the short story project

Red Lights

Naama Nagar On:

Red Lights by Talal Abu Shawish

A taxi is driving but hardly advancing, moving from traffic light to traffic light, from a red light to a red light. In the background, the radio gives updates about the fighting in one of countless “rounds” in a continuous conflict that sometimes seems never to end, monotonous like the rhythm of fingers tapping on the dashboard. ‘It’s a tough situation, but it’s temporary…’
‘this is not the right time for Oum Kalthoum’ – Little lies that are meant to make time feel normal. As if there is a ‘right’ time for Oum Kalthoum at the end of all this. This is the Gazan version of Beckett’s absurd play “Waiting for Godot”. The driver and the passenger-narrator are the only ones exchanging words, though it’s not really a conversation – they are Godot and Didi. They are joined by “Pozzo” and “Lucky” the 12 and 9 year old boy-peddlers (their appearances mirror each other) and like Lucky, it is possible to think of them both as slaves: even if they are not chained to a master, they are condemned to work that cannot support them, without any prospects of finding other employment – though at least “they are not beggars”. The 15 year old boy who washes cars can play as the “goatherd” character, though he does not carry a false massage of transcendental redemption, but is redeemed himself, only slightly, in a momentary act of human grace. There are several such acts of grace amongst the passengers in the taxi as well: they are manifested in the simple ceremonial every-day gestures: politely declining gum, chocolate or cigarettes that are offered as mere courtesy; Collecting money and passing it forward, so as not to make the driver put his hand out like a beggar, literally.
These simple gestures bring new meaning to the word fraternity. Not the fraternity of soldiers or workers, but the fraternity of those who wait, who are stuck together in a situation that is beyond their control. They are not helpless victims. They make sure to treat every small moment with the outmost respect.