The fifty-meter walk, at the peak of the afternoon heat, from where the bus used to drop me made the house seem like an oasis when I got into it, cool and “needfully” serene. The members of my household had already retreated to their own usual Nirvana, which took the form of siesta, a habit that Iraqis do not relinquish easily, especially at summertime. I went up the stairs to the second storey, and, like a shot, made for the bathroom for a shower that I very much hankered after. The cool refreshing water, which cascaded down my neck and shoulders, had a touch of magic, washing away and releasing the ugly stiffness that had crept into me during the day. I went down on my knees, and blissfully yielded to the water’s tender hand patting and dabbing my back. Light as a feather, I slipped into my bathrobe, wrapped my dripping hair with a towel in the shape of a turban, and made in a bee-line for the bed, without bothering to change into my usual sleeping attire. Feeling relaxed and lazy, I longed to be enfolded within the comforting security of my bed and waft off into the blessed oblivion. But sleep eluded me. Two hours of tossing left and right failed to get me a wink. I tried banishing him from my thoughts, but my attempts seemed futile. Over and over again the same scene flashed through my mind, of my almost falling into his arms, his besieging eyes, his audacity, my sense of guilt and excitement, and those strange feelings that kept tickling my heart.
My daily nap wouldn’t usually stretch much beyond six. It was six-thirty when mum, on noticing my absence from the family’s usual afternoon assemblage for snacks and refreshments, came up to check the cause of my atypical inertia.
‘I’m tired mummy, it was a long day’, I said yawning. She sat on the edge of the bed, tenderly soothing my head and my face, and at the same time encouraging me into activity, ‘C’mon darling, come join us’.
Neither the spirit nor the flesh was disposed to rouse itself, but mum insisted, and when mum insists no excuse would prevail against her determination. She drew back the light bedspread under which I was tucked in, with the idea of taking hold of my hands and drawing me out of bed. She burst out laughing when she realized that I was in bed with my bathrobe, ‘Already one of them days, Liana, to have you sleep in your bathrobe’. Still laughing, she hugged me and kissed my head, ‘It’s only your fourth week sweetheart’. Mum eventually agreed to leave the room, but only after I promised to follow her in a few moments. I got up and lazily slipped into a comfortable pairs of pants and a T-shirt, dried my damp hair, and in a few moments I was joining a family gathering, so warm and loving as to deflect my thoughts, for a while, from the day’s episode. Half an hour later Fury called, anxious to talk about it. I ascended the stairs to my room, shut the door, and recounted the small part that she had missed. Fury listened attentively. When I finished, she advised precaution against the perils she had already foreseen, ‘Liana, the guy went crazy the moment he laid eyes on you, and you must be very cautious and alert’.
Candidly speaking, I, too, was quite aware of this. However, the odds of someone, perhaps, descrying the final incident, when we were the closest to each other, had the lion’s share of the worries that overwhelmed me. Given the fecund imagination of an environment that gossiped far more than it laboured, prudish tongues would have soon wagged, and momentous scenarios befitting an Oscar winning romantic movie would have instantaneously circulated in all directions. Honour and reputation remain in the piercing eyes of our society priceless values. They constitute the perpetual reservoir for endowing females and also families with dignity and reverence. Such imbroglio could have triggered tremendous damage and irreparable disgrace for years to come, and perhaps for as long as I stayed working in that establishment. I was especially vulnerable since, as a newcomer, I had yet to prove myself. Fury, to my good fortune, assured me that the passageway had been empty. I stressed upon her that, apart from us, her and me, not a single soul should ever get wind of it, and I swore her to it.
That day, nevertheless, will forever stand as a vivid demarcating line that divided my simple, easy going and carefree life from what it would become, one rife with anxieties and momentous decisions. My parents until that day took care of solving the very few preposterously absurd problems that I encountered and which were not very different from those that any other girl of my age would usually encounter. Since my tender age, my parents inculcated in me an enormous sense of responsibility, and an equivalent respect for tradition, and for my sense of self. It was precisely my parents’ infinite trust that had elicited from me a reciprocal desire for moral excellence. I dearly loved my parents, and would have spared nothing to please them with most virtuous behaviour they’d have hoped or wished for. The happening of those few hours, nevertheless, was too intricate for the reserved timid girl that I was, with my unexceptionally limited life experience, to cope with. The incident seemed fearsome for an offspring of a society that indoctrinated in its females the spirit of utter acquiescence, and of a culture that made every effort to ensure that its females remained strictly virgins in body and mind and heart, right until they were delivered safe and sound to their future husbands.
For a while, I thought of seeking Dina’s advice, but then I ruled this out. What would have I told her any way? I ran into someone standing behind me? There was no other way of putting it. And she would have laughed perhaps and accused me of overstating the event and giving too much weight to a silly incident, particularly because it involved someone from a different and notably more liberal culture. Of course, there was no way I would tell her about what had preceded the incident. And it was totally out of the question that I would give my overly protective parents the lowdown, mainly out of unwillingness to raise their anxiety, which could have developed into some intolerably suffocating attempts at keeping me away from work, work that I loved very much.
On her side, Fury never desisted from extending the hand of help, but her reservoir of sapience exceeded mine by only one year. Eventually, relying upon my own self was the sole option I had in hand. I had to think, and dig deep, and come up with something, or anything to bridle similar future reckless acts which could at worst contribute to the termination of his contract, causing along the way momentous social complications that would have jeopardized my safety, and put me firmly under the microscopic scrutiny of those abominable minders.
As I mulled over the events of the day, everything seemed convoluted. However, much to my surprise, I woke up next morning with a feeling of happy anticipation. I lay in bed thinking about him, and enjoying my recollections of the previous day. I even found myself smiling at them. The initial shock seemed to be ebbing under the sweet sensations that enveloped me. And I couldn’t wait to get to work....
To Be Continued.......