The Writers Voice
Another morning. Movement all around me as I make my way to work. Slight breeze occasionally whipping that pesky tie up into my face. White concrete splashes up all around me offering a backdrop to the hundreds of people scurrying here and there. A young man in a cheap tan business suit with anxious eyes. Tense face of a middle aged woman, totally unaware of all that is showing on her face this morning. Man decked out in the official city bus uniform, making his way up the plank, heading to work.
And yes the machines, rubber tires supporting metal and plastic galore, zipping around in my peripheral vision. Blurs of motion steadily pouring down the concrete path. For a brief instant I glance up at a slender young tree, full of fibrous life flowing into the dirty sky.
Sky... Roar... the kick of a jet plane taking off into the city sky. With the sound of that plane images flow through my mind. Last night's news cast. Images of sleek fighter jets zipping off into the crystal blue desert sky. Intense looking, uniformed young men and women rushing about preparing an army for war. Performing all those little tasks essential to maintaining an army. Picture cuts to a dapper looking TV anchor blabbing something or another about “just cause” and “proper motive,” and then to an important looking man gravely stating the importance of this upcoming war. As if by command the picture moves on to the target. A land called Iraq.
I pull a file out of my dusty archives and for a split second think it is 1991. But that is silly; I am no longer in school, I have a decent paying job and a nice little apartment. Oh yeah, we are attacking this place called Iraq once again. To be honest I haven’t really paid much attention to all the Iraq talk this past year, not because I haven’t been exposed to the endless discussion pertaining to this issue. I have been busy, very busy, 50 hours a week at work, weekends either with my parents or on a date with some girl who will forget my name in a week.
On my way to work that day, I am no longer indifferent to this abstraction we call a war. Glistening passenger airline roaring up to meet the sky. Young men pushing buttons, an explosion obliterating a family’s home, not to mention the frightened, huddled forms of the man, wife and three children, hoping against hope that those blaring air sirens don’t mean an encircling darkness for them. Blood mixed with flesh.
The street moves on with all its particular sounds, smells and feelings, but I stand here alone. Alone amidst all these cleverly constructed buildings, concrete pillars supporting our millions of pounds of flesh, bone and water.
Why? What is the question seeping out of the rickety old gate keeping my feelings inside. What the f*** is all this about?
I get myself together, put a serious but determined look on my face, or so I think, I never really seem to know what other people see on my face. I find the nearest newspaper vending machine and eagerly pore over the front page. Our fearless leader on the front page making some bold proclamation. I feel my whole body getting sick, reading several articles about the looming WAR. God, this newspaper seems drunk with excitement over a future they can see mapped out. This future of bombs dropping out of the sky. Wiping out schools. Wiping out mosques. Wiping out nursing homes. Wiping out the fluttering butterfly heart of a 10 year old girl-child.
I leaf through
the pages hungry for input. After a few minutes of
standing there on the street in my own little
corner, underneath a well formed young tree, I
shove the newspaper in my case and walk on to work.
It only took me a couple of minutes to get to my
third floor office, but in those moments I began
charting out a new path in my life. A swirling
flurry of activity moving through my mind. Such
rage and conviction has rarely visited me. I guess
you could say I like to keep things sensible and
manageable. I can’t believe we are really doing
this, I think over and over to myself. I can feel
my face constricting and getting hard. Thoughts
flail through my mind, like my sister Judy trying
to explain something after drinking 5 shots of
people will be killed in this war? How many
children left without parents? How many parents
left without children? God, I know these questions
must be racing through everyone's mind at this
point. It must be... right. Our leaders, they are
considering these questions, right?
I can hear the
brothers across the alley laughing. They are always
laughing, silly boys. What is so funny? Not their
dad, no he is not funny at all. His corn kernel
eyes always seem like they are dying to jump out of
his skull. I like the younger one Jabri though, he
likes to help people. Oh I wouldn’t tell that to
his face... oh no, he would deny it 'til he died.
He likes to act tough like his older brother. It’s
the little things he
I really do need to get up. I love to lounge around in my bed after Naheed and Grandma have left the room to go about their daily tasks. I love to lie here and listen to all the sounds of the town, listen to the main street a few blocks away start to come alive. Vegetable trucks rolling into town, sputtering their way down to the town bazaar, the shouts of people congregating a few blocks away at the bazaar.
Sometimes I like to lay here and dream that I am a master rogue. Prowling the streets of our little town searching out the wealthy merchants and slowly sneaking up on them, quietly wrapping myself up into my dress and turning into a shadow. A shadow that slowly, tentatively follows the fat merchant into the shop stuffed with expensive clothing, scarves and pretty hats. I would leap up into the air and relieve his purse from his side, snatching it up into my undergarments and then disappear into the piles of expensive rugs and other goods sitting in a corner. Of course they would come looking for me but how can you find a little girl-thief in a pile of rugs when she is really relaxing out on the street underneath a government jeep.
He he, it’s funny. I love thinking of myself as a thief but I have never stolen a thing. Well........ there was that time I snagged a loaf of bread from the window sill of some Christian people across town. We had no food then, Grandpa did not want to admit that but I could see it in his eyes, in all the pacing he used to do back then. Things are better now though, we always have enough to eat.
Ok, I really
do need to get up, I have to help Grandma cook
lunch for our family. I wonder what my friend Ahib
is doing right now, I might have time to play with
him for a little while before I have to help out. I
will make myself into a shadow he he, run right
through the kitchen with no one seeing me, and I
will cast a spell so they forget all about me.
Well, I wouldn’t want that spell to last for too
into the hallway, down the clay stairs. Around the
There he is now carrying some water up to his apartment.
“Silly boy, down here, I’m not on the roof you know.”
Jeeze is he goofy sometimes, he was looking for my voice up in the sky. I walk up the stairs, follow him into his family's kitchen. His grandfather is sitting in the corner on his wooden stool rocking back and forth and slowly whittling on a stick. He never seems to whittle anything, he just whittles.
“I’m going with Amina to play, will be back soon.”
Ahib’s words sounded like the distant babble of a stream. I get so busy thinking about things sometimes I forget where I am and what I’m doing. The meaning of his words slowly make sense to me and I make my way out of the wide open door and begin to descend the stairs. I sense that Ahib is not on my heels and that is weird cause usually he goes flying past me. I turn around and cautiously pull my body up the few stairs to the top again. I stop two stairs short of the top. I hear low, serious talk going on inside the room. From what I can make out, Ahib’s mother is warning Rahib to not go far and that she has been having dreams again, horrible dreams about his father.
People have been so tense since the talk of war started. It started a few months ago and has just got more and more serious. Once I thought I heard fighter jets flying up above but it could have been another kind of plane.
I do not like to think about this war people talk about, it makes me think of my dad. I never even met him. The last war killed him. I hope Ahib’s father does not get killed like mine did. His father is in the army too. He’s not really a soldier but many of the men have been called up to fight in the war. The town has seemed sort of empty with so many of the men away. I wonder where his father is. Probably somewhere far away.
“Hey Ahib, wait up!”
Sometimes I wonder about that boy, he has flown by me down the stairs and is off to somewhere, while I am up here trying to listen to his family talk. I rush down the stairs trying not to trip over my long dress and off into the streets we go. I don’t say anything just follow him. I can guess where he is going but I never know for sure. With him it is hard to know, he gets such crazy ideas in his head. We are walking fast today. We cross Vanaash street and take the shortcut around the livestock pens. I stop for a second and play with one of the goats there, I like her, she always looks so happy to see me with her slitty eyes. He he, can a goat be happy? Yes, actually it seems like they can. Happier than many people I know. Jeeze, Ahib is in a hurry today.
It doesn’t work. I knew it wouldn’t. I will be able to find him though, I make my way towards the bazaar using side alleys and meet him just as I enter the bazaar plaza. He is standing at the entrance of the bazaar looking at things. Making a plan, I would guess.
“Where do you think Madri is? She might be with her mother.”
He just shrugs his shoulders. Yeah, he definitely is up to something this morning but what? He turns around and says: “You know Natvia?”
“Well he is in the army now. I bet he will do important things. I never get to do important things. I want to fight those dirty Americans. I could kill a lot of them. I need a gun though.”
“AHIB! you are not old enough.”
“How do you know?”
“Well I might just be a guuurl, but I know that 10 year old boys don’t join the army.”
Boy, he isn’t making much sense today. He doesn’t normally start babbling about boys I have never heard of. Him going to war, he he, what a fine soldier he would make with his little toy guns. Where is he off to now? We are moving across the bazaar now. Weaving in and out of the many tents and tables set up full of all kinds of stuff people are buying and selling. I love just hanging out in the bazaar for hours. Just looking at all the different people, daydreaming about their lives as they scurry all around me.
Not today though, Ahib has led me across the bazaar and into a side street. Sheeew it is starting to get hot. Soon it will be very hot with the summer coming. I hate wearing my black dress in the heat, but it is how it is done, my grandmother and aunt always remind me.
Ahib stops at a doorway of an apartment and walks in. I don’t have any idea whose apartment this is but I follow him in anyway. Inside I see Ahib talking to a boy I know named Jabey-Niha. He is in the grade after ours in school. Ahib is asking Jabey-niha about a toy gun the two of them made out of sticks the other day, he has a shine in his eyes as he asks. So this is what he is up to today. Looking to reclaim a toy he built. I like building toys too, but not like Ahib.
Jabey-Niha always has perfect looking hair, never a hair out of place, he looks funny next to Ahib, with his sloppy hair going a couple of different directions in the air on his little head. He he, such a funny friend I have. Jabey-Niha takes us down a hallway into a room with 4 beds, he reaches under one of them and takes out a stick with a couple of boards nailed onto it making it look like a gun, sort of anyway. I’m getting bored, I need to be getting home to help Grandma. What a smile Ahib has on his face, he is in love with that stick he is pointing it at the wall and jerking his shoulder like he is shooting a real gun.
Ok, it really
is time I get back. I reach over and tap Ahib on
the shoulder. “I am going to go help
my......................... What was that noise??”
I hear rumbles. Darkness.
“We read ya
Black hawk 6, good luck with your next drop, see ya
For the first time in my life I have stood up and made a bold statement about what I believe. I mean, me, in a protest over international affairs, it shocks me sometimes when I think about it. Maybe a protest about some local issue. Maybe, but trying to stop a war. God, I look at some of the people that led that protest last week. A few weeks earlier and I would have quietly laughed at them in my head. Wild hair, dirty clothes, ridiculous rebellious swagger. This impending disaster that has finally begun changed all that though. Now I have seen an underlying intelligence, dignity and commitment to justice from those same people.
Did my leaders
even look out their windows and see the throbbing
mob down below? Do they have any notion about the
frayed outrage I feel, millions of us feel?
UUGGHH, what is that guy thinking. Come on buddy get out of my way! Sheeew, I’m here. Everything seems harder than normal this morning. Random images of Arab people enter my head. Women in their dresses and with their shawls. Men in ragged olive drab uniform, waiting. Children in a state of frenzied curiosity posing for some western cameraperson.
A fleeting feeling that reaches far beyond any photograph.
A faint pain slowly tickles my spine.
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