Cut and Paste
Entering Abu Yassin's grocery quickly like this didn't really bother me but it made me realise that I've forgot myself somewhere.
It's cloudy today. Or shall we say life has been cloudy for a while now. Coming back after a twenty year absence from the land of fire, the smell of gunpowder and the sounds of battle, I found that I've forgotten my way home and all the faces of the people of our quarter. Rather, they've all forgotten my face and no one remembers me anymore.
There was nothing to eat in my room so I had to venture out for the first time after a long absence. The quarter seemed different to me; it seemed much blacker than before.
I quickly entered Abu Yassin’s grocery, its wooden door seemed older and more worn out than I remembered, much like the Abu Yassin himself and everyone else in this quarter. Everyone showed signs of the war. Abu Yassin was behind the counter writing in an accounts ledger that seemed almost as ancient as he was. I greeted him and asked if he had some of the groceries I needed.
He didn't look at me directly. His eyes roamed around the room searching for the source of the sound. He stared in astonishment. I was standing right in front of him. I motioned with my hand as I greeted him again. Just then Abu Yassin got up, and I saw how much the lines on his face have deepened since his father died during the war. He looked through me, around me, still searching for the source of the sound he heard. I realised immediately that he couldn't see me.
As I turned around to see what Abu Yassin was looking, I wondered if it was possible that he has become blind under the pressure of all the disasters that struck him one after the other. But these fears were dispelled once Abu Ahmad (our old neighbour) came in and asked for some groceries. I asked Abu Ahmed about his health before he walked out, but he didn't answer. It was as if he, too, couldn't see me. As if I was just a ghost floating around them. The thought frightened me a great deal. They looked right through me as if they were the only ones standing there.
I rushed out in panic. I looked at my reflection in a nearby shop window but I couldn't find myself. I could feel my body and all of its parts, but I still couldn't see my reflection. I walked around the streets wondering where I lost myself.
After hours of wandering about and much thinking, I landed in the city centre. I looked into the distance and saw a pile of hands. I hurriedly crossed the street and chose a pair of hands, a left and a right hand, that seemed about the same age. It appears that they belonged to a young journalist whose hands were cut off because someone was angered by his words. I took them and I walked into another alley. A few meters ahead I found a heart, still beating, discarded and tossed on the ground. It seems it used to belong to a lover who tossed it out and left because he was deserted by his woman after their last meeting. I took it and placed it inside me, to the left, and I walked on.
Near the city's main square, I found a big hill of heads piled up one on top of another like watermelons. I chose a white head with blue eyes and black hair. It appeared to be the head of a young man whose features seemed familiar. He may have been one of those theatre directors who came back from countries far away with a head full of new ideas about freedom and democracy. I took the head and placed it atop my neck and walked on.
As I strolled through the alleys, I found two powerful, muscular legs lying next to some rubble. They were probably the legs of a soccer player that were cut off because he lost the last match. I put the legs under me and I started skipping around.
I tore off a white piece of paper from one of the many posters announcing new candidates and used it as clothing. I selected a few letters from a recent obituary glued to a dirty wall to create a name for myself, and I ran back.
I re-entered Abu Yassin's grocery. I greeted Abu Yassin. He got up and returned my greeting warmly. He asked me what I needed as he eyed me warily.
I quietly selected my groceries and left with a smile on my face.
Translation by: Fadwa Al Qasem