As fate would have it, my lab partner was another seed planted for my future. A Filipino, Rick was a happy go lucky fella with a strict catholic upbringing. Not 3 weeks after school began, his older brother committed suicide. My new friend came to class, grieving. I will never forget him burying his face in his hands with a pink scarf on his head. (Turns out he is red/green color blind.) We asked him what was wrong and he shared his anguish. Another life-long friendship formed.
Then came the day I began the tutoring. Mohammad and I met outside on a park bench. He smiled warmly, and I quickly realized there was more than just the chemistry I was being tutored on. Faced again with the reality that I was married, we formed a friendship and nothing else was said. I introduced him to my other chemistry buddies, and we begun to hang out. There was a group of four of us, who would often go to lunch, between classes and labs, and we got to know each other and the reasons for our ambitious coursework.
My home-life was non-existent. Craig and I, both full-time students, had opposite schedules. He fit his work hours and school hours into the times when I could be home between classes and labs. For three years, in those apartment-turned-prisons, i was either alone, or struggling to be heard, fighting against his control. Like his partying and apparent abandonment had taught me, being 21 entitled me to become more selfish, and I had every right to exercise my ability to do the same. Without even being conscious of it, I slowly took back control by my absence. Despite my misgivings about leaving my baby daughter, I had to get out of the oppression that existed every time I walked through my front door.
When I walked out that door, and into my other life, I felt alive. I felt respected and proud. I felt burdens of living a life of struggle and overwhelming responsibility disappear. I was doing what I should have been doing at that point in my life, learning, growing, and coming into my own. I was only weighed down by the life decision I had made and didn't know how to "fix". My chemistry tutor sessions turned into counseling sessions, and Mohammad would offer suggestions on how to improve my other life. He got to know the way that I think, the way I had made decisions, and really began to care about me.
To me, Mohammad was a complete anomaly from any guy I had ever met. A bit younger, he had come to school in the states from the Middle East. Raised in a strict Muslim household, he was supposed to return home after getting educated, to an arranged marriage, still a virgin. He had already taken the Chemistry and Organic Chemistry, at military school, in his native Arabic tongue. As I grew in respect for him, I became in awe of his intelligence and sensitivity toward me. I found myself struggling with feelings I never knew existed. Platonic for months, our affinity for one another grew. It didn't seem possible for me to love anyone who was not "Christian." But someone who was serious about his life, his religion, his god, and his ambitions (Nobel prize, Ph.D/M.D. combo programs), drew me in from a place in my soul that it felt like an oasis in the most bitter, desolated place. Straight out of my diary at the time, "At least he loves his god, like a man with a god should".
Craig's growing suspicions by my absence were confirmed. He asked me straight out. I answered in the affirmative. Angry, confused, and hurt, he immediately got on the phone to his parents. And mine. In my view, he needed emotional support, sure, but he was no stranger to securing his 'good husband' facade, and came out looking like nothing but a victim. I was the black sheep. He had done the 'right thing' by marrying me, and I had ruined it by being the villain. The scarlet letter scarred my insides with the empty abandonment of my parents reaffirming the shame I had tried so long to shed.