When she was sixteen years old he naively went to her mother and asked for permission to marry her. The girl was never informed that 'her bestfriend' had done so, at the time daring enough to bet on a life in her country, thinking a familial support structure there would similiar to the one of the Omanese. She was sent away back to the UK, where she always took out an old picture of them together laughing whenever she was sad, sure after all these years that her old Omani friend had married and wishing wholeheartedly that he was happy and laughing still.
Without meaning to one day, a grown woman, she returned to the Sultanate of Oman, holding the old photograph in her memory still. She drew it in charcoal, smudges under her eyes, under her finger nails, in her blonde hair. Chance had it the first man she met that day was the same one who had loved her all those years ago. Neither of them were naive little children anymore though, that thought they could change their worlds simply base don the attraction and comfort they had always known with eachother. She was a woman that would never fit into a box, and he was a man that could rarely get out of the box.
OPNO did not know about the law about Omanis not being allowed to marry non-Omanis, but the Omani man being the man that he was, informed her. Her heart broke in a dozen different ways that she tried to drown in fake laughter one day at Quantab (the day she met Y) professing a hatred for love songs while playing a mad game of football on the beach at the diving center before the sign that "no football", flouting the one law that she could.
She did not eat for two months and her collarbone jutted out, pretending she was okay, laughing off the ridiculousness of it all, and it was only the help of another woman who'd been through the same thing forcing food with commands from the Quran that her behaviour was haraam that she eventually gave up on the Omani man. He pretended to be distand and even was cruel to her, out of love, for he knew she would wait ten or even thirty years for him, and even then, his family would make it impossible, when the laws of Oman no longer did.
She was willing to do so many things. Here is her list for her love of how they could be together if only the law in the country were different and the culture:
1.) I will save the Sultan's life, or protest with a big sign in front of his palace (so what if they shoot me) and maybe he'll be impressed by my bravery, give me an audience, and let me change the law.
2.) We could marry in secret. If I had children, I'd have them in the UK, and the wouldn't have Omani passports, but when you were forty you could marry me legally and adopt them, maybe???
3.) I would wait until you turned 40. I wouldn't care if you married already because your family made you. If you were happy with your wife I would just be your friend and my soul would rejoice at your happiness. If you were unhappy, I would totally love your wife like my sister, and spend all my money giving her all the things that she wants, and take very little for myself but your love and your smile, for they are all I desire of this dunya.
4.) Let me be your beduoin wife. The laws of Oman won't apply out in nowhere if I live in a tent. Bring me water and you when you can and I will have more than I ever dreamed. I am brave enough to have my children with no doctors, no hospitol. My ancestors did it in the dark ages, why can't I?
5.) My friend's joke we could blind you with your cousin's laser pointer or cut off your leg and then the laws of Oman wouldn't count because you are disabled. While YOU might be majnoon [crazy] enough to agree to this, I am not the biggest fan of the idea. And the idiots at the ministry that turned down our application for permission would probably still not grant it, as disabling yourself on purpose is probably against the law somehow. Sighhhhhh...
6.) I could become your maid. But who has ever heard of an upper-class British citizen with a 2000 rial salary working as a maid in Oman? Someone would figure something was out and report us surely. And no children this way.
7.) If slavery weren't illegal I'd take a ridiculous loan from you that I couldn't pay back (even though my bank account far exceeds your five year earnings) and then you would own me and we could live together and not be married. Right? I will write a Shiekh in Saudi for a fatwa. [And she did].
8.) I could be your girlfriend for a week [he never touched her out of respect for her] and marry someone else, pretending he is you for the rest of my life, a sinner and uncontented. Maybe the worst idea ever???
9.) I could not marry anyone at all [opposite of what I need/want] and know you'd do your best to love me like a brother and a friend. Apparently this is the best I can hope for of all my ideas. Yet I hate it the most. And other's tell me it is a sin not to marry, but wouldn't it be a sin to marry someone else anyway, and never in my heart be faithful to them???
10.) I am going to try to be a good woman. You have to promise to pray five times a day, ok? Because I am going to ask Allah if I can be your wife in Jannah [heaven], since I cannot be here on this earth, in this country. We can both raise our children to think differently. This is the best I can do. Nothing else really makes me want to go on but a duty to God and a hope that He'll fix everything one day.
Reading the list again, after hearing it the first time in some odd years [I find my roomate's notebook], rips me to shreds anew, when I remember that day at Qantab, convincing OPNO with all my OPNO might that life does go on, and love is a drawing in our minds we can trace from memory and draw again and again on new paper. Women have become master forgers in Oman, tracing copy after copy of loves found and lost, men the same. That is only one of the stories that inspired the marriage vote on the blog. Maybe it moves you or maybe it doesn't, doesn't matter to me, as I already said, my blog is irreverently biased to my own opinions, and other posts, to other people's opinions.
For those that do care: Did they both marry others? Perhaps yes [she helped him find a woman she thought he would find happiness with and he suggested she marry his bestfriend]. Are they both happy? Well, for what I know they both smile and laugh. But the small circle that knows them deeply, who knows how to read their ticks, can see a regret that they were not born of a different race or caste, a frozen memory in how she stares off into space, and how he changes the subject abrubtly, nodding his head to one side.
Why did they not just run away together you might harshly ask, if they loved eachother so much? Well, like THIS OPNO, both are Omani to the core. And neither could survive long away from the family and friends binding them here. Both are Omani and yet one holds a passport in his hand, and the other, a passport in her heart.