The children were denied entry to listen to the Guest; it was thought they were too young for his words of deep wisdom. The children thought otherwise. The Guest saw their eyes bright in the shadows peering into the darkened room through the dusty window frame and said nothing of their eavesdropping but his eyes twinkled later when they all came together to break bread.
“And what are your dreams?” he asked the eldest as he dipped his bread into the little dish of olive oil.
“My dreams?” she said. It had not occurred to her that she was allowed any.
“I will ask you next time,” he said kindly, seeing her confusion.
“Yes,” she said slowly, her mind beginning to whirl softly like the first glimmerings of a dust devil or a tiny moth given flight…
It rather synchronised with something my daughter and I were talking about; she’s studying history at university and specialising in Rome, and we’d been discussing the role of women in Roman society and it moved on to how many millions of women lose or never own their dreams.
The picture could just as easily have been taken in Roman palestine as today. For women, in many places, nothing much has changed, and even in the West, those greater dreams have been countermanded by dreams of domestic glamour( like becoming a WAG or a celeb). It just makes me sad….
I never told a victim story about my imprisonment. Instead, I told a transformation story – about how prison changed my outlook, about how I saw that communication, truth, and trust are at the heart of power.
Something about this picture touched a place I’ve heard from others and can relate to myself on some levels. That place of being on the outside with your nose pressed against the glass of the window, where you want to be but are not invited in. The party goes on and you have something to share but are not a part of it. I believe most of us have this experience some time or other.
The picture depicts a cultural setting but the experience of “nose pressed against the glass of where you would like to be” but aren’t, is all cultures, all classes, all everything.
“Why did they come?” Ni’emeh.
No response. The sisters squeezed their eyes to be able to see through the thick smoke and the semidarkness .
The kitchen was empty but through the open door not only smoke entered, but words could be heard. Talking of the mother, of Yahya the neighbour. The others.
“What do they say?” Ni’emeh again.
“Shhh!”, uttered Noor. Each word was important. Each syllable of the few ones they could hear through the smoke and the darkness.
“Can you see them?”, Ni’emeh whispered, then, in a wining tone, “I have short feet, you are taller than me.”
Kadiyah, the eldest, abandoned her post at the sill, approached, tiptoeing, Ni’emeh and lifted her up as high as she could.
“Now you can listen. But be quiet. They talk about father.”
Ni’emeh gasped for breath sharply.
Secrets were being shared in the dark house.
Father. A keyword which had an immediate silencing effect on the youngest.
Her look became careful, dark and serious. Now she too was staring into the dark.
A rustling was heard from within the house. A chair creaked, someone got up. Another rustling, followed by footsteps. Then in a sudden intensity, the kitchen and the living room behind were flushed with light. Someone opened the stores.
“They’ve finished!” exclaimed Noor, a note of deep disappointment in her thin voice.
“Uuff.” Kadiya opened her arms sighing and almost let Ni’emeh fall down on the floor. She caught her sister in the last moment.
“Run”, she whispered and the three left the window and ran to the other side of the house.
“Don’t let me wait”, the youngest couldn’t stand silent on her feet, “what did they say? You have been hearing the most.”
Kadiya exchanged a deep look with Noor.
“Father”, she answered slowly.
This wasn’t enough for Ni’emeh, now.
“What is with him?”
No response. She repeated her question, annoyed by the silence of the two.
Slowly, Kadiya turned to her, took her hands into her own. Her look was forlorn anywhere in the wilderness sorrounding their camp.
“They said we will not wait too long.
They said he will be coming. Will be coming soon. We may not give up. We have to hope.
Now more then ever.”
The sun had reached its highest point at the cloudless sky and was burning down at the girls; as blazing as Ni’emeh’s eyes glued to Kadiya’s stature; as permeant as Noor’s silence.
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