Monday, February 19, 2007

19/2/2007

my death bells ring and shake my veins,
and in my blood a longing darkens
for a bullet which deadly ice
might tear through my soul in its depths
hell setting the bones ablaze.

………. My death is a triumph.

Death and The River
By Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb



The day I died

A story Written by the Iraqi Roulette.
2005

I dedicate this story to all those who were in the wrong place in the wrong time.


I heard the sound of the explosion and saw the blinding blaze. I gasped and closed my eyes. I think I shouted, "Oh, God save us", so did the other people walking in the marketplace. I heard their voices, and I felt the fire puffing in my face. But all that did not take more than a second. I tried to open my eyes, or utter another sound, yet that seemed unimportant at all. For the feeling I have now is incomparable. There is just no need…, no need at all to open my eyes or scream. There is only surrender, sweet surrender.

It is a feeling beyond words; when your eyes are closed, yet you can see. When your voice can not be heard, even if you scream, yet you can hear everything else.
Is this how death is then? Death? Is it possible that I have actually died? Has the thing that I have spent my whole life postponing finally happened?
Have you tried this feeling? No, of course you have not, you are alive. It is a feeling as if you are neither awake nor asleep. And my heart, my poor poor heart, is brimming with the feeling of beauty. Beauty bringing me to tears.
I remember that my voice faded away with all the other voices suddenly, not gradually, but straight away, just like what happens when electricity is cut off from an apparatus. After I had been one among others, my voice heard with their voices; my figure seen with other figures in one picture, I became all by myself. They all used to be with me, now I am completely alone, not only in this street, or in this country, but alone in the whole universe.
Someone told me, that the events of one’s life passes before him the instant he dies.That is not how it is exactly.
The moment I died, or when I realized I was alone, I had two questions occupying my mind persistently. The first: Did I say, “I witness that there is no God but God, and Muhammed is the messenger of God”? Yes, I said it. I did not actually pronounce it, but I said it with my heart and mind. Not before death, since I did not know yet that I was going to die, when I first heard the explosion. I said it when … when I repossessed my thoughts.
The second question was, what did the man who was drinking tea at my stand, say? I did not hear what he said and that bothers me.

Yet, the feeling of beauty that imbues me, and the feeling of love that fills my heart is enough to cover the whole world's need of beauty and love. This feeling is enveloping my whole life, and even my death. Everything seemed so beautiful; everything seemed to have ended so well. It does not bother me, that my wife and daughter are now alone, and that they have a whole harsh life ahead. Not at all, there is no need at all, there is no need for any sadness or fear, no need at all, and it will all be all right.
All the suffering, she and her mother will have to endure seems so small comparing to all the beauty I feel right now. If only I had this feeling and this certainty when I was alive! I could have toppled all the governments in the world, not just our government. I could have walked welcoming bullets with my bare chest. Is this the thing I have been afraid of all my life? Moments ago, I was cursing the heat, and foretelling danger, because of the Americans standing over there, "someone is going to hit them" I was telling myself, and I was right. But, that is really not important any more.
There is only serenity and love to feel now. Love is devouring me.

I love my daughter Haneen* . I saw myself with her on that day when I was alive, selling tea. The rain was pouring. People were scrambling. There I am in my usual corner in the market washing my istikans**, getting ready to go home. Haneen was doing her rain dance. My friends with their merchandise spread on the pavements, were all standing watching her and applauding. She knew them all; she used to help me collect the empty istikans from them. There is Haneen with her wet, short black hair, her eyes as black as olives, and she is wearing that little white dress of hers, the one with the little flower prints. She is bouncing from one puddle to another, filling the street with giggles like a little robin caught in a rain shower. She is landing in the puddle so strongly, that the water splashes violently, and then she bursts in laughter with all the others. After the laughter stops, she looks at the sellers and me quietly, and then she does it all over again jumping to another puddle. Anyone who saw us for the first time, used to think that she was my granddaughter, for I looked like a seventy-year-old man.

I love my wife. I see her now; there she is sewing, the other time baking, the other giving our women neighbors injections when needed, another time selling things from the house. I see my marriage, not my wedding, my marriage. After I returned from the front, with one leg, I married a neighbor of ours. She was a widow. I saw myself and my wife looking in each others eyes.What we had gone through in the past didn’t matter anymore. We decided to fall in love and we did.

I see myself when Haneen was born. I see my mother’s livid face and her saying : "Such a pity, it is not a boy, if only it had been a boy, you could have stood up tall son, your wife is no longer a girl and you are not healthy yourself . You may not have time for another go..., if only…” . While I that day could not see my way from all the tears of joy that gathered in my eyes. I was so happy.

I see Haneen when she started to understand and say her first words. One day when I was alive, I was lying down taking a nap after lunch. She came with her curly hair looking like a doll, she planted two little kisses on my closed eyes; a kiss on each eye. That picture lived and lives with me till ... till this day.

I love my friend. I see myself under heavy bombardment. My friend is soaking in blood. He is not moving. We were hiding behind sacks of sand. After the raid stopped they ordered us to withdraw. I ran to my friend. There was another soldier kneeling by his side trying to take my friend's anorak off. I threw myself on the soldier, choking with my own tears. "I just thought I may take it instead of them, my one is tattered" the soldier said, shocked by my attack. I took my friend's anorak off and gave it to the soldier. My friend's face was so blissful, as if he was enjoying a dream, or may be he was seeing what I am seeing now. I carried him on my back, praying and talking to him, as if he could still hear me, all the way to the back lines.

I see myself at the hospital, for the first time looking at my amputated leg. By my bedside, were my mother and father peeling oranges and wearing a brave expression on their faces. My father was telling me old stories, laughing loudly supported by my mother. They were babbling nonstop, trying their best to avoid any awkward silence that may impose itself. Each picking up where the other ends, with a smile more like a facial spasm than a smile. That was just before the war ended. I became an invalid and then the war ended after one month.

There I am too, with my cart selling at one time sandwiches, the other time popcorn, the other time crisps. In all the areas of Baghdad you are able to name: Bab al shargi , Alawi al Hilla garage, Al bayaa , Al Mansour … wherever I could find an extra crumb I went. Here I am selling tea. I sold tea for a long time. I used to take Haneen with me when she was four and five, so her mother may work too. Haneen used to help us whenever we needed.
I see myself with Haneen, and my wife is handing us tea, sugar and cardamom packs. Haneen is giving me her little arm to help me. I don’t remember anyone teaching her how to help me, but somehow she always used to run from side to side giving me anything I needed. Oh, the joy of all that. Even when she started school, she used to tell me that she misses me, and could not wait to come back home to me. I am so grateful for all that love.

I see myself with my parents carrying our baggage going to (…. ) when the second war started . All the relatives in Baghdad went over to other cities to trick death. We went to our uncles who lived in a village in the south. There we were safe. We used to hear far away explosions and that was it. Yet, after two weeks on a rainy day, we saw hordes of people coming towards the village. We stood at our doorstep, watching cars crawling slowly. At the sides of the same dirt road, hundreds of people were walking under the rain. The rain was pouring as if rivers were flowing from the sky downwards. Water from above and muddy water the color of coffee was running beneath their feet. Feet wearing shoes, feet wearing slippers, bare feet, small feet, big feet, old feet, young feet, men's feet, women's feet, children's feet… were all kneading the clammy mud. How could so many people make so little noise? How could they not utter a sound? The sounds of far explosions, the roaring of car motors and the sound of running water were the rhythm of that doomsday symphony.
There comes a family of our relatives from the town. When they all got out of the vehicle; there were fifteen of them packed in the old pickup truck. We asked; "how did you all manage to fit in that car, it is impossible?"
"Fear, fear is the miracle maker." their son who was driving replied.
They told us that leaflets were scattered on them from above, informing them to get out and stay at least 3 Km away from the town, because chemical weapons are going to be used to purge the town from traitors hiding somewhere. The entire town rushed out heading to villages, whether they had anyone to go to there or not. Chemical weapons were not used eventually. That does not mean that there were no scars. Fear scars were much worse than chemical weapons scars.

I see myself after returning to Baghdad. I am married now. I see myself afraid. I am not able to sleep at nights. Here I am counting every single Dinar, not understanding how a hundred Dinars is not enough anymore to buy a kilo of anything.
Now, I do not feel hunger nor fear, even my then fear seems silly and sweet just like children’s fear from a monster that exists only in their heads. How could I have not known all this peacefulness?

I see myself at my father’s death-bed-side. He is telling me what he always used to tell me: "Life has been so unfair to you son". When we carried his coffin through our narrow lane, with all its crumbling from time and wars houses, it could not hold all the good people who came to say farewell to him. My father looked like a skeleton clad with thin worn-out skin. When we washed him for the last time, my uncle said to him: "We commend you to God and his messenger."
"Take a rest father" I said. Did he feel the way I do now? , I hope so.

The wind changed, and the scales were imbalanced once again. We did not know whether we were awaiting good or evil.

I see myself with all the sellers and the buyers, the porters, the beggars, with all the children walking with their hardened black feet, as they push their carts through packed markets.

I see the oppressors and the oppressed. I love them all, so little do they know, I feel sorry for them. Why should they fear, Why should I be afraid? After all this peace, I have experienced. If I am to go now, I am safe, my mother, my wife and Haneen are all safe too. My life from here seems wonderful and precious, every moment of it. Their lives too will seem precious when it ends. Yet, I have two questions occupying my mind persistently. The first: if I am to return, will this feeling of safety remain with me? or will it desert me ?
The second am I dead or not? I am waiting to know.

______________________________________
*Haneen is an Arabic name which means nostalgia
** Istikans are very small glasses used to drink tea in Iraq

10 Comments:

Anonymous Suz said...

the tears are pouring down my face IR... this beautiful, bittersweet story has made me curl up and cry like a baby. your Haneen is so much like my little girl and my heart is bleeding at the thought that any like her could ever have been lost.

thank you so much for your writing, it is utterly incredible.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Solo said...

Bittersweet is a good description. It seems that since 1999, my life has been all about death. With the loss of loved ones, my own long illness and near death, the events that took us to war, the grief the news brings every day, even my rides, no longer for pleasure, but as escort to honor our fallen. I wonder how often a heart can break before it can handle no more. Yes, a beautiful, bittersweet story I.R. and one full of truth.

4:32 PM  
Blogger cile said...

IR! please keep writing and describing. your ways of doing that are of a very touchy sort of tender.
i am each time again very glad to read you. even though, yes indeed, bittersweet.
take care.

5:50 AM  
Anonymous the iraqi roulette said...

Dear Suz,
Thanks for your words. You know the last thing I wanted, was to make you cry , that was not my intention at all. My kisses to your little girl, may God guard her in every step she takes.

Dear Solo,
I was so upset to know that you were not well. The important thing is that you are OK now Sir, I mean Solo ;-) .
Thanks for reading.

Cile,
Thank you for everything, I remember you were among my first readers. I hope you are OK. Take care

9:33 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

IR, that was an amazing post! Very moving!

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Through Grace Peace said...

تبرىء الكلمات في القلوب

ثم همس الرب في قلوبنا...
الكلمات تصل حيث لا يقدر السلاح

سألنا حكيم قريتنا، كيف ينزل الدفء
على النفوس والشيطان
قد ألقى بسمومه المفضلة
خوفاً ويأساً وكراهية
على القلوب البريئة
كما الرماد من محرقة السعادة

كيف تنام عيون الايمان
وسرير الأمل
تفترشه ملاءة القنوط الشاحب
وعيون الحنث الفاسدة
تنتهك حرمة الكلمات المقدسة
وتسعد باغتيال هدايا السماء

وسألنا :كيف يبتسم الخير
ويصفع الكره الفضيلة من وجه الخجل
و أتباعه يشوهون ويحرفون فى نفوس ضحاياهم
حتى يصل الاعتقاد
بأن الإثم فضيلة والقتل عدالة والكره هو الحب

تحدث الحكيم
بصوته الخفيض وقال
أن للشيطان أتباع
يغتسلون في أنهار النبيذ في حادي*
وبعشق السخرية الفارغ
يحصدون نفوساً مغشوشة جنيت بمنجل الانتحار

مستحيل أن يكون الطريق إلى الفردوس مرصوفاً
بجثث الأبرياء - عبر نهرٍ من الدم
اعتنقوا مد الحق وجزره الرائع في قلوبكم
تقبّلوا الشك والعار أينما كانوا
لكي تدركوا أن النفس تسعد بالعطف وليس بالانتقام

سطع صوته كالضوء وقال:
ابحثوا بشجاعة في أعماق قلوبكم
بلا نفاق ولا خداع ولا إجحاف
وحين تلمسوا الايمان هناك
ستنزل الكلمات الالهيه دواءً للقلوب
مثل مطر أبدي يجذبه البحر دائماً
حتى يرتفع ليملأ حرم النفوس
بودٍ عميق هادىء ويغدو سلاماً
على شواطىء العزم الالهي.


[أرض الموتى في الأساطير الاغريقية*

3:42 PM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

This is an amazing story. Thank you.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous BlogIraqi said...

I have been so many near-death experiences in Iraq that I stopped counting. Your writing took me to the other side.
Thank you for all the tears.

3:05 AM  
Blogger cile said...

;)
you're ok?

12:21 PM  
Blogger Sizzling Hot Online said...

Its sad that you only post once a year :)

Book or Ra Deluxe online, European Roulette
Dolphins Pearl, Lucky Ladys Charm

4:47 AM  

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