Short story: The Hidden Depression (part 1 of 2) [Archives:2006/910/Culture]

January 9 2006

Salwa Yehia Al-Eryani

Don't think people suffer depression only if the weather is gloomy. Don't think they feel depressed only if they separate from a partner; suffer from a chronic or terminal illness; fail an exam, job, project or interview or live in difficult circumstances such as war, poverty or stress. Depression has many other reasons, some concealed and wrapped in golden paper like gifts.

The First Day

My friend and I planned to go with our children the next morning to Al-Sabeen Amusement Park. Although it was the fifth day of Eid, it was still quite crowded. I suspected it was even worse in the days before. Our kids wore their caps to avoid the strong sunrays. As soon as we got inside the park, the children began asking for bubbles and rubber yo-yos. We bought them and entered while the kids happily jumped up and down. In front of each especially favored game, there was a very handicapped queue, if I may call it so. We discussed why Yemenis fail to make queues and fail to respect order. We noticed three queues, which had begun as one and then suddenly scattered at the end into three branches like a fork. Also, while moving forward, a normal movement for any normal queue in any normal place, women and children violently pushed and elbowed others.

Men had separate queues and I respected that because if men and women were in the same queue, serious problems would have arisen due to the pushing. I also was astonished to see some adults push children out of the queue, making them weep and feel terrified. The mood of enjoyment and fun definitely disappears once a child weeps. For example, how can anyone enjoy driving bumper cars after reaching the steering wheel through weeping, dragging and pulling? I suggest a third queue be organized: one for men, one for women and one for children. I also suggest an employee stand beside each queue, organizing it and keeping it in line, instead of allowing people to just grab a ticket and push their way through.

I watched my daughters from a shady place under a tree. It was like watching a very hurtful movie, but I trusted my kids. They could do it and reach their seats. They and all the other children were treated like a boxer's punching bag. They were pushed and pulled but succeeded in returning to their original point. My kids were patient, strong and brave. I was proud of them. Behind them was an 8-year-old girl. She clearly was pushing my daughter's shoulder. I examined the girl. Her features seemed to have some abnormal signs. She was furious and looked like someone ready to shoot. She didn't look like someone coming to have fun. Why do people in Yemen go out with a fighting spirit rather than a spirit of enjoyment and peacefulness?

Finally, my daughters reached their seats but as soon as the ride ended and they were coming down, this girl followed my daughter and pushed her violently for absolutely no reason. I whispered to my daughter to just ignore her because she seemed mentally unbalanced. We then went to buy ice cream. The girl followed us with her mom who also seemed abnormal. Although her face was covered and only her eyes peered through her veil, I still distinguished that she suffered some mental problem. Her daughter started making faces at my daughter, yelling “Na Na Naaaah,” and sticking out her tongue. I held my daughter's wrist, as she was losing her temper. She pulled away, ran and pushed the girl, shouting, “Behave yourself!” The mother then told my daughter not to speak to her daughter because she belongs to her! My daughter answered, “I don't care who she belongs to, but if she belongs to you, then make sure she behaves herself!”

It was awkward not to be by my daughter, so I stood beside her. I hate violence, especially of the tongue. I asked the woman who she thinks she is because I noticed great pride when she mentioned her daughter belonged to her. I told her to teach her daughter to behave herself or stay home. The woman was so angry; she replied that she never stays home because her husband beats her up. I said, “Well, go out, but don't bother others!” The woman pointed her finger in front of my nose and said, “I will get the police on you and your daughter!” She and her daughter went away and I saw her point two fingers shouting at us, “Not one, I shall bring TWO!”

My daughter started crying and I comforted her by saying we would probably just go home. She asked me seriously if they would drag us by our collars and throw us in jail. I laughed. We stood eating our ice cream when this mad woman came back with two young policemen. She pointed her finger at my daughter who was now hiding behind me. I went over to them and lost my temper. Trying to appear terrifying, the policeman said boldly, “Why are you people allowing your kids to hit other kids?” I whispered the whole story to him, how it started, that the whole family is abnormal and he shouldn't have believed them and followed them to this place in the first place. He glanced at the woman and her daughter. He agreed, nodding his head. Then they left, telling the woman that we will not disturb her anymore. I looked for my daughter. She was weeping silently behind a nearby tree trunk. I hugged her and told her things like this happen and I asked her not to exaggerate. I looked at my friend. She looked at me and we asked each other the same unspoken question, “Is this having fun during Eid in Yemen?”

The Second Day

Since the month before Ramadan, we had heard about a new clean and modern swimming pool for only women and children. We visited and were very pleased, as indeed it was very clean. The pool size was ideal, the water was a transparent blue and the decor was very colorful and beautiful. Additionally, there was a sauna, Jacuzzi, steam room, aerobics room and a small cafeteria. We entered walking while our kids happily hopped and jumped. Honestly, we were all excited. Yet, excitement and happiness don't last long.

As soon as we got in the water, we all screamed! The water was extremely cold, like melted ice. The kids started crying and complaining, asking for their money back because the freezing water was unbearable. I took my baby with me, imagining he would have fun floating on the water inside his life buoy and splashing water at me. Instead, his lips turned purple and the poor baby screamed because he could neither stay nor wanted to leave the water. I carried him by force out of the water. His jaws were shivering and his muscles were hardening. I was praying to Allah to save my baby.

I called the girl in charge and asked her to be brave enough and go in the water. She refused, saying she is in charge and isn't allowed to swim. My kids, their lips purple, yelled, “Liar! Liar!” The price was 1,500 Riyals for adults and 1,000 Riyals for children. We were about nine altogether. I asked her why they didn't warm up the water, as that's a humane demand. Also, the steam room and the Jacuzzi weren't working. I lost my temper and told all the kids to get out of the pool right away. They did and unconsciously ran to the sauna. I didn't stop them. They needed warmth. I asked the girl in charge to give us back our money, but she smiled and said that was impossible. I shouted, “Well, so is the water! It is impossible!”

The kids started getting hungry. I sent one of my daughters to buy a plate of French fries. It cost 500 Riyals, more than the price of a kilo of potatoes, so we expected they would give a lot of French fries. My daughter returned with very little. I counted the fries; there were around 13. There also were different sandwiches on the menu. We ordered, but the cook said she had no bread so we were forced to buy French fries for the price of about 20 kilos of potatoes. After we ate, the girls in charge began looking at their watches and tidying up, although it was only 4:30. We were then asked directly to leave because they wanted to go home. We all felt depressed. We had the feeling of being cruelly fooled. No need to mention that some of the kids started vomiting in the car on the way home due to the cold in their stomachs. It was a tragic day! I will only wish a day like it upon an enemy.