Saturday, 18 April 2015

Dictators’ Wives Club by Naomi Elana Zener

In the dead of night, a flurry of women, disguised in wide brimmed hats and sunglasses, quickly scurried down the dark alley careful not to be seen, their presence betrayed only by the clacking sound of their stilettos against the pavement. As fast as they could, they ducked through a five hundred pound steel door without a handle, propped open by an almost equally large mass of muscle in the form of a burly bouncer, into a concrete building with no discerning characteristics. Once inside, hats and glasses tossed on a table minded by a hatcheck girl, the women took their seats ready to start their meeting.

“Behind every great man there’s a greater woman, and without us, our dictator husbands would be lost. We pledge our allegiance to our husbands, countries and each other. Let this meeting of the Dictators’ Wives Club come to order,” the women pledged in unison.

On a bimonthly basis, veiled under a nocturnal cloak, the Dictators’ Wives Club met at a different undisclosed location, to which their private jets flew them so they could share and exchange ideas on how to remediate the public images of their nefarious husbands. The women’s husbands were notorious for torturing their people, practicing ethnic cleansing, executing dissidents without the benefit of due process, diverting international aid earmarked for famine and poverty relief to finance their lavish lifestyles, yet they believed that their men were simply misunderstood. While dearly devoted to their husbands, some marriages were woven from the fabric of true love and romance, and others were founded upon unilateral fear of retaliation, nonetheless all of the women shared one common concern: they despised being found guilty of their husbands’ crimes by virtue of association.  Although their husbands’ reputations were well known, and the women’s own images and names were plastered all over the news, at the meeting, each woman assumed an alias to limit any collateral damage and maintain maximum plausible deniability should anything they said be used against them by their husband, if he was to learn of her disclosures.

“It’s so lovely to see you all again,” Mrs. K said, taking a glass of Cristal from one of the waiters who was passing out flutes to quench the women’s thirst. Traveling from all corners of the Earth was tiresome and had left them with parched lips.

“Don’t forget to have something to eat. It was my turn to bring the food, so please don’t be shy. I spared no expense having Wolfgang Puck prepare signature dishes from each of our homelands,” Mrs. B said, pointing to an elegant buffet. “I had to exert a little muscle to get this done in time. Wolfgang kept complaining that he had to deal with the Oscars’ dinner, but I made him see things my way.”

“My husband’s game of brinksmanship with the United States has left me famished,” Mrs. K said. “My husband said ‘no one eats until I get to keep my chemical weapons.’ By the time I left, it had been forty-eight hours since he started his little argument with President Obama. As if the United States should have the right to tell the world who can or can’t have chemical weapons.”

“I know. They’re such bullies. Every time they push my husband around forcing him to dismantle his nuclear program, by threatening UN sanctioned boycotts, he takes it out on my shoe collection. He breaks the heels off of my Manolos,” Mrs. W cried.

“At least you still have Manolos. Our assets are still frozen. I haven’t seen a new pair of shoes since 2007!” Mrs. C complained. “In every picture taken of me that ends up on Instagram, I’m accused of wearing new shoes. Lies, all lies! It’s worse than when they tweet that I turn a blind eye to the acts of my husband’s regime.”

“Well try walking a mile in my Louboutins. I put my child in a private school overseas to give him the best chance at success since my country’s education system is abysmal, only to get hate mail. They blame my husband for the state of the poor state of the school system, but it can’t be helped. We’re in a constant state of war, so all money has to go to buying weapons, not books,” Mrs. Z said.

“Education is important,” Mrs. R retorted.

“And, that’s why my son is attending the best school in the UK that money can buy,” Mrs. Z said. “I’m just trying to be the best mom I can be.”

The women nodded their heads sympathetically, after all each of them knew how hard they worked to support their husbands and families. Tired and worn out from having to support their notorious husbands

“How do your husbands deal with rancor in their cabinets?” Mrs. Q asked, shifting gears.

“Do you mean voices of dissent in his unelected government?” Mrs. H asked.

Mrs. Q nodded.

“Mine sends them on all expense paid trips out of the country for indefinite periods of time,” Mrs. H offered.

“He exiles them?” Mrs. B asked.

“Where?” Mrs. Q asked.

“I don’t know, but I assume it’s always the same place because my husband keeps saying that he sends them ‘where they will never be found.’” Mrs. H explained.

“Oh, he kills them. My husband does that all the time,” Mrs. P advised.

“I never said he kills anyone. He sends them away,” Mrs. H said defensively.

“Potat-o, pot-a-to,” Mrs. P said. “Mine just has them killed. It’s more efficient that way.”

Heads bobbed up and down in agreement.

“Every time my husband bans a public gathering and rally, the West jumps all over him. It’s as though we’re going to send tanks into plow down our people. We’re not China,” Mrs. A announced. “I don’t see what the big fuss is all about. If we want to silence our critics, we have that democratic right, don’t we? We’re simply exercising our freedom of speech making sure our voices are the only ones heard.”

“What about how the United States tells us how it’s not acceptable for my husband to lift restrictions on presidency term limits. Last time I checked, no one else wants to run against him for office, so why shouldn’t he have the freedom to be president for as long as he wants? If he asked me, I’d tell him just to declare himself king, like yours did, Mrs. H,” Mrs. Y stated emphatically.

“Forget term limits. The United States sucks and blows all the time. They put my husband in power and now they want to remove him over a silly issue,” Mrs. D said.

“What’s the problem?” Mrs. A asked.

“The U.S. has a problem with child soldiers. I just don’t get it. They send their boys off to war at 18, so what’s the difference if ours are 13. If they were Jewish, they’d be considered men at that age, so I just don’t get it,” Mrs. D continued.

“You’re giving those boys jobs. The U.S. should applaud your efforts to get the youth off the streets, earning a living, instead of committing crimes and vandalizing businesses,” Mrs. G offered.

“That’s true. We’re only doing what that New York City mayor did with his ‘no broken windows, no garbage campaign.’ We’re cleaning up our streets. Crime went down in New York and it’s going down in our country too,” Mrs. D advised.

“All of this political talk is leaving me cold. I want to change topics,” Mrs. N complained.

“What’s wrong now?” Mrs. O asked.

“I know I’m not the only woman in the room who isn’t a starter wife,” Mrs. N said. Many eyes shot up in her direction. “I don’t care that the media focuses on the fact that I’m forty years younger than my husband, or that they only photograph me from the left despite my repeated pleas that they only take my picture from the right, but why do they dwell on the tiny detail that my husband wasn’t quite divorced from his first wife when he married me. The Western media with their puritanical values. Thank heavens for the French publications – at least they’re not so pedestrian.”

“You’re worried about being called a bigamist? Ha! I hate being called a gold-digger and hustler,” Mrs. Y whined.

“Aren’t we all, though?” Mrs. K laughed alongside the other women in the room. “But, on a more serious note, why do the papers accuse our husbands of violence against women? My husband doesn’t hit me. Do yours hit you?”

Some women vehemently agreed, while others divulged what went on behind closed doors by virtue of their silence.

“Even if I’m on the receiving end of a little love tap from my husband once in a while, he always makes up for it in flawless conflict diamonds,” Mrs. F said. “Anything for a little jewelry, am I right or am I right?”

“No amount of jewelry makes up for his many concubines,” Mrs. J whispered.

“I feel for you. My husband gets many Viagra injections, prefers needles to pills, but he’s never injecting me, if you get my drift,” Mrs. H empathized.

“I never realized that I signed up to be a sister wife.  The laws in my country let my husband take a new wife each year,” Mrs. C added.

The sinister side of being a dictator’s wife darkened the room with a sense of doom. Looking at their cellphones to see if they missed any texts or calls, the women were reminded that although they had freedom to travel, they all lived on short leashes.

“Ladies, let’s face it. None of us have it easy as a dictator’s wife, but it’s better than the alternative of being an ordinary woman living in any of our countries. Certainly, we won’t ask for a divorce. Our children would never find our bodies to bury them,” Mrs. B said.

“This is why we have to lean on each other,” Mrs. A advised.

“You know, there is something we could do about it,” Mrs. I advised from the back of the room. She had kept quiet and to herself throughout the duration of the meeting. “We should secretly plot to overthrow our husbands and take over their regimes. We could bring peace to our nations and rule with a kind hand. Who needs another Chanel suit or pair of Cartier ruby earrings when we can house the homeless and feed the hungry?”

Bewilderment flooded the room. The other women looked at each other not wanting to be the first to speak. Five minutes of silence ensued before Mrs. X and Mrs. B began to laugh.

“You’re so funny, Mrs. I,” Mrs. B said. “Every group needs a class clown.”

The rest of the women joined the chorus of giggles. The laughter helped to disguise the din of finger tapping in the room coming from all of the women texting their husbands to advise Mrs. I’s husband that it was time he found a new wife.

© 2015. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.