“What isn't romantic about us?”
I twiddled my big toes on his dashboard as reply. Our 4-months relationship was made of stock clichés. My parents did not allow us to marry. I was Saudi, Tamo wasn’t. We snuck out. We had the pluck to go out for a drive, then park on the Jeddah Corniche at 11:32 pm. The weather was gorgeous and smelled of armpits. I was 23, pissed and he was broke.
These things, to deranged poets like him, were romantic.
Of course, romantics are also the most reckless. Puberty in Saudi is celebrated with cautionary tales about couples caught in seclusion and getting publicly defamed ever after. And there is no safe-word.
Not long after we parked, a police car flashed its high-beams behind us. An officer came to Tamo's side, asked him to come out of the car. They chatted for the longest 132 seconds of my life.
When he came back, Tamo’s face was professional. It was the first time that I saw Doctor Tamo's I'm-Sorry-We-Did-Our-Best-But-You're-Still-Screwed face.
“Cover your hair. Stay calm. We'll tell them that you're my fiancée and your name is Hannah.”
”No. Not yet. They just want us to tag along.”
They lead us to a quiet residential area. When the cars parked, two officers came out. One took Tamo out for a walk. The other stuck his head into the window, across mine.
“What's you're name?”
”Hannah. And we weren't doing anything wrong. Just talking. I swear. My parents know about him. I swear. You can call my daddy to confirm that. And if we meant to do anything wrong, we wouldn't have gone to the beach. Not that we would gone anywhere else. No, that's not what I meant! I mean, I'm going home right this minute. I promise. I'm never, ever going to do this ever again.”
”Why are you talking so fast?”
”I'm terrified. Isn't it obvious? I've never talked to a cop before. I swear. I didn't mean any harm. Neither of us. We were just talking!”
”What’s your name again?”
I honestly don't remember what I said. I might have sworn more than breathed. I do remember, though, seeing my cop stifle a smile. All that police training did not go to waste. And that he had seen through me since the first time I said “Hannah.”
When they gave us leave, I asked Tamo how his interrogation went. He said, "We talked about cars. You and your cop took so long; my cop ran out of ideas and I ran out of excuses. So we talked about cars."
That’s it. No lashing. No public embarrassment. Not even a tweet. Nothing. None of the romantic-horror news in Saudi was based on me. I swear. And you probably won't hear it from another source, either. This isn’t the kind of thing that the mainstream media would care to tell you about Saudi.
That even the Saudi police force isn't immune to reckless, albeit heartfelt, romantic clichés.