The Atheist

Rana, a beautiful Christian girl from Beirut, goes to her Muslim boyfriend’s flat for a coffee. As they were talking she blinked. When she opened her eyes again she found herself naked in the darkness and virgin no more, a very serious even in Arabia.

Here is what happened next:

Ali: “Can I breathe?”
Rana: “Quietly, if you please. I need to think of the plight you’ve plunged me in, parted legs first.”
“Why don’t you let me help you?”
“How can you help me when you are the cause of my calamity? I was an innocent young angel before I blinked a while ago and look at me now – a ruined, deflowered slut.”
“I hear Rana but I can’t see a slut. It’s too dark. Can I switch on a light?”
“No!” she yelled anxiously. “Keep the lights off. Please.”
“The moonlight is coming through the window; do you want me to turn it off as well?”
“No, I want to see what you do.”
“I’ll do nothing.”
“You said that but you lied.”
“I didn’t lie. You wanted to come here.”
“You didn’t stop me.”
“I tried.”
“You didn’t insist. Arabs always have to insist three times before anything gets done. You didn’t insist once, and maybe because I’m Christian.”
“I gave you the treatment of the people of the Book. You didn’t insist so I respected your decision.”
“But you should have insisted. Your Book told you to be cordial to us Christians not to screw us. There’s a big difference, you know.”
“When the lights are off and the desire is on everything becomes secular. They don’t call it ‘the atheist’ for nothing.”
“I heard Nisreen describe it as the ‘one who recognises no friends’. I should have remembered this but now it’s too late. You get distracted when you are attacked in the dark on all fronts. There wasn’t even a cover to take.”
“Well, you don’t enter a lion’s den and not expect to be scratched.”
“Just scratched? I wish. You should have really stopped me.”
“I thought about it but then I realised it was already too late.”
“You should have thought of that earlier and insisted on me not coming in.”
“Were I mad to insist?”
“Were I mad to come in?”
“What is done is done. We need to think of what we’ll do next.”
She quickly opened her eyes wide in the darkness and closed them as quickly. “Oh, God, Jesus, Mary and the Saints! There is still a ‘next’ to do? I can’t take any nexts.”
“I meant what we have to do.”
“What would that be?” she said in a voice where anxiety and an urge to cry mingled. “I don’t want to do anything.”
“I meant –”
“I meant, I meant, I meant! Why don’t you shut up and give yourself and me some peace?”
He kept his peace and she did likewise but her anxiety spoke freely, “What is mum going to say when she finds out?”
His response remained hidden behind the chair, intensifying her anxiety and pitch. “Am I no longer deserving of an answer?”
“You told me to shut up.”
“Just answer this one, please.”
“She would tell you to demand from Ali to patch it up or –”
“Oh, my God!” she said with a bit of anger and a smaller bit of pain. “Haven’t I asked you to stop playing the comedian?”
“Control yourself. What will my neighbours say if they hear your loud voice?”
“They’ll say to you, ‘How did you find it in your heart to take advantage of a vulnerable girl like Rana?’ ”
“I’ll tell them that the vulnerable girl was the one who seduced me.”
“Seeing my tears, no one will believe you.”
“In that case, they’ll call the police.”
“The police? What have the police got to do with us?”
“This is not Beirut. This is Abu Dhabi.”
“What would the police do?”
“They usually do a lot of humiliating and dragging to the police station. A scandal which will be on every tongue in all the salons of Abu Dhabi, from the corniche to the bridge, from now until deep into the third millennium, provided the country still had oil.”
“You may tell the police that I’m your wife.”
“They’d demand to see the marriage certificate.”
“We have no certificate.”
“So…”
“So what?”
“Don’t remind me. For the single man, the punishment is one hundred lashes or multiples thereof; depending on what mood the judge happens to be and the adulterer’s tolerance. In the case of a woman, you know the story of the adulterer in your book (Bible) so there’s no need to elaborate.”
Hearing a sound close to chattering teeth, he smothered a malicious urge to laugh for fear that she might have a nervous breakdown. The chattering stopped suddenly then he heard an incomplete laugh.
He tried to see what she had been doing behind the seat in darkness. She lowered her head as far as she could. “I told you not to look at me! If you don’t stop I’ll scream.”
There was silence for a moment. “Why are you laughing?” he asked.
“I didn’t mean to. I had the urge to ask where would they find enough stones in a desert country full of sand, but I didn’t want to look more stupid than I already am.”
“Why don’t you see the positive side of things?”
“What’s positive in my situation, Mr. Genius?”
“At least you are not thinking of demons, Miss Genius.”
“The demons are more compassionate than you are. They didn’t do to me what you have done. With them, it is all talk and promises and windows overlooking the sea. You’re the only one who did something. What am I to say to mum now? That I lost it in crossing my legs?”
“Tell her the truth.”
“What is the truth? I wasn’t aware of what was happening to me.”
“You don’t have to tell her everything. Fetch a box of matches from the kitchen then stand in front of her, light a match and blow it out with strength. Tell her that what happened to your virginity but don’t mention my name.”
He heard the sound of suspicious movement. Raising his head to discover its source, he spotted an object that flew in his direction, passed close to his ear then hit the wall behind him and fall on the carpet. He then heard her voice hitting the top of the scale of her yelling, “I told you a thousand times to stop kidding.”
“I wasn’t kidding,” he said as he tried to identify other flying objects. “I was just trying to help.”
“What help? Do you want to remind me that it’s like a spent match? I know that it is like a bloody spent match.”
A few moments passed in silence and then he heard muffled giggling. “Laughing again, Rana? Why?”
“I couldn’t help it.”
“What are you laughing at?”
“Every time I heard somebody say that losing virginity is like a match losing its burning power, I laughed. Actually, it’s just like a match.”
“And as expendable.”
“Except that it ruptures without a glow,” she said in a tearful voice.
“In the dark.”
“With nearly the same thrill one gets from lighting a match. Where is the enjoyment that we see in the movies?”
‘The enjoyment comes after marriage.”
“When’s marriage?”
“After the engagement.”
“When’s the engagement?”
“After the proposal.”
“When’s the proposal?”
“Do you want a proposal without love?”
“Love? Where’s love? There’s nothing – no love, no proposal, no engagement, no marriage and no hymen. Never in the history of womanhood virginity was sacrificed so cheaply. I dare you to say that you’re still waiting to love me.”
“What waiting?”
He heard a movement. Raising his head, he saw it in her hand, “Put it down! The vase is a gift from Louai.”
“If you don’t stop acting silly, you’ll get nothing at the end of your waiting but this vase.”
“Hit me on the head and the match would have been expended uselessly.”
“You forced yourself on me, that’s what I’ll say. And you won’t be able to deny it lying on the floor helpless like a belly-up-crocodile.”
“Would you go that far?”
“That far and more. You weren’t gentle with me.”
“I didn’t invent it. It always comes with a touch of seriousness.”
“A touch of seriousness? You acted like a guerrilla on a raid.”
“What do you mean? It was mostly exaggeration.”
“No, it was not. There was manoeuvring, infiltration and… You’ve done well in training.”
“Not training, experience.”
“What?”
He heard the familiar sound of movement behind the chair. “Put down the vase, I was just joking.”
“You’ve promised and you will be committed to wait for me,” she said, lifting the vase up. “Had you not committed yourself, I wouldn’t have come to your bed.”
“I’m totally committed. Six months means six month. After that we’ll talk.”
“Six months minus a fortnight.”
“Minus a fortnight.”
“What’s it that you want to say afterwards? That the match has been expended.”
“If you keep your commitment to the letter, I’ll say whatever you want me to say.”
“Whatever?”
“Whatever.”
She put down the vase. “You won’t cheat me or on me.”
“Never. I give you my word as a good Muslim.”

“But you’ve just said you’re and atheist.”

“No, no, no. I wasn’t referring to me but to him, him, you know.”
“Oh, him, my tormentor. So that means you are not going to tell me to finish my tea, pick up my little eraser and say to me, ‘Go back to your mum – don’t call us, we’ll call you?”

“Why would I say such a thing?”

“Why should I believe?”
“You have no choice.”
“But I do.” She picked up the vase again.
“This is not an option. Trust me on this.”
“Then six months minus a fortnight.”
“Six months minus a fortnight and two minutes.”
The months reminded her of something she had forgotten. She gasped. “Ali!” she cried in panic.
“What?” he uttered in anxiety.
“What if –?”
She cut herself short. She disappeared with a suckling baby anxiety and reappeared momentarily, having weaned the child, then quickly changed her mind and again disappeared and reappeared with the child having grown into a boy with a loud voice, “I become like Fatina?”
She gasped and re-examined her anxiety. She counted on her fingers and recounted before she dropped her hands. He saw her melt and disappear behind the seat.
“Ali!” she said from the bottom of the well of her fears. “This is the worst day of the month.”
“Oh, dear.” he said in regret and pity.
“Why didn’t I think of it before? Mum is going to find out and she’ll be within the walls of the monastery before the end of my cycle. Poor mum and poor dad too, and Rama. She’ll never find one to marry her once the word spreads. Poor Rama and her sister. What am I to do?”
From crying to wailing she moved in one jump. A worse scenario presented itself and took the place of crying and wailing. She remembered what Om Omar had said about new-born babies being left by their mums on the steps of mosques. Fright taking hold of her, she came out from behind the seat and threw herself on Ali. She took his hand, “If that were to happen, you would have to stand by me.”
“I certainly would.”
“Mum must know nothing. Between scandal and abortion she will settle for the scandal.”
“There will be neither abortion nor scandal. You will bring us a Rasha and return Rasha to her poor mum who hasn’t seen her baby daughter since you returned from Beirut.”
“Would you admit to fathering her?”
“Wouldn’t I?”
“Would you tell my mum that she’s your daughter?”
“Of course, I would.”
“I’d love to see you admitting that to her.”
“What would she do?”
“She’d throw you out of the balcony, with my help.”
“Why would she do that to a man who wants to marry her daughter and save her from scandal?”
“Would you tell her that you want to marry me?”
“If pregnancy does happen, I’ll consider the waiting over and marry you immediately.”
She fell silent. She had a brief dialogue with herself. He expected her to say something, but she took him by the hand and dragged him. “I want you to repeat that where I can see your face.”
She made him stand in the middle of the kitchen. She switched on the lights and asked him to repeat what he had said. As he did, she gazed in search of any sign of hesitation then asked him to repeat again.
“You’re indeed a brave man, just as Rama says,” she said, nodding in amazement.
“You’re the brave. If I were you, I wouldn’t have dared to go into the apartment of a man even if I had all the demons of the land inside me.”
“I did, but you’ll marry me nonetheless, won’t you?”
“The minute pregnancy is ascertained. No fear, regrets or hesitation.”
“But you don’t know everything about me.”
“Shut up, Rana!” he said with a long dismissive arm. “Listening to you talking about sins one would think your legs are like the Arc de Triumph – one army going in and another army coming out. Even the art of kissing you hardly know. Without the ample training you have had on the cheeks of poor Rama, this ‘hardly’ wouldn’t even apply.”
He didn’t understand what happened afterwards. He expected her to throw herself on him out of gratitude, but she instead roared off like a racing car, attained maximum speed in two seconds and hid behind the chair. “I’m not good enough even at sex?”
He stood outside the kitchen and spread his hands, “Now did I say that? I meant to say that all your sins are not worth a wet onion’s peel.”
“Are you absolutely sure of what you are saying?”
“Oh, brother! How serious can they be – your sins? It’s only in being deeply religious and hypersensitive that you think you have laid the world in ruins. What are these sins that you’ve plagued me with? If I were to show but the finger of one of my sins, I’d have to immerse you in water to get you to regain consciousness.”
“Why do you say that? Are you possessed by demons?”
“I have demons in me, if that’s what you mean. Of course, I do. We all have demons.”
She cowered and looked around searching for demons, “Even here?”
“Not in the flat, but here,” he said, pointing to his head.
“But you told me you had them behind a door in your apartment,” she said, thinking of a door next to the kitchen’s she hadn’t opened. “Which door is it?”
He again pointed to his head, “In my head here, behind a door in my head, here.”
“I haven’t felt the presence of demons in your head. While I was being crucified on your bed and you were doing those horrible things to me, maybe, but not before or since.”
“I’ve sent them on a long vacation.”
“Why haven’t you got rid of them?”
“There aren’t enough pigs in the world.”
“The poor pigs!”
“Don’t worry; I know how to keep them under control.”
“Just keep them away from me. I don’t want to see demons.”
“They too don’t want to see you. Angels and demons don’t mix.”
“You still consider me an angel?”
“You know my opinion.”
“Am I to despair of you having a bad idea about me?”
“We’ve finished with that.”
She uttered half a word then laughed. She uttered half of another word then laughed.
“Why are laughing now? You couldn’t control yourself, of course?”
“I’ve been thinking that if I were a demon, not an angel, how would you treat me in bed?”
Ali shook his head. “You wouldn’t want to know.”
“It is that bad, is it?”
“Absolutely.”
Rana was quiet for a while then she took a very deep breath as if she was going to jump into deep water. “I’m still a bit sore from your cave man gentleness so you have to be really gentle with me all the time, promise?”
“Of course I would. I’m always gentle.”
“Settled then. I have a confession to make. I’m really a demon. Grrrrrr!.”