By Elhoussain Naaim
Rabat – I had never seen anyone like her. She was a tall woman, with a long narrow nose. No one could stare at her; all people were afraid of her.
When someone came across her on the street, they felt like their day had been spoiled. She lived alone in a tiny cottage; she did not speak or make friends with anyone. A black pigeon was all she had. That black pigeon warded off anyone from wanting to see her.
Destiny brought me from nowhere to be her close neighbor. Of course, people of the huge city where she lived in, warned me, and advised me not to dwell in her vicinity at all. They said she could take out my brain, cut my hands, enslave me, and fill my memory with only black thoughts. I did not care; I was the new teacher anyway.
When I did not pay any attention to them, they didn’t want to be my friend. I remained somewhat estranged, and only a few of them sent their kids to be taught. Those who came to study called my neighbor “the evil woman”.
From time to time, they asked if I had not been scared of her. One day, at midnight, it was the first time I heard her voice shouting at someone. “Be silent and cover up” she ordered. By that time, I knew she was not alone as all people in the city thought. It was a challenge for me to know who should have been shut up and covered.
Afterward, my function in the city was not only teaching the courageous students who attended my class, but I started discovering the whole environment around me as well. The mall was the first public place I dared to go to, and I met people from different outskirts of the city.
Among them, I ran across an old man with a long white beard. While talking to each other, I felt that he was wiser and different from most people who advised me to live far from the evil woman. I tried to get more in touch with him, and I invited him for some tea and bread in the mall. Even though we talked for a long time about the city and people, he did not tell me his name or discuss his origins. The only question he asked me was if I was familiar with the new environment.
I said “it was ok, as you could see in the mall no one talks to anyone, no one helps anyone, and all people have money”. I added that I knew, or rather I came across a woman besides my house, but I wondered why she was not in the mall as all people. The old man said “oh yea, that woman is isolated and primitive”, and “She does not have money to be here”, “but she has fields and a pigeon that help her have what to eat”. Then, another question came to my mind, “why was she like this?” I started being more enthusiastic about getting to know her and do my best to be close to her.
After I had come back from the mall, I bought some meat and vegetables for her. I had hardly reached her front door when I began shaking. I knocked the door about seven times, and she finally answered.
She, with her pigeon over her shoulder, starred at me, said not one word, and closed the door on my face. I knocked again and again, and she angrily opened the door. I said “Hi, I would like to give you this stuff”; she did not accept anything, and all she said was “you are selfish and isolated just like everyone else in this lonely city”. I was astonished, all people said that she was the isolated person in the city, but it seemed that she considered all people more isolated and lonely than her.
My process of discovery was continuous. I went home, ate my dinner, and went to bed early. I was tossing in the bed until dawn thinking of what the women had told me.
As usual, I went to school to teach my students the following day. But, the more time I spent in the class, the fewer students I had in class. I was afraid of not doing my job and motivating students to study.
I adapted cooperative work as a solution, but in vain. I realized that students could not stand working all together. Everybody wanted to win some new knowledge for himself or herself, just as everybody wanted to buy stuff in the mall. This was the case for all of them except one child, named Tawiza.
She was sociable and loved helping others. She did her best to do good for other students. From time to time, she brought and shared some food with her classmates. I became closer to Tawiza and asked her about her parents. She did not want to answer me. “I have only my mom” She said in a vanished tone. She was asked not to tell anyone about her.
As a teacher, I was determined to know my student. Therefore, I frequently tried to reinforce her good answers by giving her a few pennies to buy sweets, and yet she did not accept them. One time, I gave her a kiss and a hug, and she became very happy and willing to learn. “Oh I wish I could come to class every day,” she told me in full excitement. Afterward, I managed to gain my student’s trust, and then she told me that she had told her mom about me, which was very good news for a teacher.
After a few days, on a day off, Tawiza came suddenly to my home in a very bad condition. I asked her what the problem was. She answered “my mom is dying” “please you are the only one who can help”. I was incredibly shocked and asked if there were any neighbors to take her to the hospital, any relatives, or any people in the village. “No, no one is there, the people living here don’t know how to help and neither do I” she answered. I went with my little student to her mom’s home.
The closer we were to her mom’s home, the sadder I became. When we reached her home, I was even more astonished and shocked; the home was that of the so-called “evil woman.” I asked the girl if she was sure that the house was her mom’s. She said “yes”, but I told her that the woman had only a pigeon.
“A pigeon!” the girl exclaimed. I said “yes”, yet the girl invited me in, and promised to tell me the whole history! “History or story?!” I curiously wondered. While inside their home, in fact, I found her mom very sick and dying. Then, her mom summoned and begged me to come near her bed. She started telling me her last will, and asking me to look after and protect her daughter from the danger of the city. She asked me to stand by her, and not to let her get familiar with the mall and “the isolated people”.
“Look for people like you and live together, help each other and do not care about anything that has a price” she advised us. “Do not forget about your history and about Tawiza” she insisted.
No sooner had she finished her words than she died and my little Tawiza started crying, and mourning; “my life is gone, I will be alone” she kept saying. I tried to comfort her. I told her that I understood that she was the home-pigeon, who turned into Tawiza in the class. She explained to me that she became so in order to protect herself from savage and material people.
After the funeral of this great mother, we came back from the graveyard and continued thinking about whether to tell people the truth about our mother. Should we try to make them sociable and human, or should we let them be machines as it is difficult to change their lives. Before we had gone to sleep, I told her to be silent and cover up.
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