How am I to talk about my journey from its ending? As in all endings, it's an eternal scream, doesn't know where to end.
Nothing was new to me, not the killing of innocents nor was the total destruction. but, this time-is the last for me-
[Pardon me, my extremities froze along with my whole body, I am going to bed, I might find some warmth there, I will return soon, I hope]
Hunger and the taste of ashes and sulphur mixed with every bite I took, I suffered chewing and swallowing, the feeling of being lucky because the dog and cat food I ate from the can was cleaner than any other food.
The thirst that blinded me from seeing the worms squirming in my glass of water.
None of this and more prepared me for what I am experiencing now.
"More"?! Is there more? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's not the "more" by itself, it's the accumulation of it that doesn't reach me through "Breaking News", it's a daily accumulation-day by day, minute by minute-random killing of innocents, blowing up of homes, theft and spoiling harvest, terrorizing civilians, let alone the prisoners who are serving without charge or sentence... These are some of many that I see daily and feel ashamed from my being powerless and distant. I am ashamed of my words and from my eyes and from my ears, that's why I adopted silence and went back to my cave where I have isolated myself away from the despicable world.
Still, I never get accustomed to what I see.
In the first hours, I was full of pride and admiration for people's ability to rise. I foresaw what will come, but no listeners.
I went to the only home that I know, a rock that's shaped like the map of my homeland, I placed my small pebbles first on my father's city, then my mom's, then the rest of the cities the rock allowed. I put my dad's candle in Haifa's sea.
In the last days of his life, my dad used to take naps more often, when he asked us to excuse him, "so soon?" he would reply "I only want to go to Haifa." He dreamt of his home when he closed them and wished to die at that moment, "I wish I die in my sleep so that I die in Haifa."
I placed a ceramic tile I brought from Spain because it reminded me of the Syria-shaam I loved. It was in a heap of debris mixed with garbage in front of a house that's being remodeled. I didn't ask permission, I just took that broken square tile, the missing part looked like a crescent.
And I waited.
I brought two 1920 maps that have the word PALESTINE, one a globe and the other a Palestine map on a glass slide from old times to be shown with a projector. Two friends of mine bought me from an antique store, "we saw the word Palestine and knew that you're the only one who will appreciate them." Little did they know.
I brought a picture I cut from a magazine for an ancient olive tree in a field of red poppies. This is the Palestine I know and drew as a child.
None of this helped. My state of silence and freezing continued. I did not know what next, each "then" was a different day. My head is about to explode through my ears.
I tried to listen to music, but even the softest tunes sounded like drums, war drums.
I remembered Fairuz, my lifetime friend and sanctuary. She had always given me the strength to endure this filthy world. But, she failed me this time. No, she didn't fail me but rather my memory where you live, did.
I did not allow her to finish "Wahdun" because I saw each of you sitting along in a corner waiting and knowing that there's no return.
"You're sitting beside me and I am searching for you" I screamed the way I did during air raids and bombing, ears buzzing and eyes burning, searching for my daughters in the midst of the suffocating gray.
"Asamina, our eyes are our names". I imagined your eyes carrying the colors of the sky and earth, eyes shaped with all the shapes of the universe, I imagined them staring questionably at me, terrorized, seeing and not seeing. Eyes that want to see so they're able to tell about what they see, and don't want to see because they're not able to understand what's going on. Children's eyes "the parents worked hard to choose their names'', they wanted for the names to carry all their love and hopes for their children.
Enough, enough of you Fairuz.
"Bird of sorrow, I am" and I saw you, birds scattered in the wide sky. I remembered my neighbour who lost her six years old child in a shelling that rained on us while standing in a queue, empty buckets in our hands waiting for water. Mourners tried to comfort her, "God chose him a bird of paradise." She screamed, tearing off her hair and cheeks, "why my bird? Why my bird?"
Fairuz, I should not wrongly accuse you, it's not you, I was the one who kept interrupting you and jumped from one song to the next seeking comfort. It's not your fault, it's my brain's fault, my brain that's filled with horrors since I was born, and maybe before that. How am I to calm my speeding heart beats, where are they rushing to? How am I to stop my eyes flooded with blood? And my ears' endless buzzing; my paralyzed legs or the ice that engulfed me head to toe, how am I to stop these?
Fairuz, I apologize to you, you were always my balm, even though not healing, you were my balm.
Why don't I try a light hearted musical, but then came Fadlo & 'Eid with their plan to "steal and uproot and such....", "why are there roses in the village? Why is there love and songs...." and I remembered the settlers' violence and destruction.
No. I will go back to the songs, and
"they were little, of tender age" was the knock out.
Sleep, sleep eases the brain. But, what do I do with our children and the children of the world? Your eyes merged with African eyes stolen from their homeland, and with the eyes of the Native Americans herded away from their families, with Vietnamese eyes whose children did not understand why are the adults sending far, to the farthest of lands, and with the eyes of the immigrant children on the border of Mexico and the USA. What do these eyes want? What do they see? How do they translate injustice to a language they may comprehend?
What do a human being need but a meal and a pillow? What brings death so soon to human beings but injustice. Is there anyone who believes he's immortal? Why all this? Why all this?
When sleep comes, it doesn't.
I regressed. I started to recall my grandmother's proverbs and sayings. "Pharaoh, who made you arrogant?" "I didn't find anyone to stop me." And I waited for anyone to stop him, that's when I decided to finish his answer with, "because everyone is encouraging me to be that."
Coffee. "You call this coffee?" My mom exclaimed at the auto drip coffee. I asked her forgiveness. Coffee with cardamom and orange blossom water. I found my hand reaching for the milk. I drank my coffee like my grandma served me when I was a child. From a small saucer with more milk than coffee so I join the adults while I am sure I am not one of them, not yet.
"Loved ones gather during disasters." Yes, grandma, they do and they did. I read about thousands around the world who went to the streets to support us, but they're like me, living in others' world, even when we want to communicate we use what their world offers us. I feel that the world left me behind in my cave and advanced without me. I don't regret that, but I find it strange that we are not able to find other ways to communicate.
I took a walk in the historical cemetery (late 1800s to date). I found out about this cemetery/city a couple of years ago. I liked her because it's open to life and to the ones who are still alive. In it I read chapters of history. I followed my shadow but wasn't able to catch it. It tired me out. Suddenly, I saw the shadow of two children on a wall in Hiroshima, they had evaporated before their shadow caught up with them.
Still and regardless, I continued to walk, slower this time, let my shadow go to hell. I walked slowly in the funeral procession of thousands of your children, a scattered funeral procession trying to find earth. When I awoke, I saw plants blossoming through rocks. I saw leaves sprouting from a dead tree. Fairuz whispered, "we'll continue with who's left."
My heart calmed a little and I went back to where I live which was never and will never be my home.
Cooking. Cooking always calms me down. Eggplant in yoghurt.
My mom taught me the dried mint's secrets. Mint should be dried in the shade. Save the stems for a healing hot brew. Powder some of the leaves for the yoghurt drink or for tabbouli, when the green hides till next Spring. As for the rest of the leaves, they should be added before serving. "Here I am, I challenge you to eat me dry. You should wait till I am saturated with the yoghurt and garlic so I melt in your mouths."
My plate became your doctors and nurses in their white aprons holding you, the burnt, in their arms and to their bosoms. Your children dried mint leaves covering the place.
I rushed to my papers and pencils, like those children, I only write in pencil. I will write, I will write. And I saw your flying papers, the burned and the half burned and the charred. Your thoughts, your imagination, your little fingers that obey and don't write under the line no matter what. You were taught from your tender years that your handwriting is art. And, in beautiful handwriting you wrote your names on your hands, one of you even wrote her will.
Why don't I sit on the balcony for a little while? The world goes on like it always did. As if nothing had happened. As though nothing is happening. Most importantly are the spoiled dogs and cats. Why aren't we spoiled as well? Weren't we called animals? At least we're a step above, we're human animals.
I remembered how in 2006 my colleagues teamed up in an effort to rescue a cat from being put down. Ten minutes was all that was needed for this cat to stay alive. Because the human beings called and went in person and threatened to cut off their donations from the pets' shelter. To be fair, they explained that Austin was going crazy because he's separated from Diana, his twin sister and that he'll calm down if they're together in one kennel.
Those kind humane human beings were my colleagues for over thirteen year. None of them asked me about my family in Beirut. I wish my family were cats, maybe maybe, they would have survived, survived.
I realized the rock bottom I hit when I learned of my friend who died with her children. The first thought that came to mind was, "maybe this is better, no one will grieve for the other." I was shocked. I was ashamed, final shame, unlike the daily shame I live from living away from you, it's a different kind of shame that sent me to the rock bottom announcing the end of my journey.
Because the earliest memory I have of miseries is of my family gathered around the radio catching and writing names. The endless generosity of the BBC offered a program where Palestinian refugee families separated from each other in 1948 would announce their names and who they're looking for. The people's voices along with my family members' faces, eyes, wrinkles, shaking hands, and later tears are forever alive in me. This same generosity was offered to the Iraqis in 2003.
because until now I haven't found answers to what puzzles me and wrenches my heart.
Why don't we learn from all the wars? Why the expression "war crimes"? Aren't all wars crimes? Do crimeless wars exist?
I am certain it's the end of my journey because Fairuz who embraced me in all the episodes of my life is not able to even finish singing a stanza. All I am left with are her hymns to the grieving Mother.
I hear my raped people's screams like an eternal horse's neigh, a horse in the midst of a fall hanging mid air with his neigh. My people's one hundred year sobbing gasp and the horse's neigh carry all the suffering, it echoes in my ears and reaches to my heart but not to the deaf world.
Fairuz quotes are from:
Song: وحدن Wahdon-they're alone
Song: طلع لي البكي Tele'e li il biki-weeping just happened to me
Song: اسامينا Asamina-our names
Song: أنا يا عصفورة الشجن Ana ya 'usfuratu shajani-bird of sorrows
Theatrical musical and film: بياع الخواتم bayya' el khwatem-rings seller
Song: كانوا صغار Kanu zghar-they were young
Television & theatrical musical: جبال الصوان Granite Mountains-jbal es sawwan