Monday, April 27, 2009

Claire Khoury

I was running for my life. Thickets and thorns were scratching at my tired thighs and aching calves, painfully reminding me of what had just happened.
Whizzing by park benches and lamp posts I couldn't stop no matter how badly my lungs were shrinking. My heart was racing as fast as my feet.
Focus on breathing, in and out. In and out. I sounded like a donkey, hee hawing but my mind was what I wanted to stop.
I remember a dim lit candle and the spanish guitarist plucking away parts of his soul through the somber melodies and erratic fingering. Sitting in that dusty bar thinking this was a good idea for a while. I was too confident in that black dress, teasing my hair with my fingertips and trying not to look like I didn't belong in there.

The glass on the bar looked dewy and I remember I liked it. Slinking my fingers across the drops of condensation felt familiar tracing back to when I was a child and would sit at the windowsill of my families bungalow, drawing pictures on the window when it would rain. I felt alive when it rained and yet miraculously restless as my father droned on playing keys on the piano as he often did during the storms.

The guitarist took a break and the cliche, background bar music began to play. He was twenty minutes late and the cigarettes I had were too few now to continue waiting.

I am not a patient person and unless I have a cigarette to fill the time I become antsy and bothered. I was bothered all right and twenty minutes is too long to wait, especially for a guy.

"A woman should always be the late one. The man waits on you, not the other way around. If you get there before him, leave," my mother used to say to me as she would brush my curly hair out, trying to make it straight. She bought me my first hair straightener and told me to treat it as another appendage.

My unruly curly hair would make men nervous. Meditterranean and Arabic women with their wild hair made her fearful. They looked untamable, and I was supposed to be tamed.

I got up and left after thirty minutes of my legs falling asleep and my backside becoming numb. I was livid.

As I walked out of the bar and down the street, I was going to go home and watch another old movie again. I would have probably mixed it up a bit and watched something other than Casablanca this time.
Like a whiplash, my body was stopped and pulled around like some sort of jitterbug dance move, nearly dislocating my arm.

-"Give me your money." He was tall, rotund and hispanic, showcasing a toothy mouth topped off with a sparse "stache."
-"Please, let go of me and I'll give you what's in my purse. I don't have any cash but I can give you my credit cards."
He hesitated to let me out of his firm grip and I rubbed the skin on my arm where he had touched me. It felt rough like after an indian sunburn.

You should run for it, Claire. He's not armed and he's too big to keep up with you.
I didn't have much time to think, but my cleverness reminded me of Pseudolus and for a moment, just for an spec of time, I felt cunning and alive.

Throwing down an Old Navy Debit Card I kicked my black stilettos off and I ran through the alley all along the dirty pavement, nearly skinning off my callouses. I heard him yell something as though he planned to cut me off, but I was too fast for him and knew these streets all too well. My brothers and I used to map out this neighborhood when we would shoot our documentaries back when we were younger. I'm still young and I shouldn't have been in a place like that on this night. I realized I had all the time in the world to be old. You're only young for so long, and it's so hard to keep the memories. I cherished the ones I still had.

Running through the alleys and streets, passing lamp post after lamp post, trash bin after recycling bin, I couldn't stop until I got home.
My arm was throbbing and my shoulder kept clicking. After a mile or so I decided it was safe to stop. I called a cab to take me home. The ride back felt longer and I wasn't in the mood for small talk.
Exiting the cab and walking up to my house, I felt a wave of relief.

I sat on the steps and continued to catch my breath. I noticed my hair start to frizz and looked up at the cloudy night sky as I sniffed in the smell of the air. It was going to rain. It was going to rain right now.

As the drops fell from the sky, I lifted my face to catch the sweet dewy beads. I was getting cleansed by the rain. As I stood up to walk inside, I noticed my reflection in the window. My hair, now wet, was becoming curly again. I liked it better that way for once.

For once, I felt I was who I truly was. Untamed, unmarked and naturally curly

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