Literature The Diversity Issue

FICTION: Do I have to?

I’m torn. Torn between my parents and their ideals.

By Ali Al Ardhi

Image: Shutterstock.

I’m torn. Torn between my parents and their ideals. How did they manage to find a common ground? My father hails from Morocco, a place of contrasting injustice and spirituality. My mom is from Canada, a stable land in which the general temperament is calm and collected. It always seemed to me that they should have been incompatible.

I always asked them how they managed to mesh two cultures, but they always shrugged it off and repeated some dismissive phrase or other. I also wondered, being an absolutist, was either of their cultures right? Is there such a thing as a good culture and a bad culture? Having lived all my life in Canada but with a very strong Moroccan upbringing in terms of the language used at home, the religion adopted as well as family values, I always felt as though I was put in a compromising position. Neither here nor there.

I’m currently on a plane from Alberta to Fez. I left my mother at the front door of our old house on her knees and crying, begging me not to go. I left her with tears welling up in my eyes. I got into the taxi, at a loss as to whether I should look back at her one final time or shut my eyes and only open them after I was sure we were out of the neighbourhood. I settled on staring at the cab’s floor. My father didn’t know I was going to Morocco, but he probably knew I’d go eventually. My parents split up when their families began to meddle with their marriage; they meant well, but a ship can only be steered by one captain. It stained their perception of each other and led to a sad, albeit dignified and understanding, divorce around the time I graduated high school. I was mature enough then to understand why they chose to separate, and I visited them both whenever I could, but never as often as I’d have liked.

Their love was a true sort of love, present in the absence of helpful external factors, built on mutual understanding rather than shared interests. Sometimes I think of how they might still secretly love each other, remembering vivid details of each other whenever they perform a mundane task, remembering how the other was there every time they turned on the TV or brushed their teeth. That was by far the most direct impact their different cultures had on me, to know that there exists more than one way to love. The Berbers of my father’s land, for example, would love their spouses and companions with an almost aggressive and unshakeable loyalty and reverence. Their loved ones were few and far between, but they remained that way till death claimed their souls. Those from my mother’s land, on the other hand, are softer in their love. They hold the opinion that a person’s circumstances are as much a part of them as their personality. They can see how someone who loves you might still favour themselves over you, and that you should keep them at arm’s length, but the love would still be there. My parents showed me that love has many manifestations. I’d like to think that my love for them is the combination of the best of both types.

My heart is heavy, and I wish their countries never waged war on each other, but most of all, I wish I never joined the military and became a soldier.

Ali Al Ardhi is a creative storyteller from Oman.