There is not a moment where I am truly at ease. An innocent knock on the door in the middle of the day can create a crippling sense of dread. Is it just the postman? Or is it death come knocking? At night, it is even worse. What darkness lies at the end of the dim hall when I wake to relieve myself when all else is quiet?
You begin to wonder how it would feel. To have your flesh sliced open by a cold steel blade. To have your brethren mercilessly slash at your mortal coil until you lay dead in a pool of your own blood and sinew. Would it hurt? Who would find me first? Would it be the ones who are dearest to me? I think that would be the worst thing. To have your life stolen from you so that instead of joy, you leave behind terror; a warning.
What would people say of it? No doubt the first thing that would escape the lips of most Maldivians I know are questions about what I had said. How had I blasphemed. Why had I deserved it.
Am I perhaps being too harsh on Maldivians? I once brought up the subject of my impending demise to a close friend, a Muslim who isn’t from the Maldives. If Allah willed me to survive, the blade would miss he reasoned. And if I were to die, perhaps I would be cleansed of the sin of being an apostate. He even went so far as to suggest that maybe my would be killers are actually looking out for me, ensuring with my murder at their hands that I too would have a worthy place in heaven. All of this he said with a straight face. I became angry that day, but it was pointless. Some people will never understand what it is like to live in such fear and I must accept that.
It all begins to feel a little bit like a self fulfilling prophecy. When I was in high school I wrote and directed an absurdist stage play where I starred as the central character - an ice cream salesman with more than a passing resemblance to Hitler. The plot involved a man, a school teacher, with blue skin that hated difference. During the course of the play I would further corrupt this hypocrite, and together we would slowly murder the rest of the cast - a collection of odd people and creatures - with my poisoned explosive ice cream. At the end of the play, I meet my demise at the hands of the police who would shoot me to bits.
Ironically, it was a complete lack of trust of the Maldivian police that led me to seek the protection of another country; a country where my very existence would not be illegal. When someone from a Maldivian minority asks the police for help, they can always be sure that they will become the criminal; rather than the ones that seek to harm them. The cowardly attempt to murder Hilath Rasheed, and the brutal killing of Yameen Rasheed, and the police response to both incidents are proof of this fact. Both reported that their lives were in danger. Neither were taken seriously by those with the power to keep them safe. To make matters worse, it is no comfort that the fate of Ahmed Rilwan is still unknown.
Despite the protection of a sane police force and a government that respects my right to exist, the fear does not subside. The tentacles of radicalism grip the world in a chokehold. Some places are safer, yet nowhere is safe from those that suffer from that terrible affliction - a fear of humanity. A fear of thinking. A fear of living. A fear of love. A fear of sex. A fear of art. A fear of music. A fear of dancing. A fear of our own naked bodies. A fear of all those attributes that make us human.
It is past midnight. The crunch of footsteps outside breaks an uneasy silence. My senses heighten. Are they just walking down the road? Or are they coming up the path? I strain my ears. They’re coming up the path! It’s just my housemate, I tell myself, trying to calm myself down. But how could I know for sure? A sound at the front door. My heart pounds in my chest. A key turns a lock and the footsteps are now in the hallway. It must be my housemate. Only they have the keys. But how could I know for sure? Is this it? Are they inside the house? I look at my bedroom door. Will it suddenly burst open? The door is old and not very strong. What would I use to defend myself? Should I wake up my partner, who lies asleep next to me, blissfully unaware? A familiar cough breaks the silence. It is my housemate. Tonight, like all those other nights, I was safe all along.
But how could I know for sure? Paranoia might seem like a useless emotion, but what if you have a reason to be paranoid?What if my paranoia is the only thing that will ultimately keep me alive? I’d rather live in dread than leave behind a mangled corpse; spreading the terror of another mans agenda from beyond the grave. So I double check the locks at night. I stay awake until I can tire myself to sleep. I seek the demons in the shadows. I live with my fear of humanity, lest my humanity leave me.