A bit late, but Ramadan Mubarak all! May this month be a month of blessings and good will. A month to starve the stomach and feed the soul. Ameen.
My word, it’s been a while! I’ve had very poor internet and electricity was sparse here in Libya, but things are looking better. I’ve been enjoying the beach lately. Sitting, watching a glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea, listening to the sounds … Continue reading
She hovered by the kitchen, watching the silhouette of her mother. Her high pony tail was swinging from side to side as her hands widely gestured. Most of all, her smile was the widest thing she’d ever seen. She stepped closer to the rest of her family, who seemed drawn in to every word her mother spoke.
“The crocodiles! Oh my word, the crocodiles. You should have seen them,” she says as she turns her head towards me and her eyes widen. “Their mouths were so huge,” she proclaimed and proceeded to imitate the repeated clamping of a crocodile’s jaw while I laughed at the absurdity of my mother’s expressions. After a short while of daft animal imitations, she paused and looked at the window. Her eyes seemed misty. I thought this might be the first time I ever see her cry. I didn’t, she just kept staring thoughtfully. She took in a large breath, her chest rising to great heights and released it in a slow sigh.
“Oh how I wish I could go there again,” she whispers. If we all weren’t so quiet, I wouldn’t have heard. “How I wish I could see it all. See the world,” she exclaims and then rapidly sat on the couch. I feared for her then, for that was too quick and I’m sure the doctor said no rapid movements allowed.
As I watch her, I realise how amazing it would be to see the world and everything in it. I also realise that one could go around the world, but to actually see the world, to see the land, the people, the culture…that would take years upon years and not many are not so privileged. My mother doesn’t have those years.
A deep dread fills me as I notice a tear starting to force its way out of her eye. I tilt my chin, close my eyes and concentrate. There must be a way she can see the world. It hits me then, of course! I ran up the stairs in record time, my legs working with a mind of their own and reach my bedroom door. I fling it open, quickly searching, locating and yanking it into my grasp and then head back down. I see her then; head hung low, eyes downcast. I place it gently in front of her and tap her on the shoulder.
Her eyes laid upon the large book, of which I’d saved two months worth of allowance to buy. It was a book of the world, with many detailed maps, pictures of landscape and people. It was one of my most prized possessions.
“Here you go mum,” I said while smiling down at her. “So you can see the world.”
Her eyes lingered on the book, fingers gently stroking the binding. Her head rises slowly and she looks me in the eyes. She smiles.
Ever held on to something so tightly, just for something else to come along and forcefully knock it out of your hand? That’s what happened to me.
For a while, I’ve been pretty much addicted to writing. I’d write in this blog and I’d write elsewhere, but importantly, I’d write. It’ll feel like a relief: to express, explore and escape. It’s definitely a great passion of mine that I thought I’d be doing constantly. Yet, ever since I came to Libya, the passion has dwindled rapidly. A lot of things have dwindled. I feel like a raging fire has been put out.
For the last several months, I have become accustomed to the sounds of gunfire and bombs. Not just any bombs. Sometimes, the really close, glass shattering, door slamming, wakes-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-a-fright bomb. I’ve also been accustomed to killings. Just a few days ago, my childhood friend’s dad was shot in the head. His funeral is down the road.
The full of life and full of joy me, slowly transformed into this full of nothingness void of apathy.
A little while ago, I saw a post on the ‘Humans of New York’ Facebook page, which had a photo of a man from Ghana who completed his masters degree in NYU. I can’t remember the quote word for word, but he expressed how he studied to a higher degree at an established university to return to his country and improve it. When he arrived, he tried his upmost to push his country into progress. However, he realised that the country is completely corrupt and that most things work with bribery. He had tried to change the ways of his peers, but ultimately “people want to live”. He realised his efforts had gone to waste.
It was so reminiscent of my naivety that I read the post several times. There I was, completed a masters at a top university, coming to Libya and trying to improve the state of the country. HAH. I wish I knew then, what I know now. A clear image of a dear relative of mine, sitting in our living room and discussing the country’s state, comes to mind. She always says, “one hand can never clap alone”. She’s right.
I sit, several months later, simply wallowing. If you’ve been wondering about my absence, well, that’s what I’ve been doing. You try so hard to make some sort of improvement and then you realise that there’s simply no point. That there’s many things in life that are much bigger than you and much bigger than what you can do. And it all leads to a lack of accomplishment, a lack of achievement. But, in the meantime, there’s still a small sense of hope, the one that keeps telling me that maybe, just maybe, things will get better soon, even if that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.
So, that’s how I went from the ‘always pen in hand, ready to write’ and ‘camera at the ready’ Omnia, to the ‘meh’ Omnia. Apathetic, with a touch of dread. But the fact that I’m back here, writing and trying to express the world wind in my mind, is probably a good sign. It’s pretty tough trying to express what it’s like to go through a time like this, in practically a war zone, but maybe my mind will sort itself out soon. And I’ll try to write more, as I’m hoping it’ll help as much as it used to.
When I have a child,
I’m not going to tell them the alphabet is from A to Z.
It’s going to be from A to B
And all the letters in between,
In random order.
A C G H L K F T M O Q ….
Because things don’t have to be in order for them to work.
Because the world is disorganised, disoriented and random.
They’ll know that I’m A and they’re B
And even if everything’s a mess in between
They’ll know where to find me,
At the start
Looking over chaos and everything
Just to be able to see them.
They’ll know they can try to look through and still see me.
Climb over and bypass havoc in the way
And still get to me.
Knowing the struggle of being B coming from A
With jumbled letters and incoherent words in between.
My child will go to school and be taught order
1 to 10
A to Z
All the rules
With no exceptions.
I’ll teach him or her the rules of the world
And while they figure out all the exceptions
They’ll know there’s one definite,
That A always leads to B.
When I have a child,
They’ll know there’ll be no such thing as mild
When it comes to life.
That they’ll have to order it hot
Or not order it at all
And there’ll always be a bottle of hot sauce on the side
Because a lot of the time
Life will seem mild and they’ll heat it up.
There’ll also be a cup of water on the other side,
One that I’ll always refill
For whenever it gets too hot.
When I have a child,
They’ll know that the hand’s a paintbrush
To the heart’s colours.
That they can paint the sky,
And the storm,
But they’ll never be able to paint a smile,
On their own or on another
Because that’s the heart’s rarest colour.
When I have a child,
They’ll dislike death
Because death implies ending.
So they’ll find a way to keep on living
In the hearts of so many.
I wrote you a letter once. I poured everything into it, an empty jar waiting to be filled. I fold it and place it in my pocket and carry it around. Everywhere. I stand before you, itching to reach into the darkness of my pocket and extract the thoughts written from the depth of my soul.
But I can’t.
You tilt your head, confused. I’m scared as I know it’s only a matter of seconds before you pull away, retracting.
I can’t. Again. You’re head is still tilted and now your brows furrow. 3, 2 and inevitably, 1, and then you leave. Again. This ridiculous tug of war game we’ve had going on. So I keep the letter in my pocket and carry it, especially everywhere you go, in the hopes that maybe one day the courage will come.
Weeks later, I get a call.
“You have to come. He needs you right now,” your brother says to me.
“What happened?” A thousand and one thoughts spiral out of control, my head foggy. I feel faint and sick.
“I can’t explain, just get in the car and get here. Quick.”
“Okay, I’ll be at your house in 10.”
“No, not the house. The hospital.”
I encountered approximately three near death experiences on the way, but that’s okay. I got there in 15 minutes. I had no idea where to go, so I rushed to A&E to ask about you, except, I see you right there. On the bench, with your head hung low. You look like you haven’t had a shower for days and you’ve probably been in the same clothes for a while. I can’t see your brother, or anyone else I know around. I go from being utterly frightened to being very confused. I gently sit next to you. You make no acknowledgement of my appearance, so I shuffle a bit closer. I wait. And I wait some more. Then you finally speak.
“I didn’t want this day to come,” you whisper, head turning slightly my way so the breeze could blow your words on to me. Your eyes were still focused on a spot on the ground. I have a feeling I know what’s going on, but I suppress it. I’m good at that. I really hope the day hasn’t come.
“He just rapidly deteriorated. I can’t explain..,” you pause to cough, a low grumble clearing your throat. I wanted to tell you to try not to explain. That maybe logic can fail us at certain times, or at all times. That the human body is more complex than what your medical training taught you. That maybe a lot of things just don’t need to be explained. But I stay quiet. You’ve never once initiated a conversation with me, and here you are, speaking without me asking you to.
“He just…,” you pause again, pulling your eyes slightly upwards, that distant stare now all too familiar. But now, it’s misted with unshed tears as your mind races to find an explanation.
“He’s dying.” The whisper oh so quiet, I wouldn’t have caught it if it wasn’t an obvious statement. He has been for a while, but you failed to see. Even with your training and supposed rational, you failed to see, because he’s your best friend. You didn’t have to say anything to me, I know. I have known for a while.
Last week, I sat beside him on the steps outside his home. I got a message from him telling me to pass by on my way back from work. So I sat next to him, not sure what I’m supposed to be saying or doing. I make him green tea. He tells me that my green tea is his and your favourite thing to drink; that no one does it better than I do. I don’t know why, but it gives me a kind of warm feeling inside. So I go back into his kitchen, make him a lot more of my green tea and fill up a large thermos. All the while, his mother is looking at me with a solemn expression, not saying anything, but hugs me a bit too tightly. I bring the thermos back and place it between us on the steps outside his home. He looks at me, eyes sunken and cheeks hollow.
“Please take care of him,” he says, his voice croaking and weak.
“I didn’t ask for this, but it is His will, a challenge I’ve accepted,” he says while looking up into the sky. I too, follow his gaze, and see that sundown is nearly upon us.
“He doesn’t say it, but he cares for you,” he says. He tells me to pour him more green tea. Then he tells me more things about you and my hands start to shake, along with my head, denying the words he spoke. He assures me they’re true and yet I still can’t quite believe. I think there’s a manual somewhere that says you’re supposed to be nice to people who are dying, so I give him a small smile, not knowing what else to do. I then jump, with the sound of the Adhan coming from the mosque opposite. He laughs his unique laugh and tells me how hilarious it is when I jump every time. I walk away and leave, not before looking back and pulling my tongue out to him.
That was the last time I saw him smile.
“I don’t know what to do,” you say, bringing me back from the memory. Neither do I. So I stay quiet and inch slightly closer. I have an empowering urge to reach for your hand. My fingers twitch slightly closer, but then I ball my hand into a fist and place it on my lap. We stay like that for a while.
Three days later, I stand in the kitchen, pouring my green tea. My hands shake as I carry the tray around the back garden towards the tent. I call out to you, but you don’t hear. Your head is in the shadows, while your father has his arms around you. Your shirt and trousers are still smeared with dirt from the graveyard. The patches on your knees large from where you sat weeping after you buried him, your best friend.
You’re brother takes the tray away from me without a word and walks back to the tent.
The days go by and your pulled back into the darkness, the one which I’ve tried so hard to get you out of. Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be. I’m late for work and still searching for my keys. I search all the pockets of my favourite jeans and trousers, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave my keys there. In the pocket of my brown ‘work trousers’, which I hadn’t worn for months, I find the letter I wrote to you, nearly a year ago now. It’s crumpled, withered and battered, but the words still evident if I squint. I laugh in despair and toss the letter on the ground, shaking my head at the naive wishfulness I once had.
I finally find my keys beneath the sofa bed and make my way to work, arriving an hour late. As I walk in the reception, a profile of a face I haven’t seen for a while greets me. The exact same hazel eyes, long lashes and smile, except more feminine. Your sister puts her arms around me and I suddenly don’t care that various colleagues are wondering what’s going on and I hold her close. It feels all too similar to home, wherever that may be. She tells me how she’s been, how you’ve been and how everyone’s been. She talks and talks and I talk back and it feels so real. So raw. And then she leaves. She didn’t ask for anything in particular, but I know the unspoken question left behind.
So later in the day, I make my way over to see you. It takes me 1 hour and 32 minutes to be exact. There always has been a bit of a distance between us. I see the glimmer of chestnut and auburn stands of hair reflecting in the sun’s last rays of the day. Your sitting outside your place, on the steps. The situation is too deja vu-ish and it scares me. Will this be the last time I see you too?
I sit next to you and then inch a bit closer. Why is it always me that’s inching closer? I wait.
“It kinda still…hurts, you know?” you say after a while.
I know. I know all too well.
I keep silent, in the hope you’ll say some more, but you don’t. Just the crawl of your tears down your cheek. I don’t think I’ve felt more pain than in that moment. My heart constricts and my head hurts. May hands ball into fists. I was prepared to punch fate, to keep punching and kicking until it surrenders to my force. I’ve never felt so much utter pain in my life and nothing physical is broken. If this is Love, Universe, then I don’t want it. I don’t want the pain it brings and it’s all locked up inside. It’s been far too long being locked up inside.
A splatter of rain fell against my eyelashes. I give a small thanks to the Universe, as now it’s not too obvious that tears are falling down my cheeks as well.
I keep on waiting. I realise that I hate this game, that I hate this thing, whatever it is, this Love. It makes me sick and I just want to keep punching it or fate in the face.
A deep sigh escapes your lips. I turn my head towards you. You’ve managed to express my thoughts with only an exhale of breath.
You inch slightly closer. I freeze. You gently lay your head on my shoulder. I’m not too sure what’s happening but my eyes widen in fear. What is this? I think you’ve just crossed the invisible boundary between us, the one that’s put up every time I take a seat next to you.
Another smaller sigh escapes your lips. I look down at your face, your eyes red from the salty tears, still staring at the distance. Confusion eats away at me and I’m not sure what to do. I feel like you’re asking something, without saying any questions.
I uncurl my fingers from the fists they were in. I didn’t realise my nail’s had dug so deep into my palm. I take a large intake of breath and look up at the sky. I gently lay my head against yours and we both look at the distance together.
The riot was evident from looking through the window. Shouts, brawls, paper planes and the beginnings of a food fight.
Just another day.
My hand grasps the door handle and I slowly open the door. I’m wearing four inch heels, one more inch than usual. It feels fabulous. The doorway encompasses me, my presence not noticed.
The heels sound fabulous as I walk towards the front of the class.
A few eyes turn my way, a few taps on the shoulders and a few ‘six seven eight’s.
Chairs dragged across the back of the class and placed in their rightful positions.
Laughter simmers into quiet chuckles and music stops.
All seats face forward, all eyes face me.
“Thank you. Let’s begin.”
_________________________________________________________________This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge prompted this post (better late than never). I use this countdown technique to get full attention from students before beginning a class.
Earlier today, I saw a Facebook status of a recently married old friend (I use ‘friend’ loosely), stating that her husband has left for a few days and she just can’t bear it, that the parting is too painful. As … Continue reading
There is a day,
where we are encouraged to Love,
to indulge in chocolates and flowers.
But what if there was a day
where we are encouraged not to Love,
to indulge in bombs and power.
Would this day be so widely received?
So greatly promoted?
If it is true,
what they say,
that Love is for ever present,
then we should hold it dear
and leave its absence
to be for ever feared.
There was a time when things were different.
I’d walk through school doors like I owned the place. Hair flowing in every direction, each strand dyed a vivid shade. They used to call me ‘The Parrot’, mainly due to my multi-coloured hair, but also due to my impeccable ability to mimic teachers at their worst and actors at their best. I’d say a word and laughter would erupt around me, shaking walls and raising roofs. I’d stare, confused at my capacity to amuse, but accept it nonetheless. Popularity was a precious thing after all.
But it all changed the night they came. I remember how their large, lifeless eyes looked into mine. I could feel their long, curling fingernails grazing my soul, tickling the outer corners of my being. I could feel their tongue tasting the skin on the back of my neck, slimy and wet. I could see dark clouds forming around us, distant thunder shaking their cloaks. I could feel a knock at the door of my consciousness. The door opened, allowing them in. They entered, gliding and swirling, forming clouds and mist. My mind felt full and distant, inaccessible.
I’m not too sure what happened after that. They could still be there.
Everyday I mimic their actions. I stare at my reflection with wide, empty eyes, hoping to see inside. Wanting to see inside. So, so bad. I graze my fingernail down my sternum. Maybe then I could open it up and access what’s left of my soul. I shut my eyes, seeing darkness. I search for the door. I search and search and all I see is nothingness. Nothing. There is nothing to knock, nothing to see, nothing to hear.
So I live each day lost in confusion. My hair now dull and grey, framing the sides of my hollow face. My eyes vacant and skin pale.
I walk through school doors like I own nothing.
This is my submission for Speakeasy 147. The sentence prompt, to be used in the first line, was “There was a time when things were different”, plus a photo prompt of parrots.