In the village, as soon as the mothers notice physical changes on their daughters, they prohibit them from playing outside. Playing outside the house becomes restricted to the girls’ brothers. Boys play outside and girls stay inside, this was the culture and no one dares to do otherwise. But unlike the other girls in the village, Jameeleh is the only girl her age that is allowed to play outside their house.
Jameeleh was different from the other girls in her village. She doesn’t take no for an answer and she does what she likes to do without fear of consequences. When Jameeleh’s body started changing, her mother tried so many times to keep her in the house, but she always fails to contain her daughter’s anger and eventually submit to her tantrum.
Um Jameeleh can’t hide her smile when she sees her daughter rushing outside with her doll. But her smile is only instant. Sometimes, she sits outside as well to keep an eye on her daughter while preparing the family’s lunch. Jameeleh is 13 years old now.
That doctor visit, eleven years ago, still resides vivid in her memory. She remembers the silent moment during the 30 minute bus ride back from Irbid. Neither she nor her husband uttered a word. She remembers the moment she and her husband received the worst news about their daughter. She wanted so badly for her husband to say something while on the bus, anything. Instead, he smoked one cigarette after the other, without even looking at her or their daughter. She remembers how at that moment, even when Jameeleh was only two years old, she thought of her daughter’s future. “Poor Jameeleh, who is going to marry you,” she felt terrible that she felt this way at that moment.
“She has Autism symptoms” the doctor said after performing some behavioral tests on Jameeleh. They had never heard of Autism before, let alone their only daughter is diagnosed with it. That doctor visit in the city was the worst. They both weren’t prepared for such a thing. Um Jameeleh’s sisters and mother suggested that Jameeleh be seen by a doctor since her behaviors were not like any two years toddler they have seen before.
When Jameeleh was younger it was easier for her mother to keep her in a close proximity to the house. But now, Jameeleh wants to explore places along with her doll. While Abu Jameeleh is away most time of the year, it is exhausting for Um Jameeleh to take care of her daughter’s needs. Many times she has to go look for her. Luckily, she always knows where she will find her daughter.
Jameeleh loves animals. They were her only friends. When she was young she didn’t like playing with the other girls. And when she became older and started exploring places she found her sanctuary at a nearby shed. A barn-like where the owner keeps his animals. She finds the cows to be calming. Knowing her situation and her parents and how much she likes being in his shed, the farmer welcomed her being there. He even taught her a safe way to feed the cows. He laughed hysterically one day for her reaction the first time she saw him milks the cows. The farmer didn’t mind her being there, knowing she will never harm any of his animals.
But the same place Jameeleh felt the most safe and happy was the place where she lost her innocence.
To be continued…