The Red Dress
Short Story by:
Rita Odeh, Nazareth
One of my neighbors stopped me at the door of my house asking:" Where are you going...!" I gazed at the far horizon and whispered:" I don't know..!", and began going away while her voice kept tracing me: "what a strange girl..!."
I began crossing the road which stands as a sword separating the Arab neglected neighborhood from the other one which looked like heaven. My steps were heavy and lazy. One of the drivers who almost ran over me by his huge lorry shouted: "Are you blind ..! The light is red..!."
His shout did not irritate me. Yet, his shirt which showed that he was a soldier made me curious. Many images began dancing in my mind. Images of mutilated bodies, demolished houses, terror, tears, blood. Such images which we see in the news everyday, every moment as if they have become a basic part of every newscast.
A lorry which was crowded with soldiers passed by me, and I got the obsession of counting them. I started counting as if I were a child who has just learned the figures: one soldier, two, three, four, and twenty. A smell of food conquered my nose. I considered going in but my simple clothes stopped me from doing so. I went on walking and reading the advertisements crucified on the walls:
"Keep the city clean. Haifa municipality".
I smiled. It was a pale smile. I wished to meet that soldier who shouted at me that the light was red, so that I could ask him if the city was really clean. But, I gave up that idea and started looking for something which could fill my left half an hour till my night shift in the Textile factory begins.
A certain red color on a doll attracted my attention. Although there was a distance between us, I could see a woman busy putting the dress on the body of the doll. I ran towards her. That red color mad my blood run fiercely in my body. It was red. But, it was a strange red, so strange. It confused my thoughts. It made me feel dizzy. I glanced at it and wondered. How much I did envy that silent doll which lacked our human feelings. Yet, it could "enjoy" what we were deprived of. I wished I could put that dress on MY body instead of this dress which lost its colors long ago.
Without hesitation, as if I woke up from a dream, I pushed my body inside the shop and asked the woman to give me that red dress. She took a glance at my dress and declared coldly with a heavy Arabic accent: "This is expensive!"
I felt as if the walls fell on me. Eagerly I asked: "How much...?" Coldly she whispered: "One thousand."
One thousand! I heard the echo of the number in my mind which became a confused beehive. I had to buy that dress. I had to get what I like at least once in my life. I would pay her almost half of my salary, even more! I wish I were not an employee in a Textile factory but educated as the Jewish girls. I could then afford buying my needs and my family's needs and my eight brothers' and sister's needs who wait for my salary every month with lack of patience.
Well, I would ask "Yousi" to give me overtime in order to get better salaries the coming months. I opened my purse and took out the amount. Then, I stretched my hand with the one thousand "Shekels" on my tiny palm. The woman faced me with a smile and did not take the amount. I was paralyzed by that yellow smile. She declared: "One thousand dollars!"
Immediately, she left me to greet a woman wearing a fur coat that went in as a fish would go into a sea. I began to look around. My lips got slackened. I left the room with weak legs. I did not know why, at that moment, I had a strong urge to spit..!
The Red Dress in Modern Discussion
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