Sophia always sits in the same seat by the window, with her hot tea and her sad eyes.
She comes to my café once every month or two to sit quietly for a few hours, watching her son toddle around the tables, and the people passing her by outside.
To the others who see her sitting there, she looks just like any other traditional wife. She wears the long skirt and patterned shirt. She lives with her husband’s family. She cooks and cleans. She takes care of her young son. Those others don’t know her story.
I’ve known Sophia since she was a new graduate working in social development. She paved her own way in our region’s custom-bound communities with daring and panache. She kept rowdy male colleagues in line with a flourish of her quick wit, or a flourish of the sharp fruit knife she kept in her purse especially for that purpose. She had so many aspirations for her career and her life, and more than enough charisma to coax them into reality.
I knew Sophia when her parents matched her in marriage to a rich businessman. They ignored her tears and pleas. I knew her when she was hospitalized three times for attempted suicides.
I was there when she sat silently as a new bride on her wedding day, tears rolling non-stop down her cheeks.
Her parents believed that their duty before God was to see their daughter married. “You can divorce him the next day,” they tried to console her. Sophia didn’t see things their way.
It’s three years since Sophia’s marriage. She follows tradition to please her husband and his family. Almost every vestige of her old life, and her old self is gone.
They say that our eyes are the window to our soul. If that’s true, it’s clear that…
Sophia’s soul has lost all hope.