The first few calls went beautifully. The phrase worked like a charm, I'm a good parrot. M's mother was always the one answering the phone and she giggled uncontrollably each time I called. She always went yelling for M in the same sing-song voice and I started analyzing the way she said his first name.
One annoying thing about M and I was that when he introduced himself to me, instead of using his given name he used his surname. He did not think I would be able to pronounce his first name properly and he hates his first name anyway so he just told me to call him his last name. It was three months into 'dating' that I found out his real first name and by then I was so stuck on the name he'd given me I just couldn't change it! So when I listened to his mom sing out his real first name I would try my best to imitate it and that made me giggle as well.
M would tell me stories about his visit and how his friends were all coming by and how he was sleeping late every day. He would tell me that his father was taking his time in making appointments and that they had scheduled a date for surgery. He told me his mother wanted him to stay at least a month, but that it was really hot. . .we talked about a little bit of everything.
It took about a week for the fighting to start. His father from the very beginning was against M marrying an American, much less a Christian, white American. His father had never met one, but he knew, certainly, from all of the talk in his city, that we were not a good match. And so it happened one day, probably in the fifth week M was in Pakistan, that M's father happened to answer the phone when I called. To my amazement, my phrase did not work. M's father simply screamed into the telephone, "NO!" and promptly hung up the phone as violently as possible.
It was soon after this that M started to get sick. By sick I mean violently ill. It could be heard in his voice, this depression and weakness. He told me that he was vomiting every day and that there were times he felt like he couldn't even make it out of bed. He would call sounding hopeless and upset. He would tell me about fights he'd had with his parents about our marriage and they always ended with his parents demanding an arranged marriage with one of his cousins. He was told that this was his responsibility to his family. He was told horrible things about 'me' by people who had never met me.
His parents made wild claims about how I would only stay married to him for seven years, and how our children would have no religion and how after seven years I would take the children and he would not be allowed to see them. They even came up with an example of how this had happened to 'so and so' a member of their community as concrete proof that this was the only way it could happen.
Each day we talked and he would start out hopeless. I used memories and pep talks and he always sounded better when we got off the phone. He said he always slept better after those talks and I thought it was giving him resolve to convince his parents or to abandon ship. We had discussed this many times and it was always my conviction that he felt strongly enough that it was his right to marry whomever he wished. The problem was that time was slipping by very quickly. He had left on August 03 and by October he was ill, had lost a lot of weight and suddenly his parents had drastically changed.
My phone calls were limited to after midnight Karachi time, and sometimes we couldn't even talk then. M's brother had a cell phone and M would call me from that sounding more desolate than ever. Constant fighting has a way of taking a toll. M was also advised by one of his close friends that his mother had been out with an aunt to buy 'something' from a magician recommended by his sister. To me, this made the illness make perfect sense. While I don't really believe that 'black magic' can change one's mind or work in the classical way that his mother obviously did, it made perfect sense that having some crazy weed or pill put into his food would make him ill. I begged him to start eating away from home. He thought I was crazy. Three months into his two week trip to Pakistan, he was correct.