I disappeared didn’t I? Well, wouldn’t that be nice, if one could literally disappear. I haven’t disappeared in a long time now. I am always the girl in the headscarf, or the Muslim, or “the other”, at least in this part of the world. People will look at me from the corner of their eyes, or wait until I pass and give me a second glance just to be sure… “Yup, she’s one of them”. That’s fine by me. I notice, and I let it go. I will never disappear, not here at least.
I was visible in my teenage years as well. I was the girl who dressed like a boy, the one in short orange hair, the one who wore a tad too short of a dress for that part of the world. The girl in an army attire. The one who looked like the devil worshipers covered in black garments, blue black hair and a thick dark eyeliner around her eyes.
This is me, lost in a Cairo neighborhood, without a cell phone, or cash to catch a cab. I went up to a random building, knocked on a door and waited for a woman covered also in black with a small slit for her eyes to peek through, to answer the door.
Yes? what do you want?
I am sorry to disturb you at such a late hour, but my mother mistakenly dropped me off at the wrong address and she is gone. I realized I don’t have money to catch a cab back home. Can I use your phone please?
The woman looked suspicious and reluctant, she disappeared for a few seconds, I heard her ask her husband if it is okay for her to let me in. “she looks strange, one of those satanic groups we read about in the papers last week” I heard her loud whispers. Seconds later I was let in, and directed to the phone. I sat down and was all of a sudden surrounded by three young children giggling by my knees. “Come away from her, don’t play with her, we don’t know who she is!” the mother yelled. I made my phone call, thanked the family, and climbed down the stairs and waited in the dark unusually abandoned street for my mother to come get me.
The faucet in our kitchen doesn’t work very well. the lever that shifts the flow of the water from cold to hot literally does that. It is next to impossible to find the midpoint where your fingers won’t break and fall from the iced water, to scorching your hands with blisters from the steaming hot flow. I burn my hands at least three times/day trying to miraculously find the correct angle for the warm flow. After at least seven adjustments I reach the desired temperature. This has become part my washing the dishes routine.
I sat next to an old man on the plane back to Madison. He wasn’t a large man… average for someone his age, but he was spread out to my part of the seat. He couldn’t hear very well, when the flight attendant asked him if he wanted a drink, she had to repeat it four times, until I gently patted him on his shoulder. He declined with a smile. He had a charming smile. He must have been a handsome young man. I saw him young again when he smiled. And then I saw myself old, looking through the same eyes, seeing the world through an aging body. I wondered. And then I clenched my chair when the metal in the plane rumbled as we passed some “turbulence”. The flight attendant caught my discomfort and smiled. She was in her thirties. Her smile revealed a five year old’s kindness… and then, I smiled.