Saturday, February 07, 2004

Wednesday 4/2
I woke up early, 7:30 in the morning. The kids are asleep and the apartment is quiet. The whole building is quiet, I looked out the window. The street outside is emmmmmmpty. So I had a cup of tea and I put on heavy winter clothing and decided to go outside for a walk. The corner store had just opened its door, I bought two local newspapers from them. I continued to walk. The streets are empty and the houses are closed. Not even one taxi car in the horizons. I thought to myself, this must be due to the eid holidays, life will return to these streets at the end of the holidays. I used to live here in 1985, then we moved to a different house before we moved back to Baghdad. As I walked down the street, I felt that there were secrets and memories being exchanged between myself and this street. I walked by a villa, I used to be friends with the people that used to live there. Their kids were very rowdy. They would climb up the electrical poles like monkeys and hit the little cats with cruelty. Their mother was very elegant and wouldn’t pay too much attention to her kids. She lived in her own private world. She was beautiful, blond, blue eyes. I used to love her even though I thought that there was something naïve and careless about her. Maybe she was a bit dump. I don’t know, I haven’t diagnosed her till now. But she was nice and didn’t bother anybody. I don’t think she was the kind that would envy other people. She wasn’t capable of that. These are other types of people that are capable of that. Her husband worked in the stock market, or something like that. He bought the house after making a profitable business deal. Then I found out that he had to sell the house when he lost money in a different business deal. It has been years since I passed this house, I felt sad about what happened to this family after they moved to an apartment in a far away neighborhood. There had to be a sin in their lives that they paid for later on. Besides the house, there is an empty piece of land that is empty still. The kids used to play there on their bikes. In the summer the water melon seller comes and builds a shack to sell water melons. The Shack becomes busy with all the people buying water melons. Does this still happen in the summer? I can remember this scene from the past, We used to live in this house, here, in the house of Abu Hassan. They lived on the ground floor and we lived on the first floor. And this is the balcony. I used to sit there sad. I was pregnant in the last months with Majid. I used to feel great home sickness, I felt that I needed my mother, my sister to be with me during the birth. The war in Iarq prevented them coming to Amman. The travel laws were strict and strongly enforced. I used to watch my neighbor in the building across the streets, she was pregnant too. She gave birth before me. Her mother came to stay with her. One day her mother was standing on the balcony hanging washed baby clothes. I started crying, I was jealous? Maybe sadness. At that moment I realized how dear my mother is to me. My neighbors mother, Um Hassan, was a good natured woman, she would always say: “don’t be sad, in the absence of your family we are your family here”. I would smile and thank her. But my sadness and homesickness would increase. I now wonder how I endured those cruel years? To be away from home is hell. Even though I had my own family, a job, a good income and a compassionate servant, it didn’t compensate me. I would miss the Tigris river. I remember the poem of Al Jawahiri (O! good Tigris…I become separated from you hatefully every once in a while). Amman has no flowing water source. There is no water that people can stare at and contemplate. It makes people happy, staring at a river. They feel a certain familiarity with a water body. As I walked by the house, I wanted to knock of the door. The door of Um Hassan, but then I hesitated. It is early in the morning. I can imagine them opening the door, rubbing their eyes and me standing there like a fool explaining. I am Um Raed, your neighbor from 500 year ago. They would say who is this retard. So I cancelled the idea.

[translator notes: In Arabic culture it is customary to call a person by the name of their eldest son, Um Raed mean mother of Raed. Abu Hassan mean father of Hassan …etc
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