When I was little, I often dreamt of a demon.
I’d bang on our front door as the demon came down the stairs.
I’d scream and my voice would catch in my throat.
My hands would grow heavier as I pounded on the door.
When I got married, I started to suspect that demon was my husband.
domestic violence, gender violence, physical violence, social stigma, work, addiction
I’m 41 years old.
It’s a frightening number, I know.
But what’s more frightening is that I haven’t accomplished anything worth mentioning.
I struggle every day to cover my expenses.
It might sound easy,
But it’s actually difficult for someone who’s starting from scratch.
social pressure, work
The first job I got was technically at my mother-in-law’s.
“Sweep, mop, wash Mahmoud’s shirts”
When I’d eat she’d say “Look how she’s gobbling up the rice! She doesn’t chew.”
gender violence, marriage, work
I thought it was a small apartment,
But it turned out to be really big.
She wanted me to change her baby’s diapers,
And make them breakfast,
While she and her husband and baby were asleep.
I hated work because of her.
My job was supposed to be just cleaning and tidying.
social pressure, work
At the beginning, my husband treated me like a friend and wife.
He was like he was a friend, a brother, a husband, and a son to me. He was good to me.
Then, he changed.
He treated me like I was a man and only occasionally like a woman.
I thought he was cheating on me.
domestic violence, parents, work, marriage, divorce, romantic relationships
I applied for a job at a company and got accepted.
They offered me a great package.
One day, the owner of the company started talking to me about personal matters.
He told me that he was divorced and was in need of affection.
gender violence, sexual violence, work, harassment
She’ll welcome you with a wide smile: “Hair or beard?”
Then she will burst out laughing: “We’re barbers too, but female barbers!”.
Most probably this is how you’ll get to know Hayam, through her “hair or beard” question.
She won’t care if this is your first time or your hundredth.
I don’t know where it’s going to happen next time.
I can’t predict who’s going to harass me next time.
Everyone’s a potential harasser.
They’re the reason I can’t tell anyone.
I work in the field of life coaching and training.
I’m not from Cairo.
I’m from Upper Egypt,
From Minya specifically.
I came here alone.
Meaning I left behind my family—
And I come from a big family—
And my job, life, and friends.
And I’m a sociable person,
And I like maintaining close relationships with people.
So, my family and friends mean the world to me.
There’s a woman I know who’s been married for 12 years.
She’s been working ever since she got married,
And so has her husband.
She doesn’t own a car,
So she has to take public transportation or an Uber.
Back in the day,
There was no other form of transportation except public transportation or the metro.
This woman is about 8 years older than me.
She didn’t stop working when she had a daughter,
And a son 5 years later.
social pressure, marriage, motherhood, work