Life is just more exciting in their presence. At least, they can break the deadly monotonous routine of a life that has to suffer under the inevitable presence of the unfavourable others. The others are in fact their historical enemy, and it was the enemy’s own choice to ruin the lives of my comrades and mine. They have taken it into their heads that it is their right to live here and that my comrades and I are no more than intruders who should be driven away from this land. The issue is that we just can’t live away from here.
“You’re destined to suffer all your life, then.”
This is bad news, for sure. And we will not be happy to know that we’re destined to suffer all our lives, but what can we do to avoid this?
It is most appropriate for a writer to begin things where they actually began, and what an unreasonable thing that is who omits one simple facet that is exclusively attached to the life in Gaza where those who are most subjected to its tortures are those who most enjoy its presence. The presence of a power outage. Oh yes, this is the same as the absence of power. This is not complaining at all. The power cuts have been turned into the very source of an empowering inspiration which, with a little assistance on the side of its subjects, creates a suitable time, place, and atmosphere where my comrades and I are brought on the scene.
The place was a confined, tattered, and out-of-order room at the doorway of one of a three flats at the fifth storey of an eighth-storey building that is old enough to recognise its ramshackle features at your first glance. You might be interested to know that this building has been built by the Israeli authorities in the mid-eighties as part of a larger project that was proposed to liquidize the cause of the Palestinian refugees who lived across the area: in short you’re no longer a refugee in exchange for a flat. The flat has become old, tattered, ramshackle and undesirable. I am a refugee, and so are my three other comrades. All three of us believe that our issue and the flat are not alike…
The time was a watershed between day and night, almost seven o’clock; night on that day, however, had fallen much earlier before its usual time, and the cause for that was the power outage that helped hasten the fall of the night, and darken, or rather blacken the vision.
Inside the room, three cigarettes lighted and two dying candles issuing their faint lights, all four of us have gathered, while, stretching on the bed, one of the three comrades and I were mouthing off at each other, for no clear reason, and at the end he insisted on his opinion and I clang to my own. Whatsoever we conversed about was of no great significance, and definitely it will not lead to the liberation of this land. It was less than a half-hour before we started fidgeting expressing our annoyance of, since the two candles had died by now, sitting in the dark, wiping off our descending sweat, and discussing the role of social media in serving our noble cause. Could not we wait for the power to come back on so that our talk perhaps would have seemed more sound, realistic, and workable?
Now, it was inescapable to escape the room to some other where that we had not decided on yet; and, having combed our hairs and tied our laces, we had left behind our casualty and embarrassing lackadaisical nature, becoming the four ceremonious respected and huge-minded fellows. Here, we got away to our still undetermined destiny that was meant for nothing more than a simple wish: it was the only thing we perhaps agreed upon since we had gathered: let-us-enjoy-tonight was our motto. We-will-cheer-up was all we asked for.
As my three comrades and I groped our way descending the stairs through the dark, all at once, the question was posed “where are we gonna spend the night?” And here our trouble rose to prominence…where are we going to spend the night?
“We’ll see later!” a comrade replied putting it off. And we were satisfied with this. How good we are at putting off finding solutions to our troubles. This is part of the solution, many believe including I. This is part of the solution when we’re short of solutions. This is part of the ultimate solution to all our inveterate troubles. None of us expressed the least dissatisfaction with this answer; we would see later.
Now, at one side of the street, laughing and staggering, we stood waiting for a cap. A cap pulled over. But, to our embarrassment, we forgot that we hadn’t yet decided where we’re gonna spend the night! That we hadn’t found a solution yet. A comrade apologised for the driver, and made him take his leave.
“Where we’re gonna spend the night?” I asked.
“The sea!” one suggested.
“No, no, no, not the sea,” Another replied, “What about Crazy Waters!”
“How much is that gonna cost us?”
“We go and have a meal somewhere here or there!”
“A meal here or there?”
“Where exactly, you idiot?”
Amid this uncivilised argument we had on the street side and which was intensified by the ceaseless horns of the passing cars and which attracted the disparaging looks of those passing by us, most likely heading towards the mosque, for the call had just been raised, all of a sudden, one comrade had waved for a car to stop and got in, and the other three of us found ourselves follow him rushing to the car so as avoid the front seat where traditionally the guy in front is destined to pay. That was me, but to my great pleasure, we’re people who have stripped ourselves of every tradition which we felt doesn’t appeal to us. I was yet to suffer adapting myself to sit in a seat that was already engaged. Two people in the front seat: no wonder, we gotta enjoy tonight!
At a park, where people, it being sweltering summer days, find an outlet from the oppressive hot whether at their homes, always swarm across there, we hanged around. It could be discernable, in view of how the nature of a man in his early twenties, living in a highly conservative society, receiving tempting invitations from everywhere he casts his looks to go on his wicked behaviour, it could be discerned with no great difficulty that we did bad things and which I believe neither of us regrets doing. We spent a pretty while before the amusing tension rose again when a despotism-oriented comrade refused to give others cigarettes if they didn’t show respect as to call him what he desired—Abu Bashir— and which they contemptuously dismissed.
“I call you ‘Abu Bashir’! Ugh you must be crazy,” one comrade haughtily replied.
“You want me to call you ‘Abu Bashir’ in exchange of a cigarette! No way!” the other said.
“Well, your choice,” the despotism-oriented—or Abu Bahsir— replied. “No cigarettes.”
I have never been able to figure it out: why couldn’t they call him what he desired? Was it a simple and symbolic act of resistance which we, particularly the four of us, are familiar with and on which we poured our disdain every day calling it: an attitude which reflects sheer stupidity and immature political competence? If yes, why are we behaving the same now? Or possibly they just didn’t like the name for it assigned him a higher status that he really deserved? And perhaps I am stretching it a little too far: it was no more than a friend teasing his friend.
“Well, we’ll go buy our cigarettes.” Sneering, both comrades said. “Keep yours to yourself!”
It was not long before the role-reversing moment came along: A little boy calling out to publicise his tea which he sold in plastic cups came up to where we were relaxing. We bought three cups of tea since the aforementioned dictatorship-oriented comrade had strayed off, with an enticing cigarette stuck between his middle and fore fingers, taking someone’s call. We sipped our tea as lustily as possible. Shooting us a bitter smile, he drew near us, examined our cups, searched behind our backs, between our legs, next to the trees; and, finding nothing, he drew another cigarette, and sat down next to us.
A few moments later, the boy, proving his honesty, came back so as to give us a small change which we gladly made him keep for another plastic cup of tea. That’s how love disrupts our cards: it turns us into a bunch of meaningless, senseless, and futile creatures. What we feel is instantaneous and never lasts for long. What we believe in is dead the moment we express it.
As we walked along the shore, our day had come near its end. Watching the waves violently flirt each other, we seated ourselves on the sands and seemingly cast our misery, tension, and love aside; we talked of politics, of Lebanon, of love—though our love had been cast off. A couple sat peacefully at a distance, the moon shedding its light on them as if it were the spotlight focused on a couple in a closing romantic scene mimicking the waves in their savagely romantic love. The audience had stood up, dusted their backs and arms, clapped their hands, and took their leave.
Mohammed Rabah Suliman