I never thought I’ll send my profile to any page on Instagram in response to men looking for a wife/ soulmate/ life partner.
I always thought it was too silly, if a person is destined for you, the person will be yours even if he resides in Mars.
But then maybe it was the thought of turning 28 soon with no prospect of a wedding in view, or maybe it was maturity settling in with a bam! and unsitting my firm believe in never doing anything to get a man. Whatever it was, I had a moment of epiphany. And in it, it is okay to fast track meeting the one as long as it’s through a halal means. So the day I saw a request by a man whose words sounded earnest and whose English looked flawless enough for me, I found myself messaging Northern Hibiscus… and mumbling a prayer while at it.
She didn’t reply for a day. I was fidgety, nervous, anxious and in constant trepidation about the implication. What if I come off as desperate, what if he is an axe murderer, what if I don’t like him at all and I have to lay him off, I hate doing that- I’m a softie. I wanted to retract the message but she’d already seen it. The last what if was the one that made me the most nervous- What if the account of Northern Hibiscus is hacked and her inbox are screenshotted and my careless gesture is splayed bare to the whole world- the shame.
But she replied, the next day, she replied with a phone number. He just saw my profile, he didn’t ask for a photo, he liked me enough to give my number. ‘Can I get his Instagram handle instead?’ I asked her.
‘He isn’t on Instagram’ came the short reply. What?!
He sent me a message first a day later. I had already convinced myself he wouldn’t message and hang me if I message him first. I was convinced it was for the best if he doesn’t, but the inner me wasn’t delighted, she is a curious one.
So while I groaned when he messaged, she cheered and hi-fived herself. Then we started talking and I couldn’t help but cheer and hi-five myself. He was like a gold fish in a river full of tilapia, the perfect catch, and I snagged him.
Sadiq bought me from the word ‘hello’. His diction and play of words is so mesmerizing I’d read our chats everyday over any English text. If you know me, you know a good command of diction is my weakness. I am vain brained but whatever. The more we chatted, the more I liked. We didn’t exchange pictures till two months later, we didn’t even request so, we weren’t interested in the physical so much as the logical… or lexical rather. But he wasn’t all English, I swear he was something of everything, any subject, any topic, my guy knows it, a freaking walking Encarta.
As a sucker for intellectual conversations, I was gone within the first week. He said he liked my mind. It’s special with a touch of weird, I say the oddest things at the right time, which was perfect because I loved his.
The day we exchanged picture, It became a fact written on stone. I could marry him, I wanted to, I had to. No better man for me out there. He was just like I had envisioned, not better, not worse, Just. Like.
That day, he told me he had to come see me, see if I was real, I was too good to be real ‘that brain and that beauty is a deadly combo’ his words.
I had asked him too, I had asked why when he could have half of the female population, send a request on social media. He said half of the female population weren’t for him, just one woman is and he may have found her.
Apparently the day her messaged NH, he just woke up, prayed and less than 5 minutes later, he found himself opening an Instagram account and sending a message to Northern Hibiscus ( he already knew about her). He had made up his mind to accept the first person to reply. Somehow, he knew it will be me, not me me, but me. Yes he was also a hopeless romantic like that.
We kept on chatting, this time knowing what the other looked like, but not how the other sounded like. You see, we have never had a phone conversation, nor exchanged a voice note, nor done a video call. And it was cool with us. I had hinted on a phone call once and he had said that he wasn’t a call person. I respected that.
I began counting down. Weeks to when he takes his annual leave, days and before I knew it, hours. The days leading to when he was coming, I could barely contain my excitement. I told everyone in my house; my husband is coming!.
‘Habiba there’s something very important that I’d like to tell you but I’d rather do it face to face’ he said after it was established that he was coming the next month.
I had worried. What was it? He was married most likely. The good ones always were. My heart was unsettled because somehow, I had a feeling it was big.
‘You are married? You have kids? Divorced? You don’t like potatoes? Because that’s a deal breaker for me’.
‘Lol. None of the above. Calm down’.
He typed back then wrote something that made me laugh and made my worry reduce.
We contemplated on where to meet first. Whether to meet at home or in some other public place. Sadiq is a very modest person. He wasn’t interested in anything that can lead to a ‘haram relationship’ because he said that he genuinely wanted to marry me. So he’d rather home or a public place because he couldn’t trust himself otherwise. I found that very respectful.
I was ready by the time he said he’d left the airport and was heading to town. I had no makeup on, I was barefaced, literally trying to be transparent. I wanted to come as I am because if he appreciates that then he is a sure keeper. Our relationship was never a pretentious one.
My younger sister rushed into the room. “He’s here’. She declared and my heart slid down and lodged below my stomach. Here we go…
I spritzed some perfume. Checked myself in the mirror. Rubbed on some lip balm. Adjusted my headtie and veil and finally went down.
The car door opened slowly as I approached, I was to walk him in. To avoid plenty awkwardness, we decided to meet outside first and as he stepped out in his full manly glory, I knew that my fate was sealed. I didn’t know when a giant foolish smile plastered itself on my face.
He came towards me with a giant foolish smile of his own. He was taller than he seemed. Good. How did you snag this one you…? I asked myself and my inner self offered me a high-five.
‘Hi’. I said with a little wave. His presence was so easy, it wasn’t as awkward as I thought it’d be.
He smiled and returned back my small wave in an oh-so-charmingly -boyish manner my inner self groaned and sighed. Especially when two shy dimples crept out. I didn’t notice that enticing feature in the pictures. Even better!.
‘So… how was your journey?’. I asked.
His smile grew even wider and he gave a thumbs up.
Okay… That’s weird.
‘So …’ I said. In my mind I was like say something.
He brought out his phone and started going through it. The f**k! I thought. My brows were furrowing together in an ill-concealed frown.
Then he pushed the phone in my face.
‘You are so beautiful’. It read. Even though the sincerity and emotions in that sentence was almost tangible, my frown deepened.
‘Thank you’ I mouthed. But my voice was low. Why didn’t he say something? Why did he have to type that and not say it? It was not possible. But… but it seemed like it. It wasn’t possible that my Sadiq, was dumb. But how?.
He was watching me intently as I struggled with the realisation. His smile had faltered and I could see a shadow of sadness settle over his face.
It was true then.
‘Sadiq’ I said tightly. He looked away. A small gasp escaped from my throat and I covered my mouth with my palms. The shock coursing through my bones made me feel faint.
‘Sadiq’ I called his name again this time, my voice pained. He shut his eyes and looked away.
Then he removed a letter from his pocket and gave it to me. On the envelope read ‘Please Read This Habibty’.
I didn’t know why I reacted that way, but I slapped the envelope from his hands and fled back in. Why? Why me? Why him? Why didn’t he tell me?
Why now? Why this?!
I ran back as fast as my legs could go against the sting of hot, betrayed tears. But even as I ran, I knew that I’ll go back to him, I knew I felt bad for him, I knew that it wasn’t enough to keep us apart, but it hurt that I’ll never know the voice of love.
It was later, much later, after I’d taken a month to myself to think and heal. After he and his family and mine had pursued me and tried to make me see reason, after I’d agreed and given in, that my sister told me that she saw all that happened from the balcony . And that after I had slapped the letter from his hands, it had fallen into a small puddle made of the June rains, and he had dejectedly picked it up, shaken the water away and wiped a stray tear from his eyes. She said it was the single most heartbreaking scene she had ever witnessed.