Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Where No One Knows My Name

Looking back, I think some of the most impactful times for me in the Middle East with my friends were the times when I was just dumbfounded—the days that I didn’t have pretty little answers that fit into little Tiffany Blue boxes with white ribbons. I mean, sure, Father gave me plenty of answers and comments that were truly only from Him, but sometimes, believe it or not, I really didn’t have much to say.

My family and society expects me to travel, be educated and be independent. My mobility is my commodity and, as an American, “my right.” [Don’t get me started on all the “rights” we think we’re entitled to…] I can come and go, stay or leave, and no one really thinks much of it. [Except my dad. Sorry, Dad.] But I had this friend, whose dad had died. She’d had a terrible and, thankfully, short marriage as a teen and was now working retail in a local mall. She’s gorgeous, takes care of her sisters and mother, who no longer work, and even though I loved the light in her eyes when she saw that I was stalking her at work, she was, indeed, tired. She told me one day, “You don’t know what it’s like in my life, but I’m tired. You can see—my tired bones.”

She’s 22. And she’s tired already. And I completely believe her.

She dreamt aloud to me about starting a new life in another city—one where she could begin again and no one would know her, but where she could fall in love, be successful and pursue a future. But almost like a movie, the light in her eyes would fade and despair would return. She was stuck. That stuff wasn’t a reality for her. She’s a Mus. girl who can’t just move somewhere. No money, no family support, no man—nothing in her culture entertains those notions—that’s crazy Western talk and she must be careful of who hears her.

And as she went on, tears gathering in her eyes, I just stood there and held her hand, like Arab women do. We were in the awkward lingerie section of the store she worked in and I whispered to her: “I think you need a sunrise.”

And there you have it: I successfully ruined the moment.

For her, not me. “What, ya crazy Shagra?!!”

Whoops. There’s this song and the chorus says, “I think I need a sunrise, I’m tired of the sunset.” [The idea of the song is that this girl wants to leave California (where the sun sets) to start a new life in Boston (where the sun rises).] “…nevermind. You want a new beginning, right?”

“Yes. I want new beginnings. May God give them to me if it’s his will.”

“Inshallah,” came my response. I just stood there, still holding her hand and blankly staring out at racks of awkward lingerie. We were silent.

But I could hear this song in my head and I could feel tears starting to burn in my eyes.

She doesn’t want my Father. Right now.
[I’ve already asked her.]
She doesn’t want my money.
[As if I even had any to give her.]
She doesn’t want my words.
My silence, the tears in my eyes, the squeeze of my hand…
they were enough.

And… that’s it. I kissed her goodbye, she finished her 10-hour shift…
I walked the mile or so home, at sunset,
with lots of honks from taxis and people watching me
as I walked alone in a conservative neighborhood,
being a blonde crying blob.
[I may or may not have used my scarf to wipe my tears.]

I didn’t go home and pray. Nor did I share this with my roommate or any friends. I went home, made some cookies for a visit the next day while I had this song on repeat. And I wallowed. I wallowed at my ability to move and start over and be by myself. I hurt for her immobility. For possibilities always being just out of reach for her. She’s prettier, smarter and kinder than me. But she’ll be here all her life with hardships and monotonous routines. She’s only 22.

It’s not wrong or bad that this is her life—no.
I’m sad because she wants something else
and she’ll probably never have the opportunity to actualize her dreams.
But me, I was born in the same time, but in a completely different world.

And it’s not fair.

So, I just cried for her.

Boston by Augustana

In the light of the sun, is there anyone? Oh, it has begun…
Oh, dear, you look so lost, eyes are red and tears are shed,
This world you must’ve crossed… she said:

“You don’t know me, you don't even care…
You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains…”

Essential yet appealed, carry all your thoughts across
An open field, when flowers gaze at you
They’re not the only ones who cry when they see you
You said:

“You don’t know me, you don't even care…
You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains…”

And she said: “I think I’ll go to Boston,
I think I’ll start a new life,
I think I’ll start it over where no one knows my name.
I’ll get out of California—I’m tired of the weather,
I think I’ll get a lover and fly him out to Spain.
Oh yeah, and I think I’ll go to Boston,
I think that I’m just tired.
I think I need a new town to leave this all behind.
I think I need a sunrise—I’m tired of the sunset,
I hear it’s nice in the summer—some snow would be nice…”

“You don’t know me, you don’t even care…
Boston… where no one knows my name…”


  1. What a beautiful post. My heart goes out to women all over the world just like you describe - lacking hope of things ever improving for them. Well-said.

  2. I'm enjoying reading your blog. It's heartfelt, caring and wise. You're doing a good thing!

  3. Thanks, JJ. I want to hope for them. :-/

    Thanks for reading and for the encouragement, Kathy!!

    Love, Sarah.


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