Streets of Fire
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
When the night’s quiet and you don’t care anymore,
And your eyes are tired and there’s someone at your door
And you realize you wanna let go
And the weak lies and the cold walls you embrace
Eat at your insides and leave you face to face with
Streets of fire
I’m wandering, a loser down these tracks
I’m dying, but girl I can’t go back
‘Cause in the darkness I hear somebody call my name
And when you realize how they tricked you this time
And it’s all lies but I’m strung out on the wire
In these streets of fire
I live now, only with strangers
I talk to only strangers
I walk with angels that have no place
Streets of fire
© 1978 Bruce Springsteen
Ali knocks at the door to the women living room “Are you ready my dear?” Kelly tries to sound fresh saying “Just a minute.” She has spend half an hour in the bath after dinner, but still feels awkward and tired. She looks once more at her makeup. It isn’t her best work, but she can’t compete anyway with the oriental beauties of Ali’s family. She really wants to stay at home looking at television, a dvd or maybe read a magazine, but she knows there will be talking and condemnation of Ali, if she doesn’t come. She has a couple of times excused herself for visiting distant members of Ali’s large family. The result was both harsh questions by her mother-in-law and other of Ali’s close female relatives, and the immediate agreement of a new visit. Declining is impossible. She puts on her black headscarf and black abaya and takes a niqab and gloves with her when going out to Ali. “Try to look a little like you’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening,” Ali says when he sees her. “You know I can’t stand this heat.” Kelly says as if the heat was the main reason for her current state. Actually she spends almost all her time in airconditioned buildings or cars, but the cool artificial climate is not good either. “But now the sun has disappeared, it is only a little over thirty degrees outside. And we only have to walk ten meters to the car, both here and at my family.” Kelly doesn’t answer. She is tying her niqab at the back of her head. While flipping the eye veil back to be able to find her way to the car, she feels the outer door has been opened as a wave of hot air surrounds her. She takes her gloves and walks out past Ali, who closes the door. The car is parked facing the gate in the wall surrounding the house. Half past seven the air still makes her sweat after less than a minute outside. She hears the door locks of the car activate and opens the passenger door. After they both have fastened their seat belts, Ali starts the engine. Now it will only take a minute until the temperature drops considerably. As the gate opens Kelly flips down her eye veil. Then she slowly puts on her gloves. Ali has a traditional family where all women are eye veiled and gloved in public. Besides she knows they have fewer problems, if she is completely hidden. A slit of pale skin always attracts attention here. And then their papers are more closely examined to determine that they are lawfully married.
They are. Kelly’s face shows a rare glimpse of happiness thinking about the marriage two years ago. She had been working in a small restaurant in the outskirts of London, where Ali often had lunch as his office was close by. He was beautiful as only Arabs can be. Dark eyes, black hair. Besides he was the most charming and intelligent man she had ever met. After taking a business degree in the USA, he was then in charge of the London office of his father’s business. He was exactly what Kelly had dreamt of: Not thirty yet, a man of the world with beauty, money, charm and intelligence, and part of a large family from a different exotic country. After meeting regularly after work and in weekends for six months, he had asked her to marry him. Neither Ali nor Kelly were religious. She understood how Islam was an integrated part of his family traditions and didn’t mind converting, as it didn’t make any difference in their everyday life. That had shown to be true. The biggest difference was at their wedding, where there was no walking the aisle of a romantic old church in a beautiful white gown. Ali gave her a fine traditional arabian dress, lovely jewelry and a ring, but the ceremony was just a short meeting in an office of the local mosque, and then there was a fine diner in a luxurious restaurant in the City with Kelly’s few friends and a few male members of Ali’s family at their own age. As Kelly had no close family anymore, there were none to part from, when moving to Saudi Arabia. But it was lonely. She was isolated. Because of the Saudi way of life she couldn’t just go out and meet new friends. She could only meet with female members of Ali’s family. There are plenty of them, but she doesn’t speak much Arabic, and few of them speak English. Besides most of their conversation is around subjects she doesn’t care about or doesn’t know about, as she can’t read the same magazines or follow the same soaps. She was a poor girl, who had chosen immediate love and financial security, but has ended as a social loser, who has cut her connections to her old country. She and Ali still get along well enough, but he is entangled in the local lifestyle, where men meet early in the evening only to return home sometimes long after midnight. In case of divorce she has to start from the bottom again, as she will only get her clothes and jewellery, from which she can’t buy a house in London. She is more or less stuck here.
Ali drives into the yard of a walled house similar to their own. There are three cars already. The hot night hits Kelly once again as they leave the car. Ali rings the door bell. An Arab man dressed like Ali and all other men here in white thobe and red checkered dishdash opens the door. He greets Ali, and they immediately starts talking as they walk across the hall with Kelly three steps behind. He opens a door gesturing Ali to enter. He leaves it open as he walks five meters to the right and opens another door. He gestures Kelly to enter and she hears the door close behind her. After passing a short corridor she enters a room where seven women are sitting on cushions in pairs. This must be a very strict family as they are all veiled with eyes covered as herself. But this is indoor and should be a women only area. Kelly can’t get any information by looking at them. They could be beauties or ugly, fifteen or seventy. They are all equal. She decides to sit down next to the woman alone. She has learned to introduce herself in Arabic saying slowly “I’m wife of Ali Al-Fulani, Kelly. I’m sorry but my Ara…” She is interrupted immediately fearing the muffling due to her still veiled face combined with her bad pronunciation has made her unintelligible. But a just as muffled voice says with a clearly non-arabic accent “My Arab is no good as well. But as I suppose you don’t spoke Swahili, we must do as good we can. Arabic is key to get good life here. I’m Mishi Muhamad Muhashamy. The customs of this tribe where women only unveil to other women they have known for years make us equal in many other ways. I have taken on this customs myself. Will you be my friend?” Kelly after thinking about how to phrase it says “You’re right. We have much for common. I need friend in this country. Mishi, you sound as good friend. You make me think perhaps I should turn my views around. We face veiled women look equal because we are equal. We’re all friends in here, the black covered strangers I meet in the streets are my friends. Because I see them when I look in the mirror veiled. I’ll follow you and stay veiled to women as well from now on. I feel like I walk with angels that have no face. Can you say that? And if we continue meeting regularly, when we see each other in a year what is beneath the veils won’t matter at all.” Mishi says “Your Arabic is fine. A poetic line is popular and will make your errors less noticeable, I think. I will copy you and try speaking like that as well. But now let me introduce you to the other angels in here.”
Copyright © 2007, Bo_Emp ; bo_emp ‘at’ yahoo ‘dot’ com