I grew up suddenly like a tree. Once I had a dream when I was five years old. This dream visited me again. I slept for ten minutes that night. It was hard. The medicine that the psychiatrist prescribed to me did not work.
Tranquilizers had not
worked for me in the past and would not work for me this time. I did not take
them the night before. I had taken them in the past to take the edge off my
fear. The previous night, something waded through my mind, convincing me that
tranquilizers were not for me, my mind was like a narrow potholed way in an
ancient town. I had a nightmare. In my dream, I was a child back in Gaza, on
top of one of the city’s highest towers. I was riding a camel, which was over
another smaller camel, while a storm was coming from the sea. Suddenly, I fell
down and the sea swallowed me. I woke up shuddering. I have feared the sea
since I almost drowned in Gaza at the age of nine. Why is the sea chasing me? I
woke up wondering why now!
After the nightmare I
did not go back to sleep. I put my cheek back on the pillow, reached for the
desk, and glared at the screen of my phone, flicking from one page to another,
from one application to another, aimlessly. Hundreds are online. Almost all
from Gaza. It is four o’clock in Gaza, while I am here, in Sweden. One hour
between us, but this hour is a time between two different worlds. I found one
unread message. It was from my brother asking about my wellbeing. I pulled my
leg to my chest, then reached for the desk, put the phone down smoothly, then stretched
my other leg towards the cupboard. My home was similar to a small and beautiful
cell. A tiny studio with a narrow crawling space in the middle. On the right
was the kitchenette, on the left the sofa bed, and in front near the window a
desk and small library. I slept, studied, wrote, ate and read on the same chair
and sofa, which also happened to be my bed. Luckily, the bathroom door was one
and a half meters from my sofa bed. A friend who visited me told me that this
tiny studio was better than a villa in many countries of the world.
I opened my eyes, and
suddenly clenched them shut again. They were swollen after a night of
nightmares, preceded by four hours of reading and writing. It is difficult for
the eyes to open all at once after a terrifying nightmare or a beautiful late
“Should I go to work?”
I thought while my eyes were still shut. I could not decide if I would go or
not. The cranks and dials in my head were still turning. “I will stay here in
the four walls of this flat,” I said to myself. I opened my eyes again. This
time, I did not look up at the white ceiling but back towards the window. I
wanted to see the sky.
“Is there sun today?
Will it visit us today?” I asked letting myself hear my voice.
We had not seen the sun
for two weeks. In this northern city, sun comes rarely after August. It rises
and shed its light, bringing a cold breeze and chilling weather to remind
people of its mere existence. Suddenly, my eyes widened. “There is sun,”
this time my voice was louder.
Today could be a beautiful
day. I pulled my leg, put it down and stood on my bed. I looked on the desk and
found a few books that I had to return back to the library. I had a bad habit
of borrowing many books at once, after I bought a new collection of books. I
end up reading half of what I buy and half of what I borrow. My relationship
with books is cherishing. Books are my family, friends and soulmates. When
people lose the meaning of family, they turn to new things, sometimes drugs and
crime, sometimes noble things such as charity and volunteering. I turned to
books. I could speak to them and learn from them. They never complained and I
never complained. Once Luis Borges said that all human inventions are an
extension of the senses. The microscope is an extension of the sense of sight;
the telephone is an extension of hearing, and a plough an extension of arms and
movement. However, the book is an extension for something invisible, inaudible
and intangible. It is an extension of memory and imagination.
So, I had to return
these books. I made myself get up, while looking at the packet of cigarettes. I
remembered that I had not smoked for two days. Today could be the day for
resuming the habit of smoking once or twice. I prepared the Swedish coffee
machine- they call it bryggkaffe, turned it on and turned right towards the shower.
I walked oddly, almost a sidle pushing my right leg in front of me as if I am
testing a loose wooden floorboard. I wanted to shower, to have energy despite
knowing that a hot shower would make drowsiness my friend again. I looked in
the mirror. I could see myself blurred, a bearded-face with shapeless swollen
eyes. “More grey hairs,” I said mumbling.
As soon as I left the
shower, I made the sofa bed a sofa only, pushing it to the wall and making more
space in the tiny villa. I opened the window slowly, making a crack to form an
air-shaft. The coffee breath was filling the room. My brain started to work
again. Coffee always remind me of Yemen. Yemen was the most important producer
and exporter of coffee. Even “Moka” the Italian coffee machine was named after Mocha,
the port in Yemen where coffee used to be exported. Since I learned this, it
became my favorite story to tell my European friends whenever I see a Moka. I
feel proud telling them this, as if I was giving colonialism a small slap on
its face, correcting a small bit of history.
It is nine o’clock. I
must go, but I remembered that I had to throw out the garbage. I folded the
garbage bag, put on my sneakers and opened the door of the cell, or the studio.
A stiff breeze blew in my face. It energized me. After almost fifteen stairs, I
was on the ground outside the building. On my way out, I saw the postman with his
green clothes. “God Morgon”, I said. Good morning in Swedish. He answered,
He started to
distribute the post in the twenty-four mailboxes. Nothing for me on the
horizon. I was not expecting anything. Suddenly, he took out a different post,
which was a confidential post and put it in my box. I stopped and threw one leg
back, standing behind him with a smile on my face. Once he was gone, I opened
my box. I took the paper, went up, and looked at it. Strange. It was a paper to
inform me that I had an important letter that I had to pick up from the post
office. They stressed that I had to take a valid ID. This was strange. I was not
expecting anything. The post office point was close to my home, just a ten-minute
walk. The Swedish post made life easy by delegating posts and mails sending and
receiving to the kiosks and tobacco shops. I decided to go and pick it up on my
way to the library.
I put the bag filled
with books and my laptop on my back. Before locking the door, I changed my
mind. I decided to leave the bag, collect the post, buy some groceries and come
back home, then go to the library. On my way to the post office, I was
unnerved. Where from? Who sent me the post? Was it a gift? From whom? Friend?
Lover? Many questions continued to make me muddled-headed.
The sun started to take
on the weather, and the temperature hitched another notch. The smell of last
night’s rain was filling my nose. A few crows were around and many other birds.
The crows started to follow me. This made me feel my temples pulse with a
steady pounding. Crows are not a good sign. I grew up knowing that crows are
bad luck wherever they exist. Suddenly, a small wet leaf fell down on the post
paper I was holding. Everything was silent around me and the leaf was sticking
to the paper, yet moving as if it were dancing in a spiral motion. I smiled. I
was in front of the service man.
“Hej Hej,” I said.
Hello in Swedish. I handed the paper to him, and my driver’s license for
an ID card. The sound of the machines was loud.
“Teck Teck, Peep Peep”
he scanned the barcode of a big envelope. “Sign here please and write your
name.” I did. All I need is that envelope. Curiosity is killing me. “Here
I have it now. Shall I
go to the grocery store or open it now. I put my ID back in my wallet, and then
my wallet back in my right pocket. The envelope said that it was from the
migration board of Sweden. I had applied for citizenship last month. They may
need more documents. They need more papers, for sure. Unlucky me. I have been
told that one can wait up to one year to get a decision, but I needed something
that makes me not “Stateless.”
I opened the envelope
and I found my Palestinian travel document and other papers. I was mellowed,
somehow now calm and quiet, yet I was sure the service man inside could hear my
pulse and feel my hot painful breath. Two meters away I put the passport back
inside my pocket and pulled the paper from inside the envelope to read. It
could be a letter to explain whatever they needed.
changed. My eyes were wide open. My mouth was wide open and the hot breath fog
in front of my face became more intense. I smiled. It was a big smile. If
someone saw me while staring on the paper, he would wait to see the outcome of
that smile and why I am staring on that paper. -I was still staring at it, open
mouthed and heavy thoughts.
It is here with the
storm. It is here like a quaint dance coming from afar. It is an ivory page
with the Swedish Kingdom logo. Yellow, blue and garnet colors decorate the
document. It is written as if it were an honorary doctorate. They were
informing me that I had become a Swedish citizen. It was as if some voice from
far away was telling me of my new reality. It was the beginning of something. I
knew that there would be more beginnings that there are more ends to them, but
here is my new beginning. There was the beginning of “Them” and “We”. “I” and
“Them”. My skin color and name does not match this passport: that was the most
difficult beginning. There are moments when happiness and sadness violently collide,
propelled by an insane wind blowing from the Russian steppe. This moment was
one of them.
The journey of the
ninth child, escaping death and life. How did it start?