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Noor

Noor

Jordan, 2018

A familiar vibration surges through my pocket.

It shakes firmly, asking for my attention. I picture a small child clenching itself up into a ball and quivering wildly before letting out a loud cry. I finish paying the vegetable seller for tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes. My basket is half full and my phone is dancing in the pocket on the opposite side to my free hand. I reach my arm across myself to fetch it.

– Hello.

– Put me on video.

– I’m at the market.

– You didn’t say you would go today.

– But we needed many things (the video appears).

– Why do you go alone to the market? Is there someone with you?

– I’m not alone, I have Hadi and Saida with me.

– Why don’t you go with Safa as you normally would?

– She’s 8 months pregnant, it’s not easy for her to go to the market so often.

– OK, OK, OK, but it’s better when you go with someone.

– I know.

– Ok I need to go back to work, please take photos and keep my updated.

– Yes. Bye.

– Bye.

“Two kilo’s of tomato for half JD!!!”, a man screams into my ear as I walk passed.

The market is heaving like blood vessels pushing through veins, when you squint your eyes the market turns into a blur of movement and appears like a swarms of ants frenzying around each other. It’s difficult to stay focused with the shouting and many things competing for your attention. I feel comfortable, happy, I have clear intentions here; I know how to find what I need and how to get a good deal. The intense activity reflects the incessant movement within my mind, it feels relaxing to match the outside world with the inside world. “Two kilo’s of tomato for half JD!!!”, a man screams into my ear as I walk passed. I have tomatoes already; I am on a search for well-priced figs and melon to make the most of the summer fruits.  It’s still early but the heat of the day is approaching so I mustn’t take too long.

My phone vibrates once more.

-Hello.

-Put me on video.

-OK.

-You didn’t send me a photo? Are you talking to the vegetable seller still?

-I haven’t stopped at another stall yet, you can tell through the video – see?

– Why are you so slow?

– Only one minute has passed I am deciding which stall to visit next and my movement is not so fast, I have some pain in my leg.

– OK, yes, your leg, send me a photo at the next stall. Where are the children?

– They are playing in the market with children from the neighbourhood, see?

– Ok. Goodbye.

-Bye.

The bottom of my dress is wet as I realise I’ve dragged it through a puddle of water. I lift my skirt slightly and move passed the water streaming out from beneath a stall. My leg moves slowly, stiffly, and robotically out of the puddle. I sometimes have to lift it up and swing it to get the momentum I need. My leg is a reminder of the journey from Syria; a rebelling limb, no longer going along with the will of my body. No one could have prevented the injury and treatment wasn’t possible along the way. It will forever be a hardened, rigid relic of the journey between lives. I recognise it as something stubborn, unyielding and I respect that, take inspiration from it even.

I think I feel a vibration in my pocket, only to realise it’s Hadi tugging on my dress. Relieved and happy to see him, I kiss him on the forehead and tell him to not go far.

Does my husband fantasise of divorcing me, as I do him? During a fight I once yelled that I would divorce him and he threw me out to stay with my mother for two months. My mother eventually begged him to take me back. He was pleased, I think.

When we first married seven years ago it was very nice, we had good understanding between us. I loved him. He was the co-worker of my brother and came from a good family. I remember seeing him for the first time, he was six years older than me which I thought was the ideal age difference. He was secure with a job and was respected by his colleagues. I desired him very much.

I was eager to start a family of my own and to heal from the one I was born into, which had become so broken.

We married six months after I arrived in Jordan, he had been here for eight months and we had met in the camp. My home and family was chaotic, I was eager to start a family of my own and to heal from the one I was born into, which had become so broken.

I thought making a child was just kissing and lying together in bed but when I first saw Burhan I knew deep in my body that there was more to it. Sex and childbearing are like having an accident; you do not know how it will feel until it happens. He respected me, was gentle with me, considered me.

Burhan has had six different jobs this past year, I know he struggles; I have to remember he was not always like this. For now, I know how to manage.

My pocket vibrates in short sharp bursts.

– Why have you not sent me a photo???

– I’m sorry I forgot, I was daydreaming about how we first met.

– How we met?? What a thing to be daydreaming about.

– You’re right, maybe I will daydream that we never met.

– Put me on video. Who are you talking to?? Where are the children? I’m working hard here and you’re daydreaming through the market and letting our children run wild.

– They are playing, I can see them, they are laughing. See?

– I see, I’m sorry, I’m having a very bad day.

– It’s OK, I’m sorry.

I take a photo of a heavy, stubborn sack of grains and send it, slipping my phone into my pocket and allowing the memory to slip away. To forget is a skill I am training. It can be to my detriment at times but for the most part it is a gift.

I take a photo of a heavy, stubborn sack of grains and send it, slipping my phone into my pocket and allowing the memory to slip away.

I used to imagine my life, to see futures. Maybe living in Germany with my family, running a small shop, making clothes for my daughter out of nice fabrics, taking walks with neighbours in the late afternoon sun. I still try but it’s harder for me to create images out of nothing now, it’s blurry and buried amongst images from my daily life of mattresses on the floor, children tugging on my dress, video calls. Of all the futures I imagined for myself, this wasn’t one of them. So until that changes, I will keep learning how to forget.

A ruby red pomegranate is cut open in a stall, displaying its hidden jewels. I take a photo of the shining, constrained seeds and send the image to my husband. The sellers finishes off his sale and turns his attention to me and anyone else near, “2 kilo for 1JD!”.

Another vibration, the screen says “Omar Brother”.

-Hello, where are you?

-Habibi, I’m at the market, what is it?

-I just spoke to Safa and she has some pain in her feet, can you please bring her something to help?

-Ok, what did she say?

-Her feet are really swollen and can’t fit into any of her shoes anymore and they’re sore.

-OK, I have bigger feet than her so I will bring her a pair of shoes and something for the swelling.

-Thank you, habibi.

-See you later.

-Yes, be well.

-Bye.

The second my phone hits the bottom of my pocket it is already vibrating.

I turn the phone around and take a photo of the children with my face along the edge of the frame. I send the photo. The second my phone hits the bottom of my pocket it is already vibrating.

 

Noor is inspired by the many interviews generously and bravely given by women in Jordan in 2018. Noor exists as an ode to the stories, experiences and characteristics of many displaced women from Syria currently living in Jordan, the research was centred around early marriage, sexual health and reproduction. Their story is a piece of fiction and not based on one persons experience alone.

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