1001Nights is a Kuwait blogger. She’s one of the first and best authors in the Kuwaiti blogosphere. She has written a new piece and she’s gonna share it for the first time ever with you guys on our blog!
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Grief, Beauty, and Samri
She said she was in the mood for samri, and that it was strange for someone in her circumstance to be in the mood for samri. I sighed and, as I did, I took in her smell; she had clearly been exposed to some bukhoor before coming. The café, right before the asr prayer, was deserted; the waiters looked uninterested, the food on display near the counter looked like it had been sitting there for a long while, and it was dim and getting dimmer as the sun was no longer in its full glory. Her black veil and black abat, the eye liner that leaked down her cheek right by her nose, her voice, the tone of it, everything in that café, everything in our meeting was so full of gloom. And she said she was full of gloom too and that it was very strange. I asked her what was strange. She said it was strange that she was in the mood for samri. I asked her if she wanted to dance. I told her to cover her face with the abat as if it were a thob, I told her to disregard the waiters, they wouldn’t mind, I told her I’d sing for her and use the table as my ‘taar if only she wanted to dance. She chuckled and said that dancing samri wears her out when no one was watching. She said that she would tire dancing with few viewers and thrive when dancing in front of masses – dancing samri as well as she did was not just about dancing; it was an art, it was the epitome of womanliness, it was the pride of her country, it was a performance. I was just glad she chuckled. But soon after I was a little sad. I didn’t want to ask her if I weren’t enough, if my watching her wasn’t enough. But I did ask her, impulsively. The question rolled off my tongue before I had a chance to remind myself that this meeting wasn’t about me. But the words left my mouth and hung still in the air while she looked at me blankly. She smiled and said nothing. So I said I was just joking. And she stayed quiet. So I thought this would be her exit. She would leave soon if I didn’t say anything. So I told her she smelled great. I told her that despite the heaviness in the air and the sadness in this deserted place and despite the grief that she was feeling, her smelling so great made me feel like I was sitting at a wedding. I told her I could relish in this smell forever and never bore of it. And she said she was wearing her mother’s abat. Since she had died the day before yesterday she hadn’t taken it off. She wore it all day around the house and during the a’aza and when she went to bed she bunched it up near her pillow and hugged it and smelled it and wrapped herself in it until she was too weary to weep anymore and finally slept with her face in it. And after she told me this she sighed. She sighed and if I could I would have lifted her mother out of her grave and rested my own head there instead. Because she sighed. And because I knew that the dimple nestled in the middle of her chin didn’t quiver because she was about to burst into laughter. And because I knew that the red in her cheeks wasn’t there because she was blushing. And I knew that her eyes weren’t glistening because I had paid her a complement. I knew all of this and the weight of it struck me. And I knew too that men don’t cry. And I knew men definitely shouldn’t cry when their women need them. But I heard the quiver in her voice, the leftover dread beneath the soft tone, the hurried breathing, and I wanted to cry too. I wanted to weep like a child. But men don’t cry, I told myself and I could sense my eyes start to burn and instinctively I tried, really tried, to remember something funny like my friends on the playstation, or my nephew’s mispronunciation of the word soup in Arabic – “shairuba”- or even something she usually says with a lisp. She doesn’t have a lisp but there’s that one word she always says with a lisp. I never once corrected her. It was too amusing – not because I wanted to poke fun at her but because, for some reason, I found those little idiosyncrasies of hers so entrancing, so endearing, so incredibly captivating, that I wouldn’t dare try to change them. I got up and headed for the counter before she could notice my eyes welling up. I walked away from her as I asked her if she wanted anything. She said her stomach hurt all the time and that she hadn’t eaten because of the nausea, the nausea, she said, it wouldn’t go away. I bought myself a bottle of water and bought her a cheesecake. Chocolate. She liked everything chocolate. I cut a bite’s worth with my fork and took it to her mouth and she backed into her seat and refused to take it. I asked her how she would be so unkind as to refuse me like that. But I had lost her already. She was now gazing at something at the corner of that coffin-café without really looking at anything. Glassy eyes thinking of somewhere else, someone else, a memory of her mother that she wouldn’t share with me, a loss I couldn’t undo, a pain I couldn’t alleviate. She started shuffling her abat around her and I panicked again because I thought she was going to leave. I thought of something to say to keep her a little longer. I couldn’t think of anything so I just said gi’day. She said salat il asr was coming up soon and she wanted to be home before the athan sounded off so she could get down to the a’aza on time. I looked at my shoes and felt like I did when I was six years old and my mom said she was traveling and leaving us with my grandma. She turned away from me and headed towards the door, silky blackness trailing behind her, the cape of a disheartened queen, her natural sway, unexaggerated and full of both humble subtlety and unmistakable femininity. And more than anything I just wished I could watch her dancing samri.