Joyland

Canada |

Hardness

by Hajer Mirwali

edited by Kathryn Mockler

It is now that Hassan decides he will tell Oula, or reveal, or confess. Not the telling of a story but a small moment in his life. Not some thing he did wrong—no, he was not that kind of man—but a wrong that was done to him. It is now that Hassan will share with Oula the wound he has been carrying. 

What was the bad thing? Hassan is still a bit drunk from the party. His friends Saeed and Hana—also together for two years, met at the same time as Hassan and Oula—were hosting the first party in their new house. A song played. It evoked in Hassan a fullness and Oula had her hand behind his ear, her long nails pointed the way her toes pointed when she came just now in bed—there is still the thing to tell—and she was grazing her nails against the soft skin there.

Hassan is a bit drunk. Now he is high. Now he is in bed with Oula. They have just had sex. Through Hassan’s tired eyes which feel like they are falling into his head, Oula is a dream. She enjoys hearing him say that. That it is easier to tell Oula now, that it could slip out with no effort on Hassan’s part—he was that way when he was high, said too much—does not mean it will be easy or even that he will follow through on his decision. He has only just decided.

The bedside lamp illuminates the light brown in his hair. He is so delicious, Oula thinks. She wants to devour him. Oula’s blood is moving slowly in her veins. She puts his hand on her breast. It takes forever to get there. Oula thinks, The party was not very fun, but Hassan’s wide forehead is a canvas. She tells him she wants to lick it. 

Hassan lets the saliva dry on his forehead. His hand is on Oula’s breast. When, last year, she ran out of the shower crying about a tiny hardness in the tissue—like her mom who died of it, she was afraid of dying, Oula was—Hassan held her wet body until she became dry. The lump was excised and that was that. Then was not a good time to tell Oula the bad thing, the wrongs of his father. Yes, it was his father, Hassan says to himself even now: Not my fault.

The neck of the metal lamp is twisted away by Oula’s hand. Darkness spreads across the bed. There are wet spots on the sheets. The window is open, dissipating the smell of sweat and weed. Oula is naked. It makes Hassan forget. Her pink sweater is on the floor. She wore it to the party with her curly hair tied up, gold earrings. She was so sexy he couldn’t wait to come home and fuck her, in her house, her bed. They decided he’d move in soon. It was only a matter of packing and unpacking.

How good it feels to be like this: light. They will watch videos that make them laugh, they will fuck again, will tell Oula the thing and it will not be so bad—she is so kind to him, my Oula, my Lulu, he called her most of the time—and they will wake up in the morning and there will be wet leaves, a rainbow.

Hassan wonders what the song was at the party. When Oula’s hand was behind his ear she whispered, “I wish we had stayed home.” Her nails were digging in a little. Hassan was getting hard. The body of a boy stiff with fear, like a dead body, Hassan was. Those nights. With Father. 

The man in the funny video is on the street yelling at strangers. Hassan watches the white light of the screen on Oula’s face. They will have sex again. He needs to tell her now. My father did this and this. Oula’s breasts are both in his hands. Her round eyes are waiting for him: “Was there something you wanted to say?”