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Back home, hooking up is practically a foregone conclusion when you spark with a guy.
But with Yaser, there could be nothing of the sort.
We promised to stay in touch, which we did for a couple of months.
(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.
In the weeks after our café outing, my relationship with Yaser bloomed.
When holding hands is a crime, falling in love can be dangerous.
On my first night out with Yaser, we sipped espresso at a cozy café, chatted about our pasts ...
We talked every day and met regularly at various waterfront restaurants. Yaser frequently glanced over his shoulder, conscious of who was coming and going and whether we were being watched. Reaching over the gearshift when we were in the car together, he laced his fingers with mine and held my hand — out of sight, beneath the dashboard — while we drove down empty streets.
I'd forgotten how exciting the small things could be.
And the little pleasures seemed all the sweeter for being so hard-earned.
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.
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 come to Saudi Arabia from Iowa to do research for a novel, and Yaser was supposed to help me fact-check the details.