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By Selim Batti
Translated from the Arabic by Essam M. Al-Jassim
She no longer harbored passionate feelings toward him—not even in their most intimate moments. To her, he was a cold-hearted imbecile who’d obliterated the landmarks of her joy and slaughtered any glimmer of the happiness she had once possessed. Whatever delight she had, he crushed down. He had robbed her of her solitary repose and pursued debauchery while toying with her desires. He tore away the threads of her happiness like a child swipes a spider’s web. He was a reckless driver; she was merely a steering wheel with which he swerved left and right.
How could she be a promising hope for him when she was solely a winter whim in the womb of his hot Tammuz? She was a simple winter fling, afraid of being exposed by the seasons that might reveal her disappointments—indeed, the seasons of the year relish disclosing misfortunes, and disillusionment evades the cruelty of the seasons.
He had deprived her of all gaiety by planting a thousand questions inside her soul. He had ravaged her person and sowed the seeds of his lust with his frivolity and loathing. Since the day she’d uncovered the fact that she was being taken advantage of as a suppressed, inanimate object—a far cry from the exceptional lover he had promised her she was to him—he’d betrayed her real emotions through his own resigned feelings.
For him, she was a temporary addiction — a bottle of whiskey he felt no need to make a toast with. She was the panacea that cured him before being discarded—not because she had become outdated, not because they had outgrown each other, but because he had recovered from his illness, so that the medicine had become a malady.
In his toxic masculinity and virility, he shrouded her in a red jar, upon which he penned Approach is Forbidden— a secret unknown to anyone. He kept the jar on the top of a shadowed shelf inside his bedroom, never exposed to light. But he was intelligent; he knew not to toss this container into the trash. His chauvinistic mind was unable to abide by any collapse of his pride.
Control over his possessions concerned him deeply, and he lived in fear that someone might retrieve that jar, wipe the dust off its past, and fill it with dear love instead of lust. Driven by this fear, he buried the jar deep. It was his secret to keeping, his possession to protect.
Selfish, suffering from the dread of losing control, and a twisted perfectionist in his craft, he molded his property for himself. With his jealousy, possessiveness, neurosis, and insecurity, he resembled a child who refused to give up his broken toys or ill-fitting clothing. He was a shameless, brazen man, a pilferer summoned before a judge only to deny all the charges against him, despite the overwhelming evidence presented.
A dominating person, he had embedded himself into the orbit of her life; become the touchstone of her bliss, the lie of her truth, the reality of his worst caprices. His breaths were to her as daggers poisoned with betrayal. His friends had almost accused her of trying to kill him, unaware of the fact that she was the one who had died a thousand times in his chokehold.
She had no friends, no confidant to help her see a way. He’d locked every door, closed every window and shut out the light. He had left her a laughing stock before her stronghold. In the darkness, in the small place she’d long lived, she saw hope. She’d had an epiphany. She’d seen the truth that his false love had hidden from her mind. She had reached a turning point. She breathed freely for the first time in ages and remembered who she was and who she had been. With hope again burning bright, she fled the habit of sleeping on the pillow of the nightmares he’d created.