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Another story from the Middle East, about a mixed marriage, mental illness and God's healing. I tried to show this story rather than tell it. Let me know if I succeeded.
BTW Every single detail is based on my own real-life experience but all characters are composites and names have of course been changed.
Claire's two husbands
His bony hands must be hurting. He's been banging on the door for at least 5 minutes. Claire was still wondering what to do but fear kept her from moving at all. She was sitting on her bed with her arms around her knees, staring in the distance, hoping that ignoring it, would make the whole situation go away. But Mohammed was persistent. He had been at her for days, accusing her of adultery and hammering away at her with the evidence the way he was hammering on the door right now. He knew how she looked at other men and how could other men especially Arabs resist her blond hair? He knew how wild it made him. And most Arabs looked at western women as whores. She should know that by now after so many years in the Middle East.
"Come out of the room. I need to talk to you, bitch, now!"
Claire was shaken to hear him use that word. What happened to the days that he called her his sweet Swiss chocolate? He was so charming in those days. The compliments were never ending. He had also swept her off her feet with his handsome face and thick black hair and she had felt no qualms about marrying an Arab man despite all the warnings from her conservative family.
The only consolation she had was that she was sure that he wouldn't hurt the children. He loved his kids and in fact most of the time seemed to be one of them. He hadn't really grown up and was quite happy to play with them while she was cooking and doing other housework. Claire's arms started to hurt and she realized she had to loosen her grip on her legs. She felt like she was frozen in time and as long as she was, this nightmare was not really happening. She was shocked into reality by Aisha's voice:
"What is going on, daddy?"
"Go to bed, darling. Mummy and daddy have to talk."
Aisha must have gone back to bed. Claire picked up the phone and rang Mike's number. A sleepy voice answered and Claire apologised for calling at three in the morning but she was desperate.
"Moh has gone crazy again. Can you please come? I don't know what to do."
Mike promised that he and his wife Grace would come over straightaway. Thank God, they lived just across the street.
The doorbell rang and Claire could hear Mohammed open the front door. It wasn't long before there was a knock on the bedroom door and Claire let Grace in.
"Are you ok, Claire?"
Claire didn't know what to say and just looked at Grace with relief; she sat back on the bed and grabbed hold of her knees again. She glanced at the door with suspicion but Grace put her mind at ease:
"Mike is talking to Moh in the living room."
"He is mad. He is insanely jealous and thinks I am having affairs with a whole string of different men at work. The other day he got so upset. We were arguing in the kitchen and suddenly he pulled a knife on me. He said he'd kill me if he could prove I was unfaithful to him. I don't know where he gets the crazy ideas from. I just go to work, teach all day and come home. How on earth would I even have time to have an affair? In the meantime he sits on his lazy arse and does nothing. He's too lazy to get a job but every time I bring that up, he gets so angry, we end up fighting."
Grace noticed how pretty Claire was even like this, sitting scrunched up on the bed in pajamas, her hair and face in a mess. She also noticed her slight French accent and there was no wonder that Moh was over-protective and even worried.
Mohammed smiled and chatted as if nothing had happened. Mike had to broach the subject himself as he had really not got out of bed in the middle of the night to have a friendly chat.
"So Mohammed, why am I here? What's going on?"
"Nothing. I can't sleep."
"Come on, Moh. Your wife calls me in the middle of the night because she is scared of you and you're banging on the bedroom door. Don't tell me that's normal. You do have a problem here."
"Claire is worried about nothing. I just want to talk."
"But it's 3 o'clock in the morning."
Moh didn't understand the problem and the more he didn't understand, the more worried Mike became so he decided to stay. Grace went back home while Mike and Moh continued to talk and drink coffee. When it was light outside, Moh finally promised Mike to treat his wife with more respect and trust her.
After a few weeks Claire noticed things had gone back to normal, at least as normal as things could be. She was still not keen to celebrate New Year Eve just with Moh on their own. So, she invited a whole lot of people from work, maybe also in a desperate attempt to show Moh she wasn’t unfaithful to him. Maybe he could see she didn’t get any special attention from anyone. In fact, at work she was quite withdrawn, too busy to chat and only talked to her immediate colleagues who all happen to be female.
“Are you sure you want to do this right now?”
Mike was amazed that Moh seemed so open and was willing to give his life to Jesus right here and right now. It was New Year’s Eve and so a beautiful time to start a new life with the Lord but they had been drinking since 8 o’clock and it was 3 in the morning now. Mike had even been smoking cigarettes as Moh insisted. They had been talking about God for hours and Moh was keen to know how to become a Christian. Mike was somewhat uncomfortable since the garden was full of people partying and drinking. The funny thing was that as soon as Moh asked to say the “sinner’s prayer”, Mike felt completely sober. He looked at Moh and then looked around him to make sure no one would interfere and asked what they were doing. To his surprise the whole garden was empty. Everyone had gone inside the house and Moh and he were left alone. Mike was sure now that this was a God-appointed time and he led Moh in prayer.
From that moment, Mohammed’s life seemed to turn around. Mike loved teaching Mohammed about the Word as he seemed such an intelligent guy and hungry for knowledge. Mike thanked the Lord for this blessing. One day, when Mike was getting into his car to go to work, Moh appeared out of nowhere. He was beaming and without saying hello, he blurted out:
“I know now, the only way to please God is by faith.”
Mike was stunned. This was not even a week after his salvation and Moh came out with this gem.
“By the way, Mike, don’t tell anyone I am saved. I am worried about my family.”
“I haven’t yet but why? Christians are not persecuted here.”
“No, you are not but I am an Arab. And even though I was not really a Muslim, I would still be seen as an infidel. I am concerned about what they would do to my family.”
“Ok, sure. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed.”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“It means that I won’t say anything.”
Mike sometimes forgot that English was still Moh’s second-language because most of the time he was so fluent and seemed to understand everything. It was just those occasional expressions that would trip him up. One day he came over to show Mike a silver cross he had bought. He wore it under his shirt so no one could see it but he was so proud. When Mike asked him why he was wearing it if it put him in danger, he said:
“I read in Luke 14 that we should bear our cross.”
Another month went by and peace seemed to have returned to Claire’s family until one night Mike’s mobile went off. He opened one eye and looked at the clock. It was 1:11 which struck him as being odd. He picked up the phone. It was Claire. She was in a panic:
“He’s crazy. I think he’s been drinking and he’s pacing through the house talking to himself. He is waffling on about Jesus and that he still can’t trust me but he has to be a good husband. But, Mike, he really isn’t. He’s got his nose in the Bible all day and prays for hours, but he still doesn’t want to work. He should be working and I should be home with the children while they are young. I am the mum, not him.”
Mike tried to calm her down but she really needed to vent:
“I am sick of this. I work every day and he still thinks I am having affairs. He even thinks I am having an affair with you, Mike, and you are supposed to be his best friend. He’s paranoid and I don’t know what to do. I don’t think he is taking the pills.”
Mike was taken aback by this but had noticed that Moh started to become suspicious of him after he had taken him to the psychiatrist. Mike suspected some mental disorder since Moh was so intense and seemed to be paranoid about everyone around him. Dr Ali was a great psychiatrist. The advantage was also that he was an Arab as well as a Christian. Mike thought Moh must be able to relate to him. And he did in the beginning. But after a while Mike realised that Moh was manipulating the good doctor. He somehow got him to believe that there was nothing wrong with him. Yes, highly intelligent but manipulative as hell. Mike had seen it many times before.
After an initial dry period, Moh had obviously started drinking again.
“I cannot live like this anymore. I am thinking of going back to Switzerland but I am worried he won’t let me go and in this country I have no rights. If he wants the kids then I can’t leave. I am not going to leave my children behind, certainly not with a paranoid-schizophrenic husband. And something else, no offense to you, Mike, you and Grace are good people and have tried to help a lot but all this Christian talk…. What is this? He talks about Jesus non-stop and tells me he prays for me and the kids to be saved but in the meantime he is off the planet. Is that how you say it? He is crazy and he tells me how to live my life. I have to find a way out of the country and go home.”
15 months later:
Claire put her heavy suitcase near the front door. She went back to girls’ bedroom and continued packing Aisha’s suitcase while Aisha was putting everything she wanted to take on the bed. Aisha was so mature for her age and understood what she needed in Switzerland where it was much cooler. Here in the UAE in June the temperature rose to 45 degrees Celsius and higher and everyone was looking forward to a break. Saeed was putting the car in the driveway and would take the battery out and leave the windows slightly open so the heat could escape from the car. Fatima and little Ali were running from room to room playing tag and Claire could hear their unrestrained laughter. It brought a smile to Claire’s face. It was the time she had dreamed of, the normality she had craved for so long. A husband who did manly things like looking after the car, kids that run and feel free without fear of another argument between mum and dad and, of course, she herself feeling carefree and looking forward to a normal family holiday at her parents’. She felt a warm love for Saeed, her second husband as she often called him.
“Claire, are you almost ready? Anything else I can do? The taxi will be here soon.”
“I am almost done, darling. Just come and grab the kids’ suitcases.”
Saeed was so sweet, always concerned about her. It was hard to believe what had happened to Saeed, or Moh as he was called before his name change. Really quite a miracle!
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