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Learn Idle Talk Oh Rabea's Mother

Learn Idle Talk Oh Rabea's Mother

Here you are. You married the man you wanted. You took half his property as your dowry. The joyous occasion, the big day lies before you. Don’t skimp on the flowers, perfume, wedding and evening dresses. What is coming is a life of luxury in the arms of the man who will become Abu Rabea. Everything is worth it for the big night.
Yes, refuse to live like this. Ask him to take you far away. Your pink dreams deserve the adventure. Yes, refuse to become pregnant and to give birth to Rabea unless you are in a foreign country. A country of happiness and luxury. Refuse, too, in any shape or form, that Rabea be born on the homeland; the birthplace of his ancestors whose days were beleaguered with tragedies and in whose faces life screamed.
Praise God for your safe arrival.
Your loved one is like putty in your hands. Here you are in the promised land, the land of dreams. Congratulations on the new house and the new car. Now you must encourage him to work hard to provide you with the life you want. Why not get pregnant and deliver here on this land? Let this land be the child’s birth place. Yes, the child’s birth place.
But did your mother forget to teach you idle talk?
Before you leave, make sure that you have thoroughly cleaned between your toes, that you have put on the lipstick that excites your neighbour every time you meet in the elevator. Make sure, also, to use the same fragrance that you always use. Lock the door well and go out, Umm Rabea, all flirtatious and coquettish. Your women neighbours are waiting and the shops are open just for you.
Two and a half years later.
Put Rabea in the rocking crib in his room and leave quickly. Your women neighbours are waiting for you to start the party. The party is at your house today.
Rabea is crying, Umm Rabea. Listen, or are you busy chatting about your latest adventures? How to make pastries and sausages? And Chef Ramzi’s latest innovations? Listen. He's calling you. Don’t leave him alone. Ease up on the idle chatter with your neighbours and listen to your child. Listen well, Umm Rabea.
That’s right; leave him alone as usual on the bed of your night time play, just as you used to do when you claimed to be out shopping. He's in his third year; he must get used to being alone and learn to depend on himself. Of course, for he is Rabea, the future man of the house. You and your neighbours laugh out loud, filling the house with your uproar. Let the party begin.
Raise the volume so that you can hear Elissa’s voice clearly. Raise the volume so that the music is louder than Rabea's cries for you to let him out from the next room. Listen a little to his unintelligible words, you might realise that he is bored of being left alone and he wants to come out. His cries get louder. Be quiet, Umm Rabea, this isn't the time to talk about how much trouble he gives you day and night. It’s not the time to curse the day you got married, the moment you agreed to travel with him, the moment you became pregnant, and the moment you had Rabea whose screaming now fills the house. He's not sick. He doesn’t have a temperature. His teeth are not hurting him. He's not hungry. He's suffering from loneliness, Umm Rabea.
Get up and dance. That’s right, just like that. Sway for your neighbours. Show them how the body can be pliant during the day as it is at night. Lift your arms high and dance away to the tunes on the radio mingling with Rabea’s screams from the next room overlooking the balcony.
How beautiful your bodies are, and how wondrous your chitchat and your gossip about men, party dresses, and the latest jokes about marital infidelity! Laugh whole heartedly; it’s the time for playing and dilly-dallying.
Call Rabea’s father. Tell him to bring some take-away and French fries for Rabea. You're too busy with your distinguished guests, the neighbourhood women. Put on the silk shawl just like that, shake your hips, sway like a twig on a pomegranate tree. Close Rabea’s room well so that you can’t hear him and he can’t hear you. Shake your hips, shake, shake. You have long day ahead of you.
Laugh, shake, sway, raise your arms and dance.
Don’t look at Rabea as he crawls to the balcony door. Don’t hear the balcony door slowly open. Don’t even glance at him so that you don’t see how he has declared that he is going out as you used to do, or that he has declared his desire to return as you used to. Don’t worry as he climbs onto the balcony sill. Don’t look at him as he decides to fly, as he jumps. Don’t worry; he'll be the man of the house on day.
There he is flying down like a bird leaving its nest for the first time. Why didn’t you tell him that you live on the sixth floor? Why didn’t you tell him that his feathers are only down, that they can't support his flight, and that airplanes are far away?
Laugh, shake, sway, raise your arms and dance.
A hard knock on the door. Open it. Open it, Umm Rabea. The doorman knows your son well; he has come to tell you know that your son has decided to escape, to fly.
"What? What are you saying you idiot? Speak louder. Rabea is playing in his room. You’re mistaken".
Look out the window now to see who is below. Asphalt mingling with blood. Passersby are gathering and the party is about to begin.
What will you do now? Will you fly after him? Or fly like him?
Here you are, the bride in the middle of the crowd, and Rabea in the centre like a bloodied bird.
Laugh, shake, sway, raise your arms and dance.
Don’t forget to call Rabea’s father to tell him cancel the take away order and the French fires. And don’t forget, also, to learn idle talk, Umm Rabea.


If it were my fate to stop for just a second, perhaps to answer a call, to wait for a car to pass, or to light a cigarette .. then Rabea would have definitely fallen into my arms.

- On the wall of the immigration offices, 2008.

Translation by: Fadwa Al Qasem

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