“Everyone keeps telling you to move on, to forget. They keep telling you that time heals all wounds and fill your ears with all those cliches. The fact is, when you lose someone you truly love, it leaves a hole in your heart. That hole is in her or his shape and no one can really fit in and fill it except for that one person you have loved and lost.” – Mona Rashed.
“Are you okay? I’m so sorry. I completely forgot. Please forgive me,” Deema said. “It’s fine. Nothing happened,” I said abruptly. “I swear I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just say things without thinking. I didn’t mean to bring it up, believe me,” she kept on apologizing. ‘It’s fine I told you. I just need to go to the bathroom for a minute,” I said and excused myself. “See what you’ve done? You’ve upset her,” I heard someone hissing at Deema as I walked away from the table.
I was having dinner at Shurafa restaurant with some of my friends. Deema is my friend’s cousin. I had met her only a couple of times before. We were talking about our friend’s wedding that took place the last weekend when suddenly Deema turned to me and asked, “Did Amal get married yet? I remember she was engaged the last time we met.” The second she uttered my sister’s name, everyone stopped talking and just glared at her. She looked confused for a minute as she was trying to figure out why everyone seemed angry with her. She had a look of horror in her eyes when she remembered that Amal has passed away in a car accident just less than a year ago. I knew she did not mean to upset me and that it was an innocent mistake. Still, I could not help feeling hurt. I felt my throat tightening and my eye were starting to tear up. I did not want to cry in front of everyone at the restaurant so I escaped to the bathroom.
I closed the door of one of the stalls on myself and wept like a baby. I did not want to admit it but my tears of sadness mixed with some tears of resentment toward myself. I felt extremely selfish and coldhearted because I got slightly irritated at the mention of my sister. I did not want anyone to remind me of her. Everything around me was doing that and I wanted to enjoy the peace that comes with not having her on my mind if only for a few hours. I did not want to hear her name when I was out with my friends trying to have a little bit of fun, which is something I did not get to do often at the time. I have been struggling ever since she passed away. I have been trying to move on unsuccessfully. Even when a year had passed by, I still cried at night thinking of the many times we slept next to each other although each one of us had her own room. We were as close as sisters could be. We shared everything. I missed her a lot and I still do but back then, I needed to stop missing her just for a little while. Was that so awful? I felt guilt taking over me.
“Mona, are you alright?” I heard Sara, my best friend, asking me. “Yes, I am,” I said and opened the stall’s door. She did not say anything. She just gave me a quick hug and exclaimed, “You look like a mess! Come on, let’s get you fixed up.” I smiled as she took out a tissue from her purse and wiped the tears off my cheeks then started adjusting my make up. Those of you who do not know her would probably think that is the most superficial thing she could have done when clearly her friend, I, was having an emotional moment. You could not have been more wrong. Sara had been my friend for over ten years and she knew me as well as I knew myself. She could tell that I did not want to talk about Amal then. It was not the time or place to be having a pep talk of any kind. Best thing to do was to pretend nothing has happened and try to enjoy what I had determined on making a nice night out. A good time was what I needed the most.
“Behold everyone, the queen is back. Drinks are on me!” Sara announced loudly as we got back to the table. Everyone laughed because there were no drinks in Saudi Arabia and because Sara would never in her life offer to buy anyone anything! “This night might be salvaged,” I thought.
Early in the morning a couple of days later, I sneaked out of the house to go to the beach with Majed, my boyfriend. My parents were sound asleep when I quietly shut the outer door and got into Majed’s convertible Porsche. “I got you something from Paris. Here you go,” he said and handed me a small teddy bear holding an Eiffel tower. “Thank you. This is so cute,” I said and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
I had met Majed two years ago practically through Facebook, which always made me laugh at myself because I used to think that people who use the messenger and online social networks to hook up with others are desperate geeks who could not meet anyone in real life. That is until I ended up being one of them. He added me as a friend and I accepted because I knew him and his sister remotely from Palms beach, which is a private beach for foreigners that I used to frequent with my friends because it did not allow Saudi guys to enter meaning we could tan and swim freely without being harassed. Every Thursday morning there, Majed was present, often with his sister whom we eventually befriended. However, he and I never spoke directly to one another up until he added me on Facebook. He did not waste time and soon afterwards asked me out. After a few weeks of hesitation, I agreed thinking I had nothing to lose. He seemed like a decent man. He was funny and intelligent He was 28 years old and the vice president of his family’s company. I valued that he was a hard worker. A few dates later, we became an item.
None of my friends liked him. They all admired his good looks but they all warned me about him. “You and him will never make it,” even Sara used to say. They had accepted him at first but when a couple of months had passed, they started wondering why he did not contact my parents and asked for my hand in marriage. I did not understand why they were in such a rush. “You don’t go on marrying someone you had just met a few months ago,” I used to tell them. “It’s just an engagement to make things official. It’s not a life binding commitment yet,” Sara always argued. I did not want to bring the subject up with Majed because I did not want to drive him away. I did not want to come off as needy especially early in the relationship.
When I finally got around to talking to him about it, nearly a year later, he just shrugged and confessed to me that he was simply not ready yet. We had a fight in which I accused him of not loving me. He swore he did but that I should let him take his time. I hung up on him and did not sleep that night. He showed up the next day with a grand apology and a gold bracelet. A few days later, I forgave him and promised him to wait. I had hoped that I could persuade him into making that move with me. I understood that it would be very hard for him to change his lifestyle. He was a workaholic that spent his free weekends and vacations in the beach or travelling abroad. Perhaps he needed to make more room for me. I promised myself that by the time we complete two years together, I would be 22 by then, and I would give him the choice of either speaking to my parents or breaking up with me.
Of course, Amal snapped at me when I told her of my decision. She kept saying that a year is long enough for anyone to decide whether he wants to be with someone or not. She lectured me on the fact that he was 28 years old. “If he still can’t make such a commitment at his age, he probably never will,” she used to say. Her words always hit sore points with me, which made me mad. I knew what she used to tell me made sense but I could not listen to my mind. She was two years older than I was and I trusted that she was wiser, too. Unfortunately, I loved Majed. I had a couple of boyfriends before him but they were all teenage crushes that never lasted. He was the real deal to me, or so I thought. I believed that he was a man unlike most Saudi guys that were nothing more than foolish boys.
Majed gave the gatekeeper to the Palms beach his American passport and the entrance fee so he waved us in. We found a few of our friends inside, as it is the case on Thursdays. I stared at Majed from afar as he jumped into the water. “His body is amazing,” I found myself thinking. I was lying on a beach seat when I heard Abdul-Majeed Abdullah’s latest song coming from someone’s mobile phone. He was Amal’s favorite singer. I think he is a good singer but she used to have every single song of his. God, she used to annoy me with his music sometimes.
Looking at Majed, I wondered if I could keep that promise I made to myself a year ago. Amal had died just a couple of weeks later. Naturally, I found myself clinging more to Majed. He listened to me when I needed to talk for hours about her and how much I needed her back. He took me out whenever I was feeling down and made me laugh. He hugged me when I cried. He kept me company when I felt alone and abandoned. He gave me a safe haven away from my home, which was filled with memories and polluted with my parents’ voices yelling at one another. I simply could not leave him even if I wanted to. It was much easier said than done. I did not only want him and love him; I needed him in my life.
I was sure that Amal would not approve of this. She would advice me to leave him and go find someone else. Actually, when you think about it, she would probably advice not to date anyone now that she has been buried. She had probably met Malak Almawt, The Angel of Death who took her soul. I immediately brushed the unpleasant thought off my mind. The fact was, I was not a good Muslim. At least, not as good as I wanted to be. Death and judgment were not what I wanted to think about on that beautiful sunny day.
I had gone through the religious phase as most people who lose a close loved one usually do. I started praying all five prayers on time. I did an Umrah. I started wearing Hijab, a veil. I started reading and listening to more Qur’an. I tired to minimize my sins and do more good deeds. I even stopped seeing Majed. He did not like that transformation. He did not say anything at the beginning but then he simply told me that I was taking it too far. After a few weeks and a few arguments, I simply caved in. Perhaps I grew tired of it too and my need for Majed grew everyday.
I could tell that he was changing slowly in the last couple of months. He did not strike me to be as caring and attentive as he once used to be. It could be probably due to the fact that we were advancing in our relationship and that it was normal for him to get that way. I did not know. I did not talk to him about it because I did not want to seem delusional and paranoid because maybe nothing has changed and it was all in my head.
I got back from the beach late afternoon all happy and tanned. If my parents asked, I would tell them I was at Sara’s house because she has a swimming pool. “Mom, Dad, anybody here?” I said loudly as I entered my room. I heard no response, which was weird because my father’s car was parked in the garage and the driver’s car was outside. I went to their room to find my father sitting alone on his desk and that he had been clearly chain-smoking. “Where’s mom?” I asked. “She went to your uncle’s house,” he replied. “Okay,” I said and turned around to leave the room. “Your mother and I left each other,” he said.