I helped him pack but I was angry and disappointed in another lost vacation that Saif was spending with his friends instead of his three children and I, Haya, his wife of eight years. Everyone knows that single middle-aged men do not simply go to the far East Asia countries for sushi cuisine and some vitamin D. We have a fair bunch of oriental food in Arabia and everyday is sun-kissed in our golden deserts.
I choose not to make a fuss and stopped being difficult, as he would call it. My mother in law would call it as me being fussy, bossy, controlling and rigid. “Ease up on your husband Dana,” she would say, making me feel like I had a collar on his neck. His frequent trips left me feeling unwanted, unloved and unappreciated. He would promise to make it up to me, but in the end he would think that just because had a good time, and he came home in the end all is forgiven. If it were to be discussed he would say, “At least I come home, while my friends have affairs and spend the night out.” The note to myself when he would say such things is, what does that echo about his own thinking, and what kind of friends is he keeping? Or something preposterous like, at least I don’t have a second wife. When every woman with half a brain knew that once they begin spending nights out, they have too many women or too much of one woman taking him away from his home. Home-wreckers. A delicate dish mastered by the desperate. Most men come home, and those that don’t – their mistresses have the upper hand in the relationship, above and beyond the control of both the husband and the wife.
“I swear on the lives of my children that I go to Asia for the beach, spa and nature,” said every young Arab man that went to South East Asia with a bunch of male friends, including my 35 year old husband that never took me with him.
His Asian trips were becoming too regular and his guilty consciousness was reaching the point of not caring how it would leave me feeling. So, I simply decided to even out the cards and play a game. His friend brought home an oriental child from a marriage he had in Phuket and the mother met someone and wanted to move on, so the child was returned to the care of the father. Now my husband’s good friend had a new child being cared for by his wife who has banned him from Phuket or all of Asia after that.
I was packing his bag for Singapore, and then decided that in love and war all was fair. I grew up with four wild boys and we would spend our summers in London, where we spent one summer in Wales. There we were taught a bit about the outdoors and should a skin rash or itch arise from rubbing accidentally onto a plant, we were told what to use to reverse the effects. We learnt which plants to avoid and which to rub on if we were to get an itch. I had also read an article in an old magazine about how one woman had tricked her husband into thinking the maid she had sent back home after she discovered he was having an affair with had AIDS. After terrorising him for a few months and him eventually confessing his affair, she still checked his blood and upon discovering he was clean, she forgave him after the many months of emotional turmoil.
Some poisonous plants that can cause irritation, with effects varying from person to person, are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. They all contain a toxin called urushiol oil. This toxin is present in the sap of the plant. Touching this type of plant can cause skin rashes and blisters with a transitional period until the skin would heal of a day or two at most, before the healing process would begin.
Puss from blisters does not spread the infection to others and it was not a serious matter, but it would do enough damage to his ego and that was enough. Touching a stinging nettle can produce itching and welting. This plant is armed with small hairs that, when touched, inject a cocktail of histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and formic acid. Histamine causes an immune reaction in the body, serotonin and acetylcholine are neural transmitters and formic acid is the same compound involved in bee stings and fire ant bites. The thin hairs would sting the skin while further scratching would increase skin irritation.
Men think they can never catch an STD until their wife shows up with a medical report that she has a yeast infection, viral or bacterial. Doctors in Arabia are very particular in revealing what STD the female partner has and how she contracted it. In the past they would tell a woman she had a yeast infection because she enjoyed dairy products too much, or took antibiotics, which killed both the good and bad fungus naturally occurring in the vagina or possibly from swimming in a pool with too much chlorine. Yet, her doubt was triggered when she would develop a urinal infection, which was blamed on her lack of drinking water or eating too much salt in her diet. These scenarios would increase her doubts in her husband and, inevitably, the seed wound be planted.
“Ease up on your husband Dana,” she would say, making me feel like I had a collar on his neck.
A diabolical idea was born and so I went ahead and searched for it from the supermarket; I went to the garden centre where more herbs and plants were available. I bought poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. I generously rubbed it on the inside of his underwear where the tiny thorny hairs would come in contact with him once he would try them on. I thought that if he were cheating on me I would know this time around and teach him a lesson he would never forget. The spell was cast and I felt like a witch waiting to witness the miraculous unfolding of my magical and intriguing act. I was a proud hen that laid her eggs and sat waiting patiently for them to hatch.
He left home hugging the kids and promising them gifts; he was due to go for two weeks. While I stared thinking where did I come short in being the wife, the friend, the lover, the driver, the maid, the diplomatic attaché when Daddy was away and mummy was doing the visits for the both sides of the family. When I took the kids to the beach house, I also played the role of the electrician, the swimming instructor, the religious preacher, maths, science, English and Arabic teacher and was left emotionally and physically drained. But most of all, I was bothered by how unappreciated I was after all of this when I would dare to complain that I wanted him to play an integral role in the family by sharing some of the burden or, in the least, backing me up with my decisions and supporting me by helping in any way he could.
“At least I come home, and my friends have affairs and spend the night out.”
He would regard sitting with the family over meals as a chore, while his parents insisted to not break the bread unless all were present at the table. All his sisters and brothers enjoyed the very healthy family environment. That said, I was granted certain liberties such as driving, attending weddings and family functions with or without his family being present, but I still missed his company and complained about it bitterly to the deaf ears of his mother and himself.
I was a woman scorned and angry, and I wanted a voice in a deaf court. So it would only seem natural for my concocting nature to act. Mind you, it was an experiment and I didn’t think too much into it; I was simply pleased that the act was untraceable and, with that in mind, I rubbed the leaves gently on the inside of Saif’s boxers. In order to be on the safe side, I rubbed a little on his evening trousers and his favourite jeans too. He wears that pair whenever he says he wants to hang out with the boys on a weekend. He would return after the local bars would shut, meaning that he had gone clubbing, but would not want me to know. I could smell the whiskey mixed with the overpowering smell of Colgate Mint; I knew that he went the extra mile of concealing his habit. I just wondered which apartment he brushed his teeth in, when him and I only used Strawberry Sensodyne because we both had sensitive teeth.
This time around, his two-week vacation was interrupted and he came back after four days, which would have normally extended to the usual month. He was calling me more often and checking on the kids. He mumbled something about work making him return because of him having to do work at the airport and there was a shortage of professional staff. He also began taking antibiotics every eight hours because he said he developed a rash between his thighs from the heat in Phuket. The doctor in Thailand advised him to wear boxer shorts to help the healing. He was very shy about it but I was silent and smiled on the inside about my devious act. Feeling like the devil, I smiled inwardly and offered him our baby Yaqoob’s diaper anti-rash cream, which healed irritated skin wonderfully and quickly. He was grateful, but I noticed he wasn’t as feisty or argumentative; he showed a genuine interest in hearing what I had to say and began spending more time with the children.
I was elated and wondered why I did not execute this diabolical plan earlier. He suspected he had a skin infection from sleeping with some common woman or some girlfriend in Phuket, and I had the upper hand then. I continued to rub the nestle on the inside of his advised boxer shorts and he continued to itch, bleed and be irritated. He was embarrassed to scratch publicly so he would spend more time at home as opposed to his usual nights out. He began joining us at the beach house on weekend trips with the children, who were most pleased and delighted. I took many pictures and showed him how they felt like a complete family now.
Yet he seemed restless and bored, and so I continued to rub on the inside, but the thin needles stung and hurt him, and he thought it was from a sexually transmitted disease. The fright would set things right. He used an intimate wash, creams and began to pray. He would wake before the dawn prayer, and I would see him worship and raise his hands in prayer and peace. It brought an air of serenity, which suited him and put a rein on his tantrums. It was as though he was a wild horse tamed and now pulling the carriage. He began to reconnect with me, and seemed more apologetic about his shortcomings. He then came true about his rash and that he had been to see several dermatologists and urologists and doctors and no one could quite place a finger on what was wrong with him. So I told him that I had prayed that if he were to cheat on me that God would take my due from him.
He cried and hugged me hard, and apologised. He didn’t confess that he had been with someone else, but his tears and his suffering were his confession. I hugged him back and promised him I would pray and hope that he would be forgiven his sins and, since he was sorry and repentant, God would forgive him too. I then spent the night reading holy verses and praying for his health to return. And surely, as with all thin nettles latched to the skin for a few hours, a few days rest and proper healing cleared it after a month and a half of mad itching.
He truly believed that my prayers were answered, he was truly sorry and through repenting he was granted a second chance. He had mumbled he was afraid it was scabies, crabs, herpes or syphilis.
Saif is a new man now, he says he is happier being more involved in the family and I am happier with him sharing the workload with me. I am not sorry I legally terrorised him into being more disciplined as a husband and a father. He has stopped travelling alone without us; he still spends many an evening with his friends but never travels with them anymore. So if you’d ask if I’d do it again, I’d gladly reply, “Definitely!”