A small window on the roof.
A lingering presence spreads some shadow and crimson light on her blossoming face.
The heart moans with every beat,
It overcomes her sighs and punctures a wound…
A fissuring wound in the chest.
Her hand caresses my ribs, counting their wishes,
And listens in the silence to the echo of the beat.
I whisper a word…
Two words in a tongue I borrowed from childhood but still sounds alien in my old dream.
“Golden heart” jumps,
Survives another death in her lips.
The light fades in the distance,
All is clouds and vermilion tongues.
I watch myself through the window,
Fading in the darkness,
Dissolving in her face.
In the classroom, he glances the teacher and his stick. He whispers without looking at me “give me a ruler, my ruler is broken”
In the army, he glances the officer that is parading us in the courtyard. He whispers without looking at me “my shoes are not shiny as they ought to be. Will he notice that?”
Before reaching the revolutionaries' checkpoint, he whispers in my ear “will the new revolutionaries stay for forty years under the pretext of revolutionary legitimacy like the General did? Or will the Islamists grab power under the pretext of establishing God’s law?”
In our desert excursion, we sip tea under a moon spreading its light equally on every corner. He whispers, while looking at me this time “Do you want me to put more sugar in your tea?”
* Ahmed Yousef Aqila: (b. 1958) is a renowned Libyan short storyteller, has several published short story collections and also published several books on Libyan folk tales and poetry.
* To read the original short story in the original Arabic click here
In a short story I wrote long before the Libyan uprising, I imagined a man riding beside a reckless and erratic driver along with several other silent passengers in a very old car.
Driving for an eternity on a long never ending hot baking road, the man kept asking the driver only one question, “Where are we going?!”
That scene and that question depicted the general sense of despair and helplessness towards the situation in Gaddafi’s Libya.
Two years ago Libya was on the verge of a tumultuous transformation. The capital Tripoli, was being taken by rebel forces and Gaddafi and his loyalists were on the run.
The Libyan people had never been as joyous and full of hope about the future of their country.
They felt that they waited too long for closure and that their sacrifice and resilience had paid off. It was all, at last, worth it.
Libya today is a country suffering from serious problems: a weak central government that struggles to maintain basic services, law and order, different armed groups that are violently competing to maintain their gains, a new political clique that is working on isolating their rivals by all means, and a fragmented society that distrusts government but still relies on it heavily.
But despite all these serious problems, Libyans maintain a modest level of hope and optimism, mixed with bitterness and disappointment that the country’s course isn’t living up to the sacrifices and expectations.
While it is true that the general image is of despair and frustration, I among other Libyans, believe that the revolution, ignited in mid February 2011, was and continues to be a generational turning point, and nothing can change the significance and importance of that event.
Today many Libyans would like to claim ownership of the revolution and its relative and modest victories, but would distance themselves from the accumulating blunders and failures and the long list of missed opportunities that might, just might, have given them the country that they wished for.
The collective refusal to share and claim accountability is probably a way to escape confronting the difficult and existential question: “Was it all worth it?!”
Some would argue that the question of worthiness is the wrong one to ask with such a fluid and unpredictable force as revolution. And it could also trivialise this long and hard struggle, reducing it to a single definitive answer of “Yes!” or “No!”
We might be allowed to be angry, upset and frustrated, but we are not allowed in our loathsome disappointment, to lose hope. Without hope we wouldn't be able to lift ourselves from our legacy of despotism, social stagnation and the carcasses of lost opportunities.
In the end of the short story of the long car ride, the questioning passenger was kicked out of the car and left alone on the dark baking tarmac, the blurred sight of the old car driving away in the distant horizon. As he languished under the blazing sun he kept asking “Where are we going?!”
After many years of being left alone in the middle of nowhere, I can imagine him being offered a ride by possibly the same old car, glad he is back on the road, accepting the fact that this will be a bumpy arduous ride, but moving towards somewhere, that might be, in the end, worth it.
The day is open on a sky like a wilderness of ash.
In the room is a double bed, that is close to the window that is open on the day light that is open on a sky like a wilderness of ash.
Opposite the double bed, that is close to the window that is open on the day light that is open on a sky like a wilderness of ash, is a small wooden desk with a computer on top.
Beside the small wooden desk with a computer on top, is an old wooden wardrobe without a door.
Beside the old wooden wardrobe without a door is the room’s closed wooden door, with its shiny white paint.
Beside the room’s closed wooden door with its shiny white paint, is a colourless worn-out wooden coat stand.
On the colourless worn-out wooden coat stand, hangs carelessly a dark jacket.
In the inner pocket, the only one, of the dark jacket that hangs carelessly on the colourless worn-out wooden coat stand, is a carefully folded white paper. In the carefully folded white paper, inside the only inner pocket of the dark jacket that hangs carelessly on the colourless worn-out wooden coat stand, is a wedding invitation.
The wedding invitation, in the carefully folded paper, inside the only inner pocket of the dark jacket that hangs carelessly on the colourless worn-out wooden coat stand, isn't addressed to anyone, and I personally don't know how it found its way inside the only inner pocket of my dark jacket, hanging on the colourless worn-out wooden coat stand, beside the room's closed wooden door with its shiny white paint, beside the old wooden wardrobe without a door, beside the small wooden desk with a computer on top, opposite the double bed, close to the room's window, open on the day light, open on a sky like a wilderness of ash?!