Thursday, February 19, 2009


The metro ride downtown was great. It was empty enough that I was actually able to take a seat next to an old man who smelled like sugar cookies. Across the aisle from me a woman, covered in beige apparel from the top of her head to her feet, sat quietly crying. A man whose frame was smaller than hers sat next to her, lightly jabbing her with his shoulder and speaking to her, clearly trying to cheer her up. She didn't speak, just kept her eyes on various parts of the car's ceiling, I suppose so as not to meet the gaze of curious watching strangers. She eventually mustered up a weak quarter-smile, but you could tell it was mostly for the sake of her companion.

Two hours later I'm waiting for the train to leave downtown and take me back home. As the platform gets more and crowded I notice how small the proportion of women is. We all get on the train, I am holding on to the bar near one of the doors. Two young men get on the car and stand between me and the door, so I am sort of facing them. They talk to each other, clearly good friends. It takes a few minutes before they engage in that most maddeningly irritating sleazeball habit of talking to each other about me. It's a tactic I've often wondered about - I think its appeal must be that they can refute any accusations by me with "7ad kallimik?".

I keep my eyes focused on a window, and turn away from them slightly. I am halfway home. My eyes quickly survey the rest of the car - it is mostly men, I see some women at the other end. Of course, they are all veiled. I use my coat, which I am not wearing due to the stuffiness underground, to cover my chest, though my sweater is quite loose anyway. I hold it the way one would hold it if it were wrapped around a child, and I wonder if the illusion of motherhood could somehow offer added protection. Most of the men look straight ahead of them or are sleeping, but there are enough of them who have steadily stared at me for long enough that I feel like I must turn into some kind of statue. I draw my legs closer together as I stand, bring my arms as close to my body as possible, and concentrate on not accidentally making eye contact with anyone, or, god forbid, thinking of anything that might make me smile.

I would like to reach into my bag for my ipod but I am afraid that the movement would only attract more attention. So I stand there, fixed in place, thinking of stone. Eventually the car empties significantly. I shift positions a little bit, and catch sight of a man leering at me, chewing something in his mouth, sitting with his legs spread open, leaning forward, taking up space with his body. I think of the way he sits and I also think of how I have been quietly trying to disappear, to be invisible and still and small, and I am suddenly furious. A cold kind of anger, which is all the more unpleasant and deadly, because hot anger, it can just come to the surface, you can let it erupt, and in doing so, let it go. Cold anger, on the other hand, has nowhere to go, and you must carry it around, never quite sure exactly how it is affecting the rest of you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Too tired for coherent sentences on Ghaza. I've been waking up right before the dawn prayers, against my will, for the last few days. I hear the cacophony of the prayer calls, starting seconds apart from each other, some voices beautiful, others whiney. I wonder if anyone is calling out for prayer from a minerat in Ghaza. The only mention of mosques I've heard is of them being blown up. Do prayer calls continue in times like this?

A few minutes after the singing has quieted, I hear the sound of the gardener's hose outside, trying to bring our yard to life. I think of uprooted land, turned on top of itself, trees blown up, the loss of livelihood and beauty and the right to both. Of land, eaten up with greed, evil, myopic greed, self-righteous greed, god-given greed. Taken, stolen, renamed.

I hear the sound of an airplane, which is uncommon in our neighborhood and I wonder what the deal is. It occurs to me that this isn't the first time the sound has triggered fear in me, an irrational idea that Cairo has suddenly joined the list of other cities, those which are no worse but are just less fortunate than it, existing on a part of the map that is either more or less important to all the wrong people. Beirut, Baghdad, Ghaza City. Ancient, reconstructed, invisible, forgotten. Part of a region that can't get its shit together, because above its grounds it is so old, so crowded, and underneath it is cursed with a poisonous gift. Because it is where texts were written and nations imagined on cocktail napkins and god reinvented time and time, and time, again.

And I remember that I happen to be in a country that is bordered by two genocides, one to the south, the other to the east. One might as well just walk into the Mediterranean and be done with it all, be washed over by water that saw its own ancient battles but at least the ships on both sides had weapons, at least back then there was no New York Times or CNN to take the lives of thousands people, PEOPLE, REMEMBER, which have been transformed into narratives of terror and loss and unspeakable indignities, and lie about and reduce and insult and exploit them for their own greed, their own tunnel vision for millions of people in the "free world" to swallow and digest and produce shit out the other end about "self-defense" and = that most harmful of words of this century - "terrorism".

Over 30% of the casualties so far are children. 292 children. 292 pairs of eyes (but what would they see?). Feet (but where would they run to?). Hands (but what would they do? what would they make? what would they touch?). 292 mouths emitting aborted laughter, sentences, cries, garbled syllables on their way to learning to speak. And it's disgusting, that if, before they were silenced forever by phosphorus bombs and 18-year-old recruits, those mouths had said "mom" and "dad" instead of "mama" and "baba" and "3ammo" and "teita" (or is it "sitto"?) and "ma sha allah", more people with bigger bank accounts and Security Council vetoes and industrialization and government offices would be outraged, would talk about it, would see it. Disgusting that I have to point that out.

And so on.