The last time I wrote to you all, I was at the cusp of a new adventure, beginning my first ever artist’s residency in the fabled city of amour, Paris.
Today, the 20th of September, marks the official end of my residency. Subhanallah, the time seems to have rushed by before I could catch my breath…
I have felt an urge to mark the occasion with some sort of retrospective, but I remain too close to the experience to reliably assess its impact. How does one glibly sum up what 24 weeks in a building half filled with artists from every corner of the globe during a global pandemic does to an engineer? I have read more books this year than probably the last five combined, historical fiction tomes like Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety to slim, sparse novellas like Natasha Brown’s Assembly. I have learnt to appreciate the elegance of a well constructed sentence and the power of a well, placed comma. J'ai appris le français, assez pour des conversations avec les gens français, même si je ne comprends pas tout. My first play and poem completed and submitted, eight essays written for my upcoming collection, Talking About A Revolution. The post-it notes filling the bright expanse of white wall in my studio have all been taken down.
I am excited to share what I have been working on over the last six months, but as is the way with long form work, it may be some time before I can do so. Instead, I thought I’d share a vignette of an experience from a few years ago.
It’s good to be back, folks. I hope life is treating you kindly, inshallah.
The same day President Donald Trump announced the Muslim Ban, barring my entry into the United States and costing me at least four months worth of income in work, I found myself alone in a Melbourne hospital, grappling with the strangest of possibilities. It was the 27th of Janurary 2017.
I had checked in for a simple procedure, the installation of an IUD under general anaesthetic. Contraception was the latest of a local doctor’s feeble attempts to curb the crimson tidal wave of blood my uterus expelled monthly, depleting me so utterly my body required regular iron infusions to keep me from collapse.
‘Are you pregnant?’ A nurse asked perfunctorily, running through the pre-op check list. I laughed with assured confidence, confessing proudly that such a thing was a physical impossibility. She smiled, though not unkindly. ‘We will have to do a test anyway,’ she informed me. Sure, no worries.
The sample cup filled with warm, camomile coloured liquid handed over smugly, I took a seat in a light blue desk chair to wait.
On her return to the consultation room, the nurse cracked open the door slightly, as if unsure, then pushed it all the way in. She faced me, concern clouding the space between us. It smelt of rotten flesh.
‘Are you sure you haven’t been sexually active?’ she said. Her voice squeaked. She was nervous, I realised. Another nurse came in behind her, soldiers in formation.
‘The test shows your pregnant.’
My brow furrowed. No, I’m not. The test is clearly wrong.
’Accidents happen’, they said, glancing at each other, inscrutable. I wondered how many times this had happened, how many times they delivered unexpected news to disbelieving ears.
‘No, you don’t understand,’ I pressed, trying to make them believe me. ‘There is no way on earth I could be pregnant. Test me again, you’ll see.’
The nurse allowed herself to humour me, leaving me in the sparsely decorated purgatory to retrieve another test. ‘It’s a different brand,’ she informed me on her return.
‘Should I give you a new sample?’ I asked, unsure of the pregnancy test protocol. The nurse nodded, and I awkwardly simpered into the hallway towards a small cubicle. Finished, I sauntered back, delivering what I hoped would be my redemption.
I was not to know that redemption had long since left the station.
‘No, no, no, it can’t be true!’
I stood in front of them, now barefoot and naked in an ugly medical gown, thin paper the only thing keeping me halal. My previous self confidence creaking under unexpected strain. It must be wrong, it must be. Was I really going to have an immaculate conception?
A beautiful read: ‘We stopped looking at the stars’
A podcast I did recently: Growing up with Galdem
A thread: ‘What is going on with supply chains?’
Thanks for subscribing and reading this week’s edition of Diasporan Diaries. Please, comment with thoughts, questions, critiques…and share if it resonated.
Much love, strength and safety to you all.
I learnt French, enough for conversations with French people though I do not understand everything!
President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that banned foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the country for 90 days, suspended entry to the country of all Syrian refugees indefinitely, and prohibited any other refugees from coming into the country for 120 days.
In the end it took three pregnancy tests, one near stress induced cardiac arrest and a negative blood test before the results came back clear. Deliverance! A false alarm, it had turned out. The doctors had no explanation for why there were such substantial levels of hCG hormone in my urine, and didn’t seem to care about finding out. The episode was chalked up to chance, mystery, a dramatic story with a happy ending.
\When I checked out of the hospital, the woman processing my paperwork looked at me, then looked at my papers and smirked.
‘Oh you’re the one with all the false pregnancy positives! Don’t I recognise you from TV?’
Congratulations on passing through self orientation, French lessons, le curfew, hijabi laws and protests, writing and writing and flaneur style rambles- may the next months of transition be gentle and that essay looks amazing while terrifying! 💜💜💜
All I can say, you're gorgeous, awesome beautiful....my sister.May Allah always protect you from all evils on earth.