Why I Left Saudi In The First Place

Mama was telling me to go back to Saudi, for the hundredth time, last night.

Her urges usually come in a repeated mantra. “Go back, work there, teach there, get married to Asim, then live in Riyadh with him.”

Why I Can't Live There

I tell her that I can’t stand living in Saudi. I tell her that even Asim has forgiven my inability to live there. The one thing I haven’t told her is that I can’t live in a country where I am nothing but an extension of men. I can’t live in Saudi without my set of men. Father, brother, driver, mu3aggib, and/or husband.

In Saudi, I’m considered as a full person only when there is a man who approves it. I can only work when my mahram approves it. I can only travel abroad only when my mahram approves it. I can only go to work and school and visit friends and loiter in the cafĂ© only when there is a man who approves to take me there.

I couldn’t stand living in Saudi for the half-heartedness of life. You’re never really alive in Saudi. Not in normal conditions. The course of life is based on consumerism; you work to buy more things. You work to buy a smarter computer, a faster car, a bigger house, a prettier dress. You work so that you can afford lavishness and efficiency. You work so that you can spend more. You work because there’s nothing else to do.

You never know who you’re trying to impress and entertain. Smarter to do what? Faster to beat what? Bigger to house what? And underneath all of those facades, can it make your heart and mouth prettier?

I got tired of that tiring cycle. Things don’t impress me. The Saudi education doesn’t impress me. The nights out, the boys, the opinions, the materialism, the drugs, the religiousness, nothing impressed me anymore.

My inability to get amused and impressed with things murdered my readiness to live. I lost my home, and got sick with incurable longing for the gone. The gone is gone, and if I try to relive the gone, only disasters happen.

Why I Can Live Here, In Indonesia

I can’t explain to my mother why I enjoy my current life in the middle of disasters. I can’t afford most of the things I buy. I can’t afford most of the meals I eat. I keep cheating on my savings plan like there’s no tomorrow. And hell if I care, because my life has never been so real.

I love the trips I take from home to work, from work back home, even though I bitch in every second before I start walking. Seems like as soon as I start walking, my mind is forced to think basic: (literally run and) catch that bus, watch out for pickpockets, find a place to eat without getting food poisoning, feed dog and cat, walk, walk and walk some more, walk dog, pray, sleep, breathe, eat.

The only time I really think about the gone is right before I sleep, and the moment I wake up. And that’s more wakeful dreams than I need.

The wakeful dreams are the only thing that keeps me writing these days. Probably the reason I write is to shut them up. And these dreams about the gone are always the same. Seasoned with sadness and longing, they’ve taken a permanent spot in my brain, and as easy to bring up as dropping the ashes of my cigarettes.

But at least these dreams only come in the first and last moments of waking, and the weekends. That’s why we’re looking for another job to quench the rest of those dreams.

Why I Want To Do This Alone, For The Time Being

A bunch of people, other than my mother, have commented on my fierce singleness. My lack of effort in meeting and dating anyone amazes them. And my nonchalance considering the concept of marriage scares them. My soft-spoken landlady actually said that “a girl like you should have a lot of boyfriends.”

I can’t help the carelessness and meanness I carry in my behavior towards men. It’s not like I don’t want to be married, have kids, and die fast. I just don’t care anymore. The men I’ve met are so predictable, so below my esteem. Maybe my expectations are too high for normal men to fulfill, but my expectations were once filled (before they burnt out with anger and loneliness) by a real person and (looking at the amount of damage it caused from those fulfilled expectations) I don’t really want my expectations to be filled again so soon.

This is what my mother, and all of the elders who encourage me to marry and settle, cannot understand. That I’m not selling my peace of mind for anybody’s approval.

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