7 pm, Saturday Night.
I was getting late for dinner. I was going to see a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. He was here for a night and I was most thrilled; he is my childhood friend, Ahmed. I don’t know if it is the fact that we have seen each other grow up or the fact that he has never looked at me “like that”, but I am most comfortable with him. I dressed up- I wanted to. I wore my favorite dress with the nice neckline and hurried for dinner. We had so much to talk about!
As I entered the restaurant, I saw him sitting with another guy. It was him- that guy from college. What was he doing here? He did say he is bringing a friend over but… was that him? I hoped to God not. I remember this guy looking at me strangely sometimes during basketball and in class too. I have some vague memory of him trying to forcefully kiss me – but never mind- my friends said it wasn’t something I should take seriously. All boys do that.
I gave Ahmed a big tight long hug. His embrace has always been so comforting, so safe. Zafar (I think that was his name) got up to hug me, but before he hugged me, he looked at me- exactly the way he used to- and suddenly all those memories came flashing back. As I hugged him, I noticed his hand slip down my back and his fingers move across, I noticed the hug lasted 3 seconds longer than it needed to, I felt my chest pushed against his unnecessarily and then….
We sat down.
I was almost shaking. I couldn’t believe myself for having such an extreme reaction to something so… trivial. My shock was broken by Ahmed who asked me if I remembered Zafar, he told me he wanted to surprise me, that Zafar and him have started a new business and are now business partners. I looked at him in horror. How could Ahmed not see him for who he is? I wanted to speak to him, but I guess tonight wasn’t going to be that night. But what would I tell him?
I was mostly quiet during that dinner. Somewhere the men brought up the ME TOO movement and how supportive they are of it. Zafar remarked, “I think more women should come out. I mean… you know, we all know how pretty girls get treated right?”…
Ahmed quickly interrupted, “well I don’t think it’s limited to pretty girls…”
Zafar(as his eyes moved to my breasts)… ‘ No but, I wouldn’t blame someone for trying to … you know… with someone like Sara”
Ahmed: “I can’t believe you’re making a joke out of this. Anyway… Moving on…”
I saw the men speak. While I thought about what just happened.
I was sitting with two seemingly good men… I was safe too. Why then did I feel so violated? Why did I not have something to say? What was there to say really?
I asked the waiter to get me more lemonade.
(A short story by Marya Javed)