Where's Reem?

My sister Reem was five years old when the horror inducing incident took place. The year was 1986; a year before my birth, and the day was as any other in the stiflingly hot embrace of July.  My family was gathered in my Grandmother’s house as a part of their annual trip to Egypt. My three sisters, Rania, Riham and of course Reem had flung themselves out in different positions in their protest that our Grandmother’s house doesn’t have air conditioning at every corner like we have in the Gulf.  With the TV broken down and the only things creating noise in the room being the fan, a political conversation between my father and my uncle, my mom pouring tea for my Grandmother and the random sighs and gasps from my sisters who believed they were on the verge of heat strokes, Reem was going out of her mind with boredom. Suddenly Reem got up off the red and white couch and announced something to my sisters, who didn’t hear her as they were too busy debating whether my grandmother’s house or hell would faster melt a person’s skin off.

A while later, almost 45 minutes or so, my Uncle’s conversation with my Dad turned from political to social; the area where my Grandmother lived had been witnessing the missing of some young children, people were starting to believe there was a kidnapper in town. My mother who had almost dozed off suddenly was wide awake. “What? A kidnapper here? How come we never heard about this! Oh my God that is very scary!” she exclaimed while she half turned to where my sisters were sitting to warn them. She only counted two. “Rania, Reham, where is Reem?” she asked. Reham who was convinced she was in a coma due to dehydration mumbled something about Reem probably being in the other room. My mom jumped out of her chair and in two minutes had searched the tiny house. “Ahmed I can’t find Reem anywhere!!” she yelled feverishly. My father sprung into action and even my comatose sisters were up on their feet. The house was searched again before my dad and uncle ran out to the street asking random people if they saw a little girl and running around yelling the youngest daughter’s name. My sisters were at the doorstep too afraid to venture into the dangerous streets yet barely containing their panic. My mother collapsed onto a couch crying hysterically while my Grandmother tried to console her.

An eternal half an hour passed before my father and uncle returned panting and terrified. “We have to call the police” my father announced. He reached for the phone and right before he presses on the third digit, my sister Reham yelled “look!” The whole family turned to where her finger was pointed. A tiny Reem was emerging from a small concealed compartment in the main hall’s cupboard. With her hair disheveled and with her hands trying to wipe the sleep out of her eyes, she stretched, yawned and asked “why did nobody come to find me?” Apparently the whispered announcement she made before she left the room was the decision to play hide and seek. What started as an exciting game had ended up as an 80 minute long nap and a family’s colossal terror. 

Today, 22 years later, the words “hide and seek” are still capable of inducing a few raised eyebrows and reminiscing smiles from the veterans of the family. 

It's all about the hair

The shock of black hair framing Layla’s white face is her most powerful tool of subtle seduction. The keratin weapon combines with the soldier fingers’ strategies and carefully calculated head movements to execute Operation Flirt. Phase one of the attack begins; Layla is talking to a man that attracts her. Her first tactic is to tilt her head slightly to the right and let her hair slowly fall unto the left side of her face. This slight movement is vital. The straight short black hair, which almost always smells like a bunch of diverse berries, tantalizes the male victim as it caresses the creamy velvet smooth cheek. Some men wave their white flags immediately at this point, while at other times some men although shaken are resilient. The battle is getting more aggressive. Her long thin fingers that are so gentle when she plays on her piano are now transformed into warriors eager for combat. With her head still tilted she lets a small smile calculatedly escape onto her red glossed lips. Layla’s left hand deliberately yet in a nonchalant manner moves towards her hair. Her long fingernails etch lines on the hair that fell upon her face. This maneuver momentarily exposes portions of her white skin from beneath the darkness of her hair.  At this point most men proclaim their defeat and a minority don’t, however all of them wince internally. They know they have come across a worthy opponent. Layla’s last resort is of mass destruction and that is why she uses it sparingly. If a man still stands undefeated Layla will straighten her head a short period of time. Without warning she tilts her head forward so that both sides of her face are covered with her hair she then lifts both her hands and simultaneously runs her determined fingers across both sides. The effect is similar to a nuclear bomb. For the six years I have known her no one was able to survive this technique. The resilient man who had previously withstood the earlier attacks, at the end of the battle turns into a stuttering fool with a goofy grin splitting his face.

Mariah also has the habit of playing with her hair, however her motives are more innocent and her methods are much simpler. Her wavy hair falls for a good amount under her shoulders in a sea of golden brown that is always styled to perfection. When faced with one of life’s more thought provoking questions Mariah pulls the left side of her hair to the front of her shoulder. Immediately her frenzied fingers attack the innocent strands. Her middle and index fingers twist, pull and turn the hair in a vicious cycle as a frown stays plastered on her face. Sometimes she would stare into space and sometimes she would look at the strands as she strangles them. From far away a person could mistake her as a women staring in fury at her split ends and trying to rip them out.  But the truth is the pulling on the strands helps her coax her thoughts out. This mechanism unlike Layla’s is short and abrupt but happens frequently within the day. Just as fast as it began it stops. The hair prisoners are let free and the strands are pushed back behind her shoulder. A smile creeps onto her face and she is now ready to state her opinion.