During her first four years of marriage, she got pregnant with her first baby. She also had to relocate shortly after the delivery to an Arab country because her husband received a job offer, which was not mouth-dropping, still they couldn’t possibly turn it down. Not with a new baby on board.
For months she looked for jobs there, but eventually, she was hired by the same company her husband worked for! It’s the agony of both of them working in the same field and in such a small place. Then, just when she thought she was settling in; just when she thought she will be able to catch her breath, she discovered she was pregnant…again! She became a 2-months pregnant working mother of an 8 months boy, only this time; she had to go through it with the added-value of being an expat.
Frustrated and tired, she carried on! She had to keep up the around-the-clock stressful job, with a quirky abusive boss, who knew how to play his cards pretty well. They were both working in the same place, in a job, which lacks the slightest objectivity criteria, they were constantly worried. With a back-breaking credit debt (something they got entangled in, again, because of this cheap manager, who over and over promised benefits and assistance that he never fulfilled), the idea of one of them upsetting him, means they will both get the axe, and boy did he know that?! He didn’t just know it, he used it in every possible way to make their lives rotate around nothing else but work.
Second baby delivery; she’s completely on her own, once more .. in a foreign country, which speaks the same language, yet, is millions of years away from her. It’s overwhelming how you can be among people, who speak your own language, but you can’t understand what they say. A thought that has continued to linger with her; the fine layers of human communications. She was taught this at school; “in order to fit into another culture and understand how the Other think; learn their language,” how so not true! Learning the language can be a step, but most certainly it is not a communication guarantee. It won’t simply tear down the walls barring you from those around you; it’s not an express visa into the nooks and crannies of this new culture. It takes more than that to really be able to communicate and actually find a place to snuggle comfortably into its fabric.
Even her house .. her home.. was evolving into this strange place. She spoke the same language, but didn’t fit anymore. Day after day, she grew more and more estranged, more and more distant, and the daily communication transformed into difficult mathematical algorithms, and she has always been bad with math.
She started switching more often to the auto-pilot mode. She was too tired and worried, and never felt like she can relax for a minute; like she can finally start her writing again, after a block which lasted for more than three years, expanding inside her and rendering her into a dry impotent land; never felt like she can start those Italian classes she has always planned to take, never felt like she can plan that trip to Italy, which she has always dreamt of. It has always been a childhood dream; a very simple one: become a writer and live for the rest of her life by the sea in Italy. But if she can’t leave everything behind now, she can at least go visit her future home! Sadly, it wasn’t an option yet. What do you mean why? Credit debt, two toddlers, a hectic job, and a marriage that is hanging by a thread!
In mid-2011, there was a 29-year-old girl, whose fears came true in a blink of an eye.
It was another traditional morning. She woke up –or rather got out of bed as she hardly sleeps- at 6:00 am, got the kids ready, fixed the house, woke him up to just get dressed and hopefully be ready on-time. They drove in silence, as they usually do, to that awful spiraling tower by the sea. That tower which transpires from a distance like one of those old haunted castles she used to read about in horror stories when she was younger, and disturbed her sleep.
Of all the 10 years of professional experience she had, she has never felt so bad towards a working place, as she felt for that creepy horrid tower. Every time she stepped inside, it seemed to swallow her, chew her, and then throw her out. Same awkward crunching feelings she had during high school, when she was bullied because she stood for something different.
That day she went home alone for the kids, while her husband stayed a bit longer because the boss wanted to talk to him. She knew it was going to be bad, but tried to put it behind her back. More than four hours passed, and she still didn’t hear from him. She called, but he didn’t answer. While getting dressed to drive back to check on him, he walked through the door. His eyes teary and unfocussed, he looked like he was beaten for an hour with a solid iron baton.
– “Are you fired?!”
– “We both are!”
Strangely enough, for the first instance, something inside her sighed in relief. Something inside her was roaming aimlessly and suddenly, it stopped somewhere. The feeling was completely unexplainable. Here it is, happening before her eyes, all her fears for the past three years, coming to life in the worst way possible and.. at the worst time possible.
She knew all along it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. Relationship with this psychologically disturbed boss was getting worse by the minute, as both –she and her husband- get more stressed and frustrated every day. No matter what they do, it was never good enough or sufficient. The problem was they never had the courage to quit. A picture of life without the regular monthly income seemed impossible to visualize.
But, it doesn’t matter. She felt relieved.. at least for few seconds. Definitely, as the consequences started to sink in, and as she realized the company will not act professionally and will deny them their basic financial rights, anger ravished her, and almost consumed her. Nevertheless, deep within, she was ok.
For the first time in so many months, she sat down to talk with him and try to soothe him. It was her duty to ease and reassure him. Though at first glance, it all seemed irresolvable, she sensed a strange strength rising inside her, recurring in cleansing waves. May be this crisis was going to bring them close again, maybe not! But for the time being, she had to be strong. After all, they were in a foreign country, with sponsorship work rules that can be manipulated and used against them. They had no one to rely on but each other.
They were going back to a home country that is economically crushed, with a huge real-estate mortgage, at a time when job opportunities were slim to none, and they had no savings. They were back home; jobless, tired, humiliated, and it felt like they had nothing. But despite how horrible conditions were at home, it still had their families.
They had their families, who forgot everything about their differences and just met them with wide-open arms. Because family will always pull together in tough situations, no matter how distant they grow.
The moment that plane landed, she let go. She broke. She sneaked into her old childhood room, locked herself up, and cried. Can she just open her eyes and wake up in an earlier time? A time when writing seemed an easy thing to do, and traveling the world and visiting Italy didn’t seem such an impossibility; a time when she could just rise in the morning, fancy love, and plan her day as she drives the car; a time when she still felt beautiful, attractive, and desirable; a time when this nightmare of humiliation never existed.
She is humiliated to the core. She has never everbeen fired before. Never! And now it’s happening, because of a mentally-retarded, control-freak, money-worshiping boss who enjoyed abuse in the name of business. No one has ever made her feel as bad about herself as he did. The Pig actually shook up her confidence. She, the one who has been praised and recognized for her skills in the business over and over again by different employers and clients, this sick person has succeeded to convince her she is totally worthless!
Oh my God! How much she hates Brits now. This ex-boss of her must be a live incarnation of the ideology of British Colonization. She usually hates stereotyping, but now –at this particular moment- she can’t help it. Cut her some slack! For this angry moment, as she watched her life dwindle before her, she is entitled the sweet taste of generalizing judgments.
Months slipped by, lots of interviews, but no work; only tormenting hope remained. That hope that drives to the edge of madness, one moment it makes you happy and full of energy, the other you are frustrated and desperate, as minutes pull one-another and the phone lies dead in your lap.
Slowly, hope is replaced with desperation! Job opportunities are now more like a mirage for a thirsty lost man in the middle of a suffocating desert.
The more the situation lingered, the more she wanted to breakout. Escape. Wake up and just walk away. Leave it all behind. Act like nothing has happened to her during the past almost five years. But she can’t. She is still a strong woman. She is not a quitter, she has never been, and she will not be one now. She will wait a little bit longer, when things are more settled. She can’t walk out .. not at the moment.
(To be continued…)