Suad distractedly looked out the window of her room. She had loud music playing in the background, but she wasn’t paying attention to the songs’ lyrics. She absent-mindedly wound a lock of her black hair around her finger and ran the other hand over her face. Suddenly, a memory made her bronze cheeks redden.
Today was her little sister’s wedding day. Her soon-to-be husband had been sending her so many gifts from the Emirates over the past few months that both Suad’s and her sister’s room had wound up piled with them. The warm winds that swept through the city at that time of year had just started blowing. Suad wondered whether she was destined to find happiness in life.
She lived at home with her parents. Her father worked at Aden’s water purification plant and her mother had retired recently after spending 25 years teaching at a high school in Crater. She was proud of her forward-thinking parents, who had instilled confidence in her and allowed her and her sister to have a lot of freedom while growing up.
The aroma of black henna wafted toward her and made her hazel eyes drift over to the jar it had emanated from, which was standing on top of a wooden table. It brought back memories of her ex. Try as she had, she hadn’t been able to get over him. He owned a stand of beauty products at the souk she had to traverse every day to get home from college. The first thing that struck her about him was his chilled manner and his elegant bearing, but what drove her to fall in love with him were the dialectical exchanges she had with him.
Shortly after first taking notice of him, she acquired the habit of stopping at his stand to buy a jar of henna on her way back home. She knew her fancy for him was reciprocated because she had caught him stealing glances at her and because of how he smiled at her.
Her taste in music and literature changed in a matter of weeks. She started listening to love songs a lot more often and found herself looking up romantic novels online. Her well-intentioned friends warned her that, taking his ethnicity and origin into account, they weren’t meant to be, but she had already fallen for him and dismissed their remarks by affirming that the heart doesn’t understand skin pigmentation or humble beginnings in accord with social norms or hierarchies. She didn’t care that he came from an underprivileged family that lived in the poor neighborhood of Basateen nor for the fact that he hadn’t been able to finish primary education, for his knowledge of the world was broad and their long phone conversations provided her an unfettered outlet for her fevered imagination. No matter what anyone said, she considered him her tall, black, handsome boyfriend.
However, a few months into their secret relationship, her parents found out that she was seeing a boy from a different race and all hell broke loose. Her life turned into a nightmare; her parents decided to forbid her from leaving the house and she became a prisoner in her own home.
A couple of days afterwards, she received a message on her phone that brought tears to her eyes. It was from him and it read, “Given the color of my skin, I probably should deny my feelings for you, but, then again, perhaps they are worth fighting for.”
Written by Amal Al Mahyoub.