Shuttle trips between the edge of earth and the top of sky
Strangers who know the details of our lives
Baseem Rayyes, al-Bayan – 22-06-2006
With untidy old clothes, eyes full of sorrow, skin which sun dressed it with a dark gown, and fit body which is still able to give free services, they knock on our doors as a light shadow, say hello by nodding as a ringing bell; when nothing upsets us and life would not disturb us, and when we waste no time on road, grocery boys will be waiting inside their moving cells.
Between the first and the twenty-fifth floors Radjin, the grocery boy, wastes decades of his life hanging vertically in a moving metal room, looks like a solos cell with a metal doors which slides horizontally; it is called "the elevator" or "the lift" in our vocabulary, while Radjin prefers to call it "ghurfa mal ana" (my own room). He has lived there for years; opening its door for people who are leaving without return, and closing behind some other new people who are coming with no hope to return.
What surprises you about Radjin, in his continuous travel between the edge of earth and the top of sky, is his perfect knowledge of the building tenants; their living conditions and their family issues more than knowing about a family which he left decades ago, children whom he have not seen and a wife whom he slept with only once. Nothing keeps his thinking busy except for the numbers of apartments, floors and groceries. Mathematical sums of money he takes then gives the change back.
He knows the building tenants from their voices on the phone and their cars in the parking spaces, from their visitors and guests, from their clothes, way of walking and the odor of their perfumes.
Candles, a lighter and cigarettes for the tenth floor; electricity in Husam's is off, and the street lights are not enough to finish his studying.
Saudi yogurt (fat free), chips and Digestive biscuits for the second floor; Om Sameer's son absolutely suffers from something wrong with his digestion or another severe health problem.
Marlboro, salty nuts, Redbull and orange juice for Marwan; the lover who divorced his wife just after he arrived.
Onions, olives, parsley and two apples are definitely for Mr. Rajab who insists on building a house for himself I his country with what the money he can save of his food.
Radjin does not like going up to the twentieth floor; not because he is afraid of heights or hating tenants of that floor, but because of a brat boy, forced him, for the sake of one-dirham small piece of chocolate, goes up and down three times in order to get the brand he saw on television yesterday, and the fourth round was to return the change of the hundred dirhams which he did with a choke in his throat and sorrow in his heart, but without saying a single word.
What makes Radjin sad is everybody's leaving with no return, and his staying in "ghurfa mal ana" alone, delivering requests to the door; once he starts a relationship with the new tenant and what he leaves of tips, soon the tenant leaves again, without saying good-bye, to another building and grocery store.
Radjin gathers all requests in order to take them together; he stays in the elevator moving as a bird in a cage from one floor to another, and from an apartment to another; sees what he sees and hears what he hears, humming some unknown melodies which breaks the routine of his trip and speaks some mysterious words which cannot be understood unless by his cousins in the career.
In his way up he accompanies who came back from their work, and in his way down he helps in carrying their personal stuff without forgetting to play with their children as a taxi driver with no meter and for no charge. Some smile in pity, or stare at him ironically; others shout and accuse him of being ignorant and stupid and some others would keep themselves away from him and his smell of sweat.
Radjin works from 8 a.m. till 2 a.m., with two hours break in which he washes cars in order to get extra two hundred dirhams on his month salary which is eight hundred dirhams only.
We have not stopped for one time to ask him, what does he hum, or what is he thinking or even where does he sleep.
Does Radjin, the grocery boy, whom we pass by him without caring about him or feeling his suffering, dream of shortening his punishment time inside a metal room which makes him always think of a solo cell, or of making his working hours less, or of a raise to the least salary on earth, or of a victorious return to a man whom his family gets bigger because of the brother's custody during the husband's absence, or even of a revolution of the most patient man in swallowing the bitter and chewing loneliness and poverty with a smiling face?
Do you know who came into my apartment while I am writing about Radjin?
He is Radjin, with his bright eyes, exhausted body and looks covered by depression. He put the Gitanes Lights pack of cigarettes on the table, and sneaks out quietly to add the price in order to be paid at the end of the month.
Translated by: Yazan el-Haj