25 August 2013

(c) photo by khulud khamis

She lay in bed, unable to sleep because of the air heavy with humidity. It seemed to her she could actually see it dripping from the air. Her body was melting – she traced the wetness between her breasts, slowly moving down – circling her belly. The softness of it felt nice now. But it wasn’t always like this. Her body used to be an unrelenting enemy. Until Shahd came and helped her become friends with her own body. It was a long process of getting to know different parts of her body, accepting each part as a friend.

Growing up, her aunt had drilled into her brain that a woman cannot – under any condition – have a belly. When she was 17, that same aunt had told her she had crooked legs and thus mustn’t wear skirts unless “they reach way below your knees.” So she gave up on skirts. She hadn’t realised how much these seemingly careless remarks shaped her relationship with her body until she met Shahd. Until then, she didn’t even give it a second thought.

A fleeting image disturbed her line of thoughts: she remembered a day, back when she was still living at her parents’ home. They were doing some construction work in the house right across from theirs. It was early in the morning, and she went out to buy some fresh bread. Dressed in loose sweat pants and her father’s warm coat. Five men were getting out of a jeep, taking their work tools with them. She was invisible, passing them by. Air. Glad to pass by unnoticed. Got the bread, went back – again invisible. A few hours later, dressed in tight jeans, knee-high boots, and a tweed jacket, she went out again. Getting closer. The five men were sitting down to have a coffee break and a cigarette. As she was passing them, from the corner of her eye, she noticed the abrupt halting of all activity. Bodies that were swinging in conversation became rigid. Five heads turning all in the same direction – at the same time.She was visible all of a sudden when before invisible. Five pairs of eyes following her all the way down the narrow alley, until she turned the corner. The following morning, with the same loose sweat pants, the same oversized coat, she walked out of the house to buy fresh bread. Smiling to herself at her protection from invaders.

The obsession with the body what to wear how long it should be what it should cover why and for whom. Always self-conscious. Sometimes invisible sometimes air sometimes – the object of their masturbation she would feel how they were taking away – stealing from her – parts of her body to take home with them so that late at night, in their bed, alone or with another woman what did it matter – they could release that image of her and masturbate or imagine her while they entered another body. The obsession with the body – what to wear how long it should be what it should cover why and for whom.

Shahd. Asal. Honey. Three short letters. She carried her beauty carelessly – like it didn’t even belong to her. Her hair was either loosely tied with a long colourful scarf – about the only colourful item she would allow herself to be caught in – at the nape of her neck, or else it was set loose to the capriciousness of the wind. Her only makeup was black kohl that made the violet dots in her eyes even more pronounced and mysterious-looking. Still, with all that beauty, there was something boyish about the way she carried herself. Maisoon couldn’t make up her mind if she was doing it unawares or if she was purposefully teasing those around her. 

(c) khulud khamis, cut from Haifa Fragments - forthcoming by Spinifex Press in 2014.

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