Something in the Night
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
I’m riding down Kingsley,
figuring I’ll get a drink
Turn the radio up loud,
so I don’t have to think,
I take her to the floor,
looking for a moment when the world seems right,
And I tear into the guts,
of something in the night.
You’re born with nothing,
and better off that way,
Soon as you’ve got something they send
someone to try and take it away,
You can ride this road ’till dawn,
without another human being in sight,
Just kids wasted on
something in the night.
Nothing is forgotten or forgiven,
when it’s your last time around,
I got stuff running around ’round my head
That I just can’t live down
When we found the things we loved,
They were crushed and dying in the dirt.
We tried to pick up the pieces,
And get away without getting hurt,
But they caught us at the state line,
And burned our cars in one last fight,
And left us running burned and blind,
Chasing something in the night.
© 1978 Bruce Springsteen
They have been driving for some time now. Rafa has no idea how far it is from Khadijah’s house to the shopping mall. But the radio, playing a station with Arabian pop as loud as the driver can get away with without complaints from the maid on the passenger front seat, has played at least ten songs Rafa thinks, but she has not counted them. She doesn’t care. She is here to pass the time. The time until she gets home, where she waits for the next shopping trip. This has started as usual. At breakfast she had asked her husband for permission to go. It was a reasonable request, since she thinks it is four days since her last trip, and permission was granted to pass her evening doing this. When her husband left after breakfast he would usually return late in the evening going directly to bed. Shortly after dinner the maid informed her the driver would be ready in half an hour. Then she turned off the rerun of the soap, she had seen a couple of times, and started dressing. At home alone she is allowed to have her hands and face uncovered. She is only wearing black opaque pantyhose, a bra and a colourful long dress with long tight sleeves. And then her head and neck is covered by a black opaque headscarf. For going out she started with the black ball gag buckled with a black leather strap. It has a tube which eases breathing and allows drinking with a straw. Then she covered her face below the eyes with a black veil. Long black high heeled leather boots halfway to the knees were next, and then long black satin gloves nearly to her elbows. Then she put on a black abaya cut like a normal dress, covering her from her neck to her feet and just allowing her fingers out of its sleeves. She was now covered completely in black except for her eyes. They disappeared next as she tied a niqab with three layers of eye veiling around her forehead. She immediately flipped the outer layer back to be able to see her surroundings with a dark blurred view. With the outer layer down she can only differentiate dark contours from light, and has to be guided when moving. Her sight through two layers is her best view of the world outside the home, as these layers can’t be lifted. Of course lifting the third layer is only done to look at things inside shops, with men at adequate distance. She ended her own dressing by tying a narrow leather belt around her waist. At this point she have to ring for the maid. When entering Rafa saw the maid was ready to leave. She was dressed like herself completely in black and wearing abaya with sleeves and gloves and a niqab to cover her face. But her niqab has only one layer to cover the eyes, which is now flipped back. The maid is needed to tie her thick black leather gloves reaching halfway to the elbows on top of her abaya sleeves. The gloves just allow enough finger movement to let her change between a flat hand and showing her index finger alone to point. The wrists are fitted with D-rings that holds small clips. To end her dressing the maid lifted an overhead abaya above Rafa’s head covering her completely as it falls to the floor. Rafa pushed her gloves through the elastic hand openings and the maid adjusted the abaya on top of her head and pulled her eye veil down and inside the abaya face opening. Then the maid only needed to secure Rafa’s arms at her side by attaching the clips of the gloves to the D-rings of the belt. Rafa was fully covered, practically blind, mute, and unable to use her arms. Like this she is ready to go outside her home.
The maid guided her out to the back seat of the luxurious car and placed herself in the passenger front seat. The little she is able to see is enough to determine that the yard is illuminated by lights and not the sun. The surroundings are dark to the non-veiled as well. This means it is only a little hot in the few moments they are outside airconditioned environments. But these shorts moments are enough to make people prefer shopping in the evening. It was some time driving before Rafa had realized they were not driving towards the shopping mall. Today her husband apparently had made an agreement with Khadijah’s husband. She knows her name is Khadijah, because when they stopped at a house to pick her up, she heard her maid say to Khadijah’s maid “Does Khadijah have to be home at a certain time?” She thinks the answer was no. She might have been shopping with Khadijah on another occasion, but she is not sure. And she has probably never seen her or talked to her. She has never talked to anyone on her trips. And her husband only allows visits, or her visiting a few times a year. It is now so long, she forgot who she met, but she is almost certain, it was not Khadijah. She knows Khadijah is dressed like herself, completely veiled, gagged and restricted. Because the women her husband allows her to ride with all are married to husbands sharing his views on women. She could just as well be alone. Often on these trips Rafa dreams of where the car is heading, if she could decide. In five minutes she would see the ocean and five minutes later walk on a cool beach with bare feet in the sand and water running over them every ten seconds. Or she would park in the mountains, get out in the shadow of a group of trees and eat a wonderful meal while chatting with friends. But she is allowed to go to a shopping mall completely isolated. That is it. As she gets back to reality, they pull up in front of the entrance to a shopping mall. Rafa doesn’t know if it is the driver or the maid or one of their husbands, who have chosen this mall. It doesn’t matter. They all have walkways to use some time in getting from one shop to the next, where it is possible to further spend some time. Inside the maid whispers in her ear “What do you want to buy?” She is allowed to buy shoes, boots, home dresses, lingerie, makeup and women magazines. Outer dress and fragrances that is her appearance to others are bought by the maid after consulting or by order from her husband. He also controls what movies she is allowed to watch and has selected the channels on her tv. Rafa just turns her hand pointing at her side between her ribs. The maid knows this means a dress as she would have pointed more up or more down for a bra or panties, or directly up or down for makeup or shoes. Rafa has decided for a dress, as she remembers she didn’t buy one on her last trip. After the maid has whispered to Khadijah, Rafa thinks she had pointed down, indicating they will visit a shoe store. They walk through the mall. White silhouettes are men and black are women. What they are passing at the sides of the walkways Rafa can’t see. But after some walking the maid guides them to one side into a shop. Rafa is guided to the nearest place to sit, while the maid continues with Khadijah. It’s the shoe shop. After a while a hand taps at her arm. They are back. The maid is now carrying a plastic bag besides her own bag. They walk some more and take an elevator to a different floor. They walk into another shop. Now Khadijah is left at the entrance. It’s a clothes shop. Rafa is guided further into the shop. Suddenly the maid makes her stop and walks in front of her. She unclips her wrists and flips back her outer veil. Rafa sees she is completely surrounded by clothes racks with colored dresses. There are no other people to see except the maid. She browses through a couple of racks. She can’t see delicate details of embroidery or feel the quality of the fabric. And she knows that colors are much brighter in reality than what her veiled eyes see. Now she is a little annoyed that she didn’t really look at her home dress before it was covered with black, but she thinks she is wearing one of her blue dresses. And the last one she bought had red and yellow colors, she is quite certain. Then she better go for something green. She turns toward a rack with green dresses and takes more or less at random one out. She hands it to the maid, who checks the size and then go through the rack. Apparently the size was wrong. The maid holds up two dresses in green. None of them are identical to the one Rafa picked, but she points to the dress on her left. Now she has done something tonight. The maid hangs it over a rack and turns to Rafa. She flips down her veil and locks her wrists to her belt. She is guided towards the entrance with a stop at a counter, where the maid uses Rafa’s credit card, which of course is her husband’s. They are back in the walkways. It doesn’t seem the maid has to buy something tonight.
As usual the shopping trip ends with a drink. The maid leads them into a room with small tables. She leaves, and after a couple of minutes she’s back with a tray with three colas and something to eat for herself, probably a burger. Rafa thinks it’s the women section of McDonalds, but her veil is not lifted so she can’t read anything, see the colors of the interior or the design on the packaging. The maid just places the cup in front of them with a straw in. Then she pulls the bottom of their veils out of the abaya opening, so when they bow their heads towards the straw it easily gets to the mouth. But the maid has to hold the straw to guide it through the tube in their gag. When in they have to keep the head in the low position for as long as they want to drink. The maid is reluctant to help, if they loose the straw.
They go back towards the car. The maid has a cell phone to call the driver. While waiting at the entrance to the mall Rafa can vaguely see dark shadows, other women alone inside their coverings, being guided to other cars to be driven home through the night. Their car arrives. The maid guides them in and places the bags containing their respective spendings at their feet. After driving for a while Rafa notices the lyrics of one of the loud pop songs playing on the radio. It’s a sad story of teenagers in love, who are not allowed to see each other. This makes her slide back in the seat ignoring the following music as she thinks of her own fate.
She had lived a quite free life for an Arab girl far away on the other side of the peninsula, until she was seventeen. At that time she had secretly started seeing the two year older neighboring son for some months. But one day her mother, she supposed it was, had passed by the alley, where they were kissing. Without thinking much about it, they hurried to his car and drove towards the border. It is just a line in the sand, and there was a good chance of crossing illegally in a four wheel drive. But not long before the line, in the middle of the desert, they were run down. Somebody shot at their car, which caught fire. But in stead of taking them immediately, they let them run out in the dessert in the burning sun and to be blinded by the storming sand until they gave up out of exhaustion.
Rafa was only punished by being kept at home except for school until three months later, where she had to enter an arranged marriage with her current husband to live a lonely life far away from her own family and the neighbor. Her family had rejected her. There was not even a wedding party. She had just been veiled much like she is now. Her father and her new husband had signed a paper and he had taken her with him. Her husband had given her a book by a strict Mullah and told her how he interpreted his words. Women are born with nothing and better off that way. Her purpose is to deliver boys. Until that happens she has no purpose except trying. At the beginning she spoke a lot to her husband when they were together at breakfast or at nighttime. But every time he answered with one word and only when she came up with questions about specific daily life subjects. The maid only answers specific allowed requests as well. Shopping is her husband’s way of making her think she is not a prisoner. But she is. And there is nothing she can do about it. She spends nearly all time in a walled house guarded by her husband’s servants. She could run away in the mall, but the staff would only return her to her maid or her husband no matter what she told them. The word of a man is much more than that of a woman, and she has no scars or bruises to support her version. Her life will go on like this until death for one of them. And then she reminds herself that millions would envy a life like hers with shelter, food and security.
She turns her head towards Khadijah. She looks like she might be sleeping. But as she supposes she lives a life much like herself, she probably isn’t really tired. They never do anything physically demanding, and they don’t have any intellectual challenges either. They are just dozing the day away, which means they are not really tired at night. The car turns into a courtyard. They must be back at Khadijah’s home. After less than a minute Khadijah’s door is opened from the outside. A maid takes the bag at her feet, guides her out and closes the door. They drive out into the night again. A little later the engine suddenly stops. The driver lets the car roll out to the side of the road. He tries starting a couple of times. Then he goes out and looks under the hood. Back in the car he turns the radio down saying “I’m sorry, but we have to wait for a tow to get us home.” One hour more or less doesn’t matter. Rafa doesn’t have any plans for the rest of the evening anyway. But today something happened in the night.
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