Re­sist

The Iowa Review - - NEWS - Zaina arafat

The sec­ond time I wake up this morn­ing Roberto is gone. The first time I heard the toi­let flush­ing; he came out of the bath­room and slid back into bed, shiv­er­ing. Now I am hug­ging a pil­low that smells like him. I go to make cof­fee in the kitchen, where yesterday’s clothes have been folded and placed on a chair. For weeks he’s been say­ing that he wants to tie me up. Last night he tied me to the fridge with my bra, arms pulled be­hind my back, skin drawn taut across my chest. “To have my way with you,” he whis­pered in my ear. The fridge, I imag­ine, is a preview of what’s to come.

“There’s more to you than this ob­ses­sion!” Mr. Fairchild says to his daugh­ter Sab­rina in the epony­mous MGM clas­sic. Later, Sab­rina sits in a tree over­look­ing a din­ner party hosted by David Larrabee, the ob­ject of her long-stand­ing fan­tasy. “There’s more to you than these ob­ses­sions!” says Dr. Hud­son when I charm­ingly quote the movie line to her. It’s a sig­ni­fier that I rec­og­nize the prob­lem, so no need to waste time get­ting to it. Many moves to new cities equals many new ther­a­pists, and I am good at bring­ing them up to speed with a mat­ter-of-fact, clin­i­cal de­tach­ment that al­most makes me think we’re treat­ing me to­gether. “You have so much go­ing for you,” each ther­a­pist says, re­sist­ing the im­pulse to touch me in a way that al­ways feels in­ten­tional. But I’m used to be­ing touched, I need to be touched, I prom­ise I won’t fall in love with a touch. “There’s so much in you to de­sire,” says Dr. Hud­son. “You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re pretty—” “Don’t,” I say. “I’m smart and funny. But, please, don’t. Not that. ” With thick black hair that reaches the small of her back, al­mond eyes flanked by Palestine-re­puted cheek­bones, and a sen­su­ous mouth, top lip weigh­ing down upon a smaller lower lip so as to give her a ter­ri­fy­ing non-smile, my mother is, by al­most all stan­dards, ex­quis­ite. As a child, I was lav­ished with at­ten­tion for be­ing her daugh­ter. In fact, that was the ex­tent of who I was. “Inti bint Laila?” You’re Laila’s daugh­ter? “Yee! Habibti!” For years, I freeloaded off my mother’s earned ado­ra­tion. I didn’t have to do a thing to be loved; I just had to be. But as I got older, the same peo­ple who’d kissed and pinched my cheeks would try and talk to me, as­sum­ing that I pos­sessed her flu­id­ity of wit and charm, her

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