These days I had no time to spare. I had to be the first one in and the last one out of the office, if I was going to be promoted to a manager. And there was no way I was going to be passed over, again, for a scrawny 20-year-old, fortunate enough to be related to one of the company directors. Having my breakfast on the go became a reoccurring thing. But today I woke up earlier than usual. Meaning I had some time to enjoy my breakfast before leaving the house to catch the tube into London.
My mother injured her leg from a fall last week, and I persuaded her to stay with me till she got back on her feet again. I entered the living room with my bowl of porridge. My mother sat on a prayer mat, finishing off her morning prayer, her palms sliding across her face, reciting a quick dua. It was the usual: she prayed for a good Muslim man to knock at the door and take me away, absolving me of this shame referred to as Voluntary- Independence. My mother detested my modern feminist views. To her, a woman should start husband-hunting when she reaches 25. To her, a feminist was just a spinster in training.
“As-Salamu Alaykum. Look who decided to eat her breakfast like a normal person,” My mother said, as she took off her Jilbaab.
“Wa-Alaykum Salam, Hooyo.”
I took an envelope out of my bag and began fanning my porridge to cool it down. And my mother started laughing. “What’s so funny?” I asked.
“You just reminded me of a story I once heard when I was younger, in Somalia. It was about a man seeking a wife. One day, a man visited his friend who had three unmarried daughters. The visitor was served a hot plate of food, and all three women sat down to meet him. He asked each woman the same question; what they would do to cool down his hot food. The first girl said, she’d fan it with a folded piece of paper. The second girl said, she’d blow at every scoop. Then the third girl said, she would leave it alone until it cooled by itself. So the man married the third girl. Do you know why?”
“No, and I don’t care to be honest.”
“Patience, she had patience, my daughter.”
I continued to fan my porridge with the envelope. “Did the third girl have a job, a mortgage, and student loans or maybe…I don’t know…a life? And why was that man solely focused on a woman’s patience? What exactly does he want the poor woman to endure?”
“Having patience might help in stopping you from rejecting men after only one date,” my mother insisted.
I couldn’t keep my laughter in, “If you keep this up, I will elope and have a registry office wedding.”
Mirvat Manal is a British -Somali, writer and poet based in Manchester. Her fiction has been published in or is forthcoming from 101 words magazine and Leon Literary Review. She has also been included in “The Best New British & Irish Poets anthology 2021. Twitter: @MirvatManal