We know love when we see it because it comes with all the thrills and frills we connect it with. We notice the spark in the guys (or gals) eyes, the warmth in his hug, the charm in his voice and we simply fall like a pack of cards or just melt. If we ever see what does not fit into our catchment area we simply let it go. But at times we hang on when “rich”, “fine”, “homely”, or “will change” becomes the deciding item on our list.
Kalila like every other young woman had her idea, you can call it a checklist, of what her boyfriend should be and yes Jami fitted her bill. Tall, charming, comfortable, what he lacked in looks he made up for in being caring with a huge bank of sweet words. Saying the big “Yes!” did not take time. Kalila felt privileged to be asked into a relationship by the sport star.
Where was he coming from? Where has he been? Is there any story connected to him? All these did not matter to Kalila in the here and now. What mattered was that Jami did not just enjoy tennis as Kalila did; he was a star in his category. A smooth talker who makes her friends feel at home and never forgets to bring a gift on his visits.
Kalila 21 met Jami 26 when she was 18 and in just two years they had become so attached that when she first got a hint of Jami’s past the fear of losing him made her skeptical about digging. “They are just jealous” she said to me, “Jealous that when they are still groping in the dark I’m working on my finals and making plans to settle down with the love of my life” she added.
Though she made similar remarks to mutual friends she once bared her mind about being scared. Months ago, before the talk about wedding got into top gear, Kalila’s mum had complained about Jami’s restlessness especially when he visits their home and have to interact or have dinner with her parents. “But isn’t that fairly normal” she asked. Recently he had began to show up at odd hours, reeking of alcohol and asking for small change but… “I know he drinks occasionally and it gets out of hand when he hangs out with friends but that’s only once in a while” she offered. “After all every man has a vice and his own is manageable.”
Initially she put her feet down and began to plan for the wedding upon his marriage proposal. After all attempts to get her out of it fell on deaf ears her mother began to go along with the wedding plans “I just feel something is wrong, but your friend is stubborn; we’ll keep praying for her”. Kalila’s mum had a terrible marriage before meeting her step dad who gave her all the love; after a while I began to feel that her mum’s drawback is from not wanting Kalila to make the same mistake but nothing was apparent until Kalila narrated her story.
She had visited Jami’s friend and while fumbling through a folder with a very distinct logo, she saw what seem like a cultic phrase. In it she recognized Jami’s high school nickname along with 2 others. She wasn’t sure whether to ask for clarification so she pretended to be reading something else when he walked in. Then she went ahead to pick up the folder innocently. Jami’s friend yanked it out of her hands saying “Girl, don’t go reading that!”
She mustered up courage and asked “Why? “Oh, I expect you to recognize that logo, Jami must have told you he returned to the fold”. What fold? “Baby, change that dial, I’m sure you are not here as a reporter” he said. Kalila asked Jami when he visited “You didn’t tell me about the fold”. That was all she said. Never in the period of their relationship had she seen so much anger in his eyes, he shook her, terrifying her as he asked “Who told you?” Kalila narrated that she knew nothing but saw a folder, which she did not understand. Seeing that she actually knew nothing, he swapped into what appears as his normal self and apologized with a dinner date.
She began to reconsider her plans. She began to connect the lines yet her fears made her stop digging for his story. She began to keep a dairy and started stalling the wedding plans. She invited him and made up stories about how she’d want the wedding put off till after her final degree exam. She was drawing back but did not want it to be sudden, as his aggression had increased. Every time he hit her, terrified or harassed her she wrote it down in her little secret book. One day he became so angry that in her annoyance she screamed, “I’m leaving you!” “Not on your life!” was his response.
Its 3 years since those incidents occurred. In court last month the judge ruled that Jami could walk free due to lack of evidence. Kalila’s mum has not stopped mourning. I have not stopped questioning why a man will claim to love a woman so much that his fear of losing her will make him stab her to death. Jami had been a cult member; one of those who denounced publicly to enjoy scholarship in his home country but it was only a matter of time before peer pressure forced him to return. His will to leave was strong but he needed a stable family as excuse. In his cult group, married people especially with children are allowed to play the role of advisers and funders while the lone rangers do the high-risk stuff.
Marriage for him was an escape route but his plan b was open only to him and his friend who gave away the information in exchange for tearing out the page that mentioned his real name in Kalila’s diary. He had left the group and was living a credible life mentoring young people; since Kalila’s mum couldn’t bring back her daughter she saved his life before turning in the diary to an attorney. The evidence in the diary was later suppressed as weak and of no substance. Throughout the diary, Kalila used not Jami’s real name but the pet name Kalila alone use. For fear of being killed by members of the cult group, no one agreed to give evidence that that name indeed is her name for him and Jami denied that he was Kalila’s only boyfriend.
For me, the judgment is not over; it is simply an illusion of freedom. I see Jami every now and then. Living and walking free yet tied to a past that would haunt him for life. Love is as strong as death but only time will tell what kind of death will haunt Jami down.