I am not a desert flower.
I do not blossom without water
I do not rise to the scorching sun
I am not able to unfurl my wilted petals
Those petals that constantly search for the mercy of the storm
The storm that bends in the direction of the blowing wind
The blowing wind that whistles across scorched earth
A friend of mine posted this poem on her facebook page and I thought you all might appreciate it. Enjoy!
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
(Translated from Spanish)
I lost track of how long I had been sitting in the tub. A long time before I had turned on the water, I just sat there naked and smoking. I imagined the water enveloping me, but I could barely move. The cigarettes I was smoking were no longer only tobacco; I had moved on to hashish in the weeks leading to the climax of the past month’s deceptions. It took two hastily rolled blunts to slow the pounding of my heart and the roaring in my skull. The adrenaline that had been coursing through me began to subside; exhaustion and pain had become its replacement. The injuries I had sustained in the past few hours began to make their presence known. I glanced down at my legs trying to account for the throbbing. Although the scratches on my legs were long; they were not deep. I examined them all until I found the cause of the pain; a piece of glass was still lodged in my shin. I dug it out with my fingernail, only after realizing that it would probably now scar. It was just as well, now my outsides would match my insides. I glanced over at the bathroom floor. My clothes were crusted and rust-colored lying in a pile on the floor where I had desperately pulled them off needing air. It was time to shower.
Although I turned the hot water all the way up; I could barely feel it. I placed my forehead on the cool bathroom tile of the wall and watched as the water mixed with the ashes of my cigarettes and swirled down the drain. The water began to remove some of the brown red paste that was caked into my scalp. Pieces began to flake and coat my shoulders. I smeared one with my finger causing the pungent metallic aroma to waft up to my nostrils. I started to feel nauseated. I moved my feet so the red wouldn’t touch me on its way down. I started frantically scrubbing myself, trying to rid my body of it all; my husband, Hamoodi, Riyadh. In my struggle for freedom I had lost a part of me that I was afraid would never return. It was all I could do to bid it farewell as the odd concoction of my sins mixed and gurgled; disappearing beneath me.
“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
It never ceases to amaze me to how many different experiences one can have in the Kingdom. We all have our unique tales and lives and I find it so beautiful and inspiring. Don’t forget to own your story; it is the only one tailored for you.
Recently, I have had quite a few readers (who know my identity) tell me that they thought that I was truly having an affair with the driver (or weren’t sure if I was). I will take this as a compliment to my writing :) As a note to all readers, as I am sure you have gathered; I am going through some personal issues within my marriage and this is an outlet for me. Yes, I did have a driver named Mohamed. Yes, he was Egyptian, 27, and attractive. I have used this blog as a way to explore all sides of myself and having a driver like that got me thinking about how dangerous Saudi Arabia can be for those with weaknesses and vulnerabilities (all of us).
For the most part, people laugh when they think about having an affair with the driver because generally they aren’t all that tempting. However, I am exploring those variables that separate women here from their drivers. If you establish a common ground between the two of you….how much could it take to fall into an inappropriate relationship? Saudi Arabia, and places like Riyadh in particular, expose the cracks in relationships, characters, and souls. This is an exploration of that and what we like to think we are so far away from, but could fall into before we realize it. May Allah protect us all. Ameen.
It scares me how comfortable I feel with this man that I have only known for six months. He keeps asking me what I want from him, but how can I answer that?
The most honest answer would be this. I want us in a bed; a bed free of outside obligation and safe from intruding religious police and husbands. I want to give my body to him one cell at a time. I feel his skin and warmth when I close my eyes. I taste his mouth and hear his voice. I am starting to question my sanity. This man has enveloped me.
Is it safe to have this type of love completed and fulfilled with action? Is it better to leave our hearts unsatisfied and burning for each other rather than risk the blaze of our oneness?
I see flashes of his lips in the rear view mirror, his green eyes staring into mine. My sporadic thoughts lead me back to our meetings and I remember things about him. I think about how it felt to sit on his lap, my knees on the car seat on either side of him, his lips on mine, cupping his face in my hands. His hands firmly grasped either side of my hips; the gravity that held me to earth. We both ceased to exist as separate entities; for an imperceptible second, it was only us and the empty desert in an embrace.
Originally posted on Contraposition:
it wasn’t the monkey
hand inside the coconut
unwilling to unclench extra
grains of rice that drove me, nor
cliché of mushroom-capped shaft
leading the blind towards the ditch,
it was that other cliché, mother lost
before she was dead, ice crystals resounding
from the living grave, distant father enthroned
before the TV, his ears deaf to a child’s
entreaties two backs turned
on empty reaching arms
this is what urged me to unclothe
the child I had never escaped,
bare-footed and scampering
for a warm lap, any breast
to nuzzle, at first sign a woman
I loved might be considering how
to close the door on the way out,
it was fear of being alone in the crib
which made me slink away
to insure it would happen
The last six years of my life have been all about evolution. In the last six years I have converted to Islam, gotten married, changed from geographer to English teacher, completed a Master’s degree and discovered my identity as a writer. I am a completely different person than I was before. My perspective, opinions, and viewpoints have changed so much that sometimes I feel like I’m losing my identity or gaining a new one. I just feel like the older I get and the more people I meet the less solid and static my opinions are. Do we ever know anything for sure? Things that seemed so simple and solid to me seven years ago seem complicated and dynamic to me at this point.
One particular topic that has caused me confusion has been the issue of control in a marriage (or any close relationship). The dynamics between to cohabitants of the same household are always private, complicated, and not always understood by outsiders. However, I would say that the spectrum of control has a borderline of healthy that generally is culturally relative.
For example, before I was Muslim I viewed relationships with the idealistic opinions of youth; that two people can maintain two completely separate identities with no compromises and still remain together. Although this can be true, I believe that generally ever couple has to make compromises in order to remain married and those are not considered abnormal. After converting to Islam, one is introduced to a lot of rhetoric about the ideal submissive woman and wife. It is surprising how much guilt can be held over a woman for not being submissive to her husband. Even in the most open-minded of communities, women are bombarded by this idea of the ideal spouse.
I severely underestimated the effects of moving to Saudi Arabia. I did not understand a society’s role in shaping relationships because until that point I had not lived outside of the United States. I did not understand that the social dynamic of the country would shift the dynamic of my marriage. In Saudi Arabia, if you are a woman living within your husband’s house or your family’s house; the quality of your life is determined by the men that are “responsible” for you. Since women cannot drive, you will be constantly at the mercy of the men in your life. Whether that man is a driver, a husband, a brother, a father, or an uncle; they will wield a great power over you. Some men take this responsibility very seriously and do everything in their power to care for the women in their house. Others do not. Others use it as a means to exercise control. Existing in an environment in which women are ferociously dependent on others has changed my perspective on the dynamics of a relationship between a male and female, as well as my perspective on the difference between submission, control, and responsibility.
When we submit to Allah; it means that we trust that whatever Allah has planned for us is better than what we could have planned for ourselves. There is innate trust between Creator and creation. In order to truly submit, we must resign to the fact that we do not know what is best for us and that Allah knows best. We submit to Allah in the greatest of sense.
When people talk about submitting to their husband, I find this idea very dangerous. Perhaps it is because of the enormous amount of trust that is involved. However, it is obvious to me that the submission we have to Allah is of the highest order and that we cannot possibly submit to a human being in this fashion. If you boil it down, I think it just means that you should trust your husband enough to trust his decisions for the family.
This trust can be violated when control is exerted in means which are detrimental or in situations in which it is not warranted. The man has to illustrate that he is capable of handling the responsibility of these decisions in order to be trusted.
Where do you draw the line between protector and maintainer to abuser?
Is your husband allowed to bar you from traveling?
From leaving the house?
From wearing a certain outfit?
From speaking to other people?
From eating certain things?
When does “this is good for you” become “I control you” or “I own you”?
Some of you have been concerned with the darkness in my posts lately. This post is to lighten Yankee Doodle up a bit. Cheers!
Things I am Grateful for in Saudi Arabia
- I have a job in which I feel I am compensated not only adequately, but more than what it would take me to do the job. That is a luxury that millions, if not hundreds of millions of people do not have.
- Never did I ever imagine that I would miss the small city I grew up in. Nothing like leaving something to make you appreciate it.
- Living in a culture other than your own forces you to realize who you are very quickly. Some people live their entire lives without such knowledge.
- No matter what happens, even if I go home and never leave the U.S again; I will always have a story to tell.
- Traveling is the best way to affirm that humans are simultaneously as unique as snowflakes, but exactly the same underneath it all.
- Moving away shakes the excess and fake friends from your life; you simply no longer have time.
- The food. Do I really need to elaborate?
- Traveling to other countries is a lot cheaper from here than it is from the United States.
- Ridiculously affordable healthcare.
- I used to dream about leaving my mark on the world. Now I can honestly say that I did. However, small of a contribution I have made in the education of Saudi people; it was a contribution.
“Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning into the funeral.” Khalil Gibran
I never meant to kill my husband. It was an accident, seven years in the making. The events leading up to that moment were so gradual; they were imperceptible to me, him, and everyone else around us.
It all started with the morbid curiosity that has plagued every attached person at some point in their relationship. The lock on the cell phone, the long trips to the bathroom, the typing and smiling; they were all signs that I ignored because I was too busy trying to cover up my own wrongdoings. Last night, my husband left his old phone on the charger when he went to go pick up dinner, so I made my move. His unlock code was easy enough to figure out, so I began my search for incriminating material. It wasn’t difficult to find. Selfies of random women, text messages, phone calls, Skype calls; he had mistresses on phone applications I had never even heard of!
As I read the sexually explicit exchanges, I only felt guilt and self-hatred. I had brought this on myself hadn’t I? As all life-changing realizations typically do, something previously unnoticed slowly permeated my understanding and caused my hands to shake uncontrollably. Some of the time stamps on the messages I found were six months old; four months before I realized I was in love with Hamoodi. Long before I had sunk to my lowest point, my husband had been double dipping all over town.
I reached for my cigarettes and headed outside to the roof with his phone to think. Knowing I only had a few minutes to finish my reconnaissance, I began to quickly snap photos of the offending conversations. I figured at the very least I could use them as leverage to get my divorce. When I was almost through with my cancer stick, my husband opened the door to the roof.
“Food’s here.” He seemed cheerful. That was too bad.
“We need to talk.” I said with my own voice unrecognizable to even myself.
His face darkened immediately. I held up his phone and wagged it.
It took a few seconds for a look of understanding to cross his face.
“About what?” he muttered and spun around quickly, retreating into the apartment.
Although I had been completely calm, a surge of rage bubbled up with such force I was left lightheaded. I followed him into the apartment to do what should have been done months ago, before both of us were left with only the smoldering ashes of who we used to be.
To be continued…