I thought I had grabbed God by the beard, pulled out a lucky ticket when I met a swarthy brunette, an oriental handsome Damir. I probably have low self-esteem, because I never thought that he would pay attention to me. We met at the French language courses — I, a 5th—year student of the Faculty of Philology, and he is an economist from Algeria, working in Moscow under contract. It so happened that at one of the classes we sat down next to each other, and after the end he asked if he could accompany me.
I didn’t break down. Moreover, she dared to invite him for a cup of tea. I wanted to brag to my mother, who was always moaning that I would remain an old maid, although there was no reason for this: although I am not a written queen, I know my worth and I do not suffer from the lack of fans.
My mother was very kind to Damir, but when he left, she made a noisy scandal.
— Ira, you’re crazy! He’s a Muslim! There is an insurmountable gulf between you. Do you know what their traditions are? There’s a solid patriarchy there. Algerian! You just have to think of it: get to know an Arab and bring him home. What are you. Did you think I’d fall for his beautiful eyes?
— Mom, but he doesn’t look like an Arab at all. I was indignant. — Damir studied in Moscow for 5 years and adheres to our laws.
— I didn’t give birth to you and raise you alone without a husband to let you go to some Algeria now! I don’t want to see him here anymore! Do you understand?
— Oh, my God, Mom! I met him once, and you’re already marrying me off! I sighed. — And besides, am I really going to ask your permission, is it possible for me to marry someone like that? Thank God I’m of age. I’ll figure it out myself!
I was really angry. And I was also wondering if our relationship with Damir would develop. At least, I really wanted to. Dating a foreigner! Yes, it’s every girl’s dream to visit the East! I’m already 24, and I’ve never been abroad. What if he asks me to get married? Then you’ll have to move to there. Damir said that his Moscow contract ends in six months and he is not going to stay in Russia.
I was dreaming as if I was already listed as his bride…
But soon I found myself in this status. Much to Mom’s indignation, Damir and I started dating. He fell in love with me with all the ardor of an oriental man. I reciprocated him. He was temperamental in bed and did not look at all like the despot that his mother had drawn in her imagination. On the contrary, I saw with what respect he treats me. He literally carried me in his arms. Well, tell me, who wouldn’t like it?
— It’s not evening yet! Mom hissed. — Soon he will show his true form. You’ll cry with him again.
Nevertheless, everything went on as usual. Damir made me an offer, and I accepted it with great joy.
— Ira, but you do understand that we will live in my homeland? I’m not staying in Russia. My family is there.
— Well. of course, dear, I agree to anything, just to be near you! I couldn’t feel the ground under me from happiness. Mom cried every day. Friends got jealous. I signed up for Arabic language courses — now I was interested in everything that concerns the country of my beloved. I was just thinking about our future life together…
— My love, I have a great idea. Damir said once. — My sister has a wedding in 2 weeks. This is a great reason to go to Algeria. I will introduce you to my relatives, show you the country in which you will live. Do you want to?
Of course I wouldn’t! And so, an exotic trip was waiting for me, and besides with the man I loved. What else can a girl dream about?
After leaving Algiers airport, it was as if I had entered another world. The women were wrapped in hijabs, which hid everything except their eyes, the men were also dressed in clothes unusual for the eyes of a European. They spoke a language I didn’t understand. It was sweltering heat, palm trees and bushes of extraordinary beauty with large bright flowers grew everywhere.
— Oh, how great it is here! Let’s take a walk around the city.
«Unfortunately, we don’t have time,» Damir said absently.»Wait for me in the car, I’ll be right back.»
He put me in a taxi and quickly left somewhere. The taxi driver stared at me relentlessly, and I breathed a sigh of relief when my fiance returned.
— Put this on. He deftly wrapped my face and shoulders in a beautiful black scarf with an oriental pattern. A few minutes later I almost fainted — it was so hot. As soon as we got out of the car, I was relieved to pull off the ill-fated handkerchief from my head: «God, you can suffocate in this rag! How do women wear this?»
Damir turned to me sharply. He was just furious. I didn’t understand anything.
— It’s not a rag! – he said almost rudely — Hijab is one of the most important components of the life of Muslim women. Put it on immediately.
«Well, I’m sorry,» I said. — It just seems ridiculous to me to force a woman to wear this in such a heat. It’s just absurd!
«For Muslim women, strict observance of the hijab rules is considered a matter of honor,» Damir explained. — Hijab protects a woman from lustful male gazes. I come from a very religious family, for us to honor traditions is a sacred thing. You have to remember: there are pretty strict principles and rules here. And if you make fun of Islamic culture, for me it’s the same as if you were making fun of my mother.
— Are you saying that this handkerchief should be on me during my entire stay in your country? Why didn’t you warn me about this in advance? I would have thought about whether to go…
Damir was confused:
«It never even occurred to me to warn you. It seemed obvious and natural to me.
He hugged me and kissed me. And I calmed down. Okay, I’ll be obedient.
We arrived in the town where Damir’s parents lived after midnight. Everyone was already asleep, except the mother. She was waiting for us, but she met me very coldly. And it was a shame — I tuned in to a solid positive. What is it! This woman was just being impolite! She spoke only to her son, and in Arabic. And when she addressed me in French, she didn’t even ask me about anything, she just said that Mora was going to bed.
—Good night,» Damir said and headed for the door. I trailed after him. But then the unexpected happened. — No, you’re staying here. I’m going to spend the night at my uncle’s. It’s not customary with us. for a man to sleep with a woman under the same roof before the wedding,» he explained.
My legs gave out. I was so looking forward to the moment when we would be alone. I wanted him to hug me, to comfort me. And, it turns out, I have to stay with this unfriendly woman, who, it seems, was not going to establish contact with me. And I was a guest in her house. And not just a guest — the bride of her son.
The next day I didn’t have a chance to meet Damir at all. And in the following days I saw him only briefly and from afar. I am ready for such a «romantic» journey. I was not ready, and I wanted to cry from disappointment. The potential mother—in-law did not leave me for a minute — neither she nor her 4 daughters. Six of us did the weight: we went to the market, prepared the house for the wedding, fussed in the kitchen. It seemed that soon they would follow me to the toilet. Damir’s sisters were quiet and friendly. But the mother became more and more unfriendly. And why did I displease her so much?!
On the third day, when I was already going to bed, she asked me:
— And how did your mother let you go alone? Did she really want to push her daughter out of the house as soon as possible? Or were there other reasons for this?
I barely restrained myself from saying something angry and sarcastic in response. And I held back my tears — I didn’t want to give this woman a reason to gloat. The next time I saw my fiance, it was at his sister’s wedding. He came along with other guests, but did not approach me, only smiled from afar. Not understanding anything, I ran up to him to hug him, because I missed him! But he abruptly grabbed my arm and led me out into the garden in a rage.
— Ira, what do you allow yourself? he shouted. — Do you want to bring problems on my head? And already my whole family is gossiping about you. Understand, you can’t behave like in Russia. The mores here are completely different. Not only did your mother notice how you wanted to spend the night with me without any embarrassment, but you also hang yourself on my neck right in front of strangers. While saying these words, he even wiped his forehead, obviously re-imagining the «terrible» picture of me hugging him.
— What do you mean, «hanging myself»? I shouted back angrily. «What do you mean, ‘among strangers’?» This is your family!
— But not yours! — he rapped out. «When we get married, I’ll be your only family.» Remember that!
— You also need to remember something! I said furiously. — I will never be your wife! Never! Take me to the airport immediately!
«But you can’t do that to me,» Damir was confused.
— I can! And I will! Look for another bride, and fire me!
A few hours later I flew to Moscow. It was absolutely clear to me that I would never be able to live according to Sharia law.