Stories of We
An excerpt from The Rage of Fatima in When Her Hand Moves by Omar Imady.
We can share stories, numerous stories, of two bodies — hopelessly attracted, sexually aroused — surrendering to their passions, and becoming, if only for a few seconds, physically one. Alas, physical unity is quickly replaced with sweat and discomfort. Awkwardness follows, and what was ‘one’ quickly becomes vividly ‘two’. Questions arise. Was he as willing to pleasure me as I was him? Didn’t she realise that I wanted her to vocalise her ecstasy? The answers, invariably negative, replace the mystery of physical discovery with a geography tainted by flags and borders. At this point, the fantasy is either domesticated, or the maps are torn up, the unity dissolves, and a new quest is initiated.
We can also share stories of overwhelming love. Marriage, or a common shared life of some sort, the frequent destination for most of these stories, has a way of shattering this particular type of emotional unity. And so, the longing to see her, the anticipation of his arrival, the sweetness of being lost in another person’s eyes—all this is replaced by watching the same person over and over again lying on the couch and fiddling with his phone. You were once his singular focal point of attention. You once dreamt of a common destination, now you are at best a passenger in a plane which he is flying solo. What was ‘one’ has become ruthlessly ‘two’ again.
Watch with Us the most surreal manifestation of this type of bond. A couple celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. What have they not survived? What do they not know about each other? You walk into their home expecting to see the perfect embodiment of marital bliss, but instead you are witness to an endless stream of bickering. Bitter and spiteful words are exchanged over something as trivial as where socks were left, or why the toilet seat is still up. Where bickering is not now the new normal, chances are you will instead walk into walls of silence, heavy with disappointment, permeated with memories of promises broken, expectations unmet, or worse, forgotten.
Far less common are stories of mental unity. What exactly happens when brains—the organs that appear to capture the very awareness of individuality—blend into each other in a rare moment of mutual recognition? Where does this lead? How long can it last?
Such was the moment, the second, when Fatima and Idris suddenly realised that they had identified fourteen words that perfectly corresponded with the fourteen mysterious—and as of yet impossible to decode—letters of the Quran. She had indeed asked him to leave shortly after this discovery. But even as she lay back down, waiting for her body, her head, to respond to the painkillers, it was clear to her that something entirely unexpected—and so surprisingly new—had just taken place. And as Idris walked back to his room, he also realised that he had finally been promoted to a man Fatima was willing to see. Not as someone she was trying to avoid, nor someone who could perform some meaningless service, nor as someone who was eternally guilty of various patriarchal sins. Not even as a man, but as a mind.