Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Leap of Faith - Chapter One: Tears and Sandwiches

Dear readers,
I am writing a book. It's about a smart and strong American woman from North Carolina named Cindy Davis, and her dashing and funny Emirati husband, Mohammed Ali. They are real people, and I'm writing their story, in the form of a Reality Novel (I just made up that term.) I've been working on it for about a year and a half, interviewing and getting to know Cindy and Mohammed and their family, researching, and gathering information as I live in and learn about the UAE.

This past week, Cindy met a number of my non-Arab women friends here in the UAE. They are fascinated with her story. So now I'm ready to share some of what I've written, in the hopes that I can get some useful feedback, generate more interest in the book project, and finish it in the coming year. Please, join Cindy and me on this journey.

Chapter One: Tears and Sandwiches

Please, please, please, dear God, don’t let me cry. She just wanted to sit on the floor but no, they wouldn’t let her. Perched in a fancy upholstered chair, she sat with all these people looking at her. They were speaking in Arabic; she had no idea what they were saying. But she knew they were talking about her, whispering, and clucking like birds. Blackbirds. They looked like blackbirds. That made her kind of want to laugh, until she noticed Mohammed’s tiny mother, Zamzam, looking at her warily.

Whenever someone said something or there was a question, Mohammed’s brother Abdul Rahman, the only one who spoke some English, would translate. Mohammed … she could still hardly believe it. Mohammed Ali was her husband. I’m a wife! But I’m still Cindy Davis. And I want to sit on the floor just like them all.

“I don’t want to sit here; I want to sit on the floor,” she told Abdul Rahman. “Why’d I have to sit in this chair?”

“No, no, no,” Abdul insisted. “You are the guest of honor, you are American. You must sit in the chair.”

“American!” the ladies before her repeated it, only they made it sound like Am-er-eeekan. Mohammed had told them, hadn’t he? What had he, actually told them? For that matter, what had he told her? Not much that she could remember. She had vaguely known that women in the Middle East wore long dresses, but these people were dressed in huge black cloaks and head scarves, covering them from head to toe, and some of the older ones even had their faces covered!
Well, then, they surely didn’t know where North Carolina was, or anything about it, but she certainly wasn’t going to try to explain any of that to them. She was from America, half a world away. She was a rare white dove in this flock of blackbirds, a young American bride in blue jeans with white skin and auburn hair.

The trip had taken days. When Cindy’s parents Gladys and Roy drove them from Mocksville to the airport in Charlotte, Roy was silent, but Gladys had cried the whole way. Cindy and Mohammed flew to New York – it was Cindy’s first time on an airplane, first time out of North Carolina! They flew to London. From there, it was another long flight to Dubai. Finally, they drove through some mountains on a brand new road to tiny Khorfakkan, in Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates. She was in a place now that had only been a country for about ten years. Most likely none of these ladies had ever even seen an airplane. But they understood this place, and she would have to learn to get along here. They would have to learn to get along, she and them.

It grew dark. Tea and fruit arrived, brought in by a housemaid and set on a small table. The sweetened tea was poured into small glasses from a long-spouted Arabic tea pot. Cindy drank it, and was suddenly exhausted.
 “I want to sit on the floor,” she told Abdul again.

 “No, no,” he again insisted. “You are guest. You must sat in the chair. It is like in America.” He would not be persuaded; they would not be persuaded.

She just wanted to sit among them, start to be one of them. She wanted to be treated no different; so what if she was new? These women were Mohammed’s mother, sister, aunties, cousins, and neighbors. They were her new family.

She longed for Mohammed.

Cindy shook her head, trying to fight it, but she could feel tears coming. Suddenly, it was all too much. The engagement followed by months of separation, the long, uncertain month with not even one letter, and then Mohammed’s sudden return to the US, to get married. There had been a wedding just days ago after a month of hectic planning, the long trip here, and then, after only one day together in this new world, Mohammed had left her and gone off to work at the military base in Abu Dhabi, leaving her under the wing of his relatives. It was Saturday, and he wouldn’t be back until Thursday, and even then just for Friday, the one-day weekend.

Cindy hadn’t slept in two days. She was exhausted and frustrated, she just wanted to go home. And, on top of everything, here was the last thing she wanted. Tears. She was trying to squeeze them back, but they were slipping out from the corners of her eyes. The more Cindy fought them, the stronger they grew. Damn tears. Dear God, please make them stop.

“You are hungry!” Abdul said, seeing her distress. “I will get food.”

“No, no, I’m not hungry! I just want to go home.”

La la! No, no! Come, we go to the hotel. They have American food.”

“No, no, thank you. I don’t want to eat; I want to go home. Please, that’s all I want. Please, just let me go home.” Cindy wanted to go home to her own place, their room in Mohammed’s house. It was her only refuge of peace and privacy, away from the curious eyes, and the words she didn’t yet understand. A place to rest.

But Abdul Rahman would not hear of it. When an Arab decides that his guests must be fed, they shall be fed. So Cindy allowed herself to be driven along Khorfakkan Bay to the only western style hotel in the region. Food was ordered. Too tired to be hungry, jet lagged without even knowing what jet lag was, Cindy watched as a mountain of sandwiches was placed before her. It was enough for a dozen people.

“I don’t know what you like,” Abdul Rahman explained. “So I ordered one of each.”

 “Shukran.” Thank you. Cindy ate a few bites, and then finally, thankfully, it was time to go home.

1 comment:

Margie Evans said...

How interesting! I can't wait to hear more about Cindy and her new life. She already sounds far more courageous than I!