Sharing the second excerpt of the work-in-progress, tentative title Mourning. This piece has been emotionally difficult to write, as the character is a survivor of sexual molestation.
You can read the first excerpt at: https://khuludkhamis.com/2016/11/05/mourning-work-in-progress/
I walk out to the garden, seeking a few alone moments. It is practically impossible to mourn someone – really mourn – in such a small place. Every moment of the day is bursting with words, hugs, faces coming and going in blurs, tears, more words, more hugs, more faces and tears. The sounds and colours change, but it’s the same scene repeating itself throughout the day.
When my eyes adjust to the darkness, I notice I am not alone in my search for quiet. Hamed is standing under my lemon tree, the one Mama and I had planted. When he hears me approach, he turns around slowly, his body reflecting all the heaviness of his sorrow. Is it possible for grief to physically make a person smaller? In the small space between us, just enough to fit a child, I can sense the intolerable absence of both Mama and Baba. I dig my toes in the earth to find my centre.
“I think I will leave this place now,” the words are out before I can stop them. Hamed doesn’t respond. I wait for his protest, but it doesn’t come. Instead, he almost knocks the wind out of me when he finally speaks, in a voice uncharacteristically soft, half stating a fact half asking a question, “It’s because of Hisham …”
I don’t know if he knows, and if he does, I don’t know what he knows, so I don’t answer. I turn my back to him and watch the empty street. “Because of what he did to you,” he finally speaks. I turn around to face him. It’s not possible that someone – anyone – knows. “What did he do to me, Hamed?” No, this can’t be. I pray he tells me some stupid thing, something that Hisham pulled on me as a mean joke. But at the same time, I know. I want the earth to swallow me whole, alive, now.
“I saw him … touching you … one time.”
“Why didn’t you stop it then?!” I scream at him, the rage inside me unfurling like a seething hurricane.
“Why didn’t you?” He barks back at me. In the darkness, I see his fingers curling into two tight fists. There is sudden silence between us, loud and screaming in my ears. I hold my head between my hands. I rush to the corner of the garden and throw up. Hamed is right there, behind me, immediately, holding back my hair with one hand. I feel the warmth of his other hand over my shoulder, almost touching. Touch me, brother, I want to say, but the bile rises in my throat again.
After that, we sit on the grass for a long time, side by side, in intense silence. Two bodies, born of the same father and mother, intimate but distance. Neither of us knows how to go on from here. My body longs for his touch, the brotherly intimacy I never knew. He lights a cigarette, and I reach out my hand for it. He doesn’t protest, although he’s never seen me smoke. He lights another one for himself. Finally, I shift my weight and rest my head on his shoulder. It’s solid from working out, warm, sweaty, and it feels like home is supposed to feel. In this family, where intimacy and physical expressions of love between brother and sister, between father and daughter, have been absent, maybe because we grew up without mama, maybe because of some other reasons, I sense his muscles tensing up, and it’s a whole minute before he finally, clumsily, puts his arm around me and holds me to his chest.
“I’ve messed up, Hayati. I should have protected you,” the words are whispered into my hair. I hold my breath. Oh, Hamed, where has your shoulder been all these years? I want to say something to him, but I don’t know the words and I don’t even know how it should feel to love a brother, or be loved by one. Could this be the beginning of us as sister and brother? Can we erase what has been, undo the damage, and could I ever forgive him?
(c) khulud khamis | April 2017.
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Very moving: are you still writing this?
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thank you so much. I have taken a break from this manuscript following the death of my dear mama. it’s shelved for now, but i do have the feeling i will return to it one day.