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The Trick

She peered around her. She'd never felt so alone or lost in her life. She remembered the halcyon days of her teenage years at high school - so blissfully unaware of the perils that life held in store. How could I have been so unconscious, she wondered. Why did I never realize that adulthood is frightening and uncertain? Why did all the adults in my world fail to warn me? Or did they, but I did not listen or take them seriously.

An old woman walked by. She was stooped and her face was deeply lined as if Father Time had scraped his sharp fingernails mercilessly through her skin. Her hair was swept back in a stained pine-green scarf and she shuffled along in simple black lace-up shoes encased in mud. She carried a heavy cloth shopping bag in her gnarled hand, which made her lean over to the one side. Her lips moved soundlessly - was she talking to herself, perhaps uttering a prayer?

Watching her filled me with a feeling of panic. Would I too grow old in this country so far away from home? Would I be condemned to spending my adult years alone in this family orientated society? For a moment I imagined having to cope with the reality of never marrying, never having children - living in uncertainty and coming home every evening to an empty apartment and a flickering television. I thought of all my married friends who I honestly did not envy - not a single one. I thought of living amidst happily married couples and families, and suddenly I felt giddy with anxiety and the revolving images of kissing couples and festive occasions spent alone in my flat. And of the lies I would have to tell via email or in the office on Sunday mornings.

I tried to imagine myself under a chuppah. It was akin to imagining myself orbiting space in a rocket. I just couldn't take that leap. Of course I also thought of Clive* and me. Of the reality of our relationship without a future. Of having to force myself to tear away in search of a relationship that offered lasting commitment. And my heart grows heavy with sadness. To never feel him curled up against my body, to not see his boyish grin or speak to him ten times a day. And his kisses and touch. How do I soldier on through life without those things, those beautiful gifts that he offers to me so generously. How do I share intimacy with another man after being with Clive for so long. I am orbiting space again….

Life…what a dastardly trick you play over and over again on us. For 18 years you act like a frivolous friend - fun, laid back, free. And then you push us into adulthood with a forceful kick and we struggle and flounder and sit quivering on roadside benches, afraid, alone, and confused staring at decrepit humans on their way home from the shouk.

* Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.