A toy

Picture taken for his ID in Saudi-2000

With each crinkle the plastic sack moved closer to total exposure. My heart sank, mouth dry, lips stuck to my teeth. I dared not wet them with my tongue as any movement meant breaking the silence that had now taken over the vehicle. I felt as if the world was some how suspended, now traveling at speeds nearing 60, weaving in and out of traffic, down the busy streets of Riyadh. The only sign that he was still in the van was his red face and the vein that pulsed on the side of his temple. An exasperated breath could be heard escaping from his mouth every few minutes as he shook his head. He slammed his hands on the steering wheel at any delay that kept us from moving faster. I waited for any small sign that he was no longer angry, but he simply drove, in silence. The baby playfully swung her feet and each movement brought with it a reminder of the sack that had been tucked under the seat and then discovered by his watchful eyes. I wanted to reach over and grab it and stop it’s constant movement but instead I sat motionless, some how believing I could be invisible. With the many sharp turns and sudden stops, the green cardboard box eventually came out of the sack and toppled into the crack of the vehicle’s door. There it was, out in the open now, bright red letters that once seemed fun and exciting, now garish and menacing. He finally looked at my son after minutes of silence, “ya baba this is what you do, hide things from baba?” his voice wavered as he struggled to keep his composure. I dared not speak a word as I knew this would make things worst, so I waited to see if my intervention was needed.

It had all started with a simple request for a toy, any toy, and a life lived witnessing neighbor children who had  pogo sticks, scooters and electronic games. A reality where he boarded the private and luxurious jet of his friend the “sheik” and made a quick jaunt to Jeddah as if it were a mere taxi for hire. I helped him pick out gifts for friends and bosses that came and went, working tirelessly to provide the pastry trays three times each week without fail.  No expense was to be spared in purchasing costly Western ingredients from the local Tamimi to make desserts and pastries for the “Sheik”.  We lived on a Western compound where neighbor children took vacations to London, Vienna and France. The children attended schools where students had the best of everything available from Saudi and Europe and yet we were not allowed basic necessities.  If the school asked for a variety of colored pens to mark papers, they were allowed one color, blue or black. No frills, gifts or splurges were tolerated. Clothing was purchased by my parents and had been since the beginning. I dressed in stretch pants and baggy shirts, an abaya tossed over me to go outdoors. No make up was allowed, no perfume or sign of femininity, not even in the home. The compound was a blessing, fully furnished with everything for a family our size and a glaring contrast to our first two years in Riyadh. I still felt a pang of guilt and sadness that my children were not provided for and even a much needed pair of shoes was begrudged and then finally purchased at the outdoor souk. So, when my oldest continued to push for holiday gifts for the family and little touches to make things personal, it was a wave I could no longer stop.

We entered the compound security gate where the guards checked the engine, the undercarriage, and the trunk area of our vehicle. ID badges were inspected and only then were we allowed to move through the gates. My heart raced as he drove around the loop and finally into our driveway. The children piled out of the van and into the house and eventually to bed. I felt a sick nervousness, his anger had been mounting as each day passed and his career expectations were not being met. The length of the cycle had now taken a jump and a drastic reduction in time between angry outbursts was apparent. This rebellious action of allowing my son to purchase the race track set would not go unnoticed.  In the store a brief interlude with real life struck me, a child, a toy, what could be wrong with that, a normal life event. But as we approached the car, my son and I both panicked and shoved the sack under the seat. Now at home, I lay my head on the soft compound pillow and feigned sleep as I would for years to come. Another page was turned and a new facet of life unfolded, one in which I was woken from sleep for hours of angry questions in a room, door shut and secured. An interrogation about my loyalty to him and to God, my value as a mother and my true motivations. What was my plan in this life and how would I answer to the almighty as a disloyal and scheming wife? His volume raised and his fury mounted with each new inquiry. There were no answers or words that would suffice and so I traded yet another piece of my integrity to secure another moment of peace for our household.

236 thoughts on “A toy

  1. Lynn, you are amazing to share your innermost thoughts, feelings, and fears. It must be therapeutic for you to work through everything; it must also be therapeutic for those women currently suffering the way you did. They must use the same coping mechanisms… silence, pretending to be asleep, etc. They will see themselves in you and have hope that they will make it out as you did. Not only are you allowing other victims of abuse into your mind, but even those who have never been victims of this sort. By allowing us into your mind and heart, we are made more aware of those around us. We know that it can happen to anyone, anywhere. We must all be ready to offer a hand, a kind word, and support.
    Did any of your friends in Saudi know what was going on behind the closed doors? Were they going the same thing?


    • No they didnt know. My american neighbor who was married to a lovely lebanese man, is shocked! I also want others to,understand why you stay why you have fear. You are brainwashed plain and simple. Having someone just care is so important. Often well meaning people tell you how good you have it, just try harder and then you see your abuser is right noone cares. You are told daily noone cares dont trust anyone, or at least i was. The slightest truth that plays out makes you feel they are right! Xxx if someone gets angry with you then you think oh my he is right. Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve missed reading your posts about Saudi, Lynn, but I don’t know how I can catch up with all the ones I’ve missed. This one delves so much into his obsessive, domineering and intolerant nature – not to mention his anger and bullying. How awful that he kept his family almost in poverty while he flew off to live a life of luxury with the shiek. A sad but revealing post Lynn, and so well written.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is almost unbearable to read. I don’t know how you stood it for so long. How many years were you with him? Was he always like this? It reminds me of “Big Little Lies.” by Liane Moriarity. Have you read it or seen the TV serialization?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have not seen this. We are still married, it has been 34 years now. I have not had communication with him for almost 3 years. He started off as a dream man and things slowly changed until it was awful. He is still in saudi but we own a home together. He is not a saudi and so the fear that he might be back is very real.


          • How much of his violence was cultural and how much just his personal anger? It would seem perhaps such treatment of his wife and family would be sanctioned by his upbringing or culture, but I may be unfairly stereotyping, which is why I’m asking the question, Lyn.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I was not around many people, very isolated but the friends I knew, the man provided everything and seemed nice. Laughing and fun. The ladies always made fun of me! They said I was too polite and weak! So I think mainly abuse is universal. My girls said in school their friends were allowed to travel have friends and got nice things. We were not allowed to do any of those things. There are cultural things too but none equal up to abuse.


          • I had a violent boyfriend once. I finally moved across the country from him, but for years, would survey the crowd in a crowded place. Not a good feeling. But, you are stronger now, in your own country with adult children to aid you and laws to aid you as well.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Yes you are right! Sorry to hear you experienced this!! I guess the damage is done even if I never see him again. But I am trying hard to move forward! Thank you so much!! Xxxxx


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