Chapter 1

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Hot. It was very hot. I needed some air. I needed to get away from them. The noises were unbearable. I felt like my head was about to explode. I wasn't able to see straight. The light made it worst. I had to focus on breathing and walking till an exit. It seemed impossible at that moment. It seemed like I was drowning and I wasn't able to swim to the surface. As if something was holding me. There was less and less air to breath. Focus, Em. You're going to make it. Just focus. I kept telling myself I was almost out, that the exit was near, that I'd be able to breath again. But little by little, I started to stop believing my own words. Until I did it. The air hit me and it was more than welcomed. I took a long breath. It was cold but I couldn't care less. I hugged myself while the tears streamed. I took another breath. I needed to calm down and focus on breathing. Unwanted memories took place in my thoughts. It was in moments like these ; moment when everything you've ever thought of, done or said came back to you in a flash, moment when time slowed down, that you knew nothing will ever be the same.

~

I once read somewhere, that life is like a roller coaster : it has its ups and its downs. Sometimes the downs are rough and other times they are bearable. But there are moments where this notion of roller coaster cannot be applied. You go through a phase where breathing becomes impossible, where your lungs refuse to cooperate, where your brain freezes. You feel every part of your tiny body shut down, slowly, painfully. First it starts with an electric feeling in the tip of your fingers and your toes. Then little by little, the electric feeling turns into something else. You can't describe it because you never thought something like that could possibly be real. It's not crazily painful, it's just ... Nothing you've ever felt before. It's like when you first fall in love, you don't know it's love. It's just a strange feeling. Even though you've read about it, saw it happen to someone else and heard people talk about it, you still don't know that what you are feeling is love.

After the strange feeling, you feel dizzy. It's actually a phenomenon known under "le voile noir" in french. Pretty common, it usually happens when you stand up really quickly after laying down. Scientifically, it happens because, while resting, the pressure on your body is the same in your upper body parts and the lower ones. The moment you stand up, quickly, the blood stays stuck in your feet for a few seconds, your brain is emptied and you faint. Slightly. And that's exactly what happens in that precise moment. Except it happened not because you were resting and had to stand up quickly, but because it was a side effect of high blood pressure. Then your body feels heavy. Every part feels like it weights pounds. The dizziness transforms into fainting, and the moment you stop inhaling, it becomes heavier yet you are still conscious. Then your lungs start to shut down. And that's when you give up. You give up all your hopes, all your dreams, all your life. You are sure you'll never survive after this shock. You can't help but feel disappointed. Is that all I get ? And what about the fighting I went through ? And what about all the ups and downs ? What about my plans ? What about ... My future ? A million questions surge at the same moment. And then one thought occurs to you. It's tiny yet you catch it with all your will. There's no deity but Allah. You repeat it thousand times hopping you, at least, get a better afterlife. But it's not over. Those aren't downs, but more of shut downs. You physically and mentally cannot bear the situation.

You go through these shut downs at least once in your life. That is if you are lucky. Yet the first time you go through cannot be compared to other times. Even though you were sure it was over, you still went out from the situation and you developed this numbness that stays with you for the rest of your life.

~

I think during my life, I've been through so much since a very young age, that the option of a tougher road never occurred to me. It was just impossible. As a young Mauritanian lady, a lot of things were expected from you. We lived in a parallel world. And in our point of view, it was the right way to deal with life. For instance, we didn't force women to do a certain things, we just taught them, throughout years, it was what was the right thing to do. As girls grew up, without realising it, society folded them into the perfect woman. She was still expected to study and have a career but her number one job and duty was towards her children and her husband ; or even more, towards the society. A noble young lady had certain appearances to hold onto. And from what I've seen, we were probably one of the few societies who were able to maintain this ideology for as long as we did. It still exists, but less than before. But to what extent did these appearances matter ? What were we ready to give up in order to keep them going ? Mental abuse ? Physical abuse ?

I was born during the early 70's, in one of the best families at that time. We weren't lacking from nobility. Nor from money. My father owned ships and at that time, it was the main source of income in my country. Mauritania is known for two things : its mines and fish.

We were a small family. I had two older sisters but we are nothing alike. They were more like my mother. They were like the rest of ladies their age. I wasn't. We all went to school, The French School. It was the best school at that time but few Mauritanian girls attended it. It was a huge deal for a muslim girl to sit around non-muslims. As my neighbour's mother always said, they would turn you into a non muslim. My mother hated it but my father couldn't care less. We all attended that school, whether we wanted to or not. That was my father's obligation. But once you were 15, before going to high school, you had to get married. That was my mother's obligation. Both my parents always compromised to one another. I've always admired that and I still do. Some things never change right ?

After marriage, if your husband agreed, and usually he did, you could finish your studies, get a high school degree and even a university degree. My oldest sister, Emal, got married to some old guy when I was 10 and she was 16. She stopped immediately, by her own will, claiming her husband was wealthy and she'd never lack of anything. The second one, Farah, and I had 4 years between us yet I got married before her.

The last year before I went to high school, when I was 16, mother forced me to marry an older man. When I say forced me I do not mean threatened my life with a knife or whatever you're told. She just didn't give me another choice. Yes I cried but I was expecting it. It's nothing but normal.

He was 30 years old but he looked younger. He was very wealthy and had just returned from France, where he attended college. He had a PHD in economy. I got married before Farah, which was rare and usually unacceptable. You just never get married before your older sister.

Apparently, he liked me better. I was better looking than her. I was tall and thin yet a little curvy. I had eyes bigger than my face and a wide smile that would cover my face from time to time. He had a modern view of the world and that's why he liked thinner girls. Or that's what my mother said trying to make Farah feel better.

~

Hi! I'm A and this is a story I've been editing for the past 3 years. At first it was just something for myself and I totaly lost it when my Robert, my old computer, died (may he rest in peace). So I wrote it again and actually printed it to be sure to never lose it. Few weeks ago, my roommate found it while she was cleaning our flat and she read it (first person to ever read something written by me). She thought it was good and told me to share it. I didn't want to actually publish it because it's not what I do (or going to do) for a living.

Anyway, do read it and comment and also vote. But mostly, give me your thoughts about it. I need to get actual reviews.

Xo, A.

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