I had arrived in this small, backwards community in June of 2018. It was now September, 2018 and I was ready to go. The school superintendent who had promised me a teaching position reneged on her promise. At one of two or three meetings I had with her, she suggested that I “take your husband and the two of you go to California.” I thought that was odd advice coming from someone who was supposed to hire me. She further stated that “it will be hard living here; you will struggle.” I was already struggling, living in an environment that I’d never lived in. But, she was suggesting that my struggle would be even harder. She went on to say, “it gets cold here in the winter. You need to be in a warmer place.” The thought of spending a winter in a cabin with no heat, broken windows, a leaky roof and concrete floors sent a shiver through me. I had to get away. I needed to work, and it seemed next to impossible for me to find a decent teaching position in the community. The only other jobs for Black women were working in a chicken factory, cleaning homes and cooking at a restaurant. There was no way that I could survive working like that, and my husband could not afford for me to not work. I had bills to pay, so I planned my exit.
I first contacted my family to make sure that I had a place to live. My mother agreed that I could live with her as long as I needed to. I knew that I would be able to find work in California easily. So, I began packing my things to ship to California. I had sent a few large suitcases to my new husband’s home, and needed to get those to California. I could carry two suitcases on the plane with me.
Before I left, I looked around me carefully. Since I’d arrived, I’d arranged for my husband to buy a working refrigerator, a microwave, washer/dryer and most importantly, a van. I was leaving him in much better shape than I’d found him. I’d also contacted the Department of Rehabilitation in his state. They would come out and evaluate his living situation, build a walk-in bathtub for him, a ramp for his cabin and van, and provide help for him in the house 2-3 days a week. I’d done what I could do.
Of course, my husband did not want me to leave. He called out the big guns. The Jehovah Witnesses that he studied with suggested a marriage counselor from their church. An elderly white couple came out to counsel us. The husband told me that “God won’t like it if you don’t keep your marriage vows.” I countered that God wouldn’t want me to sacrifice my life for nothing either. I asked the wife to “look around you; would you live here?” She didn’t answer, but decided to take a neutral stance and state that she could see both our perspectives. Right.
My “husband” had already broken more of God’s commandments than I could count. He’d lied, he’d stolen, he had pretended (another form of lying) that he was someone he wasn’t, he’d schemed and plotted to entrap me into taking care of him for the rest of my natural life. In exchange, I’d get nothing. I recalled that he kept telling over the phone in Saudi that I’d “be married.” As if that were some sort of pay off for a life of hardship and servitude.
On September 25, 2018, my husband, his friend and I began a drive to New Orleans. Once there, I would ship my bags via Greyhound to California, and then I would board a plane for San Francisco, California. I knew that I would not look back.