BintElNas: Web of Dreams

Dear Nadine   mary salome

In my dreams, Nadine loves me.


She writes me long letters full of passion about ideas. She is honest, she tells me how she feels about me, even the critical things, so I have the chance to apologize, or try to change. She gives me a chance. Or, on good nights, she just accepts me for who I am. She laughs, she is strong and she loves herself very much. She gives to the people she wants to give to, she runs and plays and works and smiles and writes me letters. She makes phone calls to me on my birthday. She hasn't forgotten about me or changed her mind or turned her back.

In my dreams I can tell Nadine exactly how I feel, angry and loving, and she listens without swallowing my anger or spitting it back at me. She hears me, and we talk it out. We might not agree, and she may be angry, too, but we don't leave each other. We joke around and eat dinner and understand each other better than we did before any confrontation.

Yes, in my dreams, Nadine loves me.

Dear Nadine, I would send this to you if I didn't know you would return it unopened.
Dear Nadine, what are the ways that I failed you?
Which is worse, that I couldn't hear you, or that I couldn't speak?

It was during the gulf war that you told me that you never knew I was part Arab. We had known each other for eight years. Since I had studied Hebrew in High School, and since most Semitic people in south Florida are Jewish, you had assumed I was a Jew. It was not who I was mistaken for that threw me, but how long I had remained unseen.

What does it say about our friendship, or about my identity and my silence around it, that you did not know about this part of me? In some ways, I can't blame you for not knowing. Most people can't guess my ethnicity by looking at me, possibly because I don't wear embroidered scarves or ululate regularly.

There are others who find my ethnic identity quite handy. When they make mental lists of their "Friends and Acquaintances of Color," they can squeeze me in. "Well, there's Mary, she's half Arab." They score extra points in politically correct circles, since Arabs are harder to find than some other people of color, and in vogue since the Intifadah.

How other Arabs see me is another story. "She looks like your wife," I remember a man telling my father in Palestine. "Your other children are more Syrian, more Oriental." I do have a lot of my mother's Irish in me. I'm a pretty even combination, actually, but I could look Greek. Or "Spanish." Or Turkish. Or Jewish. Or Irish. Or....

I think the most important part of my identity, when I meet other Arabs, after we've bonded momentarily in our shared heritage and I've tried out my few tentative words of Arabic, is the American part. Arab American Irish American Female American Lesbian American. I may revise this opinion later. Identity is fluid, you know.

Dear Nadine   
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