Saturday, July 22, 2006


Love hurts.

The moment my friend opened the office door instead of Abu S.. Sunday morning, I knew something was wrong . For the couple of years I’ve been working there, he has been the one who opens the door for us every single morning.
-Where is Abu S…?
- I don’t know, he has not come yet .
– Did he tell you he won’t be coming in today?
– No ..
- I hope everything is All right , I said getting really worried now.
I mentioned Abu S… before , He is the sweet old man , who keeps the office, makes us tea and locks up every day after we all leave. When I started work at the office, everyone was telling me what a darling he was , everyone just adored him. I remember on my first day , he offered me a cup of tea :
– Thanks, I don’t drink tea . I told him politely
– Why ? aren’t you Iraqi ?, he said .
– I am, but really I don’t drink tea. He was going in and out of the room, shaking his head, feeling so sorry for me , suspecting I was just too shy to ask :
– Would you like me to get you something form the shop , would you like me to make you something else ? …. He kept on with concern .
A friend who used to work there, told me that Abu S… has been working for the founder of our office for 30 years or more, and the latter considers him one of his family . He also told me that Abu S… is disabled ( which I noticed).
As time went by , I noticed that he goes out every Thursday afternoon early, and the GD permits him to do so , cause he knows that Abu S… must “and when I say must I mean must” go to the cemetery every Thursday to visit his wife’s grave and spend the whole afternoon with her . As I got to know him more I got to know, that there are three things, that Abu S… simply cannot live without ; Abu S… loves Al Mutanabi street, cause he loves old magazines. He loves Sook AL Ghazil pet market ,cause he loves birds , and most of all he loves his wife.
He has been a widower for the last 11 years , and ever since, his wife died from cancer, the Thursday visit has not been interrupted even by the successive wars and violence . No Zarqawi , no Muqtada , no so called multi national forces can stop him from that rendezvous.
Seeing, that I always have a book on me, or a note book, where I usually jot my thoughts , he always asks me or “rather tests me” on the meanings of some ancient words or who is who questions he reads or hears somewhere , just to start me talking I suppose.
One of our Shii colleagues said to me joking one day as Abu S… was serving us his trade mark delicious coffee : -
- Do you know, that Abu S.. betrayed his people and changed his believes, and converted, for the eyes of Um S… only ?, every one laughed, so I guessed, that this is a running joke in the office. I looked up and said :
- Why did he marry a pagan? .
- Much worse, he married a Sunni and became one of them ,he said putting a funny grave expression on his face. Abu S… was smiling mischievously . I seized the opportunity and bowed before Abu S.. in a theatrical way and said solemnly :
- Your crime is unforgivable , but even blasphemy can be forgiven in the name of love .
He told me eventually about his life , love , children and work . He told me a lot about Um S… , It was as if he was really waiting to tell me all about her.
Once, He opened a drawer in His kitchen, and showed me a small, old black and white photo, of an attractive young woman.
– Wow she is nice , way to go Abu S… I said smiling
– I have not shown it to anyone else in the office you know. .
– I wont tell .
- I really loved her , we married when we were teenagers. On other occasions he told me more about her , he said to me once that people tell him, that he should forget about her already and stop this ritual of spending every Thursday in the cemetery.
– What should I tell them when they say that?, do you think they are right ?.
– Well if I were you, I would say; may be she is dead for you, yet she is more alive to me than any one of you . He really liked that .
– You are one of the lucky ones you know.. -I went on- .Cause according to Lev Tolstoi; the possibility of finding two people meant for each other is no more possible than for two peas , selected beforehand, to fall next to each other, when a whole wagon is being loaded with peas .,
– Does this Tolstoi believe in God ? he frowned .
– Yes .
– Ok, then he is all right , what else does he say….
To the question why he loved her, trying to understand the formula of love on my part . He told me a lot of things I’ve already heard, but one story seemed to answer the question .
One Rainy winter , Abu S… was late at the office , cause the GD had an important meeting, and needed him to serve . It was during the Iran Iraq war and there had been air raids on Baghdad that day . He said …‘a guy from the shop bellow us came into the office telling me that Um S… was outside waiting for me . I ran down and there she was, her Abaya was drenched .
- What the hell are you doing here, it is 10 o’clock , why didn’t you send one of the boys or someone’. I made her sit in the waiting room and went about my business. The GD saw her and asked what the problem was , when I told him, he sent me right back home with her and also with a generous reward . On our way back. I was silent , She started crying telling me how worried she was and how she just could not help it , she just had to go out to look for me , cause ‘you are not well’ she said , and that just killed me . She fed the kids and walked all the way in the rain and dark just to make sure I am Ok .’ Can you Imagine?. She is a woman, I should be the one who does all the worrying’ ; ( Abu S… is in his Sixties, you know, the old school ! ) . ‘I always remember that rainy day you know , Although she was nice to me in many ways, but that incident will stay with me to my grave, that’s how much she loves me ‘ he said …..

So, after waiting for an hour, a guy from Abu S… perilous neighborhood came with the news we hoped would never come . The day before, his son S… a young man in his mid thirties ,who works in a grocery shop was shot together with about six other shop keepers at three o’clock in the afternoon , after being threatened to close their shops a few days before . Three o’clock on a hot Sunday afternoon, the same time when Abu S… was clearing up the cups and trays and locking up the office .

I know how emotional Abu S… is. How is he going to survive this blow in his old age? .
We sent him our condolences , but none of us has dared to go and visit him yet, cause we were told he is in a state, ‘no use going now , let him cool down’ his friend told us . What shall I tell him when he comes back , how am I going to look in his kind old eyes . I’ve seen him cry before a couple of times , “whenever he heard any tragic news and believe me there is no shortage in that over here” . To see an old man cry is the most painful thing , even more painful than a baby crying in my opinion, cause you know that a baby has years to heal , but an old man is to take all that pain with him in his final impending journey.
In Iraq the accident is to stay alive, the norm is to get killed ., Yet it is still so painful. Why aren’t we getting used to it for goodness sake ?.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


A night to remember

When war comes literally to your doorstep, you have to seriously start thinking about your past life. You start giving oaths to be a better person if you were to be granted just one other day . When you are stuck in the clammy clamp of death you become… how can I put it … A better person ?, or you wish to be a better person at least. Many times during my life I nearly died and each time that happens, it is as if a different brain, a spare part brain , or an Auto brain starts to take over , my perceptions changes momentarily, suddenly, all the things that seemed a minute ago so important to me seize to be so . I am suddenly ready to embrace the whole human race, forgive and forget everything , I don’t care whether I have enough money, my boss is so sweet and kind and not so bad after all. My Dad is eh …. well no, that I won’t admit even on my death bed, he is always wrong and I will always be right and that is the end of it !.
Yesterday nigh, Weapons of all sorts and sizes were used against masques and even against houses by Al Mahdi Malitias in Al Ghazalia , Al Khadraa, AL Mansour and other areas . Imams were calling for people to come and protect their areas in loud speakers . Some locals were shooting in the air from their roof tops in attempt to keep the thugs away .What was amazing though, was, that the police were standing not interfering neither positively nor negatively, and the Americans were no where to be seen also .
It is no longer a case to be denied ; the civil war is openly being fought now . People have been in denial for quite a while ( me included) , but we have to admit that Iraq is cancer positive and some parts just have to be amputated and maybe chemical therapy will be the only solution . Who ever is behind it all seems to have succeeded , even the reporters are reporting the casualties of war in a new manner , for instance 14 Shias , 10 Sunnis … were killed in this or that Sunni or Shi’i area , forgetting , that there is actually no Sunni or Shia area , in fact there are no Sunni or Shia families , but this whole matter has been stubbornly pushed in that direction for obvious reasons.

This terrible night followed the horrifying events in Hay Al Jihad area, where groups from Al Mahdi militia were stopping people in the streets asking them to show their ID ; if the name had any Sunni implications they just shot the person , although many Shiis were killed to . A friend of mine told me that her relatives moved to her house after fleeing Hay AL jihad and they were Shiis that were threatened too. They told her that the militias members were kids, kids with weapons shooting people automatically, which painfully reminds us of Rwanda, when kids were given guns and programmed to kill even there parents.
The Government is not in a hurry to do anything , or I shall not be that harsh on them , may be they just can't do anything ; sitting, debating, analyzing, philosophizing . But when the night falls on Baghdad it is just the average Iraqi; Sunni or Shii in the face of death in it’s many recent forms .
Preparing yourself for death is never an easy task , you always feel that you still have a lot of things to do and accomplish. So I’ll go back to read the book I’ve started “A Pale View of Hills” by Kazuo Ishiguro, I hope I’ll accomplish that .......
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