One of Bawazir Short Stories: “Three Days in Prison” [Archives:2001/37/Culture]
First Day: Wednesday 21 April 1965
It is six o’clock in the evening and I am still at work in the store where there are three women appearing to ignore the curfew as they have engaged themselves in a lengthy chat about the latest fashions of the shawal and the evening dresses-I wonder where they will wear them on such nights. Had it not been for their beautiful faces, I would have kicked them out, but “Beauty is awesome”, as I often say, holds true. This awesomeness of beauty will without doubt make me spend the night in prison, but I remember that all the people of the city will be in prison tonight too, and I see no use in running away from one prison to another. But because “the devil you know is better than the devil you do not know”, I prefer the prison I know -my bedroom. I, therefore, have to end their conversation and give them a choice: either to buy or leave. I thought, if these ladies’ beautiful faces can intercede for them for staying in my store a little late after the curfew has started, my face will surely not plead for me with the British soldiers if I am late even for one second. Pointing at two pieces of clothes before me I said, ” Please make up your minds. Which colour do you want? The pink or the purple so I can cut it now; or do you want to cut off my livelihood?” One woman smiles while the other looks in fascination at both pieces and appears to be ready for a long chat that will never end if she starts it. I have become outraged at that moment and as an indication that I have run out of patience and time, I have stridden to the door with the keys in my hand. Realizing that I am serious and nothing will make me change my mind, the awesome beauties have started begging me to give them what they want and, tempted by Eve, I have given in and have proceeded with the sale although only a few minutes are left before the curfew. In seconds I am outside the store staring at the back of the deluxe limousine driving away with the three women who have not even bothered to offer me a lift.
The street is totally deserted and in order to make up for the lost time I have started to run to get home in time -before six thirty. While running, I have felt that there has been something running behind me but cannot figure out what it is: a dog or a British soldier, but who cares as both are the same to me. I have then realized that I am in no danger as I still have a few extra minutes left-long enough to get me in time to where we live. I say ‘we’ because I am not living by myself but have about ten other people living with me in the same single room, where each one of us has no more than one metre to lie down. After much effort I get home, enter the narrow stairway and run up cursing the occupiers on every single step. In the room, I have been welcomed by my curious room-mates, who have thought that I have an accident, but when they have found that I have nothing interesting to tell, they have given up and left me alone anticipating what the days are holding for us and trying to foresee tomorrow’s dawn breaking through today’s darkness.
Second Day: Thursday 22 April 1965
It is six o’clock at night. My thin body forces its way through a narrow alley crowded with moving human bodies that seem to be driven by someone or pulled violently by invisible strings attached to them. In my right hand I am carrying some fruit, wrapped in an old newspaper. This fruit will be my dinner for this evening, which I will be spending at home from six thirty.
I force my way through the crowd and along both sides of the alley and notice the shops are closed in an obvious nervousness. A water vendor is spilling what remains of the iced water on the ground with his eyes watching in sorrow the spilt water forming a crooked line that runs down the alley only to be trodden by the shoes of the scared, moving bodies. During my walk the street is gradually deserted and by the time I get home there are only two or three people who appear determined to enjoy the last minutes of their freedom.
At home my roommates have gathered on the small roof outside our room watching a television; I do not know how they have agreed to buy it together. It must be the only time they have agreed to do something together during my stay in the residence dubbed “Noah’s Ark” because of the diversity of its tenants with their various dispositions and interests. I squeeze myself through the crowd and sit down watching programs most of which have been imported from Britain just like the law itself by which the occupiers are running the country. I have tried without much success to brush aside the nightmarish thoughts that are raging in my head, instead I feel more depressed so I have got up and entered the room and switched the light on. My mates have complained at first, but quickly have given up and got involved with the show. From the window I see everything -houses, the street etc. -is still and silent. At the other end of the street I notice a cow strutting down the street confidently in my direction. She appears unmistakably safe and free. I cannot help but to make a weird comparison between the free animal and the captive man. Honestly, I am envious of her and feel sad that I am treated less than a cow. I pull my head inside upon noticing a police car turning into the street. I go back to my mattress and in my spinning head there is still a lot I wish to say. A lot about the future I have to encounter and the present whose fetters I am trying to free myself from.
Third day: Friday 23 April 1965
Today is Friday, the Muslim weekend. The scene of the closed shops on this day is familiar to everyone, but this day is significantly different from any previous Friday. Normally, on weekends I often stay home and sometimes never leave for the whole day. I always enjoy it simply because I spend it the way I like, but tonight will be different, though. The feeling that I am in prison spoils my weekend and makes me feel agitated and restless.
One hour has already passed since the curfew has started and these thoughts are still invading my head. I lean on the mattress looking at a newspaper which I am unable to read. At that moment I have lost all interest in everything and am incapable of reading or writing. Pushing myself, I have thrown the paper aside and stretched my hand for a pen and a paper. I have decided to write. But, I am puzzled. What can I write while I am imprisoned in this room and being robbed of my freedom? Hopelessly I have tried to find an appropriate topic for writing. Even if I write my writing will be void of life and freedom.
The pen starts fidgeting between my fingers and my agony is becoming excessively unbearable urging me to get rid of it. I have actually stood up to throw it out from the window. Through it I can see the city lying still under a thick blanket of heavy silence; the street looks like a long corridor in a dark prison whereas the tall buildings become the same size as narrow prison cells. From a distance I see the prison guard hitting the ground with his heavy feet. Suddenly my pen falls down on the sidewalk of the street in front of him. He steps over and smashes it, but this does not worry me as it is no longer useful. I have become certain that the pen, no matter how powerful and eloquent it may be, is able to do nothing. I return to my mattress feeling helpless and in despair. The moment I lie down I hear a powerful explosion coming from somewhere not far from where we live. It leaves me dumbfounded. Now I am absolutely certain that that explosion is more eloquent than the pen and more powerful than words.
That night I slept tight!