Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Once upon a time in the middle east.

When I was so much younger than today, I thought that writers who devoted thousands of pages to death were unconditional freaks . Since then many moons have passed and I find myself doing exactly the same thing.
I remember once watching a nature film about apes and their reflexes .They showed how a baby ape died as he lied in his mother's lap . She started screaming and beating her chest demonstrating grief presumably . But as soon as they carried the baby away she resumed her usual life eating bananas and picking fleas from her head. They brought the baby back and she started screaming her head off and beating her chest again. They repeated the experiment several times and the result was the same each time . The conclusion was : Apes have a short memory . How I envy that practical Madam Ape .
My memory is so crowded with images of the dead, I even suspect that the number of my dead acquaintances has already exceeded the number of my living ones.
A new experience hit me the other day . Unfortunately I have already experienced how to be shocked when death occurs; you know to hear about it as soon as it happens , all the symptoms were there ; the total helplessness , the disbelieve , hope that there was some sort of a mistake … etc. But to hear about someone’s death after a considerable period and suffer as if with a setback, while everyone else has already got over it, is quite awkward .

Several years ago I worked in a company . My job was uninteresting and exhausting and the wages were so meagre, that it would have been more lucrative for me to beg instead .
In fact I was once standing with a friend, when an old beggar asked us for help, so we told her how much we were actually being paid. The old beggar said after hearing the sum : Your poor things , how the hell do you manage then ? I swear by God this is not a joke, it actually happened to me. Yet, somehow we managed in those crippling embargo years .
When work expanded and the owner of the Co. was growing richer, upon my demand I managed to get transferred to another department, thus a replacement had to be recruited . A sweet miniature young woman came in one afternoon with her Dad, they had heard about the vacancy through a friend . I explained the task to her and she accepted. Both of us were from specialities that could not have been more remote to the job , but everyone was working out of their specialities then . It was trendy in those embargo years to do everything to survive ; engineers were standing selling underwear in AL Arabi market, teachers were working as tailors , linguists were working as clerks , Chemists were working as builders. I even had a relative with a philosophy degree, who was working as a plumber . He used to joke that whenever he unclogged a blocked toilet or drain he actually saw all the philosopher’s faces “from Aristotle to Jacques Derrida” reflecting on the bathrooms glossy tiles and on the toilets porcelain mocking him.

So, she was no exclusion , but she never really minded ; always in a good mood, always making the best of it . We used to work in different shifts, so whenever she had a question or something to inform me she either wrote me a note or phoned . The manager made her his personal assistant soon , cause she was so efficient and loyal . She used to deliver his messages and orders to the staff . Meaning, that whenever she called late at night it usually was bad news and forebode trouble next morning with the manager .
- Hello , I hope I did not wake you up , but Mr. .….. wants you in his office tomorrow first thing in the morning .
- It is OK Mimi ( that is how I used to nickname her ) , I wont be sleeping after all now you told me .
Then the sweetest giggle usually resonated at her end ' Ok sweet dreams don't worry you'll survive'
- I sincerely hope so. Good night .
Once she came to me just as I was going home after an excruciating day . She apologetically started her request :
- I know you are tired and all, but can you please give me a crash course on how to use Microsoft office . You know the manager said he will allocate a computer for me only if I learn, and I have no time. But I can come a bit earlier, before my shift starts and if you .. I mean if it is no trouble can stay a little later to help me learn .
I looked at her half crazed with exhaustion , but for some reason I said ‘Sure I’ll stay for an hour after I finish work, sure, why not? you just make sure the boss doesn’t object’ . My other colleagues were pressing me to demand over time payment, ‘after all the boss should pay for your efforts improving his assistant’s skills’ they said. I had bitter experiences in demanding my rights, and I may add here that if they ever are going to hand out awards fro cowardice I surely would get the equivalent of the Nobel prize in that competition! So what I did after two weeks of teaching her Word , excel and power point , after two weeks of her not missing one moment , taking notes , asking questions and doing the tasks seriously, was that I wrote a memo to the manager demanding a reward for Mimi . The manager asked to see me , so I told him how serious she had been and “boy how I sang that day” , it is always easier to demand other people’s rights isn’t it? . He seemed convinced and wrote to the accountant ordering her a reward, the sum of 15000 ID “ the equivalent of 7 dollars” . My God he was cheap!.

She became an indispensable member in the Co. Always running around working so enthusiastically you would’ve thought it was…. It was the last chance she'll ever have to work.
A couple of years later I left my job after I got sick to death of it . And to be more frank I was hoping for a better tomorrow after the war . I thought there would be more chances than I could possibly be able to deal with, we were supposed to be the new Emirate for Christ’s sake , the future was supposed to be so bright it would blind our eyes as Oprah says, . Could I have been more ridiculous???
So, I quit after a minor row with the manger . She phoned me a couple of times after my stupid dreams proved to be false telling me that the manger wants me back . I did not go back, cause enough is enough I thought.
A couple of weeks ago , I met an old friend that used to work there too , we reminisced about the past and about how foolish we were on the eve of the war . We though all evil was connected to one man , alas .
This friend was counting the people that left the country and the ones that were kidnapped ,wounded, killed … and casually mentioned Mimi.
- You know she was killed months ago.
– What, just a moment, she was killed you say, how? when ?
- Yes, didn’t you know ?
- No , I lost contact with our old gang, I ….God , are you sure?
- Yes , shot … I am sorry I thought you knew , she was shot with a couple of other employees …
- She was barely thirty ….I whispered . I sank in my chair trying to prevent tears , it was supposed to be a bloody outing you see , I did not want to spoil it for my friend. And besides , it happened ages ( months ) ago , which equals centuries in normal nations calendars .
Two or three nights later I had a dream about Mimi . It was an unusual one though . I did not see her in my dream talking to me directly . Instead she talked to me on a phone!. I heard that pleasant-sounding voice of hers on the other end of a phone I had for some reason. She asked how I was and said that she was fine ‘No I did not die, don’t believe that I died’ she said . I woke up not understanding the meaning of the dream, whishing that there was actually a place on earth where Mimi would be holding her phone receiver telling people what they had to do for the next morning .

Today I started a new day remembering that we have new things to grieve about .We have people being dragged out of their offices in the middle of broad day light and taken to the unknown …the unknown ? I beg your pardon, how stupid of me , of course to the well known horrible death all civilians have earned for trying to continue …. living .


Blogger cile said...

hey there, i'd give the iraqi bloggers, a collective Nobel-prize for their courage, to update and write about what's going on from their and your perspective!
and i know i'm certainly not the only one who considers this of utmost importance.
hold on rouletta!
wish you bests!

3:43 AM  
Anonymous Don Cox said...

I agree with Cile. The Iraqi bloggers, each with his or her own opinions, are doing a great service for their country and for humanity as a whole. ______The tragedy of Iraq is that Saddam has been removed but fifty thousand little Saddams remain.

3:21 AM  
Anonymous The Iraqi Roulette said...

Cile and Don ,
Thank you for reading and staying interested.

3:34 AM  
Blogger cile said...

bagh's real rough now. i hope very much you're well...

9:24 AM  
Blogger Red Jenny said...

I heartily agree with the other comments.

I'm so saddened by what is happening there. Although I know I'll never truly understand how awful and hard it is for you, I'm thankful you and other brave Iraqi bloggers are sharing some of your experiences and thoughts.

It is our responsibility in the West, sitting here in our safe places, to try our hardest to feel just a little bit of your pain in order not to lose empathy.

I heard someone give the "ends justify the means" argument for US foreign policy the other day and I was so upset - this person can't possibly have any idea of what daily life must be like. Again, I thank you for your writings, and I wish you all the best.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous The Iraqi Roulette said...

Red Jenny,
Thank you for reading . I agree with you on your concern that “ends justify the means” still is working in the modern world. That is mostly how the human race has developed till now . Let’s say that it is right and may be there is nothing one can do about it , but at least one must talk about the side effects of this principle . The side effects have and are effecting as usual the most vulnerable .
take care

12:34 AM  
Blogger dancewater said...

it is such a tragedy, and I do not agree in the ends justify the means... ever!

and in this case, I don't know what "ends" they are thinking of....

1:45 PM  

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