By Fatma Sibani
She was sitting on a ladder-back chair in the veranda, staring at the azure sky, clear but of a pigeon hovering around something in the ground. Nothing was disturbing the stretch of the horizon except for a fruitless pomegranate tree with light twigs and nodding, cherry-red flowers.
Not even one bitter-sour pomegranate?
Whenever she sat with an eye on the tree, the figure of her grandmother would appear instantly: standing straight head, and her lengthy shawl exposing her appearance in a rather desperate manner, “Poor you, neither the weather nor the land are yours; it’ll be a stroke of luck if one of your flowers turns to a bitter-sour little pomegranate, barely hanging to fall down.”
A way to avoid a day
It was noon and the weather outside was hot and windless; something like being stuck in a steam bath, involuntarily. She did not notice her sweating face till a sudden waft shook the pomegranate leaves and drew away the spot she was gazing at. She drifted her left hand and wiped her forehead. The evening would carry a repeated scenario with a minor change: her 28 years old face. ‘If there is a way to avoid such a day and live the rest of the year to skip the same day again’, she thought while leaning her head on the chair, ‘that’ll be paradise!’
Penned thoughts in folded paper
Afternoons in solitude come to her evenly, and leave her in an occupied spirit: former talks and nights piece themselves out with verses and passages lugging since college days, fears and enough reasons to find regret somewhere. When she snapped out of a momentary reverie, she dredged up a note she wrote years ago. She didn’t doubt the thought of that note and ran the stairs to her room. She knew it was in a bag her mother had packed few years ago when they were preparing for her brother’s wedding. A mid-size, rather heavy bag with papers and books inside. She searched it in a rush and unfolded all the crumbled and folded papers.
Luck visited, the folded paper showed up, quite willingly:
If you are reading this, it means one of two: you’re ready to operate the manifesto or, shamefully, you are a curious hamster who is trying to sneak into my private papers. For both of you: you are led to this and therefore you are meant to read it, we don’t always suit the holes we dig for ourselves, do we? The manifesto won’t take much but a room to breathe, four statements and a thread should be found.
* The day is not meant to be lived in a constant tornado. If ever that happen; stop and sneak at the nearest clock then move to statement two;
* Time isn’t something to steal, either for good or bad, it should be fully under one’s own bare hand; concessions should be made but never ever with doubt and pain;
* Go back to ‘My Last Duchess’, you will find it in the fossil-coloured suitcase with a bunch of college booklets and secondary notes, it is an aide-memoire material backed with side notes. One thing to remember: at this point, even if you are older, they are not scribbles anymore;
* One’s intention should be a personal rehearsal: for no one is authored to meddle between a heart and a mind, rain or shine.
- The Attic, after lunch, June 2013
A story in there, somewhere…When she was reading the final line, the door downstairs had already closed. She folded the paper and pushed it back in the bag. She walked out of the room in hesitation; she felt an inner need, an instant need, to leave a note somewhere. A detailed note perhaps, she was sure that remembrance in the afternoons should not be passed over; for what she had experienced.
It wouldn’t come out with much; sometimes it is creeping scenes from school days or a recurring future day where she would not be able to finish a pocket-size novella. But she would still remember everything: the day, the way she found it, the weather, what happened before and thereafter, the pomegranate, her grandmother, even the side of shawl that was dangling or possibly lying dormant in the ground. That was more of a story, not a detailed note anymore. She stepped downstairs.The paper rushed and mingled itself in the marrow of the scene.He handed her an oversized bouquet of dahlias and roses, which covered his countenance.
Chicken or fish?
With a faint smile he looked at her hazily; whispering some love words and not long after taking his place in the sofa. “Fish or chicken?”, he asked, rolling his phone screen up and down. “Chicken,” she said confidently just to realise she was wrong, “oh… no, I mean fish. Today is fish yeah” she giggled nervously and disappeared in the kitchen with the fresh-looking dahlias and roses. She put the food in the dishes and called him up.
Time stood still
She couldn’t eat, or she couldn’t help herself to bask in the meal she had prepared. Fried king-fish, white rice and lentils soup with fresh parsley was all what she would chiefly need to call it a pleasing lunch. He, in contrary, instantly engrossed himself in chatters of office work; the food was too appetising no doubt. Amidst his talk, she triumphantly realised for the first time that the pomegranate was already a fine tree when they first moved to the house five years ago; yet, never had made one fruit, not even a bitter-sour pomegranate as her grandmother had fancied once.
On her 28th birthday, a woman found herself reading an old manifesto she had written some years back. A story about drifting thoughts of afternoons, and reading the present in old notes;
The story is actually of unfulfilled desires of a girl who has turned into a woman and still longing for something that is beyond her. “It is the constant feeling of being detached, unconnected, or even tired and burdened again because of her married life. It could be that the problem started years earlier than the day the story is told, but she was not able to figure out what was going on until that day when she found the paper. So the fruitless pomegranate reflects her spirit more than anything else,” says the author, Fatma Sibani.
© Fatma Al Sibani