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A Wall

Taleb Alrefai


I remember that evening when my father started writing on my bedroom wall. He repeated with anger on his face: ‘Concentrate.’

I was an only child. He was trying to teach me the 8-times-table, but I was unable to learn it. Suddenly, he said to me, ‘Give me a pencil.’

He began writing the 8-times-table on the wall near my bed, before he turned to me with his lovely black beard and said, ‘Look, there is no book nor notebook, the 8-times-table is now near your head.’

Ever since that evening, a new relationship was born between me and that wall. My mother shouted at me when she saw the writing on the wall, and she argued with my dad. ‘It seems that you are still living in the Stone-Age.’

But he looked to her without saying anything. When she moved a way, he smiled to me and said, ‘Ignore her.’

Many years passed then my father died, but the words remained on the wall. The wall was covered with scribbles of small ‘Quranic’ verses, some of the ‘Hadith’, times-tables, some aphorisms, and my exam dates.

Last summer as I returned home from a long day at university and while having lunch together, my Mom sneaked a sentence trying to mask its importance. ‘We must find a new house.’

Her sentence shocked me. I stopped eating and I starred at her not knowing what to say. She added, ‘Your uncle helped me. I have sold the house for a good price, and I need your signature on the sales contract.’

A heavy silence came to sit with us. I got up and left her sitting alone, throwing my words, ‘I will not sign.’

That night sadness filled me. My memories came alive. I was unable to close my eyes. I kept asking myself; how can I leave my house and my dear wall? I looked to my father's hand writing. The words gazed at me. Many voices came to me, and moments of my life flashed in front of me.

A strange idea whispered to me; how can you sleep near a new bald wall? I kept thinking and when drowsiness pulled my eyelids I imagined that all the words left the wall and jumped into bed with me.

Early morning I told my Mom, ‘I will not sign the contract.’

‘I sold the house,’ she replied.

Before adding another word, I shouted, ‘This is your problem.’ I confirmed my determination and said, ‘I will not leave my wall.’

‘Wall? You are crazy!’ She shouted, ‘Shame on you, a young man attached to an old grim wall!’

I felt insulted by her words. I stopped myself saying rude words to her, so I repeated, ‘I will not sign.’

‘I can’t understand how you think!’ she said with anger and added; ‘Your fanatic dad is the reason. Like father like son.’

‘Shut up.,’ I shouted at her. I remember her fight with my father when she refused to wear ‘Hijab’. I also remembered my Dad’s words:

‘Your mother is a rebellious woman; she disobeys her husband’s orders.’

For a whole week, she kept explaining to me the necessity of moving to a new house, trying to push me to sign the contract but I was stuck to the same response: ‘I will not.’

She asked me with anger: ‘How does a young man become a slave to the past?’

I ignored her ridiculous question.

Upon my mother’s request, my uncle brought a civil engineer and a contractor one week later. I sat in my room silently watching them. The engineer and the contractor checked the wall from inside and outside; the concrete, the thickness, the height. They repeatedly felt the wall’s surface by their fingertips. Finally the engineer talked to my uncle: ‘Yes, I can move the wall without any damages.’

My uncle looked at me and said: ‘I solved your problem.’

The engineer explained to me: ‘It will be a difficult job, but we can move your bedroom wall intact to the new house, and fix it there.’

He turned to my uncle and completed: ‘We will separate this wall from the adjacent walls. Then cover it with a special thick cotton cloth, then a plastic roll, before carrying it by a crane.’ The engineer spoke with confidence: ‘Then, we will dig under the wall’s beam until reaching the foundation then cut the column’s neck, and finally separate the wall and carry it on a special carrier to the new house’

The engineer requested a large sum of money, and justified this by saying: ‘The job is difficult and requires both great care and trained workers.’

He suddenly turned to me, saying: ‘It is rare for a young man like you to be so attached an old brick!’

I didn’t like his sentence. I told him: ‘I'll pay you the full amount only if you transfer and fix it safely. I agree.’

He replied with confidence: ‘Done.’

But my Mom raised her voice sharply talking to me: ‘The amount will be deducted from your share’

‘Fine,’ I said, to stop her from adding another word.

The engineer came to our house accompanied by the contractor. They checked the architectural and civil drawings, went up to the roof, and checked the wall from outside, and he told me: ‘We start the job tomorrow.’

Again, my mother talked to me, ‘For the last time I have to tell you: this is craziness.’

Our eyes met and I replied: ‘It is up to me.’

I left her with her anger and went to the university. I saw Ail my childhood friend in the mosque, and I told him: ‘I will take my bedroom wall with me to my new house.’

‘Good idea.’ he replied.

When the contractor began working, I was pleased to see the caution with which he worked while separating the wall from the ceiling. I followed every step with much fear in my heart. Firstly the contractor wrapped the wall with a cotton cloth, then a layer of sponge, then a white cloth, then a layer of plastic, then protected the wall by a net of wooden beams from inside and outside, then hanged it onto the crane, before the drilling process to reach the foundations.

I started sweating when I heard the drilling machine work under the wall. Ali stayed close to me all the time, until the engineer said the sentence: ‘The wall is free.’

The process of transferring the wall went well. My precious wall arrived safely to our new house, wrapped with a white cloth. The contractor began the process of excavation, and the calculations of the actual measurements for the length, width and height of the wall. He then constructed a concrete column on each side, and then casted a reinforced concrete beam which the wall will stand on. When the engineer came to check the works, he looked at me and said, ‘All went as planned. The wall will stay as it is for a while.’

The wall remained silent in its white coffin for three days. When my mother saw it she said disturbed, ‘Only crazy people love dead things!’

As if I didn’t hear her words, I spent all the time imagining my beloved wall in its new location. I was counting the hours to see its presence in my new house. The days passed slowly till the engineer called me. ‘Tomorrow we will unveil the wall’s face.’

To witness the rebirth of the wall, I invited Ali. I wished my father was still alive. As the contractor started removing the cover from the wall, something happened to me. I could not stand on my feet! The old ancient crust of my precious wall came out with the cotton cover. I could not believe my eyes. All I could see was black cement bricks with smudges distorted here and there.

Dizziness struck me and buzzing in my ears followed. I heard the crying and screaming of my beloved words. I couldn’t explain the look on my mother’s face. My friend Ali held my hand and with a sympathizing voice said:

‘Come with me.’



紅蜘蛛
1 year, 6 months ago
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