The International Writers Magazine:Different Worlds
my mother first heard I was going to Damascus, Syria, she called
Tariz Alli. Tariz, an old friend of the family, had fled Iraq,
way back in the day, back when Saddam Hussein was just another
colonel, in just another corrupt regime. Tariz said "Ahhhh,
Damascus, lovely city. Kevin will be fine just as long as he does
not talk politics with anyone and he does not date any of the
Syrian women have
the long dark eyelashes of the bedouins, the high cheek bones and sharp
features of the Italians, the thick hair of the Greeks, the haunting
eyes of the Armenians, the posture and style of the Persians, their
skin mixes the colors of every civilization since Babylon. Beautiful
women, The problem was that those girls were old fashioned, like old-testament
old fashioned. One of the girls I dated did not have a clitoris. Her
father had cut it out when she was a baby. Like I said old-fashioned.
But when I got there all I knew was that they were beautiful. The first
thing I taught myself to say was "Ma baref arabi, ......."
(I don't speak arabic....) but I am looking for a friend to teach me."
This always worked well for me in Mexico. But in Syria the first girl
I tried it on, Natalia, showed up, much to my disappointment, for our
"study session" with real books, sat me down and started with
the alphabet. Ah Ba Ta Fa
Natalia was divorced from an arranged marriage at 21, all she would
only say to me was "He was mean to cats, Kevin. How could my father
expect me to love a man who was mean to cats?"
Divorced at 21.
One night after class we were sitting around the park when someone she
knew, a young man around her age, came up and they started talking.
It kind of looked like they were arguing but I could not be sure. I
whispered. "Natalie, I don't know what is being said, I don't know
if you are having an argument or not, and if you are, I don't know what
it is about, I don't know what my role as an outsider, as a foreigner,
as your companion, as your friend is here. If you need me to do something
I will do it, but you have to tell me because I don't know what is happening."
Natalia, said "No Kevin, don't worry, it is ok." They finished.
We left. Natalia was happy, she could barely contain her smile. This
from a girl who normally behaved as if all the joy had been stolen out
of her life.
She said "That is the second man my father has arranged for me
to marry since my divorce. My father is proud because he is from a good
family. But tonight," and here she beamed, "He said I was
a whore, a slut, because I am walking around with you a foreigner, a
'faranji.' He said he was going to go back to Aleppo and tell my father,
my mother, my family, my friends, the whole community, the whole city,
that I am a whore. " She smiled, "Maybe now my father will
leave me alone."
Talking politics in a police state, that was the easy part.
© Kevin Patterson Jan 2005
Three Girls and A Baby - © Kevin Patterson
World Travel in Hacktreks
all rights reserved