| It was ironic that only the night before I had commented on having not yet spoken with a woman. Fatima's honesty did catch me somewhat off-guard, especially as we'd only just met, but I also knew that I had become a non-threatening outlet for her to shed her miseries. I was both interested and obliged to listen.
She once travelled in Europe, but not for many years since she misplaced her passport. When she asks her husband about it, he replies "Why, are you planning to flee the country?" So instead, she seeks solace in these short trips in her own country. The movement helps. Her psychotherapist recommended that she get back on Prozac, but she thinks it's not a good idea as she is beginning to notice negative effects. Did I know of any Chinese herbal medicines that are good for making one calm? We passed a small vineyard so I asked whether Morocco produces its own wine. Yes, she believes so, although she has never tasted it. Once, she asked an acquaintence if he would buy some wine on her behalf since Muslim women are forbidden to do so themselves. She had heard that when you drink, you begin to forget; she also heard that if you drink too much, you say things you don't mean to reveal. Is that true? (The man almost obliged, but reconsidered and declined, fearing that she might like it too much and become addicted).
"A woman born to this society is destined to have an unhappy life, but there are some who don't think about it and live peacefully," Fatima lamented. No, she thinks too much and if it weren't for her children, she would have nothing to live for. "Les hommes ici sont des egoistes..." she continued. In their eyes, women are objects to serve them when and as they please. Once she arrived at a bus station early in the morning, at 5am. As soon as she left the station, a man approached her and without even so much as a greeting, suggested they go to a nearby hotel. The nerve! And to think that this kind of thing happens all the time!
From what I could tell Fatima was saying, men are allowed to take up to three wives, while woman are forbidden from having any kind of relations with a man that is not her husband. She seemed to be saying that if the sacred text of the Koran were applied to law, a man is justified to take his wife's life if he discovers that she has been unfaithful to him. Fatima has a friend who once introduced her to another friend—a man. Somehow, they took an immediate liking to one another and managed to spend two days a week together. In three short months, they had become intimate and she had grown attached to him. Believing that he reciprocated such feelings, she brought it up. Incredulous, he reacted by denying any such emotions for her. Their meetings became minimal, until finally Fatima, feeling too much pain, ended all contact. Telling me this, she began to cry, and I sat awkwardly looking for a way to console her. She understood that getting involved meant great complications—both of them married with children—but how could she have fallen in love with a man who would lie and say he didn't care for her? In so many ways it was wrong, but never in her life did she know that she could feel so alive with joy. A modern love story, I thought, even here in a society that doesn't allow for it.
Women are not allowed to have feelings of their own, and if they do, it will only add to their own suffering. I wanted to know, did Fatima think society was changing with all the modern city life and outside influences? No, she didn't know, but she didn't think so. Yes, there are women now vocalizing such injustices, but how much of a society so deeply rooted in Islamic traditions and thinking can be changed? It would be a very long time.
We talked of other things too—the land, food, music, Moroccan crafts—she told me she saw a documentary on craftspeople in China and yes, your people too can make such beautiful things. She really loved her country, it seemed, despite the freedoms it did not offer her.