Friday, 27 September 2013

The Air Conditioning

They had installed air conditioning for us, even though the bisateen (orchards, farms) have always been cooler than the pollution filled city.

However, in a village where finishing teaching college was currently the biggest educational achievement, it was hard to find an experienced electrician or whoever is responsible for wiring and plumbing the endless components of the clunky cooling machines. In hindsight, I should have used the internet for more insight or a manual to supplement the head scratching of the poor man .

'I know how to wire televisions, satellites and lights, but this...let's place it on Allah, how hard can it be'. The following cackle should have been a warning of the impending doom.

All criticisms aside, he did manage to hang it up on the wall and wire it. Kind of. It is constantly on the coldest setting, flicking out specks of icy water at all who dare look at it directly.

It's too cold. Each night I shiver and shudder, unable to feel my toes beneath the two furry blankets piled upon me. However I noticed the children sleeping in my room, unsatisfied with their whirring fans, circulating the hot dry air, at their abode.

Before I knew it, I had mumbled an invitation to all, and my room became crowded with the bodies of just about every woman and child in the village.
I didn't mind much, their snoring and sleep talking amusing me until the early hours of the morning, where sleep would slowly pull my eyelids shut. There must have been around 11 people in my room, as I counted the dark twisted shapes on the floor, each contorted uniquely for their own comfort.

Despite the room filled with sleeping bodies, it was still far too cold. I'd wake up, and have to stumble outside into the dark heat of the night, just to warm my skin. Let the intense hit of hot air lull me back into sleepiness. Not before I'd enjoy the yellow eyes and sounds of buzzing of the night though.

On one such night, I heard a tiptoe behind me. A small boy hiding behind the door frame. He'd followed me out, and stood there staring at me for quite some time, as is common.
 The ability of the village population to stare cannot be surpassed or perhaps I'm now used to the dodging eyes of busy cities, avoiding time wasting in letting even their gaze linger for more than is necessary.

It took him half an hour to eventually sit on the dusty floor beside me. I couldn't help myself grinning at him, as he shuffled shyly next to me. 

'Why are you awake?'

I simply missed the night, I poetically answered. He giggled, and answered
'It missed you too'.  An inner romantic I mused, but aren't all children?

After a very short period of silence, the shuffling resumed. His happy chatter soon filling the dark skies.

It started off with questions. So many questions, all of which I was obliged to answer, hoping it would give him a small insight into the rest of the world. Into what lay beyond the farms and the mud, beyond the family and the tribe. 

'You're not going to marry the high school teacher are you? My sister caught him looking at you- but she says because you weren't covering your hair and wearing bright colours, and no one here is used to that, but he wont marry her anyway, she is too young, grandma says your family will ruin you, sending you to Baghdad, and Ali pointed at you, they're trying to work out what that means, its a sign, and the bees never ever sting you! Are you angry? If you have bitter blood, or is it if you have sweet blood, the bees will never bite you. Why are you always alone? You don't talk much, they said you used to talk and laugh and make fun of everything, I don't remember anyway, what's important is now you're back you always smile at me....'

In one breath his entire existence and mine collided endlessly, his energy bullying my ability to answer his three or four questions, scattered into the silence. 

He kept talking, I kept laughing and choking back giggles.

The most poignant aspect being, that child had been the only intelligent conversation I have had throughout the entire summer.

His drive betrayed him and he fell asleep amidst little snores, I carried him into the men's quarters, making sure to place him close to a cool spot.

As I went back into the freezing cold of my room, I started to wonder if this was all an elaborate dream. Perhaps I'd wake to find myself on the patio at dawn, as had been the case before.

The only shred of evidence to that seemingly surreal conversation, was the little boy started to sleep outside my room, grinning at me each morning as I brushed my teeth on my corner of the patio.