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On my first night out with Yaser, we sipped espresso at a cozy café, chatted about our pasts ...
and fielded furious looks from a group of young women at a table nearby. Welcome to Saudi Arabia, where you can get arrested — not to mention lashed — for being alone with a man, thanks to the state-sponsored religious police who enforce strict segregation of the sexes.
I'd forgotten how exciting the small things could be.
Back home, hooking up is practically a foregone conclusion when you spark with a guy.
When holding hands is a crime, falling in love can be dangerous.On my last night in Saudi Arabia, I gave Yaser a petrified bird's egg I'd found in a local shop, a symbol of fertility — a funny keepsake, given our sexual frustration.With the approval of my host father, I threw on an abaya, the black robe worn by Saudi women, and headed out.(We figured I'd be safe, given an unspoken rule that Westerners aren't subject to the same restrictive laws and harsh punishments as Saudi women.) My curfew was 10 p.m.
I'd come to Saudi Arabia from Iowa to do research for a novel, and Yaser was supposed to help me fact-check the details.When I'd met him earlier in the evening at my host family's house, I hadn't expected such a looker; with a shaved head, goatee, and jeans, he cut quite the hipster figure.