The day my middle brother learned from me that I was a Muslim, he quipped, “I look forward to meeting your four wives.” Hilarious. But I preferred my beloved’s take on that joke three years later, when she insisted on marrying me four times.
First, there was our civil marriage at Ealing registry office on the morning of the first Saturday in August 2001. I arrived at the town hall in my little Ford Fiesta, with a white ribbon attached to the bonnet. The venue was crowded with my beloved’s many friends, smiling and joyful, and a few of my family members looking miserable.
Second, there was our religious nikah at Suleymaniye mosque on Kingsland Road in East London that afternoon. Newly married, I drove my beloved in our little red donkey across the city to Shoreditch. My maternal grandmother commented that she recognised the area from her days as a nurse in the 1940s when she first came over from Ireland.
Third, there was our walima in the hospitality suite beneath that mosque a month later. I hired a silver Mercedes and a driver for this one. Pure luxury. See how four weeks of marriage changes a man. The bedsit in Hanwell was all a distant memory. I was a resident of West Ealing now, and very, very happy.
Fourth, there was our Turkish wedding just under a year later in Istanbul. A great family affair. My parents came to this one, along with my middle brother and his wife. Of course, on my beloved’s side there was her entire extended clan, complete with the Hamshen horon, bagpipes galore.
I recalled all this today because our song, Gönül, came up on my playlist, and I insisted on dancing with my beloved in the living room, much to the embarrassment of our son. It’s only recently that I discovered that it is in fact everybody’s song. Still, we always found these lyrics pertinent to our journey to that juncture.
You fled from everyone all these years, then you thought you finally found the one, you opened up out of the blue. I told you don’t do it, heart, but you did it anyway.
How memories come flooding back, merely hearing the words of a song and a familiar tune. There we are, back in Istanbul twenty years ago, that shy, reserved Englishman dancing with his Turkish bride. Four times married, no more.