Fehesh. Araf. Jaye.

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Lying next to Teta in her bed on a beautiful summer day, I don’t know if it was the heat or the hormones that made my 16-year-old self think about asking her one particular question. I would have loved to ask it directly: “Teta, if I told you I might be queer, would you still love me?”

Instead, my question was: “Teta, when you were young and still living in Syria, did you know about any homosexual people there?”

She gave me a funny look and stared at the ceiling, collecting her thoughts. “Eh,when I was just younger than you, I found out about those things,” she said. “I was younger than you because at 16 I was already married and living here. Bi kel el ahwel, we had a neighbor, a young woman who lived alone. She was engaged to a man who would visit her frequently. One time, he came to see her. When he knocked on her door and she opened up, he froze. Her hair was mankoush and she was wearing nothing but her nightgown. She was out of breath, in a state of euphoria. She didn’t have time to talk. He pushed her aside and went barging into the house like a furious bull. All we could hear was: Ya weskha! Ya sharmouta! He then dragged her out by the hair till he got to the middle of the road, where all the neighbors could see them. He pushed her to the ground and started beating her. No one tried to stop him. Jaza el khiyene. We were waiting for the man she was with to come to her rescue only to see a half-naked girl running towards them screaming at him to leave her alone. Inteh el ahbe! Ha aalmik! He pulled her to him and hit her. Then he pushed her to the ground next to her lover. There was a lot of anger in that first of his. And that was the end of it. Chi araf bass. Keef bet nem maa mara?”

My eyes were wide open. I couldn’t believe Teta had witnessed all that. I had to know more.

– “Chou sar bel benet?” I asked.
– “Mashi, taraka khatiba w hiyeh tarakit el hay.”
– “Ufff haram.”
– “Eh, ma assar fiya. Bahdala. Bass chi ktir fehesh hek. Ma bi sir hek araf. Shou hal jaye!”

Fehesh. Araf. Jaye. Leish, Teta? Who are we to judge? Who sets the standards? You? Me?

“Mazbout,” I replied, stomach tied in knots and lump in throat aside.

– Contributed by Pisces

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