Monday, 1 August 2011

A Day's Despair - 1

Every year, on certain days, I reminisce of what happened on that day a year ago. People usually do it on birthdays, but I think I do it a lot more than I should.
Therefore in the spirit of a day before Ramathan, I recount with euphoria, what the day before Ramathan was like last year...

A white plastic cup in the bag. Memories of a more poignant paperwork effort. One that had almost reduced me to a shuddering wreck.

I had stood in front of the balding man. My eyes glazed and angry, as I ignored the rushing, and palatable fear around the figure sitting down on his large mahogany desk. It was cluttered with shows of luxury and money, from gold-plated pens, to a crystal figurine of a couple that seemed to want to dance off his desk. The figurine's rainbow reflections never quite left my line of sight, always glittering in the corner.

His cold eyes showed exactly what he thought of me, and my sneer said the same to him. It sadly never crossed my mind to perhaps show a little more respect for one older than my father, but his general attitude to those around him, and to me had earned him my disrespect pretty quickly- and my disrespect is hard to win.

At a standstill in the 'mu3amala' - operation is the closest translation I suppose.
I had calmly walked out his room, my head still held high, but my soul ready to sob as soon as I got a safe away distance. Surprisingly I made it outside, and walked the first 10m of the never ending queue lined outside the building in the blistering heat. Then I took my first shaky breath, and fought the urge to fall. I couldn't call anyone, because I knew I had momentarily lost the ability to speak.

I briefly wondered how I had ended up here alone. Had I not complained and persistently campaigned for independence. I got my wish. I just never really took into account the bargaining with army officers, bribing border officials or any of the other 'man requiring' actions that I often cowardly had to undertake. It did help me learn how to stand my ground more though, and for that I am thankful.

Usually my father of grandfather would deal with it all. I'd wait a day, one of them would come home sweaty, but triumphantly holding whatever paperwork I needed.
A daughter's dalal. (dalal meaning the act of spoiling someone).

After an interlude of perhaps 10 minutes of the sun beating down on me, and brain suppressing my need to release my turbulent emotion, a guy sitting in between two older guys on a ledge 5cm up from the sandy grey concrete got up. Almost awkwardly he approached me and told me 'not to worry'. He tried to weakly smile as he nodded me into agreement that God will guide me. Nothing but utter despair rained heavily in my soul.

After all, he added, I looked too stressful and pained. I couldn't help but laugh in my mind at his last sentence. Why it mattered whether I looked stressed or worried shouldn't be any body's business apart from my own. Willingness to take on another's worries just seems excessive in my (at times) calculating heart. I tried to smooth out my brows, and look up.
His aviator sunglasses and pulled down cap obscured everything, other than an anxious mouth, which had grinned once I winced up. The bright sun's glare a contrast to the dim government office I had just survived.

'Sit down'. His arm motioned to the ledge he had just got up from.
A lot of guarded eyes were now watching me. I hated the fact the queue was largely made up of women clad in black, their tongues clucking, and their arms and abayas flapping. Even the young women had the same demeanour. The three guys breaking up the queue were almost the only ones, in a long line of black. Most other guys seemed to have evaporated into a corner behind the building or right at the end of the queue to shout and discuss cartoons, football, and whispered gossip.

I hesitated.

The two older men sitting at either side of the gap on the ledge smiled up at me. The one on the right caught my attention because of his wrinkled smile. His face and body never quite leaving my memory. His left eye (which was actually to my right) was gashed. I don't even know how to describe it, but the cornea was glazed white- a whole white eye, and its surrounding was red and sore. His left leg was missing, the trouser tucked halfway up.
I smiled at him without a hint of pity in my entirety. I'd learnt how to do that pretty quickly. I suppose everyone else has too.

The guy on the left reminded me of a jovial shopkeeper, he hadn't stopped nodding and smiling since the moment I'd followed the arm of the younger guy who told me not to worry. I felt a pang of guilt, but I desperately needed to sit down and breathe.
I still hadn't uttered one word yet, and I wanted to mutter at least a thanks.

Abandoning all etiquette, I sat down on the ledge. Aware of its dirt, and aware of my uneven breathing.
I think I muttered a thanks to no one in particular after five minutes, a strained smile splayed across my lips.

Somehow, they all heard me.