Zipporah –Jeptha’s Daughter
My name is Zipporah. I’m named after Moses obscure wife in the Bible. Zipporah, one of seven daughters of Reuel, the Midianite priest also known as Jethro. I like my namesake seem to have a history of rescuing men only to have them leave on crusade to somewhere I can’t go. Pretty much most people know who Moses is and his significance to the Hebrew people but Zipporah’s story has been lost to time and history. But unlike Zipporah I can tell the woman’s side of the story. Zipporah is more than an exotic accessory that men become enamored with her concept more than herself. She represents thousands, perhaps millions of women who became Jephtha’s daughters sacrificed because of some ill-advised vow of a man who was supposed to be her protector and provider.
We both work for the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of New York. We are in the Research and Planning areas. Grouped together in teams typically liaisons development both inside and outside the workplace. My romantic liaison with Darko Boyan began my fall from grace. Our ultimate goal is to keep the peace amongst disparate cultural groups within New York City by researching neighborhoods and planning events to bring folks from different cultures together. The purpose and hope is that by allowing the various ethnic groups to experience each other’s culture through food, dance, song and storytelling it would help to lessen the racial tension within the city. Recently with the advent of the Crips, Bloods and M13 that tension had been ramped up. The team groupings were very strangely put together. All the Hispanics seemed to be on one team, Middle Easterners on another and somehow my lone Black self got thrown together with the Slavic god of Romance. Oh yes there is also that nosy busybody Italian bitch Giovanna Kemal whose cubicle is a couple of non-doors down from ours. But I’ll get to her story later.
How does a well educated Black Woman with Bachelors and Masters Degrees in History and Anthropology/Sociology get caught up with a man who cannot even speak the English language properly. It’s a combination of old world courtly grace and manners plus the knowledge that at 50, never been married and childless this may be my last hurrah. After all the last time I had sex was at age 46, now I’m 52. My beauty and body are beginning to fade with my mind sure to follow with the onset of Menopause. For a handsome man from a foreign country to come along and tell me how beautiful and intelligent I am. One who listens to every word I say plus pays for dinner and all entertainment well I felt as giddy as a teenager in love and just as stupid. What does the song say, “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.” What may have been and still is an innocent flirtation for him was a psychological, emotional and physical addiction for me.
My hand trembled as I punched the number into the phone, when a female voice on the other end answered I knew all was over with and all was lost. “This is Boyan’s girlfriend.” I knew she existed but to actually hear her voice killed any hope of romance I had with Darko Boyan. All my hopes, dreams, my very future was tied together with Darko Boyan. Now it vanished just at the sound of her voice.
The dinners, the street fairs and cultural events in the city, the movies, the theatre plays were all phony altruistic enablers. Little did I realize that I was just an actor and Darko Boyan was the director. I was an ignorant character is his own personal theatrical production.
I was able to hold onto that elusive dream called marriage as long as I didn’t see her face or hear her voice. Now thanks to cell phones, text/picture messages and Facebook, I knew all, saw all. Unfortunately to my detriment so did everyone else in our inner and outer circles. In an instant I was made a laughingstock, a fool, a court jester of sorts amongst those I thought of as friends. But really they were his friends not mine and they conspired with him to make me the “Joke of the Month” their own personal entertainment. I hope I helped to alleviate some of the boredom of their everyday lives.
He was the protean figure with exemplary manners of a bygone Victorian age but who was I? Alas only an exotic American experiment. Quixotic to a fault then only to be tried out and tossed aside at will.
Sometimes, perhaps most times male/female friendships do not turn into lovers. At worst case they become mortal enemies, at best casual acquaintances forced to interact and connect because of shared spaces. But when I did see him in a venue where all our mutual friends meet, I briefly looked at him to see if some emotion within me would stir. It did not. Perhaps because in my head as soon as I heard that other woman’s voice and days later received confirmation from friends and enemies of my worst fears I mentally made the decision to face those fears head-on with decisions, better choices and new plans.
Faced with the dilemma of what to do next, my soul was wounded, but deep inside I had already decided what my next course of actions would be. Confront Boyan, break off the relationship, and move forward by apply for the Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford, move away, out of sight, out of mind, then I can release, then the healing can begin.
How can I release when I’m caught up. My emotions and feelings are all tangled up with him. He’s the last face I see before I go to sleep and the first one I see in the morning, even though I know he’s sleeping with her. I hope his sleep is uneasy and he that he wakes up with ejaculate all over his stomach and thighs that should have been for her but was really meant for me. In my heart I know that he does not really love her, whether he loves me is debatable but he’s intrigued and when a man’s intrigued with a woman from another culture, spice has been added to the stew. This eternal engagement this marriage is being forced on him by his culture, meaning his family, friends and his priest.
In the staff cafeteria Boyan and I hunkered down for a serious truth bearing conversation. What’s the story Darko Boyan? I only called him by his full given name when I was really upset. Why is the rest of the office spreading lies and innuendo about us?
“Zipporah, this has happened to me before after I broke up with my last girlfriend, Marina tried to get me by going back to our village telling the girl’s parents that I was a playboy.” “My thoughts Eastern European men=Black men with funny accents.”
Boyan if you love her why don’t you just go ahead, marry her and go back to Serbia? “I know that is what Father Petrov says. He asked me why I’m wasting my time here doing nothing when I could be back home. When I go back to Ser… What do you mean “I”? Why don’t you say “We”. Wouldn’t you be taking your wife back to Serbia with you?
The voice in my head, “Balkans niggers!”
Doubt in his voice and where there’s doubt and indecision in a man’s heart perhaps there’s hope for that “other woman” with whom he has made an emotional and psychological investment.
Zipporah’s you should find someone. You need someone, he continued in his broken English.
My mind responds I have found someone you big, dumb, handsome Slavic idiot. That someone is you! Furthermore you need me! The Slavic Cultural Center that we have been planning for months will never get off the ground without me.
My brain continues shouting but lunch is over. I get up from the table and return to our adjoining offices, perplexed, puzzled as to how to deal with this new challenge. Yes to me this was just another challenge because I knew the sorceress behind our split.
Giovanna Elisa Kemel
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich.” Emma, however, is also rather spoiled; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; and she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives and is often mistaken about the meanings of others’ actions.” From Jane Austen’s novel Emma
If I could only pay attention to my own life, then I won’t be so caught up in the lives of others pondered Giovanna as she wondered how to recover from her latest social blunder.
Giovanna 35, married with two young sons felt that she had the gift of matchmaking. When she saw two single people together whom she felt were right for each other she would drop not so subtle hints to the man regarding marriage and probe the woman for weaknesses. Her romantic detective work extended not only to that couple but also took in their sphere of friends, associates and acquaintances. You know theme, “the others” aka “messengers of doom and gloom”. In this case the latter description fit perfectly and thanks to Giovanna’s vehement game of telephone the people in, around and even outside Darko Boyan and Zipporah’s social circles knew more about their relationship that Darko and Zipporah themselves. As we all know usurpers and talebearers come to no good end.
Darko Boyan and Zipporah Halstead were an interracial couple. That in and of itself was enough to incite hatred among those that knew or associated with them. The election of President Obama has not made America or even the “great mosaic” New York City a land of love, peace, or tolerance. Some of Darko and Zipporah’s friends saw the budding romance, had knowledge of the particulars but kept that knowledge to themselves and were actually happy for the couple. Hey! Why shouldn’t Africa and Europe come together. Within both continents lie the birthplaces of civilization, culture and education so now is the time for them to join hands even to join forces. However some of the outer circle did not feel that way and when Giovanna entered the picture they knew that within Giovanna laid a succubus, an angel of darkness sent to divide and destroy purity placed in her path.
Giovanna thought, “I had to share that last piece of juicy gossip or rather I had to warn Zipporah that Darko already had a girlfriend.” Little did Giovanna realize Zipporah knew from the get-go what she was getting into and she and Darko enjoyed their open relationship. Mentally and psychologically if not verbally Darko and Zipporah enjoyed each other’s company…..the dates, the long deep heartfelt conversations in person and over the phone—it all added up to an emotional/spiritual satisfaction that never of them had achieved in previous or current relationships. Despite the fact that Darko was dating over woman and Zipporah had dated other men when they were together all the questions of the universe concerning them were answered. Given time without outside interference they would come together in a truly unbreakable lifetime bond.
But no that busybody Giovanna had to come along. At first it seemed nice when she joined their lunch group. She befriended Darko and Zipporah plus all Darko and Zipporah’s friends picking their brains for intell. Whatever she couldn’t find out from the couple themselves she took the jigsaw pieces of lies from fellow nosey parkers creating a puzzle of lies, slander, rumors, innuendo and deception that would come back to haunt Giovanna over the coming summer.
While Giovanna was busily watering, planting and pulling weeds from other couples backyards her own knitted together picturesque family was being unraveled from behind and within the canvas.
Giovanna an Italian woman born in Palermo, Italy had been happily married to Orhan Kemal a native of Turkey for five years. In that time Giovanna had given birth to two beautiful sons, Harun aged two and Serkan aged eight months. As happy as Kemal and Giovanna had appeared to outsiders within their home was feuding and outrage. The pot of dissatisfaction was beginning to boil over. At first when Orhan and Giovanna had married it seemed quaint and rather provincial to live with Orhan’s family within their large warm family home. Giovanna was an outgoing woman and living amongst the Kemal tribe gave her more fuel for gossip plus access to family intrigue. Then as the babies came into the world the help Giovanna received from her mother-in-law, Ceyda, a Turkish female name, meaning “tall and beautiful woman” also “the one who helps everybody”. Ceyda in that respect was just like her name. She helped Giovanna with both baby boys, a generous blessing to Giovanna when she returned from maternity leave to her job.
Ah, How to describe Orhan Kemal. A handsome Turk used to getting his way with the ladies and when he saw Giovanna’s beauty plus her fascination with all things Muslim Kemal knew he had the “perfect wife”. Gorgeous, complete faith and trust in him as a husband and father but with limited intelligence as to his life and customs. From the beginning he saw in her the tendency to impose and intrude into lives where she was not wanted or welcome. This served Kemal well since his job as a private sanitation collector took him all over Staten Island he could not only pick-up trash but women as well. But to Orhan Kemal’s mind women and trash were one and the same. Orhan made love to his wife and played with the kids just enough to keep Giovanna’s sensors satiated and off the alert system. Even though Kemal was born and raised in America he had been back to his fathers and grandfathers birthplace Istanbul many times absorbing the culture and he took seriously the Islamic right for a man to have four wives. Naturally the United States government would not allow him to legally do so, however what the so-called Christian church called “adultery” he merely thought of as co-wives or concubines, much like Abraham, David, and Solomon.
When he’s on top of her thrusting while looking at her Slavic face does he visualized my African face.
Bonnie Raitt summed up all my feelings best with her song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
Turn down these voices, inside my head –
Lay down with me … tell me no lies.
Just hold me close,
don’t patronize … don’t patronize me
‘Cause I can’t make you love me,
If you don’t.
Boyan don’t you know that you can’t laugh, joke, hold hands, share secrets, in essence make love to a woman with your mind, soul, and spirit and now expect her body to follow? What made you think that I did not have the same desires as any woman from your country? You’re a tease. You give everything but hold back the most important part…..you.
My friend, lover of my soul, no I can’t make you love me the way I want to be loved but for one night all I wanted was to feel like the beautiful desired woman I once was many years ago. You were my addiction. You became to me a walking, talking orgasm ready for release.
In real life I go on with my career and education plans knowing that I’m soon to be abandoned and alone. The cure: throw yourself into work and studies and forget about the “old maid” staring back at you in the mirror. However now is when faith takes hold. When I’m at my lowest point. When I think I’ve lost the battle. Faith provides solace. A place of refugee. Faith may seem like such a simplistic answer to life’s complex issues but in the end it is often all we have and the one thing we can rely on when all seems lost. Temporarily depressed I choose not to live in the land of loss or sadness but to press on towards the mark of my high calling. To wherever God takes me despite my weaknesses and foolish mistakes he still allows me to progress. Each time saying, Okay all is forgiven. I understand. Let me pick you up and put you back on the path. I accept the Lord’s forgiveness and most of all I forgive myself.
Wait a minute is that the voice of defeat? What! I rebuke that voice! Pity party over. Time to do battle! Should I allow one conniving backbiting witch destroy all we built together. Hell No!
I’m the Oracle! I’m the Chosen One! It’s me he needs and really wants. When the day comes and our romance is consummated, cerebral and sexual will co-exist in one body. One flesh. One unit so powerful that together they will control everything in their pathway. Destiny fulfilled is Dunamis; authority, strength an agent for change.
Now to pull out the threads of the tapestry that do not belong and weave in our new story.