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future held for them, whether for good or for ill.

“I smile when I remember Anisa’s rounded belly during the fourth month of her first pregnancy. On my way home from her house one day, I ran my hand over my own belly, wondering if I could put up with having a tiny life growing in my womb, and whether I’d look as beautiful pregnant as Anisa did. Thinking about such things sent a tremor of fear though my whole body – fear of the dilemma of unplanned motherhood.To this day, I haven’t been able to identify the real reasons for a fear like this, except for the fact that I didn’t want to tie myself down with any commitment that might rob me of my capacity for art. Dancing – like freedom, like love – had always been my most passionate pursuit.

“After Anisa married Riyadh, she was shocked to find out what he was really like. One day she said to me:‘If Jahiz had been Riyadh’s contemporary, he could have written the entire Book of Misers with examples from the life of Riyadh alone. And if you compared him to Molière’s miser Anselme, the latter would come out looking as generous as Hatim al-Ta’i*. Riyadh’s fingers are like pincers – all they know how to do is grab. For all I know, he’s never opened his hand to give anybody anything in his entire life! Even when he shakes somebody’s hand, he extends his fist instead of his palm. He brags about the fact that he’s never been to a café, even for a cup of coffee, unless one of his friends picks up the tab, since frequenting such places is, according to him, a sinful extravagance. I’ve caught him counting the eggs and packages of cheese in the refrigerator to see how many of them have been used up, and when he finishes doing the count, he goes berserk. He puts his head in his hands and wails: “O my God, there are monsters around here eating us out of house and home! Nobody has any fear of God, not even my own kids.What kind of a life is this!”’

“Once when we were sitting in a coffee shop, she told me:‘Sometimes Riyadh acts in unpredictable ways. So, for example, I don’t tell him how much I make at the magazine, because he might take it from me. I hide some of it away for my personal expenses, though it isn’t enough for me. But if I ask him for money to buy a dress because the one I’ve got is faded and worn out, he yells in my face, saying: “I swear to God, my grandmother went on wearing the same

* A sixth-century Arabian poet, Hatim al-Ta’i is remembered for his proverbial generosity; thus the expression “as generous as Hatim al-Ta’i”.

BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021 95

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