I have a friend with a beautiful name. Maya, she is called. I really like Maya because unlike most people Maya does not understand the concept of fear. Therefore in the most orthodox of the settings in my country she can be herself – calm and composed. Also unlike most other people Maya does not let gender creep into her daily train of thoughts. She thinks without keeping the fact in my mind that she is a woman.
Why should one keep their gender in mind while thinking about things you ask?
That is how it is in my country – if you are a girl you are constantly reminded of it every single time you breathe. That is how it is.
Maya called me last month. She said – you know something strange happened. I asked her – how was your trip, she was travelling you see, Maya loves to travel. She said – the trip was soul soothing, I was living in the present after such a long time, not once did I look at my phone, I forgot time. We just were. It was a time of extravagant delight.
I love when she talks like that. It is like heaven on earth, she can make you feel that. I asked – what was the strange thing that happened?
She said – On the way back, I had to catch a train from one of those really small railway stations, you know the ones from the movies of the ’70s – desolated platforms, poorly built. It was raining, and it wasn’t that big a station, there were just four train tracks and two platforms. Platform number one was well built with seating spaces, platform two was under construction. A white over-bridge connected the two platforms. It was raining lightly, the sky was gray, the station looked washed, I was walking on the bridge dragging my one bag, dressed in a long flowing dress and I thought to myself what a perfect place to smoke. But it was raining, and I couldn’t open my umbrella with all the luggage, so I decided I would get to platform two, find a secluded corner and light one.
Now then I descend on platform two, there are a few people around, some are staring at me, but I really don’t care, all I want to do is take in this beautiful scene in my head with a smoke, so I walk to the farther end of the station, I walk in the rain to where a father and daughter are sitting. I ask them if it would be a problem if I smoked, the father is just staring at me, the girl, not believing what she just heard, says – yeah, no it will not be a problem.
So I light my smoke, and I am looking into the distance and I am thinking it can’t get more perfect when these bunch of kids join the father and daughter. There are two boys and two girls and they look at me and start to talk about smoking and I almost roll my eyes. The weather and the setting is too good and I rarely get annoyed, this line of their conversation is not even amusing, it is just cliched, the world is a little like that isn’t it – repetitive in it’s conclusions?
While she is telling me her story, I can imagine her in a long flowing blue dress on a freshly washed station smoking a cigarette like they are meant to be smoked, just being herself – tall, beautiful, a work of art.
The kids then start discussing about which trips are the best to have – an only boys trip, an only girls trip or a mixed group trip. The girls said all girls trips are fun. This one boy said – all girls trips cannot be fun, too many restrictions come into picture, you cannot visit certain places, you have to get back in early, there is that safety issue. Listening to him, the girls gave a weird look. Listening to him I laughed in my head. I do not know who I felt more bad for – the women who were being brainwashed or this young man who thought in this fearful practical way about the world around us.
I understand where Maya is going with this. Still, I wait for her to say it –
Darling, she says, people live in so much fear. And they are not even aware of it. Before they can act they are conscious of their sex, of their place in society, of the rules which tell them how to behave, of the constructs which shape their reality. How does one breathe in so much senseless noise? How does one live by decree?
I cannot live like this, she continues.
You do not live like this, I tell her.