How writing broke my mother’s heart.

painting ©Zainab Abdulkarim

تحدّث الكاتبة أمينة عتيق والدتها عن طموحها بالكتابة وعن الحبّ والزواج. تمثّل الأم جيلاً مختلفاً عن جيل والدتها المتزمّت -جدّة الكاتبة- هذا الجيل يتقبّل  أن تحبّ المرأة و تتزوج بمن تحبّ.

محور الموضوع يدور حول دَيْڤ الذي لا تثق به الجدّة وتراه غاصباً متهرّباً. فهي، من ناحية، على حقّ: هو يأخذ

عذرية البنات ويهرب، وهذا ما سيراه الناس. المرأة  المهجورة هذه تتبنى شكل المرأة الغربية الحديثة بملبسها وحياتها وطريقة تفكيرها.  وها هي ترى أبعد مما تفكر فيه جدتها، ترى ما عانته المهاجرات اللواتي غرقن في البحر الأبيض المتوسط وَمَنْ تعرضن للتعذيب في بلدانهن أو مَنْ تيتمن في طفولتهن. أمّا الجدّة فترى أنّ على هذه البنت الناضجة أن تمتنع عن الكتابة. وتقارنها بانتقاص مع بنات عمومتها اللواتي تراهُنّ عاديّات بطموحهنّ. تستسلم هذه المتمردة حيناً لتعود ثانية للكتابة وبقوة متجددة وتقرر أن تسافر لتقابل اللاجئات وتدوّن ما وصلن إليه من تقدّم.

ترفض السيدة الكبيرة ما تقوم به حفيدتها ولا تتفهّمه فيما تصرّالحفيدة على مواصلة طريقها بالكتابة والتحدي.

Amina Atiq

Last week you had a dream that you fell in love with Dave. You surprise your family, running down the stairs and swinging the kitchen door open,

‘Meet Dave’. Dave stood there, grinning. But Gran-ma laughed,

‘English men take our land, now they take our women’. She turns her head away to indicate that she is no longer interested. The morning after, Dave runs away taking your virginity with him. Well, that’s what people will think, anyway. Good for him. Good for you, Dave. Mum tells you to never to trust the ‘White man’. You know you will get no marriage proposal from Ahmed who owns the newsagent down the road. They call him Tony, white people do. No one wants to marry a woman like you, they say you are a modern one. You wear skinny jeans and perform sad poetry. They say your voice is forbidden, it will attract the opposite sex. Maybe women shouldn’t speak at all or run away like Dave.

An elderly Arab woman will tell you to give up political writing and take on love. You will no longer be a starving artist, she promises. You believe her. You sometimes wish you were a sad romantic like Niza Qabbani; tell the story of Layla through the eyes of Qyas ibn a Mulawwah, using his fingers to write her name, ‘I draw a picture of her in the dust’. You want a man like him.

Every girl dreams of love but you only think of the drowned bodies in the

Mediterranean Sea. The oppressed woman fleeing her home with a broken nose and a bruised rib. The little boy holding his mother in his arms with a bullet to her chest. The forgotten family burned to ashes with no death certificate, no trace of evidence left to investigate. The hunger striker clenching on to justice, even if death takes him away. Let him starve, let him starve until death invites itself at home and pain packs its bags and waves farewell.

Mum will tell you that the world is better off without your writing.  You tell her that all you think about is posing for the camera and a standing ovation, as you thank the audience for being so beautiful. She hates your sarcasm.

You remember one night; mum tells you to be normal for once, she compares you to your ‘normal’ cousins and reminds you the world is better off without your writing.  You listen, but your eyes refuse to cry. Stab your own heart and run away to your bedroom, where it all began, writing on your wall with a black marker that even three layers of paint won’t be able cover. You rip your journal apart, piece by piece. Every honest word, every story you poured your heart into, every risk you took as you faced your own weaknesses. You rip your heart into pieces.

That same night, you gather the ripped paper and try to stich them back, but it was too late. Every word lost. Every honest word lost. The next morning, you begin a new journal; you like the smell of new paper. Your write your first line, How writing broke my mother’s heart. You look at your reflection and you see resilience.  You promise yourself that this is your fight, but fight in silence. You promise to memorise every new line so that if a fire ever burned your house down, every word will fall off your tongue.

That same morning, you sing around the house in your Bedouin robe holding a letter in your hand, all jolly and dolly. You wait till mum questions your happiness.

‘Why are you happy today? You read the letter out loud in a cut glass English accent,

‘We are pleased to inform you that your application to the Go Global Fund has been successful’. 

  ‘What does that mean?’ You explain that with this funding you will be travelling and documenting the lives of refugees settling into their new homes. Your eyes beam in excitement. She looks at you in disgust,

‘Alone?’ You nod your head, embarrassed as you hide behind the fridge door waiting for a response. There was silence then the kettle reached its boiling point.

‘Are you stupid or what? Are you asking to be raped’. You pretend to look for the milk but she carries on stabbing your heart.

‘No woman of our own travels alone, but for what, so you can write poetry? Can’t you do something that is normal, like everyone one else?’ She waits for your backchat. You slam the fridge door and walk out singing, ‘I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky…

You have come to understand that you will never be able to convince a traditional mind-set so you choose to break your mother’s heart instead. You tell yourself it is time to sit mum down.  You kiss her forehead and tell her no woman on this earth can ever replace her love.  You thank her for sacrificing her education; her life in Yemen and moving away from her family so her children can have that ‘British dream’. She refuses to cry, but you know all she wants to do is place you in her arms. You tell her that in this world, some of us have to choose between the safe or the risky path. She asks you,

‘What do you mean?’ But she clearly knows. You take her hand and place it above your heart. You tell her,

‘Can you hear that? It’s my heart beating’. You explain that while you are alive, you have only a reasonability, to do what makes this heart happy and writing makes you very happy.She refuses to believe you.

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