The first time she introduced me to one of her friends I actually believed that was the extent of the relationship. Of course, at the time I was seven and understood not just friendship but much of the world in completely platonic terms.
He introduced himself as Mr. Kamal and insisted that I refer to him as such. It seemed like a dignified way to address people.
“How are you Mister Kamal?” I’d say.
“Fabulous, little one,” he’d respond grabbing my cheeks, “And how are you?”
He’d take me out to dinner and buy me toys, then he’d watch me play with those toys while she watched him with a longing I had never seen her direct at anyone else before.
My little mind didn’t begin to cast a shadow of doubt upon the relationship until my father was set to return home from one of his extended business trips and she casually demanded that anything I witnessed between her and Mr. Kamal should be kept to me. I asked why dad couldn’t know that she had a friend when he knew all of mine. She told me that daddies don’t like it when mommies fraternize with other men and if I wanted mom and dad to continue to be a family, I would have to cover up certain facets of the truth. So, before I had learnt that lyingwas a morally ambiguous area few waded in and emerged from unscathed; I had been taught how to lie.
By my fourteenth year, I was an expert at it. And whether I liked it or not, I was a partner-in-crime with my mother for her myriad dalliances.
Mister Kamal was by then a fixture of the past. Not a fixture I am ever going to forget. It was through him that I realized what my mother wanted from a man. It was through him I realized why my father wasn’t adequate for a woman of her appetite.
Once I had realized that the relationship between them was anything but innocent I began to watch them more closely. I couldn’t explain the rush I got from listening in on their conversations when they thought there was no one around. In retrospect, I didn’t understand much of what I was hearing back them.
They would often ask each other if they wanted a fag. For the longest time I actually believed that was a code for something. Then one day instead of listening through the door I decided I would put my eye to the keyhole.
“Do you want a fag?” he asked her.
“Sure,” she said getting up from the chair and walking towards the bed.
He handed her a cigarette.
That was the first time I saw my mother smoking. And, finally realized fag probably wasn’t code for anything. They lay in bed together and released the
smoke so elegantly from their mouths. He exhaled in rings; she let it out as a narrow stream. Watching them made me feel heady. Like I was watching something wrong, but I didn’t know what was wrong about what I was seeing.
Two weeks later unable to get the sexual image of my mother out of my head, I bought a pack of cigarettes. To this day, I wonder why they sold cigarettes to a twelve year old. Perhaps I looked much older than I was. I am often told I still do.
I lay back on the floor of the bathroom and smoked. The feeling of headiness returned accompanied by a lightheadedness I had no idea I would continue to seek for the rest of my life. I looked in the mirror and saw my sexuality peek at me for the very first time.
Once I got into the habit of watching through the keyhole, my real education began.
The first time I watched them have sex the whole world started to make sense to me. He grasped her throat as she bit her lip and rammed her against the wall. She didn’t look like my mother when she threw her head back in what looked like tortured agony but felt like the gateway to bliss between my legs.
When they were done, they lay back and smoked their cigarettes. She ran her hand in his hair as she inhaled deeply. I had never seen her smile like that before. That night I masturbated for the first time. And the second. And the fifth.
I imagined Mister Kamal throwing me against the wall like he had my mother. At one point I threw myself against a wall just to know what it would feel like.
The summer after that was the last time I ever saw him. While my attraction towards him had anything but subsided I had grown reluctant to be included in activities with them. I did not want them to know I was a spectator to their relationship.
But I had to be.
That was the year they began to fight. Exactly like my she did with my father. She told him he was only interested in her sexually and that he had used her thoroughly for too many years. She threw tantrums and he lost his temper. They broke things. I tried to avoid them altogether during these phases but I almost never succeeded. When the glass lay broken on the floor and my mother stood all bloodied at the door, I was there.
Soon all they ever did was fight. After they were done they would have the most aggressive sex I have ever witnessed in my life. She didn’t do that with my father. After they fought, he would sleep in the guest room while she would smoke incessantly in the bathroom. Perhaps she didn’t like it that my father never hit her. Anyhow, after one such tearful and earth-shattering fight, Mr. Kamal disappeared from our lives altogether.
By the time a permanent replacement for Mr. Kamal entered our lives I had begun a dedicated quest to unleash my sexuality. And my mother had perhaps realized she wasn’t as much living in the moment as turning into a consistently unfaithful, bitter woman.
She journeyed through a sea of men before Mr. Nyyak showed up in the picture.
She began to warn me not to turn into her.
Of course I had no intention of turning into her. Maybe I wanted to emulate her sex life but I certainly did not want a husband, and I most definitely wasn’t going to get one I only wanted to cheat on.
Any boundaries she maintained between her lovers and me ended with Mr. Nyyak.
Within six-months of their first meeting, he had all but moved into our home. I got the best kind of bad-vibes from him.
He often asked me why I referred to him as Mister Nyyak. I had no idea why I insisted on still doing that, but it was the only system of address that felt right. Mr. Nyyak didn’t have the ferocity most of her previous lovers seemed to posses. He was also older than most of them. Their sexual activity waned from frequent and loud to customary and almost silent at a rapid pace. She began to encourage me to view him as a father-figure.
I suspected my mother was falling in love with this man.
That alone was enough to make me want him with an urgency I hadn’t attributed to any of her previous lovers. Perhaps I was angry. Until then I had imagined she was a whore completely incapable of loving another human being. Yet here she was, falling in love with an ogre of a man who wasn’t worth half of what my father was. Somehow, in my addled mind, the solution to that was to seduce him.
I knew it wouldn’t be hard. He may have pretended to fill-in as a father-figure to my absentee father but there was nothing fatherly about the way he saw me. The way he touched me. And the way I bit my lip each time we accidentally locked eyes with one another.
It was beyond easy for me to arrange for us to be alone at home. I just had to cut school. My mother was out for her afternoon card games and the loathsome creature was lounging on her bed as if he belonged right in there.
I went to him under the pretext of a fever. I told him I was worried about an outbreak of the flu at school and I would really appreciate it if he looked me over just to make sure there was nothing wrong with me.
As I had suspected, he was more than happy to look me over. I looked at him with the longing I had once seen my mother reserve for Mister Kamal. That look is a charmer. I have never met a man it hasn’t worked on.
“You look just like your mother you know,” he told me.
“But you look nothing like my father Mr. Nyyak,” I told him smirking.
“Would you rather I looked like your father?” he asked idly stroking my hair and evading my gaze.
“No, Mr. Nyyak,” I said placing my hands on his hips and inching closer to his chest, “If you looked like my father I wouldn’t be able to do this…” I said before standing on my toes and gently placing my lips onto his.
That was the performance my entire life had led up to. I knew exactly how to respond when he pushed me onto her bed, when he shook my hair loose, when he bit onto my neck before grasping it and throwing me against the wall. I closed my eyes and envisioned Mister Kamal instead. It would have been much more exciting for me if he had been the one to take my virginity.
Alas, I had to manufacture arousal out of the force I projected onto him.
Later that evening I told my mother that her lover had fucked me. She took one good look at me before saying three words, “You lying slut.”
Of course I knew that she would never believe me, or at least, she would never admit to me that she believed me but I didn’t really care for her belief in me.
I had done what I had meant to do. I had sown the seeds of discord.
I figured it wouldn’t be long before she realized all he was doing was using her just like the men before him and discard him too.
I was wrong.
I had obviously overestimated her strength and underestimated the crippling effect love seems to have on the self-esteem of a woman.
But those weren’t the only things I hadn’t foreseen. Once I opened the door for sexual activity between Mr. Nyyak and me; he didn’t want to stop.
It never occurred to me to even try to say no.
In fact, I went out of my way to ignite him even further. Whenever we were together I whispered the secrets of what happened behind closed doors between him and my mother into his ear and egged him on to repeat those things on me.
I pranced around the house in my school uniform. I touched him secretly under the table if the three of us ever sat down to have dinner together.
It really wasn’t about him. I despised him. I wanted to set fire to the parts of my body he ran his unworthy fingers through.
If I had indeed been trying to end their relationship, I still cannot say that if that is what I was trying to do; I needn’t have made so much effort.
Just like in a good-bad movie, the unexpected return of an understated character was to salvage the day.
My father ended their relationship for them.
Well, it wasn’t as simple as that.
First, he made his landfall in our dysfunctional woman-only world after years of absence and announced he had decided it was time for us to mend our family life. Then, of course, he discovered the affair.
And all hell broke loose.
That is when I realized exactly what I was up against turning into. I watched her put on the performance of a lifetime.
She abandoned her lover in the blink of an eye, and spun charmingly detailed tales of emotional abuse and neglect that had thrown her into the arms of an abusive man. And my father, probably due to some misguided guilt of his own, realized it would be in everyone’s best interest if they tried to remake a marriage out of mismatched pieces of shattered glass.
This new man in my mother’s life posed a greater challenge to me than any of the ones before him.
He was an interesting new presence.
Their sex-life as the keyhole showed me was up to a record pace. I knew she was faking. There was a lot at stake for her. But he seemed genuinely interested in her. Yet his version of interest manifested as polite advances and gentle caresses. Those notions of sexual activity repulsed me.
Yet, nauseated from the headiness I spent hours with my hands inside my panties, shamelessly confessing to myself how good it would feel to have him repeat those disgusting gestures on me.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I stopped calling the man dad.
At first he thought it was funny when I called him Mr. Kareen.
She looked at me with almost dead eyes for the last time when she heard it. I saw the last part of hope and life snuff out of them when she realized what I was doing. From that day on, she was a hollow shell going through the motions. By the time he realized he should protest against my new method of addressing him, it was too late. I used it to taunt him, to draw attention to myself but it didn’t buy me any of the attention I was vying for.
So I started spending a lot of time with him. We ran errands together, I insisted he pick me from school and drop me to any subsequent lessons. I played a charming little girl who was excited to tell all about her increasingly interesting life but I looked at him with the eyes of the filthy slut who wanted him to be the interesting thing in her life.
Yet, he didn’t notice any of my advances. All he wanted to talk about was lessons and grades and colleges and careers.
I realized I would have to be more direct about it. So one weekend when my mother was visiting her aunt in the neighboring town, I knocked on their bedroom door in the middle of the night. He opened the door and immediately asked what was wrong.
I told him I was scared, that I had heard sounds coming from the walls and I wasn’t being able to sleep. He said that I could sleep in his bed with him. I knew it would be easy.
I climbed under the covers and slowly inched closer and closer to him. Within minutes I was lying with his breath on my neck and his body pressed against mine.
The proximity was so exciting I couldn’t stop my lips from parting in soft moans and helpless sighs. I realized I was rubbing myself against him. It took him a moment to awaken from his slumber but the moment he realized what I was doing he threw me off.
“What are you doing?” he shouted.
I was confused by his anger, baffled at where it was coming from, he seemed to like it so much when my mother did things like that.
“Won’t you fuck me, Mr. Kareen?” I asked him.
“I’m your father,” he said horror taking over his soft face.
“What difference does it make?” I asked slightly offended.
He didn’t care to respond, just pushed me out of the room in a huff and bolted the door. Before I woke up the next morning he was gone. My mother shook me awake and asked if I knew where he had gone. I told her I had no idea.
She figured he had gone out to play golf.
I could have told her, I knew for sure that he was never coming back. But in a few weeks that became clear to her too anyway.
It was obvious she blamed herself.
“What will we do without your father?” she asked self-pity dripping down her once glorious self.
“Move onto the next lover?” I suggested with just a hint of excitement betraying my perfectly played out mournful tone