This story is set in the summer of 2009 when we all came to see my son graduate and I decided to stay.
I paced the room unable to sleep, pressure and urgency kept me moving back and forth. The sound of boats, wind and the lapping water pattered inside my brain, the cool breeze and whispers of nature brought me back to reality and out of the alternate universe where I had lived for so long. Opening the bedroom door, walking out and down the hall to the bathroom was a normal thing to do, but had become an impossible feat. I had practiced this pretend sleep for many years and now more than ever it came in handy. At least we were on American soil, far away from the nights when I was woken to go to the room for hours of talking, threats of eviction, possible separation from my children. The ending replayed each time, “Lynn, you have become one of those women, the women that I hate” and with that I was expelled and exiled back to my bed. This cycle was repeated each hour as I lay, masquerading in a frozen trance, waiting for the next round when the plastic laundry basket could be heard scratching the floor and the door was opened. I heard my name spoken, at first faintly, then louder until I could no longer feign sleep. But now, at the lake house, in my parent’s home, surely things could not be repeated. My parents slept upstairs, the children were tucked in and he sat half awake, upright in the blue recliner, the only thing separating me from gaining relief and emptying my bladder. When I dared to open the door and peer out, he stirred and one warning eye stared blankly at me, pushing me to return to my bed, as if we had never left Saudi.
The first two weeks of our visit to America had gone well, we went to see our son graduate with honors, gaining his degree in Engineering. For months leading up to our departure the warnings became more severe, “You can go, get the hell out of here, but you will never take my children any where.” I was roused from my constant state of partial sleep, and told to go, pack my things and leave at once! Each morning I woke, much to my relief, to find that I was still in the villa and so were my children. Finally we were allowed to make this trip but in a guarded fashion. I vowed to be on my best behavior, no rebellion or questions, just pure joy and fun. Although it was not perfect and I had to remember my place, agree with his wishes and abide by his rules, he was somehow softer and more relenting, even smiling and holding my hand. Thoughts of never returning to Saudi, wavered in my mind, a back and forth tug of war between guilt, fear and obligation. In the forefront were promises I had made to my oldest daughter that she would indeed attend university. He had issued a warning when her college plans were mentioned, there were many appropriate candidates for marriage and a good father would never let a daughter leave his household before a suitable husband was secured. I pushed away ideas of staying in America, it seemed ridiculous and selfish. I had taken vows, made a commitment and now had responsibilities, but as I stood in the hall, frozen, in fear of urine leaking down my leg, heart racing and then pounding, a grim realization gripped me. I was now afraid to breathe, walk and exist, a calm pause came over me. I skirted past the recliner and locked the door behind me, sobbing quietly, knowing what I had to do.