There was nothing remarkable about this morning. Father had gone off to work and Mother was washing the sheets. My morning was spent outside; kicking the ball about with Majid. Inside his house, next door to ours, his sister Faiza was preparing some lunch. Even the weather was typical for November. Clear sky, but cold and windy. There had been a bit of a sandstorm early and the metal shutters of the windows were lined with sand; creating little sand pits for the flies, who were swarming around the dropped persimmons lying on the ledge. Persimmons are the sweetest fruits I’ve ever tasted. When we were small, Mother would often find the three of us lying under the trees to shade ourselves from some of the hottest temperatures on this earth, clutching our bellies – full of the sweet orange pulp!
Oh back in those days, not so very long ago – when we were just children and the war had not started. They were the times when Majid and I would catch baby turtles, and race them outside. Faiza would watch us silently from the doorway. Her pretty eyes sparkling under her black hijab. They were the days when we’d pretend to be aeroplanes and swoop off the walls in the scrub lands behind our houses. They were the days when Faiza once lifted up her abayah and dress and showed me her little bosoms. Sweet and brown; like an over ripe persimmon.
Not that Faiza notices me anymore. Her eyes, once sparkling like the river in Mi’ar, were filled with a dark sadness since her Shi’ite activist boyfriend was forced to hide in neighbouring Iran. We don’t know if he is still alive, Kahlil. But she sits long by the window awaiting his letters every morning. Hoping. Wishing. Praying to receive his words.
Here in Sha’ab, we are used to the sounds of shots being fired; they are the soundtrack to our lives since the war started. It’s not always US fire, but it’s the US I have an intense hatred for. I sometimes think about the families of these troops and wonder: Are you proud? Do you look at the portrait above the fireplace as you sit and eat your cherry pie and smile a proud smile, for your little boy. Blowing up the Iraqi’s? I’ve seen the pictures on tv. I am pro God, I am pro life, I am pro humanity, I am pro truth, and when the American government chooses to be against all that, then damn it: I am Anti- American government.
My father makes a living as a mini-bus driver. He sometimes comes out and plays a bit of soccer with Majid and I when he has the time. He’s pretty traditional, but he’s Shi’ite and married a Sunni, so not a sectarian or anything like that. Mostly the Sunni and Shi’ite can live harmoniously – they have been since forever. He’s in pretty good health mostly, apart from slightly dodgy hearing and a tendency to get nervous, but who doesn’t these days?
During our game this morning, at about 9.55 a.m., I heard a low moan exude from within my house. It was rather an eerie sound, like the cats used to make when they gave birth, or the wind whistling through the empty date palms on a particularly windy day.
Majid and I stopped and exchanged glances. He grimaced at me, and shrugged his shoulders. I ran up the steps and tore through the front door, shouting for my mother. I followed the howling and yelping sound and found her collapsed on the wooden floor, cradling the telephone.
It is almost every day that we await this type of call. It’s impossible to forget this danger being present. Majid and I are still not even attending school at the moment, as his Mother and mine are too frightened to let us go. So I just knew. She didn’t have to say a word.
The bus had been shot at by those bastards. Father’s ‘safe’ job of driving the bank people to work in the mornings had failed him. Failed us. He’d taken a turning down a different road. One intended just for passenger cars. They fired a warning shot; I guess he didn’t hear… He kept on driving. So they shot again, but this time with a M-240B machine gun, bullet speed averages 895 miles a second. 3 of the women from the bank were dead. And one man. One man whom I had loved. Who had sat me on his knee and taught me how to whistle. Kicked a football with my best friend and me.
Are you proud? Do you look at the portrait above the fireplace as you sit and eat your cherry pie and smile a proud smile, for your little boy. Blowing up the Iraqi’s? I’ve seen the pictures on tv. I am pro God, I am pro life, I am pro humanity, I am pro truth, and when the American government chooses to be against all that, then damn it: I am Anti- American government.