If a baby is born in Dubai…Or, Dar a Luz.
Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time visiting Dubai. If you’ve been there, you know it’s a land of extremes; a futuristic, frenetic metropolis literally rising up like a mirage from the dusty heat of the desert. It’s also the setting for my newest story, “Dar a Luz”, which will be published soon in Event.
“Dar a Luz” tells the story of Rose–a Filipina nanny working for a mixed-race Canadian expat couple living in Dubai–and Rose’s emotional and unstable employer, Lucia. It’s told from the point of view of Lucia’s unborn child (Baby Z) and features a cast of extras who make Dubai such a dizzying place–Russian gangsters, Hollywood starlets, high-flying expats, glamourous, abaya-clad Emirati women swathed in Gucci and Prada–as well as the millions of mostly Asian foreign workers whose exploited labour and precarious lives make the exuberant world of the expats and Emiratis possible.
At its heart, however, it’s a story of love and longing, of the bond between mother and son. Here’s a sneak peek:
In time, it became easier to perceive things. Not through human means. But in a Morse code, underground sort of way; an awareness of light and sound as my mother moved through rooms. When she made an effort to attend yoga, surrounded by expectant mothers, timing their breath and relaxing their limbs in the long desert light, I would notice her heart rate alter, feel it gallop and race, as if every cell inside her was straining to be free.
When her sister visited from Toronto and she took her out to the dunes to sit for dinner on a blanket with the Bedouins and to ride lame camels and listen to cheerless Arabian guitar, the same fight or flight instinct filtered through her blood.
“I love all this,” she said to her sister—and I could the lie feel like a punch.
Meanwhile, waiting inside her, I had the dreams of every unborn.
While my hair grew in and my body hoarded muscle and my face found its shape—eyelids and nose like hers, elbows like his, lips like hers, chin like hers—my mind was busy dreaming.
What would the world be like?
What would we do together?
Who might I become?
“Dar a Luz” appeared in much earlier form as part of my MFA thesis manuscript at UBC. It’s gone through at least thirty drafts since then. My ongoing thanks to Zsuzsi Gartner for her very helpful advice early on in the process, and for believing in the soul of the story. Warm thanks also to Christine Dewar and the whole team at Event for taking this one on.
Look for “Dar a Luz” in either the summer or fall edition of Event.