I am sobbing over credit card receipts.
I am still in Dubai, so I don’t have to take such care with all those numbers that add up to some kind of identity. If anyone took the trouble to fish it out of the garbage here, and then tried to actually use the information, they’d be given 1000 lashes, jailed for 10 years, then deported.
But still. I rip those pieces of paper into bits. I separate the first three digits from the last six digits of my social security number and put the two pieces of paper into separate garbage bags. It feels like I am ripping my soul into two.
Who am I?
Am I the equal of my bank balance? In which currency?
Am I the translation of Lisa into “Liza”? Or just the SSL encryption of my father’s name?
I am having to put myself into boxes, AGAIN.
I am having to squeeze, consolidate, throw away the parcels of my life. AGAIN.
I don’t want to leave Dubai. I want to stay. I want to be fluent in Arabic, to read the Quran again next Ramadan a little better. I want to walk every week on the beach.
I want to feel the sand of parking lots under my shoes. I want to shake my head again at the skyscrapers in Dubai Marina, the ones that were not there three years ago.
I even want to keep reading the crappy Gulf News, because I want my newspaper to tell me about the Middle East, and watch for subtle signs of lessening self-censorship.
I want to answer phone calls like the one I had today, from a man representing a research center in Abu Dhabi inviting me to a press conference, who said, “My dear, I hope so much to see you there.” He’s never met me, we’ve spoken twice on the phone, but he addresses me with the same tone of voice that a favorite uncle would.
I feel such loss that I can hardly bear it. My liver hurts. I love the Middle East, despite everything. I cannot shake the feeling that I belong here.
Who am I crying for?