After our engagement my family had decided that I would be allowed to talk to Fatmir on the phone. When my niece was engaged she had to make secret phone calls, but my family was modern. In anticipation for the phone call Asllan and Behare went out and took Sokol’s three boys. My Mom and Sokol’s wife were at their office cleaning jobs. Sokol ate the dinner I served him and left soon after so I could make my call. I would have preferred to have Fatmir call me but I understood there was no way for him to know when I was alone. I picked up the phone in the kitchen, the only phone we had, and began to dial the numbers my sister had gotten for me. My heart beat loudly. I was nervous. This was going to be the man I would marry. The man I would lose my virginity to. The man I would lose my identity to and be called “the wife of.” But I was hopeful that this phone call might change how I felt about him.
“Porto Fino Pizzeria, may I help you?” the voice said.
“May I speak to Fatmir please,” I asked trying hard to keep my voice steady, not knowing that at work they called him by his American name — Johnny.
“This is Fatmir,” he said, as his voice began to break-up. He knew it was me.
Oh boy! I thought to myself, this isn’t going to be easy.
I began by asking the mandatory: “How are you? How’s it going? How’s your health? How’s work? Do you get tired?” I hated these canned questions, but went through the ritual like a good girl.
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” I asked, after all it wasn’t just him I was marrying.
“What are their names?” I inquired with a pen and paper in hand.
“Why do you want to know their names?” he replied in a smug voice.
My stomach began to turn.
“Because we are going to be married — right?” I replied with a tinge of disgust in my voice, almost daring him to say otherwise. I didn’t care anymore about saying the wrong thing or sounding the wrong way.
This was the reason why parents didn’t let their kids talk, or see their fiancés. If someone made a mistake and the engagement was called off it would be a disgrace to the family. It wouldn’t be so bad for the man, but it would make it a little harder for the girl to find another good husband, especially if she was the one to cause trouble. No one wanted a challenging wife, or God forbid someone else’s leftovers. We wanted our women to be pure in so many ways.
I was sure my tone of voice gave Fatmir a hint that I was a bit hard-headed or pak e egër, a little wild, as my mother would call me. If I didn’t like something I let people know. My family knew this about me but such information never left our house so as to protect my chances of getting a good husband. Even now that I was engaged, it still wasn’t something to be shared — but I didn’t care. I hid nothing. I couldn’t play the submissive role right now. I hoped he was disgusted by my attitude. I hoped he would call it off. That was about as daring as I allowed myself to be. After all I was only a little wild.
“Oh…” he responded meekly, and proceeded to tell me their names.
It was too late. I half-heartedly listened, and wrote nothing down. Fuck him, I thought, Fuck him! He just made marrying him harder. I tactfully ended the phone call and began to cry. What was I to do? I knew God had chosen my husband, but it was up to us to find him — had we found the wrong man? Heartbroken I went into my bedroom and sat on my bed, not wanting Sokol to walk in and find me crying. With only the light that came in from the dining room I wrote my first letter to the only one I knew could help.
Please do something so that I do not have to marry this man. I know You have written who I will marry on my forehead the day I was born, but this could not be him. As you know I cannot do anything to call it off without ruining my family name. I know that You are powerful and can do anything, so from the bottom of my heart I ask you to bring this engagement to an end. You know what a good person I am, and so you must know I deserve someone better. I really want to love the man I will marry, and I cannot love him. But I cannot hurt my family either. So please, please, please God, do something. But if you do nothing I will accept my fate.
Tears dripped onto my note and I patted it dry so the letters wouldn’t smudge. I knew he read it as I was writing, but I didn’t want the letter to look messy. It was an important letter — I had even used my best penmanship. I felt Him there listening, and it comforted me. I was hopeful. Truly hopeful. I was not afraid of God — I loved him — and knew he loved me. I had stopped believing in him two years ago, when he let Xharije die tragically, but eventually I reasoned that he must have had a reason for letting it happen as it did. Was he going to let this happen also? The thought disturbed me. He would make this right, I convinced myself. I wondered how he would do it. Would he kill Fatmir? Would he make him call it off? How would he make him call it off? However he would choose to do it would be okay by me — as long as I didn’t have to do it. I put my fate in God’s hands, where it belonged, and I waited.
Day’s turned into weeks; weeks into months, and eventually it became April 2nd or 3rd. I don’t remember the exact date; I just know it was the first weekend in April of 1982 when I got married to Fatmir. God must have picked him after all.