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Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Heart of the Affair

Wrapped up in her beautiful Indian Sari, Maya looked at the Kama Sutra teacher and asked about the difference between shame and honor as tears rolled down her cheek. The experienced courtesan looked back at her, smiled, and told her that shame and honor are the two faces of the same coin. With Maya’s ears I listened to the story of a king who had to go to war; on the night of the king’s departure, his wife washed his feet in a water basin. With this water, she washed her face everyday the king was at war. The night the king returned he went directly to Rasa, the courtesan. The queen was humiliated in the name of honor, the courtesan was honored in the name of shame, Maya was hurt in the name of revenge, and I am lost in the name of love!

Because of my tendency to be self-sufficient and independent, my best friend once told me that I am the ideal material for a mistress or a second wife. I laughed at her ten years ago but today, her words came back to me as I threw myself in the heart of an affair and I am now wallowing in shame. In an attempt to sort out my personal mess, I found out that “Shame is a reaction to other people's criticism, an acute personal chagrin at our failure to live up to our obligations and the expectations others have of us. In true shame-­oriented cultures, every person has a place and a duty in the society. One maintains self-respect, not by choosing what is good rather than what is evil, but by choosing what is expected of one. Personal desires are sunk in the collective expectation. (Shame is) the primary device for gaining control over children and maintaining control over adults.” Wrote Paul G. Hiebert in his Anthropological Insights for Missionaries.

Apart from social expectations and cultural norms, there was nothing deep down in the core of my character to stop me from being with a man who had someone else – a girlfriend not a wife! As long as we were kept in separate lanes and led separate lives, a self delusional version of myself did not see a problem with a man who has two girlfriends. I knew that I was possessive and that I hated sharing but I hushed the competitive female instinct with promises that I would win. As a “Taekwondo” player, I was taught how to defend “my property” mentally and physically. The fighter in me fantasized about the knockout that will kick her non-Egyptian face out of the combat arena. The spirit of a vicious tigress possessed me and, in my head, I tore my rival to pieces with my fangs and claws.

Away from right and wrong, I enjoyed being the one he longed to be with; I was the desired fantasy and she was the plain reality; she was what pushed him away and I was what pulled him closer; I lured him with fiction and she trapped him in facts; with me he flew and in her world he crashed; my world was colored in shades of pink and scented with aromas from the orient, while her world was made of sharp lines and clear cut details. I entertained him with my endless stories, my well defined aliases flew him from one cloud to the other, and I felt him aching for me. I loved being a fantasy until reality hit me in the face.

Reality felt jealous, tasted bitter, looked ugly, smelled rotten, and sounded like the screeching of chalk on a board. Paralyzed for a moment with a sharp yet brief pain, I faced him with one long gaze and decided to end my flight. I pushed one pause button after the other until I no longer felt his presence. I was in my cockpit alone looking at a distant runway. There was no air traffic controller at the other end of my pilot's headset, I was on my own in the mess that I dragged myself into. I feared steering my plane into another unrecoverable nosedive. I did not want another crash. As my heartbeats and the pace of my thoughts slowed down, I put my wheels down, lined up my plane, and kept my wings straight. I smoothly touched down and my brakes kicked in automatically as I hit solid ground.

As I got off the plane, I felt like a hero that saved many lives from a horrible inevitable crash; no casualties, no injuries, and little loss to remember. I sighed as I was welcomed back on earth by many of my friends who told me that in our age we are only left with five options when it comes to men; married and hunting, divorced and messed up, widowed and mourning, single and traumatized, or single and much younger. I am the master of the options game and I just do not like the menu of men they are offering me. I also did not like my short-haul flight. I felt like a smuggled bag of worthless scrap that could be dumped at the sight of the farthest raid.

Moral of the story: do as you would be done by, all that live must surely die and all that meet will surely part, what goes around comes around, he who diggeth a pit shall fall therein, and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. I was like a monkey trying to snatch the moon’s reflection on the water; I risked drowning, did not reach the moon, and paved the way to frustration. I ridded myself of the shackles of shame that weighed on my consciousness as I reminded myself that I was not created to meet expectations of others. Shame and guilt are socially inflicted negative feelings. This is the price tag of growing up; this is the definition of experience. I smiled as the details of my flight crossed my mind and I made up my mind – next time, I will be a fantasy with no reality to compete with.

3 comments:

Rafik Nakhla said...

Welcome back.
the quality of your writing is improving. I liked this story very much.
But why do you insunuate that you are old and that your choices are limited? Every human being has a wide variety of choices we tend through our myopic lenses to limit our choices so this is a self inflicted limit
Good luck

Tamer said...

I hate you
I loved it....and it almost brought me to tears
the paragraph that started with "away from right or wrong" touched me
the fact that you mentally had nothing against being with a man who has another woman, yet you still wanted him to be all yours.
fuck shame...shame is not the essence of this story
it's how we choose to love and be loved...and what we are willing to do...and how we let go...the strength in it all
but I disagree with your conclusion
the thing is...you can't be a fantasy without there being a reality
just because a man is not strong enough to turn the world upside down doesn't mean you have to step down from where you are
if he can't turn his fantasy into reality and turn his reality into a bad memory...like the first commercial article suggested..this is not your mistake
when a woman is strong enough to be a fantasy she deserves nothing less than a mythical hero
there must be a mythical hero...as long as there are dream women
don't ever change..and don't be afraid or ashamed of what you are and of what you did and what you are capable of doing

Miss Egyptiana said...

beautiful story .. very inspiring .. and i agree with tamer when he said that "when a woman is strong enough to be a fantasy she deserves nothing less than a mythical hero" ,,,,

but do they exist .. or they are trapped in Hades ... in stony graves ,,, and leaving the women for their senseless fate