Unquiet by Zohra Melik
Conventionally, when starting a story, one should have a vague notion of what he or she is going to write. Then, the pen glides upon the paper and lines appear in a beautiful or ugly script, filling the pages with words and sentences that may or may not make sense. Upon that final dot, their future consists of three different and sometimes risky paths: the bin, the book or the drawer.
For me, it’s mostly the drawer. They lay in wait, knowing fully that I can’t part with them, with words so hard to form and too-long sentences that don’t mean much in the end. The pen is discarded, the paper crumpled and my head is a mess; I can’t finish my stories. They come and go, with a beginning and a present so suffocating sometimes I lock the drawer and decide to erase my memory of those pages and paragraphs. I’m left blank. No beginning, no middle, no end. So I read instead. And I think.
Maybe too much.
Words are now jumbled, they race against each other, none of them winning while I’m left disoriented. Day in, day out, they intertwine. Meanwhile, I’m lost. I don’t know where to go. I start then stop. I yearn for something that leaves me blank then filled. I try to swim in ink but I’m left stained and I hate it.
I want to pray for elegant words and brilliant sentences but I lack both. I try to pray but my words flee, my thoughts stop. My mouth opens to utter something. No words come.
I always pressure myself to perfection, a goal no human can achieve. I always fear my weaknesses and failures, when I should fear nothing but Him.
I stutter and close my eyes. I try to comfort myself with words that bring me nothing. I try again, this time, I think of Him and Him alone. He is al-Aleem. He knows what I want to say, what I’m feeling and what my prayers are, even when they are not elegant words and brilliant sentences. He knows my pains and what leaves me speechless. I trust in Him hearing my wordless prayers, my jungle of thoughts, my soundless screams. He knows when my heart races and my thoughts hurt. I trust in Him and it’s calming.
My thoughts get clearer. The paper becomes more enticing. My eyes sharpen and I gaze at the pen I had abandoned so harshly. That’s when I realise.
When words pack and leave, when I turn toward Him, when I come back to the ink, it’s her I think about.
The pen itches and I’m tempted to pick it up again, to write wordlessly about her and her face. I see her shadow in my pen, a figure draped in her usual cream abaya and white hijab, a smile so wide and familiar, the tears just drop upon the page. Her tan wrinkly face lit up at every step we took, at every word we would scream, us children running around the house, declaring ourselves pirates or architects of our own lives and of our house.
I could write about writing or love, I could write about dragons and friends, but often I write about her, her gentle smile that embodied happiness, her snores that could awaken a village, her soft skin and that greeting I delayed. Delaying… Do I write to delay our goodbye?
“L’waqt l’waqt,” Baba proclaimed – or reassured himself. L’waqt is Time and we will all die.
“L’waqt” is all I chant now. “L’waqt” thrums in my blood and flies inside me. It’s always there, in my head, on my lips, when I go to school or to work, when I’m in sujood, when I look out the window to see the calm and loneliness of death at our doors. I smile at them and watch as winter comes, summer goes, autumn falls upon the graves and the dying lay in rest.
I just lied to you. Partially, I suppose.
Time is Time and I sometimes forget. I get wrapped up in my pen, paper and ink. I forget the unforgettable because I want to forget her. I get sucked in my swirling thoughts and in things that eat my energy and my time. I try to avoid any thoughts of her, but she comes back with a force when my hand grips a pen. When I think of time, I think of her, and it’s only now that I can think of time and think of Him alone.
He called for her, He will call for me. He will call for you too.
Time is time and it confuses. It passes and leaves me wondering, plundering books to put words on feelings. I search and travel through stories, I let it trickle and pass quickly. Sadness slowly deserts my memories and lets dread take over me. I’m afraid of time and of its offspring. I’m afraid to let it pass and do nothing.
When Baba said “L’waqt”, he was smiling. Time is Time, it comes and it takes, Time is a friend and not an enemy. When the Time comes, the meeting will take place. We’re aware of it, we’re readying ourselves for it, what more is there to want but this warning?
I don’t know Baba, but I’m restless.