I spent the entire months of September and October listening to various excuses about M's father's health and his brother's wedding. I was still working as a Paramedic at that time for two different jobs. I carried my cell phone 24/7, had phone cards stuffed into my bags and made time every day between 12 and 1 to call M on the off chance that he would get the phone instead of his family.
It got to the point that I would be sleeping at 3 am and get a strange international call from M who had gotten time with his brother's cell phone. These calls were always panicked and nearly always irrational. He sounded like a completely different person in these calls. When he was with me he had been happy, and funny, without a care in the world. He could have fun mopping a floor or posing for goofy pictures. But now he was just sick, depressed and paranoid.
I spent those two months carrying around ticket estimates and a visa application. I was always trying to get his address and permission to come bring him back home.
It was in November that M gave me the bottom line, "They are not going to let me leave until I've gotten married."
He explained that his entire day was loaded with family visits from people his parents considered prospects, calls on the telephone and his family shoving pictures of eligible cousins in front of his face. He spent his days arguing his case in futility and being fought by his parents and siblings, as well as the cousins who accompanied him everywhere he went. The cousins were more subtle, but their message was clear.
I was livid and angry and screaming at this point. All I could think of was broken promises and how 'disappointing' he was to me. It was my opinion that there was no way that he could be so sick that he could not run away, that he could not pull himself out of the illness or the reaching distance of his family. Even hearing his voice, listening to his stories, even with the decreasing contact I could not possibly believe that there was nothing else he could do.
I used every argument that I could think of, the paperwork we had processing, the difficulty of obtaining an international divorce once he'd left, the effect on the girl in question having been married and immediately divorced. I reminded him of his promises to me, and I cried, a lot. I spent the conversation trying not to imagine my own reaction if they made him bring this girl home, something that I did not know was optional in Pakistani culture.
His family had chosen the girl, a cousin living in NWFP whom he'd never met. My phone card died.