Why do I think of us in terms of the saint and the whore, Ekleel? Why do I ascribe virtue to your image, expect it like wedding attendants in Egypt’s countryside anticipate a white kerchief stained with the bride’s virgin blood as the ceremony’s culmination? Perhaps it’s the imprint my rearing left on me—a stain, a birthmark—which puts a depraved face on all forms of indulgent desire. I and so many of our generation try to convince ourselves we have been inoculated against the biases of our culture through our education. We stand before mirrors, painting on faces like “objective” and “liberal” so painstakingly so as to deceive even ourselves. And yet, a shadow or a variation of that which we despise, endlessly criticize and assign as the flaw in society’s intellect always lurks. In its most apparent form, you can catch it in our idea of “mother”: sacrificing, nurturing, kind and morally incorruptible. How many of us acknowledge lust and longing in our mothers? How many see it and accept it as the equivalent of that of our fathers’?
You can see the glaring discrepancy now, can’t you? For even as I prance around from bed to bed, relishing my sexuality, I fail to regard it as a pure expression of instinct. It is the same as the hunger we took part in as teenage girls, Ekleel, desperately wishing to minimize the space we occupy, to shape it into a delicate form like petit-fours. Is there anything we fear more than formlessness? You have succeeded in mastering asceticism while I—ever the bulimic—remain buckled-in on the Ferris Wheel of binging and purging, shame producing self-loathing producing abstinence producing gluttony on loop. It may be that I set you up on a pedestal only comparatively, because I see myself as the toxic or it may be that I still look, yearn to see someone who found the road to their light. Any success at all, Ekleel, whether holy or demonic. At my core, a need to hold on to even a hint of Utopian principles like selfless friendship and unconditional love struggles to survive. You are the one in whom I hope to find them. The log, the lifeboat, the lowered rope.
Because I cannot even contemplate the effort required to rise. Day turns to night to day. Mother comes in and begs me to get up, places her hand on the top of my head while reciting Quran verses: Muslim exorcism. Father tells me to stop self-indulgently sulking. He says I ought to pour my “dramatic flair” into something productive. I am conscious of nothing outside my being.
How can I describe to you the immensity of such suffering? How it creeps in while you’re asleep and when you wake up, the world is devoid of all color and meaning.