Spots Over Nu’man’s Thoughts
Nu’man doesn’t like loud whizzing aeroplanes. When he was a little boy, he used to hide in his mum’s lap every time a crackling motor-bike passes the neighbourhood and he was the first to shrink in a corner or a closet when a sudden bombardment hits the neighbourhood.
Nu’man doesn’t like to die, not because he only loves life, but because his death will break his mother’s heart and cause her a deep sorrow. After his father’s kidnapping, she wept for many years and dressed in full black, she covered her head with a thick black scarf and grew older very quickly. She even stopped loving him; she stopped coddling like before and stopped making his favourite meals. She became like Um Bashir’s maid who just put the food on the table without cheerfully calling to hurry up or ask this or that to add more. She stopped eating chocolates for many years1 and “tabooed” making cakes or Knafeh2. It’s true that they were available at Ammu Mansour’s cake shop, but they weren’t the same. He used to whisper in his mum’s ear, when unexpected guests dropped by, not to offer what would be left from that cake. “I will get some from the shop mum,” he would say.
Azza will be sad also, but not as sad as his mother. She will regret all the fights they had, she will regret accusing him to Amer when she caught him smoking secretly at the veranda. Amer went hard on him that day, he rebuked him harshly and cut his pocket money, so he stayed for weeks eating his sandwiches “sec” without a sip of Pepsi. Azza changed a lot after they had displaced from their house in the town to this big building in “Burj Elbarajneh”3. She started shouting at him every time he enters her room. She became spending more time in reading magazines that she hides under the bed if her mum suddenly entered the room. That day when he got mad of her and shucked off her magazine out the window, she said: “Inshala tmout I wish you die”. She will remember this and weep bitterly.
He can’t tell how much Randa will be sad, but sure she will regret every time she was tough on him and treated him haughtily. She rebuked him every time he got a low mark in his exams: “I am ashamed of you! You big arse. Go through yourself in the see you dum”. Its true that he hated her for that, but it is also true that he was always proud of her. Every time a new teacher would ask him if Randa relates to him, he would say in full mouth: Randa is my sister. He imagined her crying bitterly and murmuring: “Forgive me “habibi (sweet heart) for all the bad things I did to you.”
Amer could be the least to grieve his death. It will lessen his burden. This Amer has no heart, in his thirties and still has no fiancé or even a lover. Life to him is nothing but duties; he works like machine and finances the house since his father’s death, but nothing more. He never talked to him about emotions or love or girls; he never taught him, like older brothers do, how to deal with his sexual frustrations. When he told him that he is going to join the Popular Front in “Hayy-Issilum” to defend this suburb
- During mourning period mourners stop eating sweets and stop cooking it in their houses
A kind of sweet made of semolina cheese and syrup
During the civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990) many people were displaced from their houses. Many Palestinians and Muslims who were living in east Beirut were forced to move to west Beirut and the visa versa
against the Israel attack, he didn’t show any passion; he didn’t get angry nor he pressed his hand encouraging and blessing his decision. He stood speechless like a “Sphinx.”
Could Ibtissam reveal their love story? Will she come to his funeral? Will she sit beside his mother and his two sisters Azza and Randa receiving consolation? He doubts it, Ibtissam fears her brother Ali. She used to mock saying: “Ali is above the tree.”4
They will set the funeral ceremony at St Peter& Paul Church in Alhamra, Abu Maher will say an inspiring speech in his commemoration. On each stop his mother will sigh loudly and murmur passionate words. At the end they will burry him in The Martyrs Cemetery. Abu Ammar said all martyrs should be buried in The Martyrs Cemetery: Muslims and Christians. He didn’t abide by the militants’ beliefs; he said those people became Muslims by martyrdom. Nu’man loves Abu Ammar but he stays silent when his comrades in the Popular Front curse or mock him lest they think he is ignorant or naïve.
His coffin will be wrapped with the Palestinian flag and his friends will salute him with 21 gunshots. The church will be full of his Muslim friends and neighbours, some of them could be annoyed of the strong aroma that the priest spreads out of his censer or they will laugh at the strange words that penetrate the ceremony. Imad and Rasmi might make comments about these big yellow candles alight for no purpose in the middle of the day. One would say: I wish I had them; they will be enough to light the house for a full month.
While lifting up his coffin, woes will go louder. His mother will say: With peace my love. Sallem (say hello) to your father. Um Jamil will utter “Zaghrouda”5 and some one might follow up by the song: “Mother of the martyr be happy, all other sons are yours.”
Oh! How much the death of a martyr is beautiful and sad. How nice are the words of the eulogy. How nice is the white marble tombstone with the words written in black or gold:
Here rests in peace, the Martyr Nu’man who died in defence of Beirut against the Israeli invasion, 1964 – 1982.
He felt the urge to weep, not because of what is going to happen to him, but because of this beautiful, like music, melancholy.
What would happen if they knew about those thoughts that went through his mind every now and then? Will they keep calling him The Martyr? If they knew that sometimes he regretted volunteering in this war, and when the danger was critical he wished that the leadership declare surrender, and that he wasn’t really sick when the
- A variation of the title of a very popular Arabic movie “My father is above the tree” which revolts
against woman’s submissions to male power in the Arabic family
A trilling cry of joy. Normally uttered in happy celebrations, but it also uttered when a youth or a martyr dies
Khaldeh Triangle battle took place. What Hani’s parents would do if they learned that their son died, that day, because of his fake sickness? What could the say if they knew that he never liked reading revolutionary newspapers and magazines and he preferred over them the erotic sex ones, and that he used to buy Playboy Magazine with the money he could spare rather than buying Al-Hadaf or any other political magazine.
Nu’man felt happy because thoughts aren’t like clothes. The dirty spots don’t appear over them.
When Abu Mojahed, accompanied with three of Nu’man comrades came to visit his mum, she didn’t jump up with excitement to welcome them. She didn’t ask how is Nu’man. She said with a bent head and eyes low to the ground:
There is no need to bother explaining….He visited me last night and said “good-bye
Um Amer.” He asked me not to be sad, not to dress up in black and not to stop making cakes and knafeh. He said my grief will make him very sad and will make his death a real death.
25 Aug. 06