I can't stop calling you that, although it’s been so long. In my head, this is the word that calls out to you; it just comes out like that, without thinking, whenever I want to speak to you. But it isn't spontaneity, but rather something I had gotten used to. Maybe that's why you got bored, because there was no more spontaneity between us.

You are on my mind a lot. I think about us: you and me. For some odd reason, in the middle of all this hysteria – the new constitution, supporting the elect President, the referendum, and declaring another martyr, someone else who is no longer breathing – in the middle of all this, I sit and think of you.
Did you hear about this woman who was beaten by six women wearing the niqab? I heard that they tried to burn her hair. I had thought that they tried to cut it, but no, they tried to burn it. People told me that's what she said. They tried to burn her hair with a lighter.

Yesterday I found out that the new constitution they're writing doesn't definitely prohibit the marriage of children.

Instead of thinking of something to do, I sat down and cried.

Do you know that we've never been to a protest or a march together? Not once did we go down together for that purpose. I know we passed through Tahrir once, maybe twice. But that doesn't matter; Tahrir doesn't matter anymore. Even that place has been used to break women. Now it has become a place of rape.  

I am writing to you because all that is happening has made me realize something. I realize now, after all this time, that I don't forgive you. I know I told you before that I forgive you for everything but I realized that I don't. Not all of it.

You won't even remember. But it was last December, just like these days, a year ago. It was after the crack down on the sit in by the Cabinet in Qasr el Eini. When they dragged the Blue Bra girl and beat her and undressed her. And then they beat that woman in the red coat an inch away from death: Azza Helal.

A couple of days later there was a women's march.

Do you remember?

I didn't go to the march. I was with you that day, we were together. We were at your place a few hours before the time of the march.  When it turned 4 I didn't go down.

We made love that day.

I realize that I don't forgive you for this.

I know you didn't force me to stay, I wanted to stay, but you could've told me to go down, to join them. Because you knew how much it meant to me. And I just couldn't go down because I didn't want to miss an extra hour or two which I could spend with you. I never liked my body when we were together. I never thought it was beautiful, perfect or enough. That day I didn't go to the march because I had a chance to be with you, to be beside you and perhaps feel that my body is beautiful and desirable.

You felt that it was ok for me to stay with you instead of going down and being with those women. I don't forgive you for that.

When I saw the pictures later, I sat and cried. I sobbed. Everyone kept asking me, where were you?
The big mouthed feminist who fights for women's rights, and freedom, and respect and incriminating violence against women with the severest of punishments did not go the march.

Maybe writing this is an attempt to forgive you and forgive myself because I don’t know what to do in all of this. I'm so scared. I'm scared someone will drag me from my hair. Or beat the skin I don’t cover. I'm scared they will cancel the law incriminating Female Genital Mutilation. I keep thinking about the woman covering her face who thinks she's better than the woman covering her hair, who thinks she's better than the woman who doesn't cover her hair who thinks they are all sheep with the herd.

I'm frightened for women. I'm frightened for the girls I see in the street and on the metro and in shops. I am scared of what they could do to each other.

I always felt that I was taking steps towards my own personal freedom. But every time I remember that I chose to sit with you that day – to sleep with you – instead of going down and fighting for what I believe in, I hate myself.

But what is the problem here? Is it that I stayed with you? Or is it that we were sleeping together? Maybe after all these years I really haven't come to peace with myself and my decision to do something against the society and what it believes.

It's all very messy. I call for our right to own our bodies, to celebrate them, to defend them. I do that; I feel I have my freedom. I am turning 42 and I have always felt I have exercised this freedom. My sexual freedom this is part of my liberation. Yet I was lying with you at that same moment which I was supposed to be there defending all the other bodies and their freedom.

You see, the problem is probably our bodies. That we are nothing but bodies.
You know that I keep playing it in my head; if we could go back in time, what would I have done? I would've went down and worn my red bra over my sweater and shouted with the women and if someone didn't like it, they could piss off.

It's not just a mess; I feel that everything is overlapping in my head. Memories and incidents loose the borders between them. I think of you and me and all these women and my failure to save them. Save them from who? I couldn’t save myself from your presence.

She crosses my mind a lot, that woman Azza Helal. Her courage makes me feel that God exists in a way that I never felt before. They say that Atef el Gohary, who was killed at the battle with the Army at Abbaseya, was her fiancé. We never went to a march; we were never beaten; we were never engaged; nothing. They loved each other, they were beaten together, they got engaged; they lost each other for the sake of liberation.

What did we do?

I keep thinking of Azza. That name, Azza. It comes from 'Izza, dignity, 'Azeema, perseverance. Azza.
I will never be that woman.

You probably think I've gone mad. I might've gone mad. Maybe we'll meet you can decide for yourself. Maybe someday we bump into each other in a protest or a demo and I will forgive us and I'll feel that we really are doing something for women. That we are doing something for me.

December 2012 


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