Ammani Notebook

Musings of an emigrated writer

Remember that  7th day of September. The dry sentence of the white clad doctor in the morning after the last test results came in. Carcinoma in the liver with metastasis growth in the lungs. Like this. No more.  Doctors seem to be cowards. No information about what will happen, how much time will we have left to love each other. Only – he will be discharged from the hospital tomorrow, no further treatment.

Looking at each other. Tears in both our eyes. Nothing left to do. One thing, only. One last trip. No, not home, not yet. A pilgrimage. Last hope? Maybe. Last comfort, for sure.

I plan, buy tickets,  pack, keep busy, hide my tears. Ten days pass like this.

We travel. No one sees us off. We share a cup of coffee on the airport-train. My love, who never drinks coffee because of his high blood pressure, has cold hands and needs this sip of caffeine today.

Heat receives us at the end of the flight, glaring sun but relative cool in the shade of the big white mosque that houses three graves under a green dome. I have to let him go to the other door and use the women’s entrance. I sit on the red carpet, listen to some ladies‘ soft recitation and smell the distinct scent of rose oil. In the quiet my heart twists and turns. The happiness I should feel in this place is buried under a thick cover of saltwater. I can hardly breathe, I anticipate the pain of a life without him.

Wherever we go, these thoughts linger in my brain. I look at his sleeping face in the evening, trying to imprint it in my memory. I listen to his soft breathing in the night – he used to snore heavily, but no more. The sudden silence sometimes wakes me up, I miss that sound that like a lullaby used to make me sleep.

Back home golden days of autumn see him get weaker too fast. Only the two of us at home, daily, nightly fight overshadowing the time we might use to take leave from each other. Come one morning, raindrops weep over the hospital’s windows like the tears on my face. He went to sleep forever without waking up again. No last word to say. Only a silent kiss on a cooling forehead.

Prayer for the dead in the yard of our small mosque. Rows and rows of friends and strangers. The women right and left give me strength. One hour more, then the flight will leave with his coffin aboard – but without me.

Remember that 7th September. One year later and I stand in a far country under high green trees. White marble in different forms – graves. Thousands of it, all ages, some just a mound of earth fixed with fist-sized stones. No date, no name. Like the one pointed out to me. I know who put the stones, one by one, with love and a heart full of tears and regrets. I can see his hands that look so much like his father’s  weeding out some plants so they will not destroy the mount.

The heat makes drops of sweat run into my eyes, they mix with my tears. I want to sit down here in the shade of the trees and never again leave.

(This text was first published in the fall edition 2013 of “When Women Waken”. According to their policy I can republish it here. )

Remember

 

I neglected my blog – my studies went well, but took a lot of time, Ramadhan was taking lots of my energy and we had visitors for six weeks – wonderful, but a three-year-old can change the whole life of a house.

And, at first, I was still waiting for my grey shadow. But Miss Grey did not come back, no one had seen her – neither alive nor dead. Was she kidnapped? Or had she had an accident and hidden somewhere to die? Not knowing it makes me still sad.

But then, August came and two of our young nephews turned up. They love cats very much, but are not allowed to keep one – father has an allergy and mother is very particular about cleanliness. But still, when they had come to her with a baby-cat, maybe six or eight weeks old at that time, she fed it, gave it a shower and tried to find a new home for it. When the neighbors who took it in at first gave it back, the boys called us. And here was this empty space, food and water dishes unused since four weeks – we could not say no. At first, we attempted to keep it only temporary, but after a few days the little guy had taken over our hearts. Other than our capricious ladies before he is soft, unobtrusive, even when hungry. For the six weeks our grandson was here, they were best friends and playmates, it turned out that our new cat is babysafe – he might play rough with my husband or me, but never with the very young ones, does not even sniff at the two-year-old when he pulls his tail a little.

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I love his surprised look.

And so, now, after all these events and also past Eid-al-Adha, the biggest muslim holiday during the past week, we will be back to normal – inshaAllah, if not anything else will bring new changes.

From tomorrow back to school – but that is a new chapter.

You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings.-Anais Nin

I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live — Martin Luther King Jr.

Ramadhan came and went, as well as the Eid, the big holidays at the end of the month of fasting. Unfortunately my Arabic summer course was extended in order to finish the first level, so I went to college five days a week until the very last day of fasting.

I loved the classes, learned a lot and enjoyed the company of about twenty other students from a variety of countries – Australia, China, Thailand, Nigeria, Columbia, Indonesia, Mexico, Brasil, Kirgistan, Kasahstan – and most of them half my age. Tell me about feeling old sometimes. But they were all so nice and we had a great time. I was no fan of our teacher, a twenty-something guy with bad english (better for learning arabic, maybe) and not much of an idea about sucessful teaching. His behaviour against some of the students made me insist on finishing the first level on any cost, because the idea of having to repeat it with him and spend four months like this made my study diligently for hours at a time. Maybe he felt the same about me, I passed and will be able to attend the second level in October.

None of this was good for my writing and blogging, as you may well see here. Still, we had the best month of fasting that I had until I moved here: we had iftar (the meal after sunset) at home nearly every day, my husbands nieces and nephews enjoyed our small garden so much that they preferred not to invite us but brought their food to eat with us on the terrace. Weather was great: hot in daytime, but never humid, and after sunset getting so cool that sometimes we retired to the salon.

Now, Ramdhan is only a memory, ten days gone, weather changed to really hot and some humid, but now it does not matter so much. I enjoy my time off, but somehow still feel strange and don’t get started with anything decent. Maybe due to the fact that we will have visitors arriving on Friday, to stay with us until october. I try to prepare the house – I know I will enjoy the company, I only have to adjust the plans I had made for the time until classes start again.

Since the first night of ramadhan Miss Grey is missing. As she made it her habit since the summer nights became so balmy and starfilled she left about midnight – but did not return at dawn as usual. For weeks she would wait outside the door until one of our boys leaves for work about 4.50 am, so he could let her in to wake us up and make us feed her. Though, unlike her mother she is not so avid for food, often it seems it was her main aim to kiss us and be cuddled and loved. Food came later, she would only start eating after running around for a while and then see us busy.

But on Wednesday morning I waited for her in vain. Neither at 3 am, for our morning meal, neither at 4.50, when the boy left, neither when one of us left the house she was anywhere to be seen. Coming home about 2 pm I hoped she would be waiting in the garden and complaining for being left out in the heat – no sound, no movement.

Whenever I am home, the door is left open, unless Miss Grey’s boyfriend, Romeo, hangs around and tries to sneak inside the house. He has been circling the house for months, we hold him responsible for the state Miss Grey is in – but I am not quite sure he had been able to fight off the other contenders. Now, he looks as forlorn as I am feeling. My husband feeds him the leftovers of Miss Grey’s food from the fridge, no use to let it rot. But the three of us look rather sad.

Wherever I walk in the house or garden, I tread carefully, as if there was still a small grey paw or tail I should not step on. I expect to see her on one of her usual places – but only the empty spot looks at me, coldly. I wake up in the night, turn in bed carefully, not to disturb my kitty when I move the blanket with me on which she might be sleeping, then remember, she is not here.

What might have happened? Where could she be? We have no idea. No one saw her, my husband asked around, the boys playing on the street, the shopkeeper across the street, they all know the little grey cat with the funny walk. Our boys pretended she could work as a belly-dancer, just missing the dress, the way she shakes her narrow hips while walking. Rude, because the poor thing fell very sick when she was just for months old, a virus, we believe, and since then her hind legs sometimes seem to give way under her – although she can jump well enough if she wants to reach the cheese on the breakfast table.

Now, a new morning. Our parrot, Aziza, and I sit at the open door until it will be time for me to leave for my school. Aziza has been nagging a lot this last week, as if she also asks us what became of her friend. She has been knowing Miss Grey since she was born and see her grow up, play around, have her first babys, become the joy and amusement of the house.

I see a shadow behind the curtain that shields us from being seen from the street – but it was just a dove flying by low. No cat. No “mau”. No soft furry feeling at my naked ankles. No small scratches on my legs from her idea to climb up my dress.

Will she be back? I do not want to lose hope – yet.

Jordan is a mostly muslim country, as you would know. So, every year, Ramadhan, the month of fasting,  is a major event. This year it will inshaAllah start on 9th July – or maybe one day later, if on that evening the new moon is not visible yet. The muslim year is counted after the moon-calender, so the month starts when the new moon is first visible. As this can differ, it will only be known on the last minute.

But that is not so very important, as the first day of Ramadhan does not need so much preparation. Only one should set the alarm for the right time: fasting starts at dawn, i.e., before the first light is really visible. Easy to know here, because at that time anyway all mosques announce the arrival of dawn, time for the first prayer of the day.

In these days before Ramdhan, most people already do some of their shopping; supermarkets are fully stocked and every year the government tries to prevent sellers from raising their prices due to the expected consumption. Sounds funny, people buying more food because they are fasting, doesn’t it? Fact is, in most families that can afford it, the meal after sunset which breaks the fast every day (iftar), is the opportunity to enjoy it with the family and often with guests. Depending on the financial possibilities this can be very rich food – but in Jordan, I think, this is only for a minority. Plus, many people also make sure that leftovers are either kept for the next day or distributed to poorer families. Ramadhan is also the time for charity – rich donating more than any other time of the year.

A custom that seems to me having been copied more from the west is the inflation of lights and blinking ornaments in windows and on balconies. Sometimes a little too much – but seeing all this stuff in the shops now gives a better understanding that Ramadhan is expected with much more joy than with apprehension – although fasting can be hard, the time itself brings togetherness, love and care, so many love it.

Probably you will find more than this post to the topic here during the next month – the whole lifestyle changes and revolves around the schedule of sahur (last meal in the early morning), fasting and iftar. I hope you will keep on looking in and share our life in this month.

This post is part of the July 2013 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “Dog Days of Summer.”

„Dog days“ of summer are literally translated into „Hundstage“ in German. We do not see them there every year, often as not summer in Germany is more a wish than a reality. But still, sometimes they happen.

Like in that summer when I had turned nine and we had moved into a new bought house. This came with a room for each of us two sisters and enough space to accomodate our cousins during the summer holidays. I loved it – having my two big cousins around who would treat me nicely and include me in everything made my day, no matter, what my elder sister and the youngest of the cousins were up to.

We would play crocket in the garden, although we had to fight the balls tendency to roll downhills, as the house is built into a hillside. Or we would search for the badminton set. Evenings would find us on the terrace with two sets of cards, for interminable rounds of canasta, under the sweet smell of the yasmine bushes and roses at the wall.

The weather grew warmer and warmer and saw us searching for a pool. The five of us would hardly fit into the family car, a beetle, because none was old enough to drive and my mother would not risk being caught with all of us on board. So the heat and lack of alternative forced us to use the local swimming pool. The entry fee was minimal, but so was the pool. Much too small, hardly a decent shower, raw stones on the edges. The lack of heating did not count in those hot days, we were happy enough with the temperature the sun had made raise to incredible 18° C. Then, the use of balls and other playthings were not yet forbidden, the water teemed with children, the heavily chlorinated water permeated the air with its acrid smell that we would take home in our wet bathing suits and towels.

Until one day, when in the morning we saw the sky covered with clouds and a cool wind greeted us as soon as we opened the door. But we had decided the evening before that we would go swimming again and I counted on another swimming lesson from my patient cousin. So, I would not hear of not going and the others also agreed that the clouds should not be a reason to deter us from enjoying another swim.

The water felt actually warmer under the leaden sky, as long as I did not leave a limb out to the wind. After one hour though we tried to dry up, my long hair still dripping with water I followed the others on the way home. I shivered, but tried not to show it for fear they would tell me it was my own mistake as I had been the one to insist on going.

I paid for this next morning when I woke up with a terrible headache, fever and a sore throat. The next week I had to spend confined in bed, while the others now could go everywhere as the four of them would fit into the car. To comfort me at least a little my cousins would buy sweets for me and, better, give me their own new books – that they had brought to read during the holidays – to read. They knew I would enjoy them.

The youngest had brought the „Winnetou“-Triology. Very famous in Germany I doubt my englishspeaking reades will ever had heard of their author, Karl May, who wrote a big number of storys from his fictous travels, a part of them set into the Wild West, another in the Middle East and Africa. Three big volumes kept my interest for a while and I cared less about being left alone after the fever abated sufficiently so I could concentrate on reading.

But it was the elder cousins book that I still remember best and that still helds a special place in my heart for the lasting effect it had on me: a German version of Lousia May Alcott’s „Little Women“. Never before I had thought about people who wrote the books I read, and I had started reading with four years of age and found my way through a number of books already. But Jo March did not only read them, she started writing stories and had them published, for others to enjoy them.

It needed years until I wrote my first story and still my first book waits to get published. But I always think of those dog days of summer that not only taught me to swim but also how to use my storytelling.

 

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Ralph Pines
articshark
Sunwords
Diem_Allen
U2Girl
robynmackenzie
Lady Cat
MsLaylaCakes
pyrosama
Angyl78
SuzanneSeese
Diana_Rajchel
HistorySleuth
AshleyEpidemic
SRHowen