In the light of youth I found a sleeping wake to a place where images of she and him collide and spin in unison, where love is pure and stable, and dreams of what could come are boundless in their possibilities. Pain fades to love, or love fades to pain and family holds true to its definition of consistency.
“Recklessness” and “courage” are nouns that are so interchangeable they should be similes. It’s more about context in the decision made, in that split second where a person decides to take that step, the jump, the cliché mode of movement that gets them to the place where people either gasp in amazement or pity. I realized this likeness between them early, very early. The first memory of it is as sharp as the lacerations on my feet that would ensue. What I didn’t know then, was they would lead to many more, and on the heart.I was with two boys, Naïf, and Sebastian. Both wild-eyed smelling that smell of sweaty boy skin. We were standing at the edge of the concrete driveway. Starring at an ocean of white rocks, all shapes and sizes, blunt and uneven. This was my front yard. Landscaping goes as such in Saudi, white rocks, trimmed with grey rocks, perhaps a cactus or jasmine tree to fight the sweltering air, and add a small touch of “life” to the desert. But it was home and it was one hell of a testament to your strength, your pride. At six years old, we knew not how different our worlds were, or would be. We knew only of our impending competition.
I eyed the boys, knowing before we began I would feel nothing, I would push through the pain, smoldering rocks, heating from their core from hours in the unfiltered Arab sun... We lined up hands on the parameter ashy flagstones, eyes piercing the neighbors drive, which doubled-as our finish-line. Only one will win. A bead of child sweat fell from my nose, and I could taste the salt on my lips as I opened my mouth to count down: “Wahid, Thanine….Thalathaaaaaaaaaaaa!” I yelled, and we were off.
The boys shot off like champagne corks, full throttle. Their faces turned to wrinkles of lips pulling up and teeth showing. They made audible grunts as the nerve endings in their feet started to signal their brains to stop. Sebastian listened, it was obvious his mind was telling him the pain was real. Sebastian started to lean to the left and fell into a slow and long hop, clasping his right heel with his hand. Naif, he was a born scary empty-headed machine of athleticism. He didn’t stop, he didn’t look down, he ran chin up with this thick dark hair flopping in the wind of his movements. He had the tolerance, but he didn’t have the speed.
The pain wasn’t real. One foot in front of the other, piercing and puncturing the tiny pads of my feet. Consecutive banging, like a loud clapping in my head, getting faster with my heart beat. The tops of my toes curled around the tops of rocks, and spit them out like some strange piece of farming machinery; I felt nothing but the thrill of winning, or beating someone at something that involved dealing with pain, being tough. I understood those terms. It was that simple, it started that early. My arms flailing behind me as the last step from burning rock hit the pavement of the neighbor’s lot. The smack of flesh to a hard surface shocked my ankle bones through my knees to my hips. I bent over, my lips curling at the edge. I won, and they lost. I beat the pain, and they couldn’t take it.
I didn’t gloat, no jumping or screaming. It was quiet reveling in accomplishment, something I would accomplish daily with more children than this. Battles of wills and pain. Under the bluest skies in the middle-eastern heat, we sweat and fought tears. I couldn’t know then, that this was my destiny. I couldn’t even conceive of a life as a woman would mimic this very display, this need to hide pain and defeat it with witnesses.
The little girl, with messy brown curls falling all around her messy brown face. Spirals bound by perspiration, grimacing with a slight smile, a mask molded at five. A little girl standing with one hand on her hip. Her knees ashy and cracked. Scars hide under her teal blue and green Sun-dress with stains on the smocking, rumpled and flowing in the westerly winds. That little girl would soon learn life is not this white, but more grey. She will learn later, that she could never quite cover the theatre of emotions behind her big brown eyes. Her future history will show, she would never beat the fight within her. The fight of rock racing boys for life, for hearts… for the win. This would be a constant bouncing between Reckless and Courage. This moment, these collective thrills of silent revelry were the closing doors on her innocence.