A Fresh Start
This is a fiction short-story from my blog tackling gender issues in Egypt. For more stories, check http://hawwadeet.blogspot.com/
It was a lazy Saturday afternoon in one of NYC neighborhoods. Dina decided to spend it in a nearby café and start reading the novel she bought last week. It was written by a famous Egyptian author about a rural young woman who went through a journey of self-discovery after moving from her village to Cairo. Dina had been looking forward to start reading this book. She knew she had to prepare herself well for the myriad of old and painful memories it might bring to her.
After finishing the first chapter, Dina felt exhausted and homesick. She placed the book down and ordered some coffee. Her mind went struggling with hundreds of memories and thoughts at the same time. She knew she had to release them on paper, and so she pulled out her notebook and pen and started jotting them down.
“I was an average young woman. I had a beautiful curvy body, but used to hide it under layers of clothes. My thick curly hair was always wrapped up in a bun. I carried inside me an overwhelming sense of guilt for being unveiled and not following the rules of God, as my family used to blame me. I tried to cover up for guilt by hiding my beauty. I wanted to make a point to myself and others that I wasn’t trying to seduce men to lust after me. I just didn’t like wearing a veil, it made me feel more chained than I already were.
The constant street harassment I faced on my way to and from work made it more complicated for me to accept my femininity. Every time I hit the roads, I had to hear dirty sexual words about my butt or breasts no matter how hard I tried to hide them. Without realizing, I came to believe that these parts of my body are unclean, and I despised them and myself for being a woman.
My trapped feminine energy distorted my whole life. I loved watching American movies back then where women looked like butterflies with carefree spirits. They had no overly controlling family, or men around them who believed that women were created to satisfy their desires.
As I grew older, and gone from one arranged date to another, I lost faith in love. Arranged dates were more of a market, with women as commodities for sale."
Dina felt more exhausted than before. She could feel the emptiness inside growing. She took a deep breath and fought the tears in her eyes. As she looked across her, she noticed a nice young man who had been watching her for quite some time from a nearby table. He gave her a big smile, got up and approached her.
“You are so beautiful, why do you look sad?” The man asked her. “Do you mind if I invited you for a drink?”
His invitation stirred in her mixed emotions. She wasn’t used to talk to strangers comfortably, especially men. She pictured her mum with her black long dress sitting on the couch beside her at their old house when she was a young girl, and warning her of lousy men and playboys “take care from men who deceive you with their sweet words and airy promises. They want nothing but to drag you to their nets and steal your virginity. A real man knocks the door of your house to take you as his wife, and not like a thief who breaks the window in the darkness. The most expensive thing in a girl’s life is her pride, her virginity, and keeping herself intact for her future husband.”
“This is Absurd!” Dina found herself shouting loudly.
“Aburd?” the man asked. “I’m sorry if you found my invitation absurd. Have a nice day”
“No, wait” Dina held him from his hand while he was about to leave. “I wasn’t talking to you. I was…er…talking to my mum…I mean to myself!”
He looked at her in confusion, and then smiled warmly “Oh,I do this all the time. Mums are like ghosts you know, they never leave us even when we grow up. Well, if she doesn’t mind, I can invite her for a drink too!”
Dina laughed “I don’t think we can. Mum will be always part of my past, exactly like my village and old house, but she can’t be part of my present. She passed away ten years ago and I think it’s time for her words to rest in peace too.”