The eagle’s nest [Archives:2003/662/Culture]
By Alawi Abdulla
For the Yemen Times
Everything that we have had is made out of the earth; the bowls we eat from and the beds we sleep on. We had no spoons because we loved to eat using our fingers. We did not have the luxury of silverware or fancy tables. The house was made of clay and it stood opposite to what many tourists thought were sewers but really it was the toilet for the whole village. The smell made me sick in the mornings and it smelt worse when the rays of the Sun hit the village. Each week, the men who needed money badly would get paid to put all the excrements in tins and carry them on their shoulders for miles, and dump them far away into the fields.
The house I lived in had one large room downstairs which was also the living room, the kitchen and the bedroom. The stairs were situated at the end of this room, leading you to walk to the small door, taking anyone to the top of the flat roof. I still remember the bed that was weaved out of straw. You could just lie down and stare at the stars without thinking of any worries of what's happening in the world. Sometimes in the late evenings it would get far too cold to enjoy a moment of solitude. Most of the time the room I slept in was always the bedroom for mum, my dad, my grandma and I. All of us slept on the floor. In our city called Aden, the rich got richer and the poor had no one to complain to but the One God, Allah.
We had no Television or Radio. With all the struggles we went through, we still have one thing that made us happy. We had a lot of love in our home and as a child I felt at peace even when I had to sleep with just a bowl of lentils my grandma cooked. I was lucky. Sometimes I went to bed with an empty stomach. No dream or some worldly pursuits ever troubled me then. We were so content with what we had and if we had it really hard then the whole village would pull together and help. If my father refused because of his pride, they'd leave it on our doorstep in the night, while we were all asleep.
I remember lying on the hard floor, covering myself with just one thin grey blanket. It was a cold and calm night and the crickets were like a jazz band, flowing with high pitch stabbing tones. My concentration was broken when I heard footsteps and then the whispering of my father and mother talking to my grandmother. From the corner of my eyes I saw my parents sneak off. My mother kissed my grandma on the cheek and embraced her. My father was carrying a large suitcase. I wanted to get up and stop them because I had this feeling they won't be coming back. I wish I followed my instinct that night. I turned my head a little more to see them step onto the taxi; a cart pulled by a donkey. Mum began to cry and my dad comforted her for a while. My heart was beating fast that night and I felt my body trembling. My grandma waved goodbye as the driver snapped his whip at the donkey. I heard the wheels move and for sometime I listened to the motion of the wheels turn until the rhythm slowly faded away. My grandma threw her shawl over her shoulder and walked back into the house. I closed my eyes, pretending to be asleep.
I was glad the crickets played their music louder than ever that night because I didn't want my grandma knowing I was awake. I bit on my lower lip, tightened my grip on the blanket and did what my father taught me 'men don't cry.' Even if I wanted to, the world wouldn't have known and who cared enough to wipe my tears away? Not my grandma. She was one tough woman and her heart hardened through the many years of bringing her own children up through poverty and famine.
That night was one of the longest nights of my life. Every sound alerted me to open my eyes. First it was just a ball of bush that was carried by the cool breeze. Then a dog ran passed chased by another dog. An hour or so later I heard voices of two farmers, who were walking back from a night shift. Even the wind itself tricked me to think my parents have come back as the wooden window was unhooked by the strong wind, and started slamming on the side of the wall. My eyes were burning, my eyelids were getting heavier and I lost hope. I slowly drifted to sleep just when the Sun began to break the sky into a thousand colors. My destiny was shaped there and then by two people. A father and mother that had their own dreams but they never told me, and I slept with anger and an unforgiving soul. I know, they were building a future for me but I was only a child then. I didn't know the purpose of anything never mind the real reason why my parents left me in Aden. I was seven years old and no one heard me cry that night.