Day 7 – Clash of Cultures

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Write a post based on the contrast between two things –  in the form of a dialogue.

True story.

I don’t remember how we ended up talking but in the end it doesn’t matter – that we did was important. It was one of those conversations that stay with you for the rest of your life, even though it happened with a stranger. I don’t remember her name… I don’t even remember if I ever knew her name. We saw each other daily, working the same shift in the hospital, I doing my internship, she a nurse. It was one of those regular meetings where one meets the eye, smiles, maybe exchanges a few irrelevant pleasantries, glad to have a face you know in the anonymity of daily rush.

She needed to talk, I realized, not hoping for something, just needing to get the words out, to share.

“Tomorrow is my last day”, I said.

“Oh!”, she said, nodding politely, then, with a touch of regret: “I won’t be there tomorrow.”

“Your day off? Lucky you!” I smiled again, but when I saw the look in her face, it faded quickly. No. It was not her day off. Not in the least. This would probably be the day she’d never have off, always carrying it with her. Seeing her eyes beneath the hijab she only wore when she was off work, a feeling of dread came over me.

“No, it’s… I… I’m having an abortion tomorrow.” She swallowed but her eyes never left mine.

“Oh…” My voice was small. I somehow knew this was not a reasonable, informed decision.

“Yes, they… I’m going to… they’re making me marry my cousin.” She swallowed again. “I never met him. He lives in Turkey. I’ll need to quit my job, I’ll probably have to stay there. And I need to be a virgin for that. They’re going… the doctor is sowing my hymen up again. After… you know.”

“Oh God”, I said, involuntarily, unthinking. “I’m so sorry.”

She nodded, thankful, her eyes still fixed on mine.

“What about your… boyfriend?” I didn’t know if she even had a boyfriend, we had never been on a personal basis before.

She gave a small shrug. “I have to leave him. He can’t help. There is no way out.” Suddenly the tears fell, wetting her cheeks. A sob, stuck in her throat. “I wanted that baby.”

Without further thinking I closed her in my arms, holding her while she wept.

“I’m so sorry, so sorry…” I wispered over and over while the minutes passed, us embracing in that tiny bus stop in the darkness of a March evening that tried in vain to cover up her loss, her pain, her bleak future. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. There she was, a woman, my age, schooled, trained, same as me. We grew up in the same country, spoke the same language, worked at the same hospital. And despite all that similarities, we were worlds apart. Never in my life had I nor would I face anything similar. No one would try to make me marry someone I never met. No one would make me leave the country I grew up in. No one had valued something so ridiculous as my virginity or had reason to. And no one, no one would ever press me into aborting a baby I wanted. But here, now, I could do nothing to help her, except be with her and share her sorrow.

The bus appeared at the end of the street, nearing us. “Is there anything I can do?” I asked helplessly.

She shook her head and wiped at her cheeks, breaking the hug. “No.”

“I’m so sorry”, I said again, very quietly, repeating the most useless words I felt I ever uttered.

She wiped her nose, nodding. “Thank you.”

I held her hand until the bus came, then we let go. A last sympathetic look, a nod, a half-hearted smile on both our faces, then she was gone.

I never saw her again.

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5 thoughts on “Day 7 – Clash of Cultures

  1. Wow, this is an incredible story. So full of emotion, so sad. While you may have felt helpless, perhaps sharing her story was enough to help her in some way. It’s horrible that she had to go through that.

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