As those were heavily sanctioned by the government, we had to hide the dish from random police raids, so we placed it in the lower part of the rooftop over the back veranda. Satellite was, according to Friday sermons during the time, an evil threatening our morals and would bring down divine punishment to a society which had opened itself to sexualities and desire. In spite of both religion and the state, four neighbors chipped in 20 pounds monthly to wire it up to their TVs, a collective act of mischief that filled the air with excitement and early 2000s middle eastern pop songs.
In my overcrowded extended family house however, video clips were too risky to watch. There was always an uncle who was way too religious and way too close to risk receiving a lecture on morality, or worse, an ass whooping – so I carefully plotted my time alone with the TV. With far more people in the house than rooms, I made sure I got sent to the bed in the hall when sleeping arrangement were made. Then all I had to do was pretend to be asleep while my mom tuned in to her favourite foreign film channel, which she watched until she dozed off. Still terrified of getting caught, I could only lay there as quietly as possible, looking through a hole in the covers to the world of wonder on the screen, conveniently presented with Arabic subtitles.
The girl in the movie, who was my age, had developed a fascination with her next door neighbour; a rebellious teen. Although the storyline has a lot of gaps in my memory, the sensation of what it felt like was vivid and embodied in the wetness between my thighs as the girl mentioned in passing how her neighbour sleeps naked with the windows open all year round. It was unthinkable to me; being naked, having the privacy of a room to be naked, to be naked so casually and openly that nosy neighbours might see. Although I had no visual to match it, that line moved my young confused body to euphoric heights.
Why does this make me tingle? Why do I want to be naked too? How come it feels oh so good when I touch here?
The main source of confusion was, of course, that naked body that caused this sexual awakening was that of a woman.
That was the beginning of many late night orgasms, courtesy of my vivid imagination, the thoughts always revolving around a woman. Sometimes, the woman was a stranger, or a lover, or both. During these mental trysts my breath is heavy, as I sink into the desire to hold, kiss and caress her. Other times, the woman is me, dancing, promiscuous, unashamed. But then the sun always rises, and I go back to shrinking as I recoil from older men breathing down my neck.
Thirteen years and a couple of boyfriends later, I am in my hotel room half-naked with the blinds open, thinking of all the amazing women I met that day. I had never existed in a space so unapologetically feminist; so unapologetically afrocentric. I had learnt by then to seed out shame from the folds of my skin when they see the sun. I had unlearnt taming my hair when all it wants to do is rise. I had learnt how to rise from a lover’s bed at dawn to pray. I had learnt to open the windows and keep them open. Or so I thought.
She finds me; all smiles and curse words. I had never drunk before but my mouth still tasted of a past lover and so the beer was less bitter. We tell each other how we came to fit into the skin we wear and I think an entire universe into existence. The night becomes expansive and we are open and flawed and honest and vulnerable. We are two black women with arabic rolling on our tongues. I am black and muslim. I am muslim and lustful. I am black and muslim and lustful and queer.