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Muhammad A. Al Mahdi

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The Enemy's Eyes
By Muhammad A. Al Mahdi
Friday, March 17, 2006

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Short Story

The body beside you stirs and the night laughs the laughter of a hyena. A grey, torn, ragged, acid laughter.

The suburb-riddled city a hundred thousand miles away from reality cradles you in her nightmarish wide-awake unrestful silence and your breath is a throat-slit bleeding driven horse. Your sleep is that of a man who knows the knife is already in his back.

The body beside you is ignorant of your knowledge of it. It is ignorant of its own ignorance of you. It is a clump of flesh. Under your eyes, still alive, it turns rotten meat.

In this moment you know you have no mercy in you. This body lying beside you, moulded in the shapes of feminity, harbours a knife under its breath. That very knife.

You have injected your blood into her. You ploughed her like a farmer ploughs red earth. You travelled her like a nomad travels the path to the water well, your eyes white birds of the horizon like those of the nomads of the sea.

She has been a tool in the hands of the enemy implanted into your heart so as to poison it. She was a device for your destruction.

You suspected it for a long time. When you saw the ultimate proof of it your eyes turned cold and underneath your heart you felt the burning bitter taste of vomit.

Your teeth are wolfish fangs, bare and sharp. Your thoughts are steel nets. You mirror the world into which you came.

You will cut her throat with a razor blade, thin and incisive like the prolonged nail of your right hand's little finger. When the flesh parts like the waves of the Red Sea, every emotion is absent. It is like killing a bird, a chicken, a lamb. Nothing is easier than to kill. A few mechanic movements, short, sharp, deep and with precision. Nothing is easier.

You have no choice. Not anymore.

You wish you could feel something. Just to feel her, the death in her, the flesh into which you carve your defence. The humanity in her, the pain. You can't. This is the world in which you live.

Long since you have learnt to trust the stranger and expect betrayal of those close to you. You have learnt to detect its seed in the inconsistencies in their words, the hidden flicker in their eyes, the question mark in the wrong place, the prolonged pause between question and answer. You have learnt that with people it is always the worst suspicion that turns out to be true . Could there have been anything that still surprised you?

The night. The eyes of the enemy. Yes. Those eyes. Think back, back then, back where you came from. Back at the enemy's eyes.

That night when their lives were in your hands for a few life-long, never-ending minutes. One of them a woman. The only one you noticed. Her eyes. Eyes dark as the moon, with the breath-taking beauty of the mellow, haunting kaleidoscopic instantwhen life turns full circle, eyes wide as the sea, eyes that have watched your people die in Sabra and Shatila, eyes that didn't blink at the sight of dead bodies piled up by the invading troops of the occupation during the second Intifada when we were forbidden to bury them. Our towns and villages then were filled with the threatening, menacing smell of disintegration. Her eyes looked on. The thought tears your brain like an abdomenal pain: They looked on b e c a u s e   y o u   s p a r e d  them. Then, in that moment when they were in your hand. Eyes warm as sunlight, so full of longing, so full of craving, so full of hunger or life. In a dark whisper they communicated only one word: Let me live! A child was sleeping in her lap. Eyes like her own. Smaller. Innocent.

Your entire life consists of this moment. You keep on living it through, remembering, reenacting, recapitulating it. Again and again. In your innermost abyss there is nothing but those eyes. And the mad, helpless overpowering will to protect her. And to protect the child, this child's eyes, this child's innocence. The smile on your lips by which you are trying to calm her. The words that escape from underneath your tongue, unsolicitedly: Don't be afraid, sister, don't be afraid! Her fear that increases at the moment they are spoken. Her eyes beseech you: Let me live! The power of which you are aware in this moment. The desire that rises from deep within you surging up into your innermost, the desire known to him who has faced death -his own and that of others-: the darkest power in man. Strong and intoxicant, a fire from ancient days, descendant of animalic depths. The fire that caused accursed Hind to tear out and swallow Hamza's liver (r.a.). The urge to take that which remains of your enemy and make it your own, drinking the wine of the defeated, fallen, defenceless enemy's humiliation and get drunk with it. Drunk with hatred. Drunk with vengeance. Drunk with darkness.

Your heart, your blood, your madness, like a dhikr, chanted the words: Sabra, Shatila, Dweimah, Deir Yassin, An-Nakba, An-Nakba, An-Nakba; the shots, the wounds and the tears, the silence, the grave, my country, my earth...and this heart, your heart, may Allah forgive you, burned with desire for this woman. And with the desire for her suffering and her blood.

She is yours. Now she is in your hand. Now it is you. Now.

You turned your face . You spat out. A sweetish odour from within your entrails seized your throat. Your angrily averted eyes, suppressed like a curse under your breath become their saviours. Dismissing any explanation with sluggish defiance, you didn't strike, that's all.

You saved her life, the life of the child, the lives of those you didn't see.

The army arrived. You were arrested at gunpoint. You felt the Uzi's cold steel in your chest, your skeleton, your back. They drove you across town like a captured animal. For everyone to admire.

You can't forget her eyes.

This life you lived is nothing for the ears of children. The pain of your days and your nights is deafening. Now again. Now.

In a conspirative conversation with your shadow your lips, like burnt cadavers, form the words: "The world in which we live is absurd. Allah is punishing us and we don't even realise how much. HE punished us by turning us into disfigured, ridiculously distorted caricatures of ourselves; friend and enemy, coloniser and colonised, invader and invaded, man and woman alike-- into monkeys on sticks, and you curse the word "freedom", the word "justice", the word "home", the word "honour", the word "love". And you make the night your home.

In the morning they will find you. Cold and lifeless beside a body with a slit throat.

 

And, startled from a nightmare, the fallen hero said: "One day, when friend’s and enemy's remains, a centuries-covering layer of dust, in the decay of their bones shall find themselves all melted into one and, in it, shall gradually witness the antagonisms of their being diminish, we shall be remembered as casualties of history and rest."



 


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