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Authors: Laila Aljohani

Days of Ignorance

BOOK: Days of Ignorance
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Contents

1 A falling sky

2 And he never saw any angels

3 Silence and death

4 The scent of sorrow

5 The absolution

6 Decay

7 What’s under the color

8 Google goes delirious

 

Glossary

A Note on the Author

A Note on the Translator

1

A falling sky

 

According to senior officials in the US Administration, the White House is expected to announce today that Iraq has violated United Nations resolutions demanding that it disclose its weapons of mass destruction. The officials stated that President George Bush will discuss the matter in a special meeting of the National Security Council prior to the White House’s announcement.

Munis * the 15th of Wail,

the twelfth year after Desert Storm

3 a.m.

 

 

Is he dead?

That night, in his agitation, he’d heard a sound that had shaken him to the core. When he looked at Malek’s body, crumpled on the faded asphalt, alone, unarmed, assaulted without warning, he knew all the water on earth would never be able to wash away his transgression. He wept at the image that passed through his mind. He sobbed like a lost child. Sahar had wept several years earlier, but her tears hadn’t troubled him at all. At the time he’d thought he wasn’t moved because he was strong and hadn’t done anything wrong. On the contrary – or so he’d thought – everything had been her choice, the way she’d wanted it. Now he realized it had nothing to do with strength. It was just cruelty. He’d been cruel, with the heart of a little demon that had kept leading him onward until it had brought him to this abyss.

Was Malek dead? How could he find out? Through Leen? When she’d looked over at him that night while his mother was wiping his head with water, crying and praying for God to protect him from accursed Satan, he’d been afraid she might understand. He found himself fleeing to his room. After all, how could he tell her, or ask her to tell him whether Malek was alive or dead?

If Malek had died, he would die, too. They’d be sure to punish him. When the news got out, people would spread all sorts of rumours. And when that happened, he’d have added another evil to the evil he had committed – a scandal!

O Lord! O Lord!

He began to cry. The object crouching on his chest grew heavier, and heavier, and heavier. A burning lump was choking him, and for a moment he felt he couldn’t breathe. He didn’t hear his mother come in. All he was aware of was the pain in his head, which he’d beaten against the wall. Then he saw his mother burying her face in her hands and crying before casting a look of searing reproach at the ceiling.

If he died, his mother would die too. She’d made him the pillar of her life, and the minute the pillar snapped, the sky would fall on her head. She didn’t know yet what he’d done. But even if she found out, she’d understand why he’d done it, and she’d forgive him.

He looked at her as she sat across from him, paralyzed and helpless. He wished he could curl up in a ball and go back to being an unborn child inside her womb. Why had he even been born? If only she’d miscarried him like the others before him! He smelled the aroma of her body mingled with the fragrance of her perfume. She smelled like a mother. He didn’t know how the thought had occurred to him, but it did occur to him, and it crushed him: maybe Malek hadn’t died, and maybe he had a mother who was crying over him. But now he would be unconscious, unable even to perceive that his mother was weeping over his head.

2

And he never saw any angels

 

The Pentagon has stated that it has no information regarding the alleged transfer of US troops and equipment from Turkey to northern Iraq despite reports to this effect by Turkish news channel NTV and Al Jazeera satellite channel. A Pentagon spokesman in Washington said, ‘I have nothing on this.’ A Turkish military spokesman declined to comment on statements made by NTV. A US Embassy official in Ankara told Reuters, ‘I haven’t heard anything. There is no evidence in support of the NTV report.’ Al Jazeera quoted Turkish military sources as saying that fifty US military trucks had begun transferring equipment on Saturday from an air base in southern Turkey into three Kurdish-controlled regions in northern Iraq. According to the Al Jazeera report, the trucks used the Khabur border gate.

Jubar * the 13th of Wail,

the twelfth year after Desert Storm

4 a.m.

 

 

He wished he would die. However, he didn’t realize he wished it. Everything around him seemed vague and uncertain. He didn’t know anymore whether he was dead or alive. He heard the sound of metal grating against metal without being able to stop his ears. The sound disturbed him. But what disturbed him even more was the fact that he couldn’t understand what had happened to him.

Many faces passed through his darkness, but he could only make out a few of them. One of them was Leen’s face, which looked captivating to him at that moment. He wished he could reach out and touch her cheek. The last time he’d tried to touch it, she’d shied away from him like a frightened gazelle. He remembered that she’d been distressed. But he didn’t remember whether she’d gotten over her distress or not. She smiled warmly, in her eye a glint he didn’t know how to interpret. The blood flowed thick and warm out of his nose, and its saltiness settled along the sides of his tongue. He remembered her licking his shoulder once and saying, ‘You taste salty.’ He wanted to smile, but he didn’t know whether he could smile again or not. Tiny colored lights glistened in his darkness, while stars with phosphorescent hues – red, green, and yellow – and spiral-shaped creatures descended from the top of the darkness to the bottom, gliding like luminous sea creatures in the depths of a lightless ocean. He heard frantic footsteps, shouts, curses and insults. But something kept him from understanding what had happened to him.

He thought about the fact that his ribs were hurting. Suddenly they’d become like blazing splinters implanted in the flesh of his chest. He heard his feeble heartbeats. Then he saw his mother waving to him in the distance. He wished he could run toward her and ask, ‘What’s wrong with me, Mother? Touch me so that I can know what’s wrong with me!’

But he didn’t run. He kept trying to call her without knowing if he’d really called her or not. There was no sky above him, there was no earth beneath him, nor was he floating on water. He was in limbo between this world and the next, but he didn’t see any angels.

He was trying not to die, but he didn’t know whether he was succeeding or not. Of all the things that had broken his spirit, the one that had hurt the most was loneliness. When he’d closed his eyes for the last time, his loneliness had destroyed him. It terrified him to realize with such certainty that his loneliness was all he had left. Even Leen had been transformed in a moment into an illusion, and he couldn’t understand how things had reached this point. He’d been beaten mercilessly, and pain had left his spirit in tatters. Pain, humiliation, and the bitter sense of having been duped. What had happened to him? Why had it happened? And who had done it?

A voice had shouted, ‘That’s enough!’, and at that moment his consciousness had begun seeping away.

At that point he’d stopped seeing anything but darkness. He’d stopped feeling anything but cold and a horrible loneliness. He waited a long time for the angels to come. But they never did.

3

Silence and death

 

The United States has sent dozens of teams composed of special forces and intelligence specialists into Iraq. It has supplied them with millions of dollars in liquid funds to entice tribal leaders to distance themselves from President Saddam Hussein. The British newspaper the
Observer
mentioned in a report yesterday that this covert campaign – which relies on methods used successfully in Afghanistan last year – began several weeks ago, and is an important part of the military and political strategy being pursued by the United States and its close ally, Britain, to strip Saddam of his weapons of mass destruction or to change the ruling regime in Baghdad.

Ahwan * the 12th of Wail,

the twelfth year after Desert Storm

 

 

King Faysal Street

God damn the animal. He’s worse than an animal. And God damn her. She’s an animal, too.

He would always say she was an animal. If only his mother had suffocated her after she was born. If only she’d died instead of the others that had died before him. If only God had said, ‘Kill her.’ But killing her would bring her relief, and he didn’t want her to have any relief. He wanted her to suffer for a good long time. The animal! If only her father had given him authority over her. If only he hadn’t come between them. If only . . . if only . . . if only . . .

If only what? Like, what would I have done then?

She was stronger than him. He had to admit that, at least. Whenever he glared at her, all she did was smile serenely, then go back to what she’d been doing. That serenity of hers killed him! Even when he shouted in her face, all she did was let him go on shouting, without thinking of shouting back. And when she found him searching her room, what had she done? Had she lost her temper? Had she shouted in his face? No, no, no. All she’d done was stand there, leaning on the doorframe with her arms folded over her chest. She’d stood there watching him as he left her room, flustered, without having found a shred of evidence to justify to his father the way he’d been raging against her. He hadn’t taken any photo or letter that he could fling in his father’s face, saying, ‘Look what I found in her room, Dad! See it with your own eyes, and don’t make excuses for her. Your daughter’s going to cause us a scandal!’ He hadn’t taken anything, and as he left the room, he had tried to avoid looking her in the eye. He was sure that if he went back to her room today, he’d find that she’d put her things back in their usual places, and that she wouldn’t think of trying to hide them. If only he knew where she got that strength. It was as if it didn’t matter to her whether anybody – even his father – found out what was going on between her and the animal. Did his father know what was going on between them?

BOOK: Days of Ignorance
7.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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