Apparently, one rule of blogging is to only put your best stuff out there. Since I don’t really have a “best” list, and I’m prone to impatience, I’m trying an experiment. A fiction story in parts, and of course it’s all up in the air as we go (read: unedited). So, editorial/plot/character suggestions welcome as we go along. Should be fun! Thanks for playing. And here we go…
Where the God of Love Lives
Despite the fact that it’s warm in her office, I pull my ubiquitous shawl tighter. My hands are shaking and my voice is unsteady. She has asked me to tell her about my two days in Saudi Arabia. About my attack and my brother dying. As much detail as I can remember, which is a lot, or as I can handle, which is unknown. The smell of curry consumes me. I am crying before I even start. But I start, at the only place I know, the beginning. She hands me the box of tissues.
February 24th 1991 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The wind stampeded across the white sands. The camel did not. I pulled the flimsy silk scarf higher over my face. Earlier that morning, at the Batha souq in Riyadh, an already 102 degree pool of sweaty humanity on every side, the lightest weight material that scarves came in seemed like the only sane choice. Then, in the middle of the desert with wind-whipped sand on every side, it seemed like insanity. I couldn’t see, I could barely breath, and we were still at least three northeast kilometers from civilization. I had a sudden onslaught of respect for the stoic flat-footed camel under us, who seemed to know which way to go, mixed with some real fear of that featureless waterless wilderness. “Harsh environment”, as the travel guide had warned, seemed lacking in adequacy. Feeling an unfamiliar proximity to death by exposure is what made me ask about the local customs.
“How do you bury your dead?” I ventured over the sand air, leaning forward slightly to help the hearing, but careful not to touch my young male Saudi guide.
“What?” Amil shouted back. He was sitting disgustingly comfortable on the unforgiving camel saddle.
“Bury your DEAD!” I choked louder. It was not lost on me how my voice wafted into nothingness in the wind while his carried just fine.
“Dead? In family? Depends.” Amil did not acknowledge me in anyway except by his answering. “Man – he buried in graveyard under family name. Woman – take her here. Bury in sand. No name.” He proclaimed this with astonishing matter-of-factness.
What was an American woman supposed to say to that? I know dogs buried better than those Saudi women. Peering over the edge of the ocean blue silk that was keeping me from suffocating completely, I wondered if we were walking on top of any dead women. Little piles of bleached bones with only clinging tattered bits of their black hijabs to give any clue who they might have been. I don’t respond to Amil, the physical and psychological effort is too much.
The hot angry wind around me suited my mood perfectly. I have hated everything about this country since I entered it, maybe even before I entered it. The black shrouded women, the misogynist men, the intense heat, the lack of humidity and shade, the war and what it’s done to my brother. The only redeeming feature I saw was some truly amazing architecture. It was little consolation for me though. I was relieved when our small oasis-touring caravan entered the stables. I silently thanked the camel, my brother, Daniel, who was on the camel behind me, thanked a smiling Amil. A short taxi ride, and we were back in air conditioned bliss. Within minutes, I was basking in the most appreciated shower I have ever taken.
to be continued…