By Mourad Anouar
By Mourad Anouar
Morocco World News
Oklahoma City, April 27, 2012
In my own boyhood world I decided to fantasize about everything that I was not fortunate enough to have. When I was a kid there was quite a bit that my parents could not afford to buy for me, which made me the type of a kid who shied away from being around others. I hated, for example, the fact that some of my neighborhood kids were able to ride their bikes to school. I remember how they would cruise around our house and stop in the middle of the road and looked at me in a demeaning way. Usually sitting at the doorstep, I would stare at them defiantly, but in my little heart there was a raging fire of envy and resentment that haunted me for years. At that early age, I had to ponder the inequality and injustice between the rich and poor that my thinking could absorb. Many times I lamented my mom’s heavy responsibilities, and I never understood how she managed to hold her head high with an infectious smile even though she was debt-ridden. She was struggling with adversity with hopes her sons and one daughter would do better in life.
Amidst all this, it was thanks to my wild and limitless imagination that served to carry me up to the high skies, where I dreamed to be riding the same goose that Nils rode in the Swedish cartoon we all enjoyed watching when we were kids. And I vividly recall how I was strangely finicky about holding the bird reigns tight in my hands so I could make a safe and smooth descent whenever I got bored or tired. I wished, though, he would just fly incessantly even if I ordered him to go down. I wished he would just devise a smart kidnapping scheme and take me to a remote place and ask for a ransom that my family could not afford to pay. Surely they would not since we led a bare livelihood. Had he just done that my mom would die from grief, for my mom loved me so much and wanted me to have a better life than the one she had.
The bird never showed anything but a good deal of alertness and response to any command I gave him. With docility he would follow the reigns strapped around his neck and held tight by my spindly fingers. I made sure to gently pull them whenever I decided to take a different turn, for I did not want to hurt his scantly feathery neck.
This is how I used to escape my own deprived reality, by flying with my imaginary goose into the skies unwilling to come down or back. But birds can’t fly nonstop, can they? The only time I had to return to my harsh reality was when I heard someone shout “weirdo” at me. In fact, I was called different names but the one that stuck in my mind and bothered me for a while was “the weird goose rider”, for it made me feel that there was no such thing as a goose. These boys were so mean that they knew how to bring my little dream down and crash it into pieces. I admit I tried different tactics with these boys’ needling but none of it worked. Saddled with thick-rimmed glasses, I used to sweetly smile at them to deflect their taunts whenever they popped up out of nowhere.
It was a nice, yet unreal dream that grew within me until I was struck with the notion of living in a reality contrary to what I first dreamed of. The dream that I raised, nurtured and protected over this period of my life had to go. It was hard on me to wake up the next day and realize that the goose that I had taken care of was no more than a sweet dream. The goose that flew freely in my boundless imagination was now something I had to stop thinking of. It never existed. Neither of us, the goose or me, imagined that we could live our lives separately. My mind kept telling me that he was upset, that this separation tormented him as profoundly as it did me.
Now after I realized that there was no such thing as riding a flying goose, I figured I had to deal with my peers’ bullying and teasing. Being a little kid with a frail frame, the only way for me to avoid the potential confrontation and constant harassment they inflicted on me was to take refuge at a nearby house where nobody dared hang around. This old house that had no owner was my savior through all the years when I was the center of ridicule of my peers. I remember now how they would become startled and then run off as soon they made out that I was heading toward that house. How cowardly were they? This triumphant feeling that filled my little heart with security and peace, which both were missing in my life then was only ephemeral, for these boys knew where and when they could get me.
My curiosity about who is the owner of that mysterious house started to grow more and more over time. I was so preoccupied with it to the point that my parents began to show some concern and worry about me. It was certain they had noticed how this strange quest for an immediate answer consumed me roundly. I even went around in our neighborhood acquiring about it, asking people one question: Who is the owner of that house?
The only common answer I used to get from all the people I asked were that the house belonged to an old man who was a veteran, who spent most of his life on the front lines defending our country. All of my surveyed people shared with me a sad story of this gentleman who came to lose his sight under the torture he was exposed to by the enemies. He refused, according to my neighbors’ same story, to tip off his capturers about his native country’s war plan.
One incident that shifted my disposition from a mere admiration to love for this house was when I had a brush with imminent danger one day on my way home from school. As I passed, with an arched back due to a bulky schoolbag as usual, I could hear a rush of steps coming out of a bunch of bushy shrubs. The eerie sound that was at first almost undetectable grew to a crescendo and then morphed into an unmistakably maniacal laugh. I stood paralyzed. Timorous, I knew I was now besieged by danger from all directions. In my mind I knew it had to be the mean boys again, and all of sudden before my thought faded away, they all popped out with bamboo sticks and clubs in their hands. My heart pulses augmented my fear so much that I felt like the surrounding shrubs began to close in. And one of the things I remember from this incident was a sudden and hard blow from behind that left me unconscious for months. When I was asked by my parents and the police about the details that led to this unpleasant occurrence, I could not give them enough information.
When I awoke out of my three-month coma which I spent it all at the local hospital, I told my mom, who was sitting right next to me in bed, that something strange had happened when the bludgeon knocked me down.
“What happened, babe?,” she asked me with her dulcet voice,
“I heard them saying he is coming and then after they jettisoned their sticks, they all dispersed,” I said.
“Who was coming, babe” she replied.
“Don’t know…something like a house was moving toward us,” I said.
My mom, worried to death now, held my fragile hands and placed them on her lap and looked me in the eye.
“Son, listen, your goose is real,” she said. “They are just jealous of you”
I gently broke my hands loose from hers, and I ran my right hand fingers across from her left ones until they buckled up and I said” “Yes, mom, I know it is real”.
I was unable to decipher what exactly happened that afternoon, but I was sure then that by some ethereal means of locomotion the house had floated from the place where it was supposed to be into the place where I was assaulted.
Our conversation did not take long as one of our neighbors came in to check on me. After she placed a black plastic bag on a wooden shaky-legged table, she sat on a chair across from me. Being pudgy, the chair she sat on was wobbling under her heavy weight, which caused me to lose eye contact with her. But I still could see her eyes glowing chillingly on me and smiling all the time she was talking. My eyes, instead, sat in a fixed glazzy stare at the black plastic bag where, I thought, there might be some homemade food; for I was fed up with the daily chicken and veggie soup I was given at this rundown hospital. I wished that this lady would just shut her mouth and pull some roasted chicken out or a well done succulent steak from the bag and feed me like one of her sons. She never hushed though. The only thing I remember her saying was her wish for me to have a speedy recovery. She might have said it ten times or so though. I thanked her just once, for I was too tired to keep up with her fast-paced talk.
Perhaps she felt now I was no more interested in her being around. Pushing the chair back to the wall, she stood up with a sneer on her pointy nose. I got scared. I thought she was mad at me because I did not show any respect for her presence. She got near to my bed and grabbed my mom’s left hand and led her out of the room. They both stood by the room entrance and seemed to talk about something serious, surely something about me since they would turn to look at me alternately with their sorry eyes. It made me grow more curious and worried at the same time about what was going on.
Their serious and secret conversation, as it seemed, took about ten minutes according to the clock on the wall that was right above their heads. It was one harsh moment in my life, in which only a few words from my mom brought me to a near-death when she told our neighbor that I might have had some delusional or mental problems. How could he have mistaken the nice old man, our neighbor beggar, for a house? She said pitifully.
That harsh statement fell hard on me, passed though me, through each bit of my body and settled down at the bottom of me, where I could feel it eating up what was left alive in me. Scarcely anything was alive. This moment of truth struck me as insane. Yeah, I had to be insane to think the man who used to help me whenever I was chased by my bullying peers was a house. How could I have experienced all this insanity? I felt insignificant. I dropped my head down into the dingy and stuffy pillow and let it sink into the bottom of desperation and uncertainty. I mourned the sense of my orientation that I felt I was stealthily stripped of. I was uncertain if I had to believe it, to live with it and accept this new reality of a man without a house.
Oklahoma-based and of Moroccan origin, Anouar Mourad is a writer and a poet. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in German from the University of Central Oklahoma. He has published a number of articles, poems and short stories. He proudly served as the president of UCO’s Moroccan Student Association and helped organize many cultural and interfaith dialogues at the same university. His main areas of interests are languages, religions, interfaith dialogue, world politics, human rights and more. Currently, he is working on writing his first novel that he hopes to get it published soon.
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