A Polaroid: Jacarandas, Rain and Farewells



Image by Reem Taha Photography

I could recall beauty in separate, slow polaroids, one after another. The world was moving fast around me, unswervingly coherent with the pace of my legs, as I run as if I were in a dream.

Laughter filled the air and into my lungs; Amana ran behind me and Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes had me at my hands in front of me.

The clouds drizzled and there was no shelter anywhere around. Like everything that’s natural, so was the desire to live forever. I wanted to taste every flavor of adrenaline there was. I wanted to love like there was no time left for me in this world. I wanted to immerse in every last pleasure left abandoned.

And, it hurt me to think this would all be over soon. Was my life at the time the little “world” I spoke of? What if it was heaven, more than anything else?

We were in Luna Park – a heaven – and Amana and I just met Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes when we got on the Ferris Wheel.

Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes, where you from?” I asked him.
“Wollongong, you?” he replied. His eyes gleamed in the faint sun. He had freckles scattered like stars in a night sky across his face.
“I’m from Liverpool. Amana over here, though –”
“Bexley,” she said.
“Cool. Let’s go to the Magnetic Fields after this.”
“Let’s GO!”

Hastily, as if we’re running out of time, we jumped out and ran yards into some future I knew nothing of.

That night, we walked by jacaranda trees in some old suburb. Although the streets were almost empty, I could hear music of deep melancholy ease into my ears; it was as if the jacarandas were bidding some sort of farewell to me.

“Goodbye, Golden-Hair-Honey-Eyes, you’re never going to see me again,” I felt nervous and funny, how a stranger could matter to me. The streetlight flashed above us; not more than the mere silhouettes of our features were apparent under our pixel autocracy. He pulled me into an embrace – there was nothing weird or awkward about it. It was the first time.

We were young, and nothing in the world mattered because  we were.


When You’re A Strong Girl In A Man’s World: A Personal Statement


I come from a middle-class family that, to a far extent, does not exercise gender roles; a family that never justifies their criticisms with “because you’re a girl.” I am proud to say that I’ve grown, and am growing, into the woman I desire to be, the woman who does not believe her goals are limited to social assignments; the woman who thinks beyond social acceptance, obsession over appearance, and the looks of dismay on the faces of those who’ve deemed me “too loud,” “too self-assured” or “too much” of anything. 

These do not bother me anymore.

But, as I breathe in the atmosphere, and as my eyes become greedily aware of this little world I’m in, the more I realize that this “gift” I’ve been blessed with, the gift of independence and the strength to say “I do not need you,” is a double-edged sword.  I’m starting to notice people aren’t very much into that. Had I been less assertive, less confident, and less determined to achieve, I believe it would’ve been easier to mingle. I believe I would’ve been easier marriage-bait. I believe it would’ve been easier to approach me without telling me “Mona, there’s a shield around you!”

I could go on and on how I’ve always felt like I’m the bossy self-absorbed girl I’m frequently told I am, but that’s not what this is about. What it really is about, though, is that I had a personal dilemma with myself over my character.

At one point, I tried to beat myself down. I tried to dress better, be “cuter”, less assertive, less intimidating to my male-counterparts; afraid I would threaten their robust aura and self-worth. A lot less of myself, I turned out to be.  Although the “dress better” part got me attention – which, I admit, was enjoyable – it wasn’t the type of attention I sought for. My mind buzzed anxiety over my internal struggle in social situations, and everything just felt awkward. I felt like my mind could not take another word on my existence anymore. I refuse to feel bad for what I am anymore.

Till this day, I am still stubborn about not being a feminist. I don’t like collective labeling. But, what I can say, is that this so-called man I’m careworn to give excuses for being “stronger,” or more assertive than me, will not get me my dream job. He will not get me that extra grade I deserve from that professor. He will not be the one driving to the pharmacy in the middle of the night to get my mom meds when she’s sick. He will not be the one holding the weight of the world on his back when my father retires. He will never be me. He will never be me.

So, why are we so caught up in not being ourselves? I’ve simplified the math.

I’ve let go of the idea that authority is a binary factor. Human instinct is coherent with patterns in nature. So, gender-based authority is simply a social construct, whereas it should be a game of the “survival of the fittest.” The stronger entity survives and leads the change. Simple. We must change how we view things around here. Authority is simply a matter of capability, and not a matter of what’s born in between your thighs. If strength should be a matter of gender, then I believe everybody should have strength for their sake. Everybody should have the power of will. Everybody should know self-love, self-worth and be goal-oriented. Imagine the things we could prosper, if we cheered each other on, instead of pushing ourselves into little corners…instead of drowning potential.  

Whoever it may be, male or female:  your character will only be monopolized if you allow it to be. As for everyone else in this windmill, whether directly or indirectly,

stop shaming strong young ladies.

Mona Issa

My Eyebrows Aren’t Even And They Never Bothered Me


My eyebrows aren’t even and they never bothered me. One brow tweaks up like a witch from the 18th century, and the other rests like Mathilda’s innocence. My nose curves down on a slight bump and ends on a fleshy curb which highlights nostrils bigger than the usual standard. It is closed, funny, and pinchy. But it doesn’t bother me. I have a beauty spot to the left of my grin, and it reminds me that there is nothing flat or tedious about my skin – I am splattered by a paintbrush; coloured and full of gusto. People would often joke that I have chocolate on my face, then I’d often remind them that imperfections are the sweetest of gifts. It doesn’t bother me. People would call them pimples, but I resort to calling them little corals of wildlife and unexplored territories; my arms which have never failed to hold me to myself, at times where all I wanted to do is collapse. The flesh on my hips gifted me charisma and the width on my shoulders gave me stamina. God gave me a voice but I will not put it to incompetence; I’ll make a sweet mixture of women whose voices drip in grace and wit, and men who hold high in honesty and charged acts of bravery – I will be both, the poet and the daredevil, the lover and the dragon slayer. And at this point, I refuse to bound myself in a box of negatives and positives, segregated. I think I’m an absolute zero – chargeless and polar, all at once. I’ll be a hero, but I must learn to be weak. I dwell in my own wilderness, but I want to be calm. I want to be honest without hurting people. I want to love bravely, and without fear. I want to fight heartily, but I don’t want to think about the pain of the wounds which will come from that. I want to be an intellectual, but I also want to forget. I am of innocence, but I am desperate to be tough. I’ll cry and learn to laugh the next minute. I want to take the hurt of the world without having it traumatize me. I want to be able to say that my face reflects my character; I am completely okay with all that I am. I want to be able to say that I am OKAY with everything people scorn about me, and I want to express it without them having to take advantage of my okay-ness. I want to be free and I want to allow myself to be loved by me. I want to live a life where nothing really bothers me.
Mona Issa

To Everyone Who Told Me To Take My Life Seriously: I Never Did


[Written in the perspective of a 16-year-old self]
“Take your life seriously,” the teacher scolded.
I hated to think she was scolding, because I try to avoid beef as much as possible, but truth be told. She, in fact, was shouting.  But that’s not what drove the inner anger in me. There was something about this statement which ticked my time bomb. I hated it. I hated every bit of it. I am satisfied in the looms of my messiness, my highs, my passion and beauty and taste and creation and rebellion and emancipation – who is she to tell me how to live?
Take my life seriously?
She cocked her head back and swished her mane of hair off her shoulders. Although what she said was orthodox, it sounded completely alien to me. Word vomit has to happen at some point.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“What part?” she raised a brow.
“The whole part. The whole package of “taking my life seriously.” What is serious about this life? Bukowski said it himself, it’s a death party. First, there’s only one way to get a high math grade, and that’s if I break my neck. Isn’t it damn-right clear I have ADHD? Damn, okay, so I don’t think there’s anything called “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” but I can confirm to you that I can’t concentrate and that I like to run around screaming my head off – in happiness – that I got a C+ in chemistry. So, how do you take life seriously, miss? Walking in line? Fly the same wavelength? Conformity, is that it? Depressing my self to the point of self-hate over the useless things this curriculum has to teach me? Or is it  A 9-5 job? Is it rushing to get the latest iPhone in store? Voting between two evils? And if I reject everything, suddenly I’m a creepy hippie who does weed and lives on food stickers? Or is it ripping my poems, drawings and paintings into pieces because the world doesn’t acknowledge of the fact that man is born to be both the marble and the sculptor? Do you even know this? Do you even know that creative passion dies because of teachers like you tell us to take everything seriously?
I’m sorry, I’ll never do that to myself. I love and value my life too much to take it seriously. “
And after this train of thought, dear Mona never took her life seriously.
Mona Issa