This post is for all the women in the world.
I've been desperately thinking about how I want to share my feelings about this because witnessing it moved me to tears. No, wait, heaving sobs in a dimly lit parking lot of a tanning salon just beside the tracks of the bybanen (trolley) not far from home.
Stian and I had been out with friends - we'd been having a wonderful night of laughter and fun at a little pub in the city center. When it was time to go home, we hopped on the bybanen (pronounced like "bee bon") and miraculously found seats. We sat facing two people, which at the beginning of the trip bothered me not in the least. I've learned that in Norway, you really keep to yourself on public transport - no one makes small talk and if you have to speak to the person you're traveling with, you do so quietly. Late night byban rides are very different though, and following the status quo of a Norwegian that has been drinking, everyone is usually light-hearted and incredibly chatty.
When the bybanen started moving, I suddenly became aware of the couple directly across from us. I don't know if the fact that they were speaking English caught my attention, or the simple oddity of their relationship, but in any case it made me forget my anger about having to throw away my delectable half-eaten hotdog before being allowed to get on and head for home. He was a sturdy Norwegian with bloodshot blue eyes that matched the color of his denim outfit one-size-too-small. She was a small woman from Thailand.
He was being incredibly rude to her, treating her like a dog and making a big show about it. And her response to it was groveling - desperately trying to be cute, trying to flirt with him, trying to "make nice," trying to get his attention.
I was staring. They were a foot away and I was staring, no questions asked. I couldn't help it. Suddenly all those stories Stian had told me about how it's not unusual for a Norwegian man to "buy" a woman from Thailand came crashing into my reality, literally in front of my face. He kept catching my eye (which wasn't hard to do as I was staring, quite intensely, directly at him), and every time he did, he gave me this little smirk and continued to be rude, continued to be an incredulous bastard. She became aware that I was watching and there was obvious embarrassment on both our parts.
I finally let down my gaze.
She got up and wanted to leave, begging him to come with her. Again he caught my eye, again he smirked, and again he ignored her. She grabbed his arm and tried to yank him away from his seat and he just sat there with that evil grin on his face. They got off at the next stop and Stian and I made comments to each other about what a jerk he was. But forget him....what about her??? How did she end up with such an awful man??
That's when Stian told me more about buying women from Thailand and that's when I got incredibly, undeniably sad. My heart broke for her. I suddenly got sucked into comparing our lives, thinking how I got to pick the person I wanted to be with, she probably didn't. I chose to move to Norway because I wanted my life here, her opinions made no difference. Maybe her life is better than it was, who's to say? Maybe she wanted to be here, but I cannot let myself believe that that's who she wanted to be with and that's how she wants to live her life. No way. Maybe it's one of those cases where she marries him, gets into the country by putting up with it for a short time, and then divorces him to start her own life. Maybe, but what hell. What a grave inconvenience.
Thinking how different our lives are, and how unfair her life may seem, broke me down. I stopped in my tracks and just cried for her. Sobbed for her. Couldn't breathe for her. I couldn't stop, and my thoughts were racing about how this happens more than I can fathom. I started thinking about a book I read called A Thousand Splendid Suns, which is a story of a woman in Kabul, Afghanistan who was forced to marry a disgusting man. It's a fantastic book, but the story is heartbreaking - similar to what I had just witnessed on the bybanen.
My heart goes out to women that have to go through something like that - to escape one hell only find another.