By Said Abril
By Said Abril
Morocco World News
Fez, June 27, 2012
The weather couldn’t be better, the birds were already twittering happily as if they were grateful to the last week of March which made the orange trees blossom. I ditched the blanket and succumbed to the more convincing calling of the coffee aroma, coming out of the kitchen. She must have been still asleep. That morning could have been almost perfect, not being bothered by the graphic pictures of the morning news on TV. But change comes at a price; the transition from the long cold winter to the warm and sunny spring was worth the blood spill. The roaring cars’ engines dispersed the birds but the blossomed trees appealed them to return once the commuters were gone. She woke up.
I helped my mother prepare the table. As we were having breakfast, we heard her asking some questions. The flats were so near each other that we could hear almost everything.
“She woke up early today?” I asked.
“Today is a big day, it’s her first day at the kindergarten” replied my mother.
Her name was Zahra, aged three, she was the youngest in a family composed of a florist, a housewife and four little sisters.
“It is definitely a big day” I said.
We continued our breakfast watching the breaking news of an Arab dictator caged in a court of law, waiting for justice to convict his injustices over several decades.
“They are falling one after the other like autumn leaves” said my mother.
The end of such dictators was not even in our wildest dreams. We grew up used to them as an axiom of time. Yet, nothing is permanent except change.
I finished my breakfast quickly, for I wanted to get ready to walk with Zahra to the kindergarten.
Being an only child, I never knew what it meant to have siblings. But that was about to change when she was born, or on her eighth day of age exactly. Her grandmother refused to let us have a look at her since we were not family “and that brings bad luck for the newly born” she said. After one week the family sacrificed a ram and the baby was named Zahra. I was finally allowed to take a look at her. That look was not like any other look, not even like my first look at the sea. A miracle of life. I wondered whether those tyrants were once that fragile and weak. How could a miracle of life transform into a death and destruction machine? Her eyes glittered and she smiled to me.
“A baby can’t see before it is forty days of age” said the grandmother.
“But she smiled” I insisted.
“Yes, but not to you, she smiled to her angels” she replied.
I gave little importance to what the old lady had said, and since that first look, Zahra and I are sister and brother. She hadn’t had a brother and I hadn’t had a sister, so we could do away with blood.
Taking her hand and her father the other, we walked to the near kindergarten. We left her there; she gave us a look of apprehension and soon joined her peers. I reflected on my first day at school, it had been seventeen years, what a journey! The lessons I took in the school of life, however, have been more pragmatic, though some have left some scars I wonder whether time would heal them sometime.
I took the bus and left to the faculty. The students were going on a strike, so I went to the cafeteria and ordered coffee and a newspaper. Some students of the communist faction entered and started explaining the reasons behind the strike, as if strikes for them needed reasons. Then, they delved into analyzing the Arab spring in depth.
I flipped through the paper paying little attention to what the comrade was saying. “The obscurantist powers are riding the wave; they are going to steal the revolution” the comrade kept repeating that sentence every now and then aggravating the boredom of the situation. An interesting quote caught my attention, though; “revolution is made by intellectuals, performed by the brave and it is a benefit for opportunists”.
She didn’t come. I knew she would never come back, but sometimes we cling to hopes turning a blind eye to logic. The heart is stronger than the mind in moments of desperation. Amal was a girl with whom I played a game of fire, I lost and we ended up burnt together. I knew she was different than any girl I had known, and I just refused to admit. A woman is an ocean of mysteries, I had to go through a game to realize that.
First, I thought she would be easy to unravel. That she would soon kneel offering me her heart so that I would break it afterwards. And then move on to look for another prey to trap. As for breaking her heart, I finally succeeded. But it was me who knelt under her mercy offering her my heart. She didn’t break it, but she didn’t take it either. She just said: “find other tings to break; hearts are not created to be broken”. And she disappeared.
The comrade finally finished his analysis, and I finished my coffee and went home.
After I took my lunch, I went to my room to finish reading a book about the French Revolution. I could read only few of the chapters left, for I wanted to go to the café. There was a big football match taking place that evening; El Classico, which splits most Moroccans into Real Madrid’s aficionados and Barcelona’s fans.
Cafés became full several hours before the first whistle of the referee. The café was teeming with people from all walks of life and all age categories interacting with the game in applaud, shout, and whistle…Nothing equals the love of each group of fans to its team except the hatred towards the rival team. Yet, all melted under the love of the game that Mahmoud Darwish described once as an art more noble than war. The game finished, some were praising their favorite players and others were cursing. I went home, took my supper and went to bed.
As I was working in my office in the Moroccan nuclear reactor of Sebta, the phone rang, it was Amal. Every time she called, I remembered that call twenty years earlier, when she said: “I’m in the cafeteria”. I looked at the pictures on the desk; our marriage blossomed in four flowers: Ishrak, Diae, Nour and Shams. That morning, Amal stayed home to look after Shams who had some fever.
“How is she?” I asked.
“Are you watching?”
I turned on TV, and there she was on planet Mars. Zahra and an Algerian astronaut landed on Mars. The spaceship had taken off some six months earlier from Libya. The project which was founded by a young Tunisian scientist was finally achieved. Zahra was taking giant leaps on Mars. Few tears came out of my eyes as I reflected on the first day I walked with her to the kindergarten. When the Arab spring took place, no one thought we would reach this far. Indeed, when we wake the world quakes.
I heard the birds twittering on the nearby trees and I woke. It was just a dream, a beautiful dream.
I helped my mother prepare the table. As we were having breakfast, we were watching the news. The Arab awakening crept into another country. The dictator called the troops out. He thought he could stop the spring by cutting the flowers. I asked my mother to pass sugar. “You never take sugar in your coffee”. I liked sugar free coffee; it tasted close to life that way. “Yes, but we always need some change sometime”. I finished my coffee and went to change.
As I went out with Zahra, my mother asked me to wait. I had forgotten my phone. When we reached the kindergarten, Zahra walked to the door in small steps. “They may become giant leaps” I said. She turned, raised her eyebrows and continued her small steps to the kindergarten and I went to the faculty.