By Mourad Anouar
By Mourad Anouar
Morocco World News
Oklahoma City, May 27, 2012
That afternoon when the sun was straight up overhead, Si Brahim crossed the street toward the bus station, unusually heading back home from work. This time he was unconfident as he made his way through the same route he has taken for more than 30 years. Approachable, smiling and serviceable were some of his many traits that most people encountered when dealing with him.
Si Brahim knew everybody who lived along that street by name. He knew Si Ahmed, who owned a little shop where he sells herbs and spices. He knew Si Ahmed’s wife, Omi Halima, who liked to sit on a chair by the shop door. With a rosary in her hands, she was reputed to be “the woman with the big smile,” Who did not love her? Poor Omi Halima became paralyzed when she was in a car wreck with her husband years ago. Should you ask her about when and how her husband and she had that accident, she would say nothing but “it was God’s working and I am thankful for what I got.” Even less information on that, to the contrary, you would get from her husband who, as the rumor goes, was to blame for what happened to her.
As Si Brahim passed by Si Ahmed’s shop every morning, he would exchange greetings and sometimes would not bother to stop and crack jokes with the old couple. Today he did not.
Across from Ahmed’s shack-like shop, at the heart of a big intersection, there were many cars, bikes, people and vendors with their carts, crisscrossing in a disorderly manner. To Si Brahim’s exasperation, it was a manifestation of both human negligence and lunacy.
Of course, to be fair, there were few who cared to respect the traffic lights, but amidst a furor of deafening car horns and unruly traffic, only chaos was apparent. When you look around, the extent of disorder surpassed the boundaries of imagination, even of the possibility to fix it. The whole scene, ugly and repulsive, was a recurring event that Ba Brahim had failed to notice for years. This, as never before, struck him as insane and unreasonable. Something needed to be done about it, he thought. Had he been unmindful of this daily traffic mayhem through his career? Was it a demanding job and busy life that took him away from this harsh reality?
Those thoughts and the like immediately haunted him, but not for long. As he reached the bus station, right at a cold metal bench, he managed to squeeze his body among some sitting elderly people, who looked just the same as his age. He greeted them, coldly though, and sat silently. He was consumed by the same rash of thoughts he had before. At that moment, he leaned forward, after taking off his right shoe, and caressed his toe gently. Delighted he did not lose the sense of touching, thanks God, he felt, however, he had become numb to the cries and warning signs that were right in front of his very eyes. He felt like a needle of guilt was puncturing through his skin and waking him up. His consciousness, dead for years, he had finally regained.
Burdened by what seemed to be beyond his emotional and intellectual capabilities, he then realized he missed the bus that was supposed to take him home. But he cared less since he decided to take a walk into the world he called “the world I failed to notice.”
Absent-minded, he took off with no destination. Even when he passed the two plump women, who both waved at him, he ignored them and carried on. But still, as far as he could go, he was able to hear them blathering and crooning at the babies in the strollers they were pushing. He sped up with his eyes fixated on the end of the pavement where he would cross to the right toward the city park.
There he was confronted by a world he never experienced. And at the same time, in his mind, there were too many thoughts to deal with. His brain, too fragile to absorb the overwhelming flood of thoughts, opted for a moment of concentration as a last resort. The anxiety soon evanesced as he was approached by an elderly vagrant man. He was wrapped up in what seemed to be a blanket, a thoroughly patched-up one. The vagrant invited Si Brahim for a game of checkers.
“Yeah, why not,” answered Ba’brahim.
At once, the vagrant man pulled out a piece of chalk from his plastic bag and artistically drew a checkers game on the dewy concrete. In less than two minutes, they started their first checkers round.
“So what brought you here,” asked the vagrant. ” I have never seen you before.”
Emotional, Si Brahim looked away toward some palm trees that lined up starting from where they sat and ran to the end of the park.
“You see those palm trees there?” asked Si Brahim.
“Yes,” answered the vagrant without looking.
“I am just like one of those. They don’t belong to this city soil, but to the desert sand. I was born and raised into a farm family. My brothers and I were brought up to love what we do no matter what. My dad taught me one day that the worst thing could happen to birds was when they could not fly. I never thought it over though because I was a kid. I came to this huge city 30 years ago and I got a job with the post office as a mailman. I worked hard and I never thought that there would come a day that I find myself worthless. Yeah, today I have that feeling as I got retired from my job. They held a quick retirement ceremony for me and the post office director thanked me for the service I have done through my career and told me, after patting on my back ‘go spend the rest of day and life with your family’,” I told the vagrant man.
As he finished telling his life story, Si Brahim noticed that the vagrant man, tearfully grabbed a handful of powdery earth, and then slowly he let it slip through his fingers. As Si Brahim thought about this moment of truth mixed with resentment, he wondered why his story would discomfit strangers like this man that he just met at the park. For some reason, he fixed his eyes on the vagrant’s dingy hand, from which the powdery earth mixed with tiny pebbles was cascading down. It was that telling scene that made him say: “It is slipping through just like life.”
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