I found myself in this situation while in the middle of a shift. I was crying uncontrollably and could not stop. My luck was that I was working with my best friend who knew all that was going on. There was no way to hide it from her and she was able to listen and not betray her distrust of the whole situation. K was my best friend and roommate and had listened all of the times that M had stood me up in the beginning. She didn't quite trust him, but she knew how attached I was and knew every detail of what had been going on in his absence. I finished out the shift and made my way to my parents' house.
I was 23 years old, but I sat in my father's lap and cried that day. I told him what was happening and got the most unexpected advice. My father said that with all the things I knew about M's situation in Pakistan and the family control of marriages, that M might be telling me the absolute truth.
I had been convinced that no one in the world would be able to respect me if I listened to this story from M. I had assumed I was the only person who would believe it, and even I wasn't completely confident in my trust. In my narrow, naive viewpoint, something like this could never happen. I was more used to the story of the "suspicious Muslim man" having one family in his home country and one in his 'adopted' country. Those were the stories I had read and seen on television.
I had heard of women that this happened to, but not men. I listened to my father's advice, and I went home to research. I googled "forced marriages" and "forced arranged marriages." I googled any topic I thought might bring me closer to finding anyone else who had the same situation. I found fewer men than women, but there were men to whom this had happened.
I laid awake that night trying to think of what to do. I tried to think of ways to encourage M to run and I reminded myself that that had been a failing tactic for nearly three months already. I reminded myself that he didn't even have access to his own passport at this point. There had even been an incident where I got him the phone number to the Canadian Embassy, he'd even called it only to finally cancel their assistance. There was nothing inside him that was able to just run away from his family at this point. That method was futile.
I went the next day and saw one of M's friends. It was this friend who sealed my belief in what M had been telling me from Pakistan. The friend felt that M was not doing enough to get away, but said to me, "How could you not have known this would be a problem. Did you not realize his caste?"
To this day, I'm not really sure what exactly his "caste" had to do with it, though I've come closer to understanding in that M was Pathan. His family had moved one generation before his birth directly from NWFP. No one in his family ever had a "love marriage." No one in his family immigrated outside of Pakistan. No one in his family married anyone else but a cousin properly chosen by their parents. In fact, little did I know, that M had attempted, unsuccessfully, to have his marriage arranged to a cousin long before his immigration to Canada, and that failure was one of the driving motivations for his self-exhile.
M had immigrated to Canada and had since become the family's sole provider, breadwinner and bragging right. This, had not occurred to me.
I called M the next day. It took every ounce of strength I had to tell him, "Do what you have to do, just come home."