Friday, February 28, 2014
The Days and Nights of Fatima, Part 1 of a Bedouin Trilogy
"May Allah blacken your face" shouted her husband, Muhammad, from a nearby tent.
Fatima was anxious, and when she's anxious she's prone to flatulence. One of her virulent farts almost killed her 3-year old daughter Tufaha as she slept in her mother's bosom.
The source for her anxiety was tomorrow's trip to the city to see a doctor about Tufaha's persistent cough.
Give the girl a cigarette! urged Um-Muhammad, her mother-in-law and aunt. It will burn the germs in her throat and make her feel better. Fatima gave her daughter many cigarettes, but to no avail. For extra effectiveness, she recited the Quran while Tufaha smoked, then she tried placing the Quran itself on Tufaha's head while Tufaha puffed on a Marlboro red. She tried piling on two Qurans and then three on the girl's head, she even added a candle on top of the Qurans, but nothing happened. Tufaha's subborn cough persisted.
Fatima's life ended when Tufaha's began.
No ululations would pierce the desert silence on the night of her birth.
When Muhammad learned that his first child was a girl he threatened to bury her alive in the sand. Um-Muhammad intervened that day and convinced her son to keep the girl on account of the dowry she would fetch one day. He acquiesced, but showed his disgust by referring to the young baby as "Zagga", Bedouin for turd.
Fatima decided to name her daughter Tufaha, on account of her reddish face reminding her of an apple, a rare fruit she once received as a gift from her visiting uncle, Nizo Abu Issa, a renowned poet among the Bedu.
Muhammad's anger grew exponentially every day that Fatima wouldn't fall pregnant with the boy he so desperately wanted.
A year after Tufaha's birth, Um-Muhammad convinced her son to take a second wife, a cross-eyed cousin by the name of Fassoulya.
Fassoulya fell pregnant on the first night, and nine months later she produced a boy, Salem who looked just like his father, complete with a singular, thick eyebrow.
Ever since, Muhammad would share his tent with Fassoulya and their little boy, while Fatima slept with Tufaha in the goat enclosure.
Fatima drew the curtain separating her from the goats and looked up at the moon. The fresh air filled her nostrils and helped calm her nerves. She shielded Tufaha from the outside air with her bosom, and kissed her head softly, wetting her lips on the rivulets of sweat that ran down the girl's forehead. She poured herself a finjan of cardamom-spiced coffee that had been left on the dying embers of the day's fire.
Looking up at the moon, she recited a poem her uncle Nizo Abu Issa had taught her.
I sat by myself here
Under the light of the moon
Where no eye sees me
Far from genies and humans
My eye doesn't weep
For a lover who left me
For my loyal lover is here
Sitting on the hot coals
I never experienced love
Neither from the Bedouin or the city Arabs
My only love is coffee
Since my young days
I poured myself a cup from him
And my frustrations melted
He accompanied me throughout the night
Until the moon vanished
قعدت بروحي هين
تحت ضوء القمر
ما تشوفني عين
بعيد عن جان وبشر
ما تنوح العين
على خل هجر
خلي الوفي هين
ما جاني حب
من ورا بدو أو حضر
حبي الوحيد ألبن
من أيام الصغر
صبيت منه فنجان
ذوب عني القهر
سامرني طول الليل
حتى غياب القمر
Tomorrow we go see the doctor, oh Allah facilitate matters and clear obstacles.
Labels: The Days and Nights of Fatima