The place, which might be once a site for a field hospital, was shrouded eventually by a light layer of mist. Wesam, among many other injured warriors, crawled to here to safety. The armed warriors, who by now became frail bodies lying on the ground wetted by their blood, and their breath scarcely heard, seemed surrender to their destiny without resistance. The time was near dusk when Wesam glimpsed a shadowy figure moving towards him in the distance when nothing probably could be done. The bombs above his wounded body died away. It seemed a sudden silence had swallowed everything in his great mouth, though His void heart was still howling.
When the war broke out 20 years ago, followed by a severe crisis of electricity which caused a broken blackout for long periods, Wesam had never thought that the curtain would never come down, and the audience would be forced to stay and ceaselessly watch the brutal play. “Save your mind, boy, and get married, or get on the boat”, Wesam kept saying that to himself, but he never said “or get on the tank.”
The first scene was set by two parties accompanied by a slow rhythm of war drums in a remote region from the center of the capital, where he lived alone in a big house. People also were divided into two parties. One party was struggling to find a safe shelter from the possibility of getting killed at any moment, and the other one was striving to find their ways to live in a semi-dark city, and Wesam was from the latter. Both parties seemed not had much care of war news, and so Wesam was.
“It is pointless to be crammed in a long queue for only a loaf or two of bread.” He was standing in front of the bakery when this thought suddenly struck him. So Wesam took the first option and got married. It was a shotgun wedding that saved lots of its expensive typical ceremonies.
Another decision made by Wesam that he would never let the war come in his way. He kept himself committed to a blind routine: driving his car to the taxi rank, working in his pale garden, playing chess with his wife, or searching together for uncommon but lovely names for their coming children. He resisted the long hours of being an idle witness in front of a bloody stage with flowery dreams that seemingly cost him nothing.
Amena, his wife, had another theory about the necessity of getting involved in the play of the war. She justified herself that nothing wrong in following the play and patching up its fragmented image to be able and also ready to make the right decision in due time.
One day, at noon, Wesam was tiding a drawer when she approached him and said,” it’s been a big explosion.” it is probably the biggest since long.” Did you hear it?”
“Take my advice and occupy yourself with something else,” he responded to her unintentionally while his eyes were spotting a piece of paper in his hand.
“Something like what you are doing now!” she mocked.
He swallowed his bitter saliva and rushed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
The reason for her interest in the war news concealed a fact, which was of tremendous importance to her husband, who would have saved his home if he had known it before that moment of collapsing everything.
So while Wesam took each day as it came, Amena overthought about every single day. They both rode the escapism boat, but each rowed a different direction. Thus, they grew increasingly estranged because of nothing but misleading ways for conducting the one boat. She just wanted her emotions, fears, and worries, to be heard, and shared with somebody, with the closest one, and who could be that one if not her husband. The trouble was her husband was not himself as exactly she was not herself.
Along the way, Amena kept an eye on the stage and an ear on the audience to catch up on what might be very interesting to drag her husband from his mysterious carelessness beside her private whys. She couldn’t grasp his stand, his unusual quietness while their salvation depended on a walk in a field of mines. She was occasionally faltering in her confidence that might Wesam change his attitude even though she insisted on her attempts in stirring unexplained listlessness.
One evening, Wesam was checking his car when Amena surprised him: “The war has been expanding, and now we have four fronts.” He showed her an expressionless face, but she continued nevertheless. “What so comically about the military parties is that each party calls itself the National Army, and the others are either the Militias or, the Terrorists if not the Enemy. What more, they all declare the same objects: protecting the land, defending the people, and preserving the gains.
“Now we need to invent four proper names to the National Armies; otherwise, we cannot distinguish them,” She digressed.
“Who are we?” Wesam coldly asked.
“The Libyan people, or aren’t you one of them?” Amena replied with a smirk.
“Here are the names: she continued.
The army of the East
The army of the Regime
The army of Islam
The army of Revolution
“Wouldn’t you be a better war reporter if I went to the front? Wesam seriously asked.
“Cannot you find another if,” she shot her bullet and left the garage.
Wesam encountered his confusions with another if that would likely have killed his wife if she had heard it.”If I am in the heart of the war, I think the bullet will be more merciful.”
Was her vision of the whole picture of the war, as it advanced, true or not was not the point for her husband, but how he could withdraw from the reporter she had been and keep the wife she should be was his dominating thought.
Then the children came, twin a boy and a girl at night of terrible clashes.
“I was too born at the night of American Raid,” Wisam whispered to his twin while he hugged them on his way home. He also chose the names: Salam (Peace) for the boy and Hob (Love) for the girl.
The armed clashes kept going on, simultaneously economic crises kept exploding. The crises of fuel, cash, flour, and water, and for every crisis, there was a queue of waiting, and aggressive harangue for long hours. They altogether made the worst of all, which was the crisis of confidence between the people and the government.
By then, the task of the government was to search any sign for an ordinary life, and convey it to the social media to justify a cliché suggested by strong advocates of the war that “Life goes on naturally in the city.”
Was it true? Perhaps the truth was clearly seen, but it wasn’t a matter of people. Their matter was to find bread to eat and water to drink. When someone died, people never asked why, but when someone survived, they asked how. It was much easier to die than to live when home inverted into a battlefield.
Amena was much more scared in times of quietness than in times of horrible clashes, but she succeeded in concealing her fears from her husband. She was terribly overloaded, and her burden was one case enormously grown: “do I live to see my children die and enter the cemetery?”Or do I die before they grow up and enter the school?
Money was one of these complicated cases, as one of the twins was suffering from difficulty speaking, and he needed special medical care. Protecting her children from many contagious diseases was another. Egging her husband to take a responsible step was on the top of her burden.
Wesam might sense her worries, but unfortunately, he took them as news of an immature reporter, not as feelings of a scared mother.
One morning, they were sitting around a breakfast of tea and bread. Amena was thinking of the due payments for the private school and the clinic when her husband broke the silence. “I am thinking of selling our house and buying a smaller one.” I think the difference between the prices will be sufficient to cover our urgent expenses by now, he quietly added. “But how can you? This thing you easily said might draw us to situations difficultly handled. I see we will be trapped into a ceaseless spin, thanks to your suggestion,” Amena utterly objected. In fact, she was revealing her suspicions based on her invisible fears.
Wesam, who was dealing with a tightrope, which might end with losing his mind or his family, added nothing more, but a sigh.
Nights of fear passed into days of ruin, and the need for money became more urging than ever. Over a week, Amena tried to pave the way to meddle in a talk with her husband about what might be the weirdest exit from the neck of the bottle.
“I am thinking of something that may solve our financial problems at once,” She said that, while Wesam was sitting in the shade of the blackberries tree leaning on its huge trunk sipping his tea flavored with thyme.
It was a day of a period of quietness when people usually took off their fears and put on their worries. But Wesam seemed as if he adopted the other face of the war and made use of a temporary truce. “I am listening,” Wesam said patiently. She paused for a while, so he urged her on speaking. “Shoot,” He added.
“A wealthy girl desperately wants to marry and get a child. If you fulfill her wish, she generously will provide us money without stint.”
He kept emotionless, and she kept detailing her point of view.
“Think of that without logic because we are living in the age of madness. Our children are growing up, and they need healthy food, certainly not a breakfast of bread and tea. Not alone, they deserve a good education and permanent medical care. A girl wants a child in a childless city. Is that a crime? She wanted to continue in proposing her case, but Wesam woke up from his shock and summed her view mockingly.
“No, absolutely not, you give her a husband, and she gives you food. Isn’t that very cheap? My dear wife!
“You cannot bear the loss of your house, but you don’t mind the loss of your husband’s dignity. You want her to rent me for a few months till she gets that child. Is that your silver bullet? “You still can expose your body to a better price. Cannot you?” He stormed.
His last sentence smashed everything and blocked the entrance to resume the normality of a moment earlier. For Amena, His rhetorical question was for no reason, but to dash her last hope mercilessly. “No more words are left,” Amena ended her talk hastily with this sentence, and she drew to her room sadly.
In the next morning, shortly after the sunrise, she quietly opened the doorway and put her feet upon the doorstep. Without hesitation, she entered an open world that might lead her to nothing but a narrow corner in its terrifying openness. Her children were still sleeping in their beds when she had gone.
At last, Wesam managed to open one eye, the other one was firmly closed. He licked a drop of his blood falling down from a cut in his forehead on his upper lip. At that moment, with the freshness of his blood in his mouth, he felt something strangely running in his veins as if someone plugged his body with a currency of electricity. He tried to move his stiff body, but he couldn’t, so he tossed his head looking for a rope dragging him away from the field of corpses.
He was thirsty, hungry, and terribly hurt, but he was also ultimately willing to see her once again.
The smell of death that was swiftly penetrating in his smashing body brought back the smell of missing, which spread through his broken heart in the morning of his wife gone.
“A drop of water” was not his quest, but “a meeting with her.” She was his lifeline against the horrible positions of the war, and she was the sweet smile that could alone defeat the ugly face of home without peace. “My sweetheart, Amena, where are you now?” He repeated her name many times as if he was drinking, eating, and healing.
His body was suffering, but not as much as his heart was. He wished many times if he could be saved and bestowed another chance only to mend his mistake.
As a man with nothing left with him, but despair, he relied on his imagination or on his memory to meet her on inland between them a place like an oasis in their real house. She was there stretched her hand, with a glass of water. A smile made her face a flower as bright as a star in the dark forest of the night. “Put it down”, he ordered her. “Why did I say those senseless words? He wondered then and had kept wondering since the moment of her disappearing. “I was, and I am thirsty, and I will be forever.”
She was able more than him in sensing his needs. He was looking for a paper; a document might be the way for their salvation. He was wrong, and she was right. The glass of water was real, and the document of salvation was fake. He reminisced, “Give me your soft hand now, feed me, and water me. Don’t leave me in the desert of thorns. He licked more drops of his blood by now.
When he opened his two eyes finally, he heard a voice came from one of the lying bodies: “Where is she now?”
“Who”? Wesam asked anxiously.
“That beautiful Bedouin carrying a jar on her shoulder to water Almujahdeen”, the voice replied.”
“Can it be true? The rumor! From mists of time, the Bedouin comes out as the sun after an age of the cold nights, and when she fully rises in here, the Bedouin will be none but my beautiful daisy, Amena,” Wesam wondered.
When he discovered her disappearing in that sad morning, he wept regretfully and painfully for days. He hopefully waited for her some more days to turn up at any moment. At last, he called his sister and told her about the unexpected sorrowful event.
Weam, his sister, as many people later thought that his wife had been kidnapped for money by some criminals as the city was a fertilizing environment for such crimes. Wesam certainly knew that it couldn’t be the case. He reluctantly left his children with his sister as he was worried about her ways of looking and judging. He couldn’t bear her thought that what happened to him was a result of filling the house with pictures of faces and artifacts of clay; she even rejected being they had a television. He was deeply disturbed by his sister’s religious beliefs, but he was unable to find another way, so he left his children to his sister and went to sweep the city inch by inch for his beloved wife.
As if he saw the city for the first time since the upheaval, which was considered the Revolution of the People. It was clear enough that the city was blowing its last flame. The streets were filled with huge piles of dirt instead of vehicles and pedestrians. Schools were crowded with displaced families instead of teachers and pupils. Beaches, gardens, and play yards were full of drunken, drug addicts, prostitutes, and homeless of every age and gender instead of fun and sunrays seekers. The situation was graver than he could ever imagine.
In the cold light of day, he realized that Amena never ought to be blamed for what she had committed, as far as this the case with the city and with him too. He had eyes, but he refused to see and arms but he forgot to hug.
He was resting his exhausted body on an old bench when he saw two young teenagers standing in the corner of a filthy street opposite to each other. They seemed standing there for ages. The boy approached the girl and said to her, “Take me for dinner.” “Dinner! She exclaimed and added with a smile that whitened the black city. “I am yes for only a bite of pizza.”
“Oh! Pizza how it tastes; I nearly forget it.”
They laughed bitterly, and then went together holding each other like an elderly couple, and vanished in the city of ghosts.
Wesam looked above his head as if he searched for a drop of hope into the wide white space, but nothing was there, except the horrible siren of the ambulances driving madly on the streets, and coos of a mourning dove. His watery eyes fell on his marriage ring. In his feeling of despair, Wesam cried his lost life.
He had to retreat to his empty home, but he changed his mind and his way, for a rumor led him to the front.
“I am desperate for a drop wets my tongue. I have never been thirsty as I am.” Wesam came back to the foggy ground when the same feeble voice alarmed him.
Have you ever seen her? Wesam asked after a short pause.
Who? The wounded soldier Asked.
That woman carries water for the fighters, Wesam clarified.
Are you coming here to die for a glance at her? That is death for nothing then.
Wesam got the point and asked after a while
And for what are you coming here?
It seemed a long moment of silence had passed when the voice came back suddenly. “If I thought of this question, I would probably not come here. Wesam, who listened up to the wounded soldier, felt the sense of sorrow in his voice as well the dire need in his own heart to embrace him, but how possibly could a wounded soldier hug a wounded soldier if they met on the ground of regret?
My name is Wesam. What is yours? Wesam hopefully posed his question to change the atmosphere of sorrow. “Names of you and me don’t work here. But names such of your city or of your tribe can kill and can revive,” the soldier said. Somehow Wesam remembered his wife and something he had hated the most.
Wesam went away for a while and came back to come in the mutual ground from another gate.
“I no longer hear the sounds of the war; why is that?” Wesam asked.
“The fighting armies stopped three days for negotiation about dividing the land into four sections. When they concluded that only one party would have the land of the Olive Tree, they declared for another round of negotiations. The last thing I heard before coming here was that they divided the tree into four roots.
“The tree! How dared they! How could it be possible? Did all of them lose their sense and their conscience to kill us and the next generations? Wasn’t there a wise man among them to say no to this genocide?” Wesam roared like a wounded lion.
When he couldn’t cry anymore, he said, “Come near, soldier, whose name is unknown, but his pain is my history, Come and suck my blood and quench your thirst.
“What a strange thing you say!” The soldier exclaimed.
“Think of that without logic, we live in the age of madness, as my wife once had said to me. Come, and save yourself. You have no choice, and I have no hope. The Tree died and Amena left”.
The thirsty solider drew nearer to Wesam, and whispered in hif ear “My name’s Sami.”
“Wesam is here inviting you for a cup of his blood, Wesam said in a faint laugh.
Once Sami put his mouth on Wesam’s wound, Wesam murmured as if he encouraged him to end the scene rapidly, “Drink it, my brother, suck it till the last drop and run away from the voice of my blood.”
But when his death became close, a sound of steps was also coming closer. “Am I imagining, or am I seeing her? Is she Amena, or Sami’s Bedouin?”
He struggled to voice his astonishment out, but nothing was out except creeping darkness ready to end the play.
“The tree died, Amena, and we have no room on the map of the treeless people. Stay away and let me die in peace.” He closed his eyes while his ears were still able to hear the speed sound of sipping and nothing more.