FADWA AL QASEM
They just don’t let me be.
And so, I’m ever alone; they’re always with me.
If I try to forget, to be oblivious to their presence, I don’t succeed. For the slightest movement causes them to wriggle, shake, and quiver.
And with the yawning of every new crescent, I feel them grow, mature, hurt a little and become more sensitive.
My relationship with them is a mixture of confusion, tenderness, wildness; they tantalize me with their presence, their weight, and the way in which they seem to be always in the way.
My breasts and I.
Since my first moment of awareness, I have dreamt of them.
Just a little girl watching those women with magnificent, large, firm peaks.
I used to dream that I would have what they had; that I would wake up one morning to find two beautiful, firm mountains in this flat valley between my neck and my waist.
I used to love clinging to my mother.
Morning visits, shopping, going to tailor shops, crouching in changing rooms, devising ingenious ways to steal glances filled with curiosity. How much boredom I put up with to be able to search for these details; what I saw was not much, but what I saw was beautiful and it was enough to fuel my dream.
Women around me used to draw curtains and lock doors. They used to wrap their bodies in towels, cautiously, timidly, embarrassed even of themselves. I understood that when I got older and started growing my own little mounds. At first they were just tiny swellings; no one could see them but me, and no one noticed their transformations but me. Their ever so small size used to bother me ever so much. I thought that this was it, that’s all I’m getting, just two silly little mounds; and I wanted to join the realm of women.
I still don’t know where that defining moment disappeared. When did I wake up from sleep with a body exuding womanhood and a spirit still exuding childhood?
I woke up and found that my breasts have exploded without my permission.
They became the first to greet the warmth of the morning sun, and the last peaks off of which dew drops slid each evening.
They challenged my shirts, my dresses, my bed, my mirror.
Their shadow, during the many sunny days, always exposed my secret as it spilt over walls, pavements and passers-by.
They would storm the space before me and they would always arrive before I did. Nothing stands in their way; they drag me behind them. They reach forever towards the skies, lunging forward like an invitation, and an obvious, loud and rebellious sign of my femininity.
They attract attention against my will.
They hold conversations with people me against my will.
They give rise to jealousy, hatred, desire, and sometimes even disgust.
An open button became the cause of flushed and red faces, both men’s and women’s; while a closed button provoked a state of anticipation, of hope, of waiting.
My breasts opened doors, destroyed barriers, built bridges; they shortened paths, reduced effort and time .. and reduced me to a few pounds of rounded flesh.
There was no longer a need for me to be.
Many have forgotten my name, and many did not know my name in the first place. One question kept jumping to mind: Is she the one with the big breasts?
All my features ceased to exist and became engulfed in that warm place between them; that deep and narrow gap between my breasts which was sufficient for everyone to turn a blind eye on any shortcomings, any irresponsibility, any faults.
My whole life was overwhelmed by their presence, so much so that I could hardly breathe. Even my heart, whose reactions I could see behind my thin, transparent skin, was no longer mine. For it, too, sat in that place between them and I could not reach it except through them. It beats for them, it beats behind them, so a light shines from within them, kisses them and calls out to life, against my will.
I tried. I tried to reclaim myself back. I tried to capture myself, and to place myself before them, in front of them. I tried to be bigger than they are. I exploded bombs with my mind, my intellect, my thoughts, my tongue. I exaggerated, I rebelled, I went wild. I demanded attention for my views, my thoughts, or even my eyes, my lips, my hair, my waist, my legs, my hands. I called out, I raised my voice .. but their voice was always louder.
I wished that someone would beat me at this game, or that someone would tell me off, or that I would provoke someone’s anger with this behavior. But my breasts were always my book of forgiveness from all sins.
Isn’t it said that the hand will speak of its secrets one day? As for me, it is my breasts that reveal everyone else’s secrets: their soft voices; their prayers; their weaknesses; their deprivation.
There was this moment, a single moment, when I thought of reducing them surgically. But I did not do so, for I, like everyone else, love my breasts. I love because I wished for them, because they’re mine, they’re my breasts, they’re part of who I am – I will not say they’re part of my beauty, but they’re part of my feeling of beauty. I love them. Isn’t unjust for them to be defeated by the feelings of defeat in others?
I won’t hide them under words of precept, phrases of shame, and yards of thick black fabric.
I won’t apologize for their presence, for their prominence.
I won’t apologize for the time spent praying that I would get them.
I won’t apologize for my right to dream of my femininity; especially after my lover kissed them, and reached beyond them to the deepest depth of the little girl that is me.
(From the book Paradise No More)
The picture is a painting by the autor.
Some poems by Fadwa Al Qasem in Margutte are here.