Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hiding

 “I’m hiding.  I’m hiding.  And no one knows where.  For all they can see is my toes and my toes and my hair.”  -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

It wasn’t all bad.  Don’t get me wrong.  As in most of life, some moments were just sublime.
 “And I just heard my father say to my mother- ‘But darling, he must be somewhere or another.’”  -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

After a month of living in Saudi Arabia, I still hadn’t spoken to a woman.  That all changed one night while heading out to hookah with Mad Dog and Flintstone and some of the other locals.
 “’Have you looked in the inkwell?’ And Mother said, ‘Where?’  ‘In the inkwell,’ said Father, but I was not there.”  -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

Hassan was there.  Thin lipped and greedy, sipping his tea in a red fez with black tassels, taking long slow drawn out hits from the pipe and blowing perfect smoke rings across the table.
 “Then ‘Wait!’ cried my mother, ‘I think that I see him under the carpet.’ But it was not me.”  -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

We spoke about everything but what mattered:  The job.  The overtime without pay.  The confiscation of passports.  The iqama process.  Instead we sat back and watched it all burn up in a cherry bowl flame.  
 “’Inside the mirror’s a pretty good place,’ said Father and looked, but saw only his face.”  -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

When there are no women, men prey upon each other in hunger.  The slightest subtleties of the male Arab world are so delicate and effeminate.  Caressing of hands.  Kissing of cheeks.  Gentle whispers of the intimate.  It makes even the most fortitude of men long with all their passionate might for a female touch. 
I spent the night staring at the floor.
 “’We’ve hunted,’ sighed Mother, ‘As hard as we could and I am so afraid that we’ve lost him for good.’”  -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

Then Mad Dog had enough, he didn’t like the way Hassan kept stroking his goatee and sucking on the hookah pipe and eyeing him seductively.  His abrupt voice broke me out of a dream and the next thing I knew I was on the beach walking in the dark.  Sand beneath my feet.  The lapping Red Sea lay in the abyss beside me.  Ahead, I followed the lights toward a little market stall and a figure cast in black.
 “Then I laughed out aloud and wiggled my toes and Father said, ‘Look, dear, I wonder if those…’”  -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

It was a woman, standing all alone selling tourist trinkets to late night beach combers.  I approached cautiously.  Keeping my head low.  Paying her no attention.  She was dressed in long black abaya robe and nicab scarf.  Completely covered except for her piercing eyes.  Cautiously I drew closer and closer.  There wasn’t another soul around us for hundreds of yards.  Just myself and this woman in the market, pretending not to notice one another… until she spoke.
“’Toes could be Benny’s.  There are ten of them.  See?’  And they were so surprised to find out it was me!”   -Hiding, by Dorothy Aldis

She asked, to my shock, in cunning English, if I was interested in purchasing any of her handmade wares.  Then with my nose pointed squarely at the dusty floor and her body placed precisely behind me facing the wine dark sea, we had the briefest of conversations.  She wouldn’t tell me her name or her hometown.  She only stated that she had never been to school and had learned English from her mother’s knee.
It was then I lifted my head and stepped back to face her, looking straight into this woman’s olive skin and shimmering turquoise eyes and asked if she would allow me to take her picture. 
And with that, I destroyed any intimate moment between us.  Her head bent forward in a low, humbling bow, and she spoke in perfect English that it would cause her great shame.  "Please," she begged.  "I would be so embarrassed." 
I walked all the way home that night, about four miles, shivering through the garbage and the sand, my heart in dull embers of remorse, wanting something that was never real at all.  

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