Turquoise and Embroidered
She learned the big word earlier than the other children. Embroidery. She couldn’t say it at first but knew it meant the beautiful stitching on clothes and scarves: the minute details that seemed impossible to have been born from human finger tips.
Even though her fingers were always so slim and her hands so tiny she couldn’t imagine the effort.
Anything embroidered was always more beautiful, more precious to their eyes. She appreciated what they saw but sometimes, it seemed too much of an act. Being a plain white blouse was all the much easier. All the same, it helped to be pretty sometimes.
She still couldn’t say it. Emb – and cut. That's where she stopped. She muffled the rest of the sentence as she got older so they wouldn’t hear what she couldn’t articulate. They knew what she meant – almost all the time.
The times they didn’t, she didn’t blame them. She couldn't. She kept those to herself. Filling her growing buds with them and her already wide hips – wider than those of the rest of the girls in school but still not wide enough to be called the f word. Just the O one: she passed the limit of weight which she didn’t know who placed at the first place. Over the limit.
And she couldn’t say Embroidery.
The hips showed in pictures and the embroidery on a collar or on a scarf tied around her head to keep her curls tame showed as well. But her tongue trouble stayed hidden in the negatives - with her breasts: soft – too soft she was scared sometimes nobody would like them. But then, she didn’t really imagine who this someone would be. Her imagination which couldn’t see fingers embroidering with blue thread couldn’t see someone loving her breasts.
When her breasts filled up to their most and her hips settled in a shape she loved, she said it right. In the dark, she would say it out loud to herself: slow and steady. Diligent. Like her fingers the first time she came. And when the letters flowed like wetness, she would say it in the light but keep the loving to herself and someone-s else.
She never thought it would come loose.
Thread also comes. Thread tends to do that – it lets go.
Her imagination found out that there was to be a plural for who might love her breasts. The stitching remained a mystery.
She had mastered the art of articulation and the art of filling whiteness with the powder of soft pastels. The pictures no more revealed things she wanted to stow. She kept everything open. They started showing her new gained confidence at saying Embroidery. It gleamed in a turquoise earring, a turquoise nail.
Then there was the sea.
It was by the sea. She wasn’t there but she stumbled on the picture of the woman in a turquoise galabya – embroidered down the front.
What else could be more right? Turquoise galabya hand embroidered and the whiteness of an empty sheet of paper waiting for color.
She filled. She filled like fills everything: gaps in conversations, hunger in lovers, holes in herself.
She filled till the woman who gave her to the world through an earlier generation came to blue-ness.
She kept it under the bed – large and covered in pastel and Cairo dust.
By the time she could say embroidery in her other tongue, taatreez, she had fallen on to the old galabya turned inside out, the guts of it naked and raw and connected in a frenzy unlike the front.
There was a knot – like the ones in her curls. And since there was no balsam for the twisted thread, she pulled.
She pulled in the same room where she had pulled him to her to feel anything of what she feels alone. And again, it came.
It came loose. All the effort of the tireless hands to stitch and embroider came loose on the bed where she had lain, open and waiting for stitches to perhaps bring them both together – closer. She pulled at the knot like she pulled him – gently but with hope crammed in her throat.
Perhaps she will know why hands do the act of embroidery. Embroider.
Thinking that if she gave that last thing kept so well – so like the knot tucked away in the threads – he would love her Overthelimitofweight hips.