Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
In Candy’s room there are pictures of her heroes on the wall
But to get to Candy’s room you gotta walk the darkness of Candy’s hall
Strangers from the city call my baby’s number and they bring her toys
When I come knocking she smiles pretty she knows I wanna be Candy’s boy
There’s a sadness hidden in that pretty face
A sadness all her own from which no man can keep Candy safe
We kiss my heart’s pumpin’ to my brain
The blood rushes in my veins fire rushes towards the sky
We go driving driving deep into the night
I go driving deep into the light in Candy’s eyes
She says baby if you wanna be wild you got a lot to learn, close your eyes
Let them melt let them fire let them burn
`Cause in the darkness there’ll be hidden worlds that shine
When I hold Candy close she makes these hidden worlds mine
She has fancy clothes and diamond rings
She has men who’ll give her anything she wants but they don’t see
That what she wants is me, oh and I want her so
I’ll never let her go no no no
She knows that I’d give all that I got to live
All that I want all that I live to make Candy mine
© 1978 Bruce Springsteen
It’s early evening in Aleppo, Syria. Habib sits in his car outside the apartment building. Women pass in long loose dark clothing, many with gloves and face veiled. There she comes. A woman completely covered in black including her veiled face like so many women in this town. But he recognizes her bag. It’s Kalila, or Candy as she calls herself in the little add with her phone number. Has she noticed his car? Probably. He is here at this time most days of the week in the hope that she will decide to change her life. Away from fast money, fancy clothes and diamond rings to live with him. Habib starts the car and slowly follows Kalila down the street. Three hundred meters down she will probably enter the cleric’s office. She does. In less than five minutes she comes out still veiled. Or probably veiled again, as Habib assumes the middle aged man, whom she is with now, has wanted to see, if the marriage he has agreed with Candy over the phone, brings as much beauty as she has promised. Of course the man is content. To Habib she is the most beautiful girl in the world. Anyone seeing her would sign for a muta, a short-term marriage, for as long as he can possibly afford. This man has made an appointment based only on her add and talking on the phone, or perhaps a recommandation from a friend. The man is poorly dressed and his car, if it’s his own, isn’t much either. This is probably only a one hour marriage. Habib will be at the apartment in one hour hoping that Kalila haven’t made any more agreements for tonight. She rarely does. Her business is men ‘working late’, not overnight relationships.
The car reminds him of how he met Kalila. She, interested in men at her own age of course, knew where the young mechanic of the neighborhood could be found. One day she had send a customer with a car even worse than the one today into the bar he frequented to make him take a look at the car. Habib had made the car work and beside a small sum from the customer had been given the address of Kalila. Habib had expected to meet another man with a car to repair, but had got the best surprise of his life when a beautiful young woman appeared. She said she had to thank him as it was an important customer to her, and she liked to know if Habib could be called upon if necessary some other time. Nothing close had happened on that first visit, but they talked well, he had been hooked and more visits followed. Soon there were no excuses to meet, they both just liked it.
Habib drives to a bar close by, where he often meet friends. He buys a cola hoping for someone to turn up soon. The television shows a rerun of last weekends soccer match, which he saw here with some friends. After twenty minutes none he knows has appeared, and he goes back to his car and starts driving slowly on an indirect route back to the apartment. Veiled women are frequently passing. Many of them could be Kalila, who by changing her coat and bag would be totally anonymous to him.
While driving he thinks of their last meeting Thursday in her small one-room apartment. She opened as always with a pretty smile on her face. She knows he loves her and Habib thinks she loves him. There are pictures of her heroes on the walls. She is happy to be with someone at her own age. Someone who has time to talk all night long. When they are together, there is nothing which has to be done, no time limited contract that expires. He knows her secret. She is alone in this world. Her parents died five years ago when a bomb killed a politician and eight innocent bypassers. That’s why the cleric allows her to marry. There’s always a sadness hidden in that pretty face. A sadness which even Habib has not been able to remove yet. But at the end they were kissing. Habib still feels how his heart was pumping to his brain, the blood rushed through his veins. He had caught fire. It was one of the best experiences of his life. But to Kalila he was slow, considerate, patient. She likes that. She has tried everything that men can imagine. She said he has a lot to learn. He had closed his eyes and let her give him a little of her hidden worlds. They held close, it was fire, he was melting. A little of her hidden worlds has become his.
He is back outside the apartment. He wants her so much. He spends only a little time with his friends and of course he does not see other girls. Most other girls are hard to meet and strictly guarded by their families. Many in the neighborhood knows what Kalila does and she has no female friends either. He has three older brothers. The continuation of his family has long been secured. He can marry anyone with the right religion and bloodline. His parents will neglect how she has made a living since her parents died. He can support both of them from his work at the garage. For one of their first meetings he had borrowed a fancy car from the garage and taken Kalila for a ride. She stayed covered like always in public during the entire trip, buy they had talked. She had explained what she did and why. Habib, like the cleric, has accepted she has to survive and more nights followed. But Kalila can’t make up her mind. On one hand she quickly wants to be a decent covered housewife and on the other hand she is not sure if he is the man to share the rest of her life with. Would her parents have approved of him? Shouldn’t she make a little more money on her own before being dependent and have less to spend? Her life has to continue as it is until she is sure. Habib will keep following Kalila for as long as it takes. Enjoy the occasional hours together, waiting for her to listen to her heart.
There she is again. Anonymously hiding her age and beauty like any decent woman but identified by her hand bag. Now she has a plastic bag in her other hand. She has got an extra tip in form of some toy or a box of candy. Now she is outside the entrance. But she passes. A few seconds later his passenger door is opened. She enters his car, flips back her veil and with the biggest smile Habib has ever seen on her face she says “How much will you give me for an unlimited marriage contract? Tonight!”
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