Mum Knows Best by Farha Quadri
“There are ways of doing things – you have to say ‘I live on my own because I work long days and the commute to my parents’ place is two hours.’ You have to say that. That’s why you should call me before meeting anyone.” said Mum.
I listened. How should I sit? How should I walk? What should I order in the restaurant? Will he mind that I’ve dated before? He shouldn’t. I knew he would. You would not choose the wilted salad leaves from the buffet. I saw myself in that moment – a cut of steak, tender to the touch that if exposed to heat too long would end up worthless and tired. I was tired. That was the truth. Turning thirty had its advantages at work. I felt respected and listened to. No longer bottom of the food chain. At home, the loneliness rattled in its emptiness.
“Look Laila, this is the problem. You can’t just say what you want with this guy. People listen and then people talk.”
I knew people talked but why was I the talking point? I curled up smaller, sliding protective film over my dry, scaly brown skin. Filming it over would make it white. Whiteness meant not being judged.
“How was it? Asked Mum in that hopeful voice I hadn’t heard for a while. “Did he seem nice?”
I thought back to the restaurant last night. His sharp features penetrating the parts of me not on show. Fingers grazed down to the small of my back trying to feel any bit of me that was accessible. A sideways glance devoured the waitress too. It was fleeting but I noticed. My life choices warranted this. A wilted salad leaf. I spoke mute.
“Yes, he was nice. I think I’ll see him again.”