Creative The Home Issue

Fiction: Can this be home?

By Ali Al Ardhi

Artwork by Saudi illustrator Nouf Alismail.

I have been here a while. These people that surround me are incomprehensible, with customs, traditions and norms that are so far removed from my own that I don’t know where to start assimilating. It’s been almost a decade since I set foot on this land, the vessel that dropped me left as swiftly as it arrived, with nothing in the way of guides or books to prepare me for life here. Of course, I have settled on an occupation that provides me with enough food and time for reflection, I have the basics of life covered in that regard, but the social aspect is proving to be insurmountably difficult.

There was a child outside a store I frequent. It looked at me and started laughing. Why did it do that? Did it know that I’m different? No adult has done that. Or perhaps they know that I am but keep to themselves in order to retain civility in a society? I don’t know if I prefer them being ignorant or knowing but hiding it within themselves.

I could argue that people do not appreciate the gravity of what it means to be a society; their actions, thoughts and perhaps even traits are influenced heavily simply by the people they interact with. What a scary notion. I strongly, if not absolutely, prefer to be my own individual. Being reduced to a set of categories as a description of who and how I am is enough to fill me with a sense of great unease. I wonder why and how they all don’t see this. Maybe they do. Maybe they’ve been beaten into submitting to this way of life by the very society that conforms to it, social exile being the alternative. If there’s one thing I am certain about people, it is that they are social beings; they require it for complete psychological as well as physiological health. What an alien concept it is to have your physical body dependent on your social interactions with other people. What of the people who live alone? Do they whittle away and die inside before their bodies die? What are they like when that happens? 10 years here and I have yet to gain insight into such matters.

It’s so much different back home that it’s almost as if I am dreaming. If I am, I wish to awake in my bed immediately. We are all individuals there, no notions of communities nor societies. The closest representation we have of that are the areas masses of us live in. That’s it. No presumptions made by me on my neighbor nor they on me. Every face I see has a blank slate of descriptions in my mind, to be filled only by them, not my notion of them. To be presumptuous is to set yourself up for misinformation.

I never thought I’d miss home, not the physical place, but the way of life there. Ironic. I suppose I miss the “society” there in a way. Perhaps we are more alike than I had thought. I look up to the stars. The humans are fine and all, but I’ve spent too much time and distance away from home now.

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Ali Al Ardhi is an aspiring writer from Oman going wherever the universe holds marvel and awe.