A 30 minutes walk

The following is a translation from Arabic of a blog post I published here.

“The sky is the same everywhere. Travellers, the shipwrecked, exiles, and the dying draw comfort from the thought, and no doubt if you are of a mystical tendency, consolation, and even explanation, shower down from the unbroken surface.”
 — Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

I stand in front of the mirror. I glimpse a grey strand among the black hairs on my head. It reminds me of the person I was ten years ago. I remember the time. The watch on my wrist tells me it is nine o’clock. I decide now is not the moment for reflecting on the past. I draw silver and black lines on my eyelids. The reflection in front of me reminds me of the person I was ten years ago. I put my shoes on. I make sure my shirt is long enough. And wonder if any length is ever enough. I remember that girl I was ten years ago. A shy teenager, afraid of strangers; always hiding behind her knee length tonics and never dares to draw any silver lines on her face. I decide now is not the right moment to think of what was.

I check my image for the last time. I see my black hair that has always been a source of annoyance in my mother’s mornings when I was still a school girl. My dark hair is still the same with its curls which I hated ten years ago. Although it stayed unchanged, I have not. Today I love it. This dark curly hair of mine bothers some other people. So I learned to cover it up years ago. And this time too, I continue doing that. Unsatisfied, afraid; and I hate to admit it. I double-check my shirt one more time. I open the door, and leave.

I walk. I learned to love walking after a struggle as well. The sun was my first enemy. The girl I was was told that a fair white skin is more beautiful. And I wanted to be beautiful. The sun became my foe. I could not kill it, but hiding and running away from it were good enough. So I hid. But my feet took me to school, to university, to work, and I learned to prefer the colour of my tanned skin over hiding. I learned not to care about what I am told.

My second enemy? I could not love. I only learned to love walking despite its existence.

I walk. I hear someone whispering into my ear “May Allah bless you, girl”. I ignore and curse him with a tone he cannot hear. I walk. I hear the sound of smacking coming from a passing car. I curse in a whisper again. I walk. I stop to cross the road, and another man signs to me to join him in his car. I swear at him too. I continue walking. I remember the girl I was ten years ago. The girl who was afraid of what she heard on the streets, of the invasive looks and the hostile sounds coming from the passing cars and the losers occupying the pavements and alleys. I remember the young girl afraid of the ugly hands reaching out to her body uninvited, the hands that signalled to her to get in, to go with, to take the money laying on passenger seats. This girl now lives in the past with her shyness and most of her fears. The years have changed her, but that does not seem to happen to everyone.

I arrive at my destination. I try to throw all what I have heard in my way at the gate. I hope that one day I leave what remains of the fears of that little girl behind. I look up at the sky. Yesterday’s rainy clouds have moved back to unveil a marvellous blue. I smile and admit to myself that I really love walking.

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