Here's me, looking a little risque because my face is showing.
I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t often leave our compound. It’s easier not to, what with shops closing five times a day for prayer, the blazing heat, the requirement to wear an abaya, and the awkward expectation that I have a male guardian to chaperone me (and lacking said guardian, most times). Our compound is rather self-sustaining on its own, so I don’t often have a reason to leave more than once or twice a week. But yesterday I had to pay my phone bill, so I reluctantly ventured out.
The phone store isn’t far, so I made the trip on foot. Although Western women aren’t generally required to wear a head veil in public in the city, I donned one anyway to provide a little shade from the insistent morning sun. After slipping on a pair of sunglasses and my floor-length abaya, I was covered almost completely in black from head to toe.
The streets were mostly empty, but an occasional taxi honked in an effort to tempt me to take a paid ride to my destination. As it often goes, I ignored the taxi but the ever-hopeful driver pulled into the next cross street on the odd chance that I was indecisive and deep down really wanted to jump into the backseat and offer up the contents of my purse. But the driver was as disappointed as I was annoyed when I circumambulated his car to get to the other side of the street.
Still rolling my eyes at the taxi driver, I was perhaps a little less aware than usual when a young Saudi man brushed past me, leaning in so that he could casually pat me on the rear end. (I imagine it would have been more than a pat if I hadn’t been walking so quickly.) Although I spun around, ready to strike him, he was already crossing the street by the time I had managed gather my wits about me enough to call him an animal. He probably didn’t even hear me.
It was one of those moments that you replay again and again in your mind, thinking of all of the things you could have done to humiliate and scorn the offender, recalling vocabulary that you could have used but didn’t, wondering if physical retaliation would have been feasible. So distracted was I with the thoughts that I’m afraid I was rather icy to the clerks at the phone store. . . . But then again, maybe they figured that was typical behavior for a woman walking the city without her guardian.