Yesterday evening, I shared a hotel limo with a Palestinian woman and her 7 year old son, Omar. There were no taxis available at the hotel that night because it was Iftar, when the Muslims break the day long fast, and everyone was busy feasting.
The lady said she and her son were passing thru Dubai from a trip to Palestine, on their way back home to California. She was dressed in an abaya, but her face was not covered, only her hair. Her son was dressed in western clothes, and spoke only English, as far as I could tell. We got to talking in the hotel lobby after she asked me if it was my first time to come to Dubai. I told her I was passing thru as well, and that Dubai is my hub for travel coming from Afghanistan. She couldn’t quite believe that I worked there.
She and her son had an easy, loving banter — Omar was very well behaved, not once did she have to scold or raise her voice at him. He shook my hand graciously when I introduced myself to him and asked his name. He had very beautiful brown eyes, with long, sooty lashes.
I asked them to share the limo with me as we were all going to the mall anyway. The lady was glad to have company and readily accepted. They wanted to see the Aquarium, so I decided to go to Dubai Mall as well. On the drive over the lady would point out landmarks and buildings to her son. At night, the Burj Khalifa was lit up, a silver sword rising from the vast, twinkling desert. Omar said, “It looks awesome, mom!”
As we sped by the traffic-less streets, Omar looked out the window, mouth open at the sights. It gave me a new appreciation for this city that I would pass by so often, seeing it now through this boy’s eyes. It made me miss my sons, made me instantly fond of this dark eyed little boy.
Passing by yet another skyscraper, Omar pointed to it and said, “Mom, I wanna go up there, can I go up there?
His mom laughed and said, “Oh sweetie, you can go wherever you want.” She turned to me and gave me a smile, her dark eyes sparkling. I knew exactly what she meant, and I smiled back.
I took this picture at a Chinese temple in Cebu. It’s a snapshot of a pile of wishing papers on a bench. The way it works: you take a piece of paper, make a wish, and then roll the paper into a tube, tucking in the ends while leaving the gold paint visible on the outside. Then you take your rolled wishes (make as many wishes as you want, why not), and burn them on the altar along with some incense, petitioning the docile buddhas to grant your heart’s desires. It sounds so easy.
No wonder I didn’t trust it. No paper wishes for me, I remembered thinking. Better to talk directly to the powers that be. I just knelt on the red satin cushions and bowed three times, waving the smoke of the incense around my head. When I finished, I felt light, even calm, as though my worldly cares were lifted. Even when I turned and walked away, I could still see the benign smile of the buddhas. The rotund little gods kept smiling the entire time, smiling with the careless abandon of those that promise nothing, but accept all.
I should have known, then. I should have.
It’s a Friday here and the office folks are antsy. Most are eager to get the workday over with and begin the weekend in earnest. Except me, the one drone that got in late today. Traffic has been terrible on the skyway, turning my less than an hour commute (one way, sigh) into a monster two hour crawl! I work late so that I can come in late, but this getting to work late business is bordering on the ridiculous. It’s a demotivator, it makes me want to chuck in the rest of the workday and just go malling.
And god, the heat is not helping. Outside, everywhere you go that’s not blessed by airconditioning is like swimming in simmering, sticky soup. Argh. This reminds me that summer is not really my favorite season—save for the beach opportunities it does present. Meanwhile, this awful heat, this heat that carries with it wafts of eau de commuter, is a real killer.
Just as I closed the taxi door and settled in for the ride, the taxi driver asked me, “Weren’t you afraid, being the only girl waiting there in the long line of men?” I was taken aback, a little, by the question. I did notice that I was the only XX chromosome in the rather dark waiting area, but I didn’t think much about it, and didn’t feel even just a little bit scared.
I mumbled something about, “Oh, they were mostly construction crew from my building…” and the driver nodded, but felt impelled to add, “You can never be too careful, these days.”
Come to think of it, was I ever careless? I pondered that for a while. Despite all that’s happened to me in the past few years, the dire circumstances that have shaped life as I know it now, I still do not fear men. I had to Google that—androphobia—the fear of men. In my former job all my bosses were male, I worked with mostly male counterparts, would walk into a meeting with a roomful of men as the only female, and I liked it when they all scrambled to give me a chair. Men are often intimidated by me, as I am not a fragile looking woman, nor am I in any way, reticent. I have a marked tendency to say what’s on my mind, gender be damned. I’ve had relationships where men resented me because I was “bossy.” Or, my personal favorite, “too strong.”
I have male friends that I’ve known for years who treat me not as one of the guys, but as a girl, who is a friend. There are men I admire and would like to emulate, men who amuse me, men who I can be frank with, flirt openly with, or just quietly sit and have a beer with. They’re males of all kinds—old and young, single, married, or in some sort of relationship, old friends and newer ones—who treat me with respect, and I dare say, some measure of fondness. So, no, I am not afraid of men in general.
But hey wait, should I be?