By Shaker Al-Ashwal
Sunlight pierced through the fabric of the dark-colored curtains filling the room with morning’s light. Voices of people mixed with the sounds of car engines and their noisy repetitive horns outside were getting louder and louder making it harder for Naji to sleep longer. A distinctive voice managed to outreach Naji’s ears as it did every morning before that: Taiz Radio. On this particular morning, it was Abdulbasit Abdulsamed, an Egyptian Quran reciter who is well known for his beautiful voice and inspirational tone.
He opened his eyes slightly to look at his watch, the shorter hand pointed to 8. He should have gotten up quickly or jumped out of bed as to not be late for work; but instead, he slowly got out of bed lethargically walking towards the bathroom to wash his face and get ready for the day.
He strolled sluggishly with eyes half shut, and his feet, which had memorized the way, lead him to the bathroom. There, in the room that never saw sunlight, he placed his hand on the light switch, but the magic of electricity did not appear.
He switched on and off again, but to no avail. “The children must have broken it”, he thought, “or could it be worse!” If only it was just a broken switch that would have easily been fixed. This is a problem that cannot be resolved except by the Minister of Electricity, or Parliament or the constellation of ministers; by the President himself, or perhaps by God, the most merciful.
“Bilqis!” “Where is the candle?” “ Where is the match?” “Where is the lantern?” He shouted.
The terrible reality began to settle and he realized that nothing has changed from yesterday. His pupils widened amidst the darkness of the bathroom and he washed his face in a hurry in preparing for the new day. A day where the unforgiving sun rises, where hunger attacks without care, where men fight and the articulate become silenced, and the mute speaks with shocking clarity.
In a hurry, Naji scurried out of the bathroom towards his bedroom. He stood in front of the his closet bewildered lingering in thought whether to wear “tribal” or “civil” clothes. Which belt will he wear? The belt of the precious jambya (dagger) he inherited from his father decorated with Sayfani head [made of rhino’s horn]; or the Chinese belt made of counterfeit leather that he runs through his loose trousers exaggerating his slim body.
He has to quickly and wisely calculate what he would wear based on who would see him and whether he would pass by the manager’s office or not. He wondered weather the citizens who will come to his office for service will be wearing foutah and jambya (tribal attire) or trousers and shirts. He would try to match his customers, his manager but on this particular day he decided to wear his grey trousers.
His hands approached the gently folded pair of grey trousers. It was the same pair of trousers he wore the day before. The grey color had mixed with particles of dust adding a white layer that turned yesterday’s grey into a new color between grey and light brown.
With that act Naji had decided to have a grey day, just like the day before, without changing anything in himself or his clothes.
As Naji went out towards the door of the apartment, his wife shouted behind him “wait for breakfast”, he opened the door while the voice of his wife continued echoing. Naji mechanically jumped over the curvy stairs carved his memory.
He went ahead towards the door in a hurry longing for air as he made his way through the dark humid staircase in the old house he lives in.
Shaker Al-Ashwal (Lashuel) is a Yemeni-American freelance writer who has written extensively about social, educational and political subjects affecting Yemenis in Yemen and the U.S. In the past two years, he has published more than thirty short stories.Français
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