Dancing like girls

“Don’t dance like a girl / I will dance / Don’t move like a girl / I will move”

September 11 2018 Khaled Alesmael, translation by Barrie James Sutcliff

Khaled Alesmael is a journalist and author, born in Syria, award-winning for his work in radio and television in Damascus, Beirut, Amman, Cairo and Istanbul. After his flight to Sweden, he was granted a permanent residence permit in 2015. He has worked on mission review and reported for radio program Conflict in P1 and the newspaper OttarSelamlik is his debut novel. Khaled is working as a freelance journalist. 

 

Shame, shame, shame… 

Don’t dance like a girl 

Don’t walk like a girl 

Don’t sit like a girl 

Shame, shame, shame… 

Don’t talk like a girl 

Don’t eat like a girl 

Don’t dress like a girl 

Shame, shame, shame… 

Don’t think like a girl 

Don’t whisper like a girl 

Don’t watch like a girl 

Shame, shame, shame… 

Don’t laugh like a girl 

Don’t cry like a girl 

Don’t sleep like a girl 

Shame, shame, shame… 

My mother is a girl 

My mother’s sister is a girl 

My father’s sister is a girl 

My sister is a girl 

My neighbour is a girl my friend is a girl and 

my toy is a girl. 

 

And the girl comes closer to me, slides into my wardrobe, lays her head on my pillow and her waist against mine and her legs along the wall and crossed over my thoughts and her feet resting against my head. 

Her eyes have the same shape and colour as my own. I called her Nadin. 

The most beautiful moments were when Nadin hid herself under my transparent purple umbrella. We both hated the rain. My grandmother would have said that the rain is made up of heaven’s tears, mourning the dead. But Nadin hated the rain because she believed that it was a divinely cold shower that poured, without warning, over a person’s elegance. But we both loved my umbrella, not because it was transparent, so it could not hide secrets, but because beneath it we were closest to each other. It was where mine and Nadin’s souls melted together. I could look into her femininity, and we stepped in sync while we walked down the road. All of this happened under my transparent purple umbrella. 

 

One evening Nadin and I came home soaked from heaven’s tears after the wind had stolen my umbrella. Like usual, Nadin disappeared as soon as we stepped into my house. I found the living room a wild jungle, the floor strewn with slippery clay, and long branches hung from the ceiling to the floor, the air filled with the screams of bloodthirsty birds. Between the trees, I saw my siblings and my father’s naked bodies. They had sunken into the clay down to their waists. Naked, they came up to me. Leaves obscured their faces but left bare their long genitals, which hanged between their legs. They set down a knife between my hands. “Kill Nadin…” they said, in the same voice. 

 

Thick, warm blood ran down my legs, and heaven continued to cry its tears, believing Nadin had died. 

 

Shame… shame 

Don’t dance like a girl. 

I will dance 

Don’t move like a girl. 

I will move 

Don’t cover your mouth when you laugh 

I will laugh 

Don’t walk like a girl 

I will walk swiftly. 

Don’t sit like a girl 

I will stand 

Don’t talk like a girl 

I will talk 

Don’t eat like a girl 

I will live 

Don’t dress like a girl 

Should I be naked? 

Don’t think like a girl 

I’ll think 

Don’t whisper like a girl 

I will scream 

Don’t watch like a girl 

I see everything 

Don’t cry like a girl 

I won’t cry