“If you get someone pregnant then you will have to marry her,” my mother used to say to me and my brother, and to my sisters she said “If you become pregnant then you will have to marry the baby’s father, I don’t want my grandchildren to be illegitimate children.” Sure enough when I was twenty-nine I got my girlfriend pregnant, and I became a husband and a father just after I turned thirty. Secretly I wished the baby would share my birthday, or at least my birth month, but she was born three weeks after my birthday, in another month. I loved my wife very much, and the birth of our daughter made our love even stronger.
I met my wife when I was eight years old. We were the two smallest kids in our class, and so naturally we sat together on the first row, just in front of the teacher’s desk. My first memory of her is when she dropped her lunch box and the teacher asked me to share my lunch with her. She didn’t remember it though, and said I made it up because I wanted to make her cook for me as some sort of payback. The argument still stands unresolved. She is a very strong person, full of life and energy, always active and very sure of herself. My friends sometimes joked that she should have been born a man, and to tell you the truth, I don’t disagree. But she was a good friend, a good girlfriend, and now a good mother, and she loved me more than anything; what more could a man want?
I had never had another girlfriend; in fact I never looked at other girls. Saihmingi was more than enough for me. And when we took our vows to love and cherish each other for better or worse, I meant it with all my heart. I never even thought that I would be unfaithful to her and love another woman.
Mahriati was everything Saihmingi was not. She was soft spoken, had flowing long hair and the most beautiful skin. She had this vulnerability that makes you immediately want to reach out and protect her from the world. Her hair was the first thing I noticed about her. It was straight and long, covering her breasts, always clean and shiny, and I wanted to touch it and feel it slide between my fingers. Saihmingi had cut her hair just after our second daughter was born because she didn’t have time to care for it properly. I would often fantasise about Mahriati wearing nothing, her hair covering her breasts, and I would imagine how it would feel to run my hands down her hair, touch her breasts, that smooth skin, well you know. Thinking about her made me feel guilty as if I was already cheating on Saihmingi. I was happily married and was not supposed to let sinful thoughts invade my mind, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking those things.
To cut a long story short, Mahriati and I soon got involved. I loved her, but not in the way I loved my wife. She was smart and knew how to make me feel good. No she didn’t shower me with praises or act like a small helpless child, but she had this quality, this thing about her that when you were with her everything seemed possible. She made me feel strong and manly, kind of like her knight in shining armour, but at the same time she didn’t expect anything from me. She loved me just the way I was.
But as much as I loved Mahriati and she loved me, we knew that our relationship was doomed. It had no future. We both knew it would end someday and we would have to say goodbye forever. Knowing that we had very little time together made me love her even more, made me want her more than ever. It was a very happy time for me but a very frustrating time at the same time. I couldn’t show my love for her to the world, I could not tell anyone about it and we always lived in fear that we would be discovered. I would look at the young lovers walking in the campus and I would be filled with envy. I wished I could throw everything away, forget about what the world would say and shout to the world that I was in love.
I wanted to leave my wife and be with Mahriati, but she wisely said no. She didn’t want us to feel guilty for the rest of our lives, she said I had made my vows to my wife to love her forever and I should keep that vow. But she didn’t put an end to our relationship and continued to love me just as before. I knew I should stop seeing her and be a good husband and father, but I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Mahriati, couldn’t bear not to hear her voice late in the night, and I guess what I feared most was the thought that she would find some other man and would belong to some stranger. I knew it was going to happen, some unknown man was going to love her and marry her, he would hold her hand and she would laugh at his jokes, and she would bear his children. How I hated that man, and how I wished it was me instead! I cursed fate for its cruelty, for bringing her so late into my life, for giving me a taste of heaven and then taking it away from me.
One day I went home, late as usual, and one look at Saihmingi’s angry face told me that she knew.