A love of youth Chapter 10
A longtime friend I met at work spoke to me of a madrasah situated within walking distance from home. Muslim priests taught the precepts of Islam. Young Muslim from the area went every afternoon there. I decided to send Akbar there. My goal was to have him learn the rudiments of this religion; let him discover the beauty of Islam. He would need faith to survive in this world in trouble.
I enrolled him a few days later. He started his courses on a Monday afternoon. My contacts with some Muslim women of the area made me understand how my life was. The irregular life I led was not approved. My son could find his place in the society only if I set my life in order. The rigorous laws of the religion made me understand that I was living a sinful life. A Muslim woman must not give herself to a man if they are not married. I was warned by missionary women who came to me to preach and to explain the precepts of the religion. I was also warned that if I did not change my way of life, my son might be expelled from the madrasah. I was told that if I had suggestions to make, explanations to ask I just needed to refer to the missionary women who came to see me regularly. I knew I had no arguments to defend myself. I worried during several nights and did not know how I could speak to Frank about this problem.
I felt I was on the median line that separated Islam I was facing and was welcoming me with open arms, and the west that held me in its claws. I just had to take a step to lock me in this circle. Or one step behind threw me in the boiling wave of the west.
Frank was holding up at work. When he came to see me it was only to make love. He always seemed in a hurry and cut short his visits every time pleading he had work to finish. He was not as tender as before and hardly was attentive to me. These changes in its habits marked me and affected me a lot. He represented a lot in my life. Especially when I imagined that I had to put an end to this story. It was obvious that I could not continue to see him. I took refuge with my son who deserved my affection. I gave him a lot and imagined that it was not sufficient. I found him distractions during which we shared joys and live happy together.
For some time Frank wanted to introduce me to his parents. I was unfit to be presented as Frank's girlfriend especially because I could not hide the shame I felt in my situation. I was a dark-skinned woman coming from a distant region who had no interest to captivate the son of an industrial destined to a successful future. I always found good reasons to delay these presentations, to escape from this torment and to avoid being among people who would not approve my presence in their society. Frank was smitten with me and was frightened to lose me at any time. He often spoke of marriage and common life. I was embarrassed and did not know what to answer. I knew that one time or another, my life was going to topple to the bad side. I tried to gain time. Our relationship never deteriorated as we loved each other. We had lived together without engaging us. It often happened we disagreed on some points but we succeeded in settling these problems calmly without losing ourselves in useless discussions. Frank invited me in a country house that belonged to his friend. I joined him on a Friday afternoon when Akbar had finished its class. At sunset, Frank and I walked along a path that was leading to a wood. It was there that I told Frank I had decided to break up. I valued the future of Akbar a lot and I owed respect to my community. My behavior should be exemplary in the society I was living. Frank said no word.
He accepted the idea of a separation with difficulty. He confessed to me that he could not live without me anymore. He found me cruel to move him away from me and to forbid him to see me. He could not understand that I hurt him so much. "A loving heart", he said, “cannot insinuate such things. You do not have love for me in your heart, Yasmina. Admit it! I draw my strength in you. How can I explain the absolute confidence I have in you? I recognize the deep feelings you have for me. I had never had a doubt. You were faithful to me and I am thankful for this. My conscience has never been as calm as it is, at least as far as love was concerned. And now you try to explain that your path and mine are different and that it is time to separate. I cannot accept it.”
The interest Frank had for me, his love embarrassed me. I felt sorry. It would be rash to repulse a man that I was happy to appeal and that had given me so much joy. I got to choose between the love I had for this man and the respect I kept for my religion. My private life and my image in the society were two main reasons. How can I make my lover understand that my religion forbad me all relationship with him? I was living in sin and had to be ashamed in front of God and mankind. While separating me from Frank, I shed a tear. We agreed that he would not come home anymore. I was sorry and cried all night long. Akbar often asked me if I had pain. When he was there, I hid my pain so that he could not imagine the problems between Frank and me. My colleagues noticed I seemed to be tired. I lied to get rid of them. I did not want to share my pains. The first week was hard. After two weeks, Akbar asked me why Uncle Frank did not come anymore to see us. I always found a reason. I was afflicted by the situation. Akbar had many friends with whom he spent his time. He asked rarely for Frank.
I found the strength to live because my son needed me. My lodgings reminded me painful memories. I was obsessed by the imaginary presence of Frank. I decided to move. I found a house in an area full of immigrants.
My new home was better than my studio. It was a small house of three rooms, independent that made the pride of Akbar. He had his own room, his own bed and desk. He often invited friends to watch cartoons on television. A big courtyard at the rear of the house allowed the children to play late in the evening. Their screams rang out far.
Akbar wanted to possess his friends as much as possible. I earned a salary that did not allow me to make fantasies. I could hardly spare money. I tried to explain Akbar that I was not rich and that I could not give him what he wanted. My only pleasure was to make him happy. He surprised me a lot by his intelligence and the way he thinks. At seven years, he was smart and was ambitious. He was proud when his teacher was satisfied with the progress he made at school. He was well educated and showed it to the neighbors and friends who complimented him.
Akbar made a friend with a Moroccan boy who was living within walking distance from our house with his mother. I had the pleasure to meet his mother on New Year's Eve party. We became friends maybe because we had faced similar problems. Like me she had escaped from home because she had committed mistakes her parents could never forgive her. And like me she was facing life all alone. She gave me the idea to go to pay a visit to my parents in Reunion. But I knew what would happen in my family. I owed them some explanations. But without money, how could I imagine going there? I had been working hard for months to save money. Some years later, when I have enough money to buy two tickets to go from Paris to Reunion and return, I would take my holidays during the school vacations and fly with my son on the Charter to Reunion.
Text translated by ©Kader Rawat