May 24, 2017

In a place like this



No matter how long you’ve lived in this arid, barren, desert of a country. No matter how many summers you’ve endured. The scorching heat of May, will hit you like a deafening, sweltering slap. A heavy suffocating blanket you can’t kick off. Still, weighty air, like a plastic bag over your head, full of dust, and asthma provoking humidity, strong garbage smells saturate the air, bringing you to the lowest point of your human vitality and motivation.

The frequent dusty days, color the whole atmosphere in a sickly urine yellow. The poorly paved roads expand like a vulgar yawn. No trees, no flowers, no clouds. Thin, malnourished palm trees, gone brown, wilting and bent, their top spiky leaves touching the ground. The dryness of everything, the absence of nature, the ugliness almost painful. Constant traffic choked roads, with broken fences between them. Exhausted buildings spilling grimy worn washing, from dirty shabby windows and balconies. The irony of luxury sport cars, shiny and expensive looking, against a bleak, rough backdrop.

In a place like this; where who you are depends on what car you drove, and the price of the watch you wore, how can one dream? How can one grow, think, feel, create, inspire or be inspired?

Every day I leave the court house nauseated, and gasping for fresh air, the packed corridors and lifts filled with smokers. My head grows heavier, a grey cloud swells inside my brain. On worse days, a pair of filthy hands won’t stop heaping sand inside my head. Burying my brain.

I represent a gynecologist who killed a thirty-year-old mother, ‘it was an accident’, he explains to me in his heavy Nigerian/British accent, ‘I did not know how advanced her cancer was, the operation went wrong’. Wearing a dated brown suit, and a striped brown and white tie.

I represent a woman who’s divorcing her husband, who had raped her twelve-year-old brother.

I represent a man who’s suing his employee for stealing a KD 15 internet router from the office.

On my way home, the depressing, tired roads stretch before me. I replay endless stories of pain, loss and suffering. The raw flesh of chickens turning on the grills, of small unhygienic takeout restaurants scattered everywhere. White meat burning on fiery flames, reddening slowly, dripping grease and fat and lard. While two filthy hands, keep shoveling sand inside my head.  



Kuwait 2017











May 17, 2017

Vulture



This is where marriages come to die, I thought. Standing as I have done daily, before the judge, beside my client, explaining why her/his life, with him/her has become unbearable. I change a few words here and there, the dates may vary, names of children, childcare payments, custody rights. But the pain is the same; endless, immeasurable, and heavy, like being smothered by a nightmare you can’t shake off. And then there’s the feeling of foreignness; falling through a hole so big, you can’t fathom how you could have missed it. You’re somewhere else, you’re someone else. It takes time, hard work, to reach yourself again, to meet yourself again. To drag through deserts of emotional healing, on your knees, tired and broken and deceived. That incessant alienating distance to learn how to love yourself again. Or sadly, for the very first time. And how some of us never make it.

I smile empathically, I listen and nod, I reassure, I hold out napkins for when my lady clients cry. Some of them cling, needing. “No one understands”, “my family isn’t supportive”, “Thank you for listening to me”. And I say: “I understand, I support you, I’m happy to listen”.

I cannot bare to tell them that this is only the beginning, that this is the first death, that there are so many other deaths to come. That like surviving a war, or a fire, or a terrible car crash, the scars will always remain, the baggage will always be heavy. 

There is a nagging shame to everything I do as a lawyer, when I am feeding off people’s loss, people's mistakes, people's bad decisions, and disappointments. When I say: “it will be okay” to a grieving mother at the juvenile court. When I’m talking to a client from behind bars, feet shackled, iron heavy, hands bound. I’m a maggot eating away at a meatless carcass. I’m a vulture hovering around an already dead prey. There is something very cheap, very demeaning and cowardice about earning a living off someone’s misfortune.












May 6, 2017

في ممرات المحاكم




في ممرات المحاكم الضيّقة، الكئيبة، جدران متعبة، طلاؤها مهترئ، أبوابها الخشبية البالية تتشعبها شقوق كعروق دمٍ ناشفة ميّته. الهواء المتعفّن بدخاّن السجائر لا يترك مجالاً للتنفس، مقاعد الانتظار دائماً أقل من عدد الخصوم والمحاميين والمناديب، لذا تتكئ الكثير من الأجساد الحزينة المرهقة على الجدران والتي تبدو وكأنها ستميل من ثقل التنهدات البائسة. تنتظر جلوس القضاة الذين في كل يوم يتمادون أكثر بالتأخر في الجلوس على منصاتهم العالية التي ينظرون من على فوقها، ومن تحتِ أنوفهم، على بؤس الحياة ورذائل الأخلاق وانحطاط قلوب البشر وقسوتها.

تتوالى عليّ في كلّ يومٍ قصص النساء اللاتي لم يصلن إلى هذا المكان المريب، إلاّ بعد سنوات من العذاب و العناء و الشقاء و الصبر الذي لم يؤدي إلاّ لمزيد من العذاب والعناء و الشقاء:

"أستاذة فاطمة" - تبدأ (مريم) إحدى مُوَكلِات مكتب المحاماة الذي أعمل فيه –

"بعد زواج خمسة وعشرين سنة، يطلقني من غير سبب ويحرمني من عيالي ويطردني من بيتي ولا حتى يدفع لي مؤخر المهر ولا النفقة ولا العدة ولا المتعة! وغصبني أتنازل عن حقي في البيت! والحين آنا قاعدة بشقة بروحي وما أشوف عيالي إلا بالغصب، أتواصل مع أولادي محمد وعبدالعزيز بالسّر! البنات ما يردون عليّ، لاعب بمخهم وقايل لهم "روحو شوفو أمكم فاضحتني بالمحاكم"، بناتي ما يردون عليّ تليفوناتي واقفين معاه! تدرين إن طول هالسنين آنا اللي أصرف على عيالي، وآنا اللي شايلة كل مصاريف البيت، حتى السفر إذا سافرنا عليّ! كنت أعامله مثل ولدي، مو زوجي، مثل الطفل أسبحه وأحلق له ، وتكفلت بمصاريفه لما بغى يكمّل دراسته"

تقول لي (إيمان): "يمد إيده عليّ، ويسب و يهين، وأكثر من مرّه رفع السكين عليّ، بيذبحني! كل هذا جدام بنتي، لما تكرر الموقف أكثر من مرّة، خليته و رحت بيت أهلي، ما عندي منه غير بنت وحدة، أهلي ما وقفو معاي، كل يوم يحنون عليّ: "متى يتروحين بيت ريلج؟" اضطريت أبيع سيارتي علشان أتكفل ببعض مصاريف بنتي، وعلشان أوكّل محامي، لأن راتبي بسيط"

"تخلىّ عنّا، آنا وعياله (تقول رجاء) وراح تزوج وحده عندها عيال! يصرف على عيالها، وما يصرف على عياله مني. عيالي اثنينهم احتياجات خاصة وبسبب إعاقاتهم أوديهم مدارس خاصه، البنت مدرستها غير عن الولد، والمدارس بعيدة وايد عن الشقة اللي اضطريت أسكن فيه، بعد ما هجرنا و تخلىّ عنّا، لأنها أرخص، بس بين مدارس عيالي البعيدة و السكن هم بعيد، و دوامي والتعب، والمصاريف، موقادره! ما عندي أحد، خصوصاً ان عيالي اثنينهم معاقين و يحتاجون اهتمام أكثر من الطفل العادي"

 "صبرت عليه خمستعش سنة" (تبكي نوره وهي تحكي لي) "من أوّل ما خذيته وهو سكران، كل يوم يرد البيت سكران، انطرد من شغله، يطقني، يطق عياله، ما يصرف لا عليّ ولا على عياله، البيت كلّه أنا شايلته، الإيجار و المصاريف و السيارة، و هم ياخذ فلوسي و يوقعني على قروض، جسمي تشوّه من الطق و التعذيب، و فوق هذا وصخ، عنده علاقات، شكثر شفت صور في تليفونه، وصخ، وصخ، لوطي، قذر! لقيت صور في تليفونه، مع رياييل و حريم! لوطي وصخ! والله تعبت، تعبت!! تدرين إنه يتحرّش في بناته! والله إني أخاف أخليهم في البيت، لما يكون عندي دوام والبنات بإجازة أقفل عليهم الغرفه وأقول لهم لا تفتحون الباب لما أرجع، أو إني آخذ إجازة وأقعد معاهم! حاولت أتطلّق أكثر من مرة، أهلي يقولون لي صبري، أبوي يغصبني أرجع له، واهو يبجي جدام أهلي و يقول لهم انه بيتغيّر بس ماكو فايدة. تعبت، هلكت، أتمنى الله ياخذني و أموت و أفتك، الموت أرحم من هالريّال الوصخ"

مشيتُ مع نوره إلى سيارتها، وتأكدت من صعودها واحكامها الباب، خشيت عليها من زوجها، الذي طلب القاضي حضوره الجلسة. كان يقف أمام القاضي يتصبب عرقاً كالخنزير، عيناه حمراوان وجاحظتان من شدة السُّكر، لون وجهه لون المرض والبغيّ والعربده، دشداشته تكاد تتمزق من هول كرشه. عندما انتهت الجلسة التي حاول فيها أن يقنع القاضي أن زوجته مجنونه وأنه بالواقع زوج ملائكي وأب حنون، كانت تتطاير نظرات الشر والغضب والعنف من عيناه المخيفتان: "تعالي نوره أبي أتفاهم معاج"، لكنني أسرعت معها إلى سيارتها، بعد أن ضممتها وقلت لها لا تخافي، كل شيء سيكون على ما يرام، وأنا أعلم، كما تعلم هي، أنه لن يكون كذلك.

أسرعتُ أنا أيضاً إلى سيارتي، ورحلت وأنا أرتعش، سمعتُ قلبي يقول لي "لا تعرضيني لكل هذا الألم، أرجوكِ"، بكيت، وبكيت، و بكيت، كلما رأيتُ ظلم الرجل على المرأة، كلما رأيت عنف الرجل مع المرأة، كلما رأيت قسوة الرجل على المرأة، عشتُ ثانيةً ظلم و عنف و قسوة طليقي عليّ، و ظلم وعنف و قسوة والدي عليّ، فبكيت و بكيت و بكيت و بكيت و بكيت..



تم تغيير أسماء النساء في هذا النص و استخدام أسماء مستعارة












May 3, 2017

Fred



My Darling Fred,


Every May a mammoth sense of bereavement swallows me, as if it hasn’t been six years since you left. The silence in the wake of your departure won’t stop wailing, an endless ripple moving further away, growing fainter but bigger every year.

I want him back. I want my friend back, I say aloud, my futile voice fading in the dumb, unresponsive darkness before I fall asleep.  

On a dusty groggy day like today, especially. The sun an irrelevant white circle, flat and unimpressive against the dirty sky. My sadness rising in me like a re-erected tombstone. I want to go back to you, to fleeting moments. A cold evening, in a dingy old café, where a pompous academic poet ‘David something’ was signing his newly published collection, amidst a small public reading where struggling poets like us read a piece or two. We sniggered shamelessly at how the audience consisted only of his students, probably promised an extra mark or two, to show up and make him look popular. Laughing at how immature and petty we were. We may have had deeper souls and a nobler poetic command, but we knew ‘David Something’ will always be a far more successful poet. After all, we were both there, and we weren’t his pupils.

The time we sat in a quaint Edwardian tea house in Warwick. I asked you what the difference was between cream tea and ordinary tea? We talked about starting our own publishing house, and how I’d want to publish every poem sent to us, and you’d - of course -  reject them all.

How genuinely happy you were for me when I published my first poem, because only someone like you would understand the significance and meaning of that event.

When you died, a fragile corner of my life tore off, a jagged, sharp slash, that cuts me each time a moment, or an incident occurs, I wish I can share with you. The terrible joke, only you’d agree was funny. Deep, dark places in my mind, where only you’d encourage me to go.





Apr 27, 2017

words like onions


I am conscious, and so the dream stops.

No moving pictures, shapes, color, or sound.

A blank rectangle like an old turned off television set.

My eyes are stitched I cannot open them.

A little hand inside my mind is pressing the wakeup button.

I am still sleeping and yet aware!

The world is already made, a used, reiterated, exhausted world.

Everything has been said before, chewed on and spat,

like a popular book that’s been borrowed a thousand times

put back on the shelve for another pair of hands.

In this magnificent crack between what is and the tenuous,

I can go back as far as my imagination allows, the before is endlessly vast.

A fetus in a dark womb, with fins for hands, before the split of fingers.

I learned to use them, on and on. Opening and unwrapping, to reach

an understanding, which again and again, slips through split fingers.

When people gave me words and told me to be grateful. Words, like onions

I peeled and peeled on them, tearful.





Apr 13, 2017

The Memory



I try to grab on to a beautiful memory. Nothing particularly special or grand, we’re in the park, Jori playing on the bungee trampoline, me watching from a distance, smiling because she’s smiling, while eating what seemed to me then (and still) like the most delicious bar of Twix I have ever tasted. The memory a few years old, but vivid. Hold it, I say to my heart – my mind shooting from one negative thought to the next like a monkey -  Hold that image. Surrender to it completely. I can’t describe it in detail, describing it diminishes it; the colours, the sounds, how the breeze felt, how the trees swayed, the smells, the powerful feeling of being there, fully there. The ethereal nature of memories, how they exist so beautifully when not captured in words, or pictures, in the limbo of time and space, on the edge of reality, in the belly of something resembling a past.

I am still walking while holding on to my precious memory. Sometimes I can change what we were wearing that day, today I decide I was wearing my red coat, Jori was wearing a blue jumper. “I want to be at peace, I want to be at peace, I want to stop hurting, I want to stop hurting” I wrote in my  affirmation journal this morning. I will write more tonight: “I want to be at peace, I want to stop hurting, I want to laugh again”. A cockerel wanders out of a front garden. I stop and stare in amazement; its unusual shape, its mesmerizing colours, the magnificence of its stride. It considers me with interest for a moment. I am struck by the beauty of its creation. What incredible imagination, what skill, what majesty can conjure up this being, this fascinating design?

From my window, I see the old man from the building across, tired looking, out on his little balcony, smoking. Sometimes, our eye meet for a split second, he turns his gaze not wanting to seem invasive. In that split second we communicate, no words, no previous introduction, or encounter. I say how hard life is, I say how pain - in some twisted way - is good. I say, I don’t approve of his smoking, but I understand, because I’ve used similar methods of escape too. He says, don’t worry I’m not a creep, I’m not trying to invade your privacy, I’m not a pervert sneaking a glance in someone else’s home, I just need this little release, this little escape, my family won’t let me smoke inside the apartment. He sits down, in what seems to me like a very uncomfortable squatting position. In profile, he supports his tilted head with his free left hand, and lights up another. Behind a selection of dusty brooms, hanging laundry, and a small empty bird cage, he’s almost completely hidden. He says, life is hard, and strange, and wonderful.

Somewhere, in another dimensional existence, I’m wearing my long grey coat, Jori is wearing her fluorescent pink jumper, she’s smiling while bouncing high up on the bungee trampoline, I’m watching at a distance smiling, munching on the most delicious bar of Twix I have ever tasted.   



Apr 6, 2017

27 bones



There are 27 bones in a hand.

I examine my left hand carefully, I think of how much work it leaves up to my right.

I try to imagine how many hands I’ve touched, thousands? None memorable.

None particularly soft, or particularly kind, or particularly warm.

I love to hold my daughter’s hands, the smallness of them, the honesty of them.

My hands are bodies, they are souls in their own right, they have a knowing and a conscious.

The way they naturally long for something, the way they avoid, the way they pray,

the way they wrap around me when I’m enduring, to comfort me, pretending not to be me, and yet belonging to me.

My hands can love and they can hate.

My hands have eyes.

My hands have dreams and aspirations.

My hands; passionate, talented, strong, loving, severe.