and I can’t go back there.
Today as I rearrange my closet, the thought of going to see Ozayr’s mother sprung in my mind.
He won’t approve but I think it worth the shot.
So I get done, dress Rahma and get ready to go. I ask my helper to come along with me- to take care of the baby while I drive.
I also need to go shopping.
When I arrive at Ozayr’s house- I am nervous but surprisingly his mother opens the door and welcomes me in warmly.
“How you ma?”
“Alhamdulilah… I am well. And you?”
“I was worried about you my child. Ozayr told me what he put you through… I am so heartbroken…”
“He didn’t put me through anything. Sometimes we have to look at the good.”
“You are such a lovely girl my beti. You will see how much of goodness will come from your life.”
“InshAllah. I just came to tell you that sometimes things we don’t like happen… but there is always good in it. I want you to be a part of this baby’s life. Do you want to hold her Ma?”
“It is hard… after all I sacrificed for this child for him to do this. I taught him what is right and wrong… my heart is broken.”
“I understand… but he is trying,” I say.
I don’t know why I am defending Ozayr- especially after how he has treated me this week.
Ozayr’s mother makes tea while I make small talk with her. Eventually she softens and she takes a peak at Rahma while I feed her.
Her eyes well with tears.
“For you to do this… you are such a selfless person,” she tells me as she takes Rahma from me and holds her tight.
I can’t help but smile. Again, it is amazing how a child can soften even the hardest of people.
“It is so nice that you came way to visit me… I get so lonely in this big big house.”
I can imagine. I get lonely in my small apartment even with Rahma and the helper there.
“Would you like us to move in here Ma?”
“I would like that but you know my Ozayr. He is so stubborn. Also, you must have your privacy too.”
I leave her house feeling a lot better. It can’t be easy living alone in a mansion.
Maybe it won’t be such a bad thing to move in with her. Also, the house is designed such that we would have our own quarters. Also, she would be able to help me with the baby if I need to go anywhere- also when I go back to work.
To my surprise, Ozayr is home when I get back from shopping, around 5pm.
“Is your phone on silent?” he asks.
“I think so… you tried calling me?”
“Yes. I was wondering where you were.”
“I just went to get a few things for the house. Also, I couldn’t help but get some pretty dresses for Rahma.”
“That’s thoughtful of you.”
“I went to see your mother today…”
Ozayr goes cold.
“It was really lovely spending time with her… she is very lonely.”
“Did you take Rahma with?”
“Yes… she warmed up to her eventually.”
“Why would you jump the gun like that?”
“This is my child and I would have introduced her to my mother when I was ready to do so!”
Thank you to the wonderful ladies who attended yesterday. If you still want to make it, I will be back at the H4U Book Bytes event this afternoon in Johannesburg South.
As an introvert, I generally abstained from socials in my career. I would rarely go out for drinks with colleagues or attend end of the year functions.
I think I only ever attended 2 work functions and that was because it was to celebrate my own promotion.
Also, I don’t socialise with clients or attend their events.
I always maintained a strong boundary between work and play. And arguably, it worked well for me.
Ozayr on the other hand doesn’t have that boundary it seems.
He justifies it that socialising with people out of work hours allows for a deeper relationship.
He says clients earn your trust outside of the workplace.
He makes the same argument why he spends an awful amount of time with his colleagues after work.
Getting ready for our ‘meet the friends’ function post the wedding is quite a mission.
Ozayr is very much involved in the process which I find quite strange.
It shouldn’t be your business what clutch your wife wears to a work event.
But to him it was his chance to “show you off to the world”.
I don’t know if I am comfortable enough being “showed off” but I am willing to cooperate with him. For one night. After this I am back to my introvert life.
Ozayr insists that I go for an entire spa day in preparation for the “big night”.
He books me at The Spa@Melrose where I did a facial and pedi. He did one thing right for a change. The spa premises is on point and the service is quite good.
I particularly enjoy the fact that it so serene even though it is in the middle of the city.
As I get my feet ‘done’, I end up spilling the beans to the therapist how my husband forced me to buy a dress I don’t like and the next thing I start confiding in a woman I don’t know.
She is sweet enough to nod and offer sympathy as she buffs my nails.
I feel quite relaxed as I drive out of Melrose and onward to my hair and makeup appointment.
I decide to go for quite dramatic makeup- nothing I would usually wear- only because I know Ozayr wants me to make a statement.
When I get back to my flat, I get a nod of approval from him when I show him the “final product”.
“You will steal the show,” he says gleaming.
“Whatever… I just want it to be over…”
We leave for the fancy schmanzy restaurant at one of Africa’s most expensive hotels.The type where a Merc feels like a second grade car.
I have come to learn that Ozayr and his associates are all about the splurge- glitz and glam.
I grew up in affluence but there was never an excuse to spend so fruitlessly- it makes no sense to me.
My first impressions of the venue is disbelief. Perhaps this is not our event?
A hostess in a little black dress, bursting at its seams, welcomes us in offering us champagne and sushi.
She doesn’t spare the moment trying to charm my husband!
Ozayr quickly mentions who he is and soon they offer us juice instead.
There is a pianist playing in the foyer as people mingle with each other.
Beautiful women with perfect features in arm with equally good looking men with expensive suits.
Short dresses and high, high heels are everywhere together with shiny cufflinks and neat bow-ties.
Everyone sipping on what is described as “fine wine”.
Once we enter, groups of people flock towards us to congratulate the “happy couple”.
Ozayr takes time to introduce me to every. Single. Person.
I can’t keep up. Between senior partners at this firm, to CEO’s of that company.
My standard answer: “it is a pleasure meeting you”.
It really isn’t a pleasure. I am uncomfortable. I don’t make small talk. Its not what I do.
Finally, the excruciating period of socialising comes to an end and we are ushered into the dinning area.
But soon to my horror i realise that it is long dinning tables and not individual tables.
Meaning, we have to maintain the small talk through out the night.
Once we sit down some platinum blonde woman urges Ozayr to give a toast.
I want to die.
Call me a prude but I cannot handle people loosing their inhibitions.
Ozayrs gives in.
“If you insist, I would like to propose a toast. Firstly to my loving wife, Zahra. A woman who took my breath away the moment I saw her. She has been an inspiration to me and an anchor to me. Many of you here would know me for my foot loose tendencies but since this fine lady has come into my life she has given me purpose, reinvigorated my spirit and softened me. To a lifetime of happiness and love. And to all of you who have come here to share in our happiness. To love…”
Everyone clink their glasses and laugh.
The mood is festive. But I stare coldly at the bottle of whiskey in the middle of the table.
This is my event yet no one present respected by beliefs and values of not drinking.
You know why? Ozayr has become okay with the presence of alcohol that no one present deems it to be offensive to me.
His ‘toast’ was a cheesy exercise. It is a bit dissappointing really.
As the chit chat continues, a couple walks in late. The man comes in a casual t-shirt and jeans and the woman wears an oversized abaya.
“Sorry! The kids refused to sleep!” the lady says.
Her name is Ayesha- she’s married to Ozayr’s campus buddy Zubair- and she couldn’t care less how under dressed she is for the event.
She pulls a seat next to me and instantly strikes up conversation.
“There are two things in life one needs to survive. Oxygen and a good nanny!”
The chit chat continues as we eat varieties of fish. Ozayr mostly speaks business while I just smile and nod.
As the dinner comes to an end, one of the board members of Ozayr’s firm comes to congratulate us and then lays a bombshell.
“I was waiting to break the news to you and I think now would be the best time… I want to offer you shares in the company… Congratulations.”
Ozayr is blown away. It seems like this was one of his life dreams come true.
He clenches my hand.
I smile at him.
Zubair and Ayesha come and join us at the door.
“Ozzy, how many times do I have to tell you that we are not okay with phuza. It is your event bro. Don’t bring this nonsense,” Zubair tells him frankly.
“Even your wife agrees,” Ayesha chips in.
“Since your kids are asleep… why don’t you guys come home for tea? Because if I go out with Victor and them I know you will have a lot to say,” Ozayr tells Zubair.
“You need to stop your shit. You are a married man now. You mess around and I will break your legs myself. Ja, we will come to you. By your ma?” Zubair responds.
It seems like Ozayr is very close to Zubair and listens to him which is good.
“Not by my ma… I have something to tell you… Come to my vrou’s house,” Ozayr says.
He forgets his polished lawyer accent and sounds like an ordinary Lenz boy.
We drive to my flat, Baby Rahma is with the nurse for the night. From tomorrow she will be full time with us.
Once we get to my flat, I see Ayesha is puzzled by something.
“You have a very beautiful flat but why is he staying with you when he has a dozen properties?” she asks.
If there is a hashtag to describe the mood it would be awkward.
“Why don’t you guys sit down and I will explain everything?”
I leave the lounge to escape the awkwardness and go and remove my heels and dress and put something more comfortable on.
When I rejoin them in the room the mood is dead serious.
“I learnt an important lesson… that baby changed me. It’s hectic being a father.”
“Exactly. That’s why you gotta know what you are doing. You can’t mess around with a child’s life bra.”
When I sit down the conversation stops. It is quiet for a few seconds.
“Let me tell you something bra, you are lucky this woman agreed to marry you after knowing what a freelancer you are. You bloody need to worship her feet that she agreed to look after your child!”
I just sit there.
Ayesha steps in.
“Having kids was a huge sacrifice for us. We talked about it for 5 years before we actually had the twins. I sacrificed everything. I love my kids. And Zubair is there. Dude, you got to be grateful that Zahra is in your life.”
“Its not like she’s not benefitting from this arrangement too,” Ozayr suddenly snaps.
The. Monster. Is. Back.
“I don’t want to intervene in your marriage but show some respect brother!”
“Bra, I get it. I messed up. But I am making things right. Why do you think I got hitched? You think I didn’t enjoy being single?! I am sorting out my stuff. And yes, I must be grateful that this girl married me but it was mutual agreement. She is benefitting as much as I am. She didn’t tell you how she was a nervous wreck and I helped her. She lost her marbles and I got her help. So this is not on my only…”
He says that like I am not sitting there.
I instantly start tearing as I get up to leave.
“No. Don’t go! Have your say.”
For more on the Spa@Melrose visit: http://www.melrosespa.co.za/