31 March 2010

A Woman's Place

Hanady's voice was barely a whisper in the night. A sad voice, a voice with no body attached to it... I could tell she had been crying before, for a sob escaped over the phone line, secretly inserted between her words. 'I didn't know who else to call, Khulud.' I could hear the screams of a baby from a distance, and another child sobbing and breathing heavily close to the phone.
I remember Hanady from the university. A young woman... no, barely a woman. A girl trying to be a woman. In the second year of our studies I noticed a thick gold band on her finger... an invisible shackle... but she didn't know it then. She walked the dark corridors of the university, an Arabian princess, unawares. Dark curly hair, big olive eyes, smiling eyes. Expensive clothes from her fiancé, and every now and then a new, thick gold bracelet or a necklace... more shackles, until her body felt too heavy under the weight, but she still walked the university like an Arabian princess... smiling, the whole world under her feet...
That's how I remember Hanady.
Her fiancé, I heard, was an important business man, something with importing or exporting or something like that. From Nazareth. Good family. Rich family. Did she marry him for love? Or for money? Or because she was twenty two and it was time? Or was it an arranged marriage?
Don't know, doesn't matter now.
Everything is gone now.
What's left is a house to clean, long hours alone in the dark house, a meal to cook from scratch, a bruise over the left thigh, another under the eye... the left eye or the right eye? This week it's the left eye, but last week it was the right one... a sore arm from hitting the wall... a broken bone...
Then, as if that were not enough, two babies... born one year apart. Teeth that hurt at night, one already pulled, more to be taken care of. A few white hairs that seem to multiply too fast. Hanady's hair isn't curly anymore... she has ceased to be an Arabian princess, unawares...
Hanady isn't even a woman anymore... she only breathes, and walks, and cleans, and cooks, and cares for her babies...
There is no Hanady anymore...
Hanady doesn't live here anymore... not in this house, not in this body...

p.s. I wrote this short piece a few years back, after receiving a phone call from a woman I studied with at the university. As far as I know, her husband still abuses her and she lives an unhappy life. She calls me about once a year to pour her heart out and to draw some strength to go on.

24 March 2010

Nulla Dies Sine Linea - Progress Log Entry no. 1

Ok so this is my first entry of my “Progress Log.” Supposed to rapidwrite my progress in writing. So I’ve started reading the “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain” to overcome my writing block and to write more effectively. Mainly – to write. What I’ve learned so far is that I need to learn how to separate the two functions of the right and left side of the brain. First – let the music, rhythm and voice out through the right side of the brain. This usually happens as we use rapidwriting and don’t let the critic come between the finger and the keyboard. After that – and when the time is ripe – let the critic in to do all the editing, rewriting and crossing out. Sounds logical, especially as I am writing at the moment in this very way. Not paying any heed to the critic. Not thinking too much. And it’s going pretty well because the fact is that I wrote what I wrote until now in less than 4 minutes. Usually it would take me at least half an hour to write a paragraph this long. But this is different, because here and now I’m not really concerned with any metaphors or fresh language. Only letting my thoughts roam.

As far as my novel? And its progress? Well, I haven’t written for a while. I don’t really know where the novel is going. Don’t have a story line yet. I mean I’ve got the dilemmas and I know more or less the political orientation of Maisoon and Ziyad – but how in the hell am I going to make it be felt in the novel? I can’t just write “she thinks this and he thinks that.” It has to be played out in real-life scenes. In their actions. In their dreams. In their inner monologues and their dialogues with each other.

One way to go about it is just write the scenes I’ve already got, separately, and then try to do some sort of pasting or putting them together. But this doesn’t seem right to me, as I need to know the chronological order because I want the two characters to grow somehow in their realizations or understandings. At first, they are complete opposites in their political understandings, but I want them to come closer. The same goes for Maisoon’s father – first an alienation of her from him, she doesn’t understand anything about him, doesn’t know he’d been a political activist in his youth. Then she starts putting the pieces together – learning somehow about his activism, his theater, his poetry, his dream of being an actor and a poet (both? Why not, we’ll see). Ok, so there’s an idea. This can be the story line – Maisoon’s search for understanding what happened to that “subjugated” generation of her father and their dreams.

And then, parallel to this, I can have her political development – from being mere “errand runner” when she drives the kids to hospitals and goes to olive harvests to becoming something else. Another kind of political activist.

And then parallel to her development we have Ziyad – who’s the farthest of all in all of this, and his search for his own identity: who is he?

And lastly, we have Layla, Maisoon’s mother – and her dreams. I need a dream for her. A dream of education. She can be the “three times oppressed woman.”

Great. This progress log has already helped me clear some of the clutter. I even feel like continuing to write but I don’t know what to write. Tomorrow I will be reading chapter four of “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain” and will be doing the exercises in the chapter. Looking forward to it actually, as when I did the rapid writing, it really felt good though my arm began to hurt (I did that exercise and the first one also in my notebook no. 4).

I will let the new thoughts about the characters and this story line of their political development / understanding / awakening sink in for a few days and think of way how to write it. Maybe parallel chapters – going back and forth with Maisoon. Alternating the chapters between her and her parents, her and Ziyad, and just her. Maisoon being the threading link between all the characters. And I almost forgot – I need that one character from a refugee camp. Now this will be difficult. Do I want him fanatic? Do I want a tragic end for him? Does Maisoon fall for him? Will that be too much? Not if it’s a 600 page book. And also – do I want just one character? That wouldn’t be doing justice. Maybe I need a contra character to him. Someone who’s lost a loved one but turned to non-violent resistance? Wow, this is complex – but at the same time I’m getting excited. Very much! At the prospect of this creation. Yes, I feel mature as a writer. I feel confident that I can do it.

I’ve written almost two pages in less than half an hour. This proves how fertile my brain is when I decide to put the thoughts into actual words black on white. I feel exhilaration just at writing this. So how does it feel to actually be writing the novel? Complete ecstasy! Energy. I forget my own tiredness and how tired my body feels. I even forget – if only for a little while – the pressures of my work and all the tasks I have. It’s pure pleasure. Tomorrow I will find the time to read that chapter four and to do the exercises. Maybe even do a bit of writing “Life in Fragments.”

3 March 2010

Glimpses of an Ordinary Night in Haifa

The place: not a very secure neighborhood, upper story, one room apartment with an attached roof three times the size of the apartment.
The people: four students, two men and two women, all in their late twenties, three of them Arabs, one Jew.
Time: about 23:20, I'm already high from smoking marijuana, and so I'm not so sure about the time.
I'm half sitting, half lying on the mattress, listening to their souls... through music...
Happiness? Or is it sadness?
Do we miss these moments even as they are occurring?
If they last too long,... it will become too painful.
These fingers; are they expressing what the soul is saying?
Are we in music lost?
Do we lose total control in music? Does music become us?
Tayseer taps his fingers on the guitar as if it were a durbakky... desire... it is making love to the music...
Maybe actually we become in music...
We are music!
I hear your soul through the music!
It is angry... or maybe the feelings lose their names as they become sounds...?
I wonder if you can see the sounds enter my body and become one with it...
Each instrument you take in your hands – becomes you.
The sound of it enters into you and becomes one with you... you become the music and the sound...

The music stops suddenly, we smoke another joint of marijuana and drink some more red wine. Ehab, who studied law at a college for two years only to quit and now studies theater at Haifa University and writes plays, said: "Music takes on different colors." After that, silence... more smoking, they all laugh at something I didn't hear, and then they continue playing.
Yes, I think it does... it wears all colors of the rainbow...
But it also climbs mountains. And it makes you climb the mountain with it, and does not let go of you. You are forced to climb with the music, until again you become the music's colors... and then, you become the music...

Maybe I am to live for music...
Maybe I am to dance for music...

You will create music for me... and I will live through it... I will be born through it.
You will give birth to me, until I become the sound, the music, and the colors... and I will be your woman!
My body is the instrument, and my soul contains the strings. You are playing me... playing the strings of my soul...

Now the music becomes two colors, two sounds, together, but distinct... making love.
The one – strong, firm...
The other – soft... softer: an echo.
The softer one becomes louder now, trying to be heard, trying to remain in control.
But the first one doesn't give in, and takes over now completely.

And now... and now... now I feel like making love to you like these two colors and sounds...

They have stopped playing again, and are now talking, and I am wrapped up in my words... hiding my desires and feelings within the pages of my notebook.
I hide them from all to see.
I want my thoughts kept to myself... please, don't touch my thoughts, it is a volcano!

A woman. Nurit. Now she has taken the djembe and started playing.
A woman... seducing me? Can I face it? She is playing music... for me...
But... Tayseer is fighting for me, he is playing louder now and faster... or is he trying to seduce... her?
She is falling for his music, now their rhythms are falling together, in perfect harmony.
Is he playing for her, or... for me?
I don't know. The music reached its peak, and so did we all, and with exhaustion, the music faded and stopped. But! Tayseer starts playing again, softly this time, scooting his body closer to mine, and looking at me, caressing my face with his soft music... A man.

I went out to the roof to take some fresh air, leaving my blue notebook open on the mattress, with the pen next to it. Ehab and Tayseer were sitting on the edge of the roof, smoking and talking. Nurit stayed inside by herself. I think that I willed this situation, where she can have a chance to glimpse into my notebook, and... maybe... comment on the last lines.

You are reading me... me the ink. And Tayseer is outside on the roof. Walked out of me for a moment? Left me with you. Is he giving me a chance to be with you alone? Or does he want to see if I let you read me? And I thought this was going to be a night of making love to you... but it turned out to be much more than that.
Is a woman walking into my life? If she is reading me...

'Writing here feels as if I'm violating your sacred stream of consciousness... are you going to come here any minute now... the tension... help... you've seen me... writing in your notebook... I'm caught inside your net... it's frightening... I have to let go...'

The notebook is in my hands again.
She has to let go... her last sentence.
Is she telling me no? Is this rejection? The ultimate loss of any chance?
I have loosened a piece of thread for her, and she has let go of it...
I let her read my feelings! I let her read... me!
Now she sees everything.

'I am drawn to her words like a magnet. Her words are so powerful. Can anyone write such beautiful words...? She is a true artist, because she writes herself into the paper.'

I don't understand sometimes... anything... do people ever let go of their shackles?
Do they let themselves be who they truly are? Or do they have to be what they want to be?

I am just I.
I cannot be not I.
This is who I am.
What you see is me.
I am glass...
You can see through my body and into my soul...
I don't hide my desires towards him,
I don't hide them towards you.

And now you are playing music... for yourself? Or to seduce me... again?

Or is all this seducing happening only in my mind? Maybe to her it is only music... maybe she doesn't see the colors... or feel the sounds... maybe she is oblivious of all this. Unaware?

I let the notebook lay close to her, but she only read it... didn't pick up the pen to write anything.

So you have nothing to say. You go back to the music in order to avoid writing down your feelings.
Because if you see them on paper – your feelings – that will mean they are out of you.
That means you can't control them anymore. They are out there. It might mean that I will know...
But I do know!
Maybe you don't know yet.
You are not letting go of your feelings.
Maybe that is the smart thing to do.
But I don't think when it comes to my feelings. They are there, inside, and I let them be.
I let them out, because they desire to escape.
Oh, woman! How much more you make me feel than a man. He couldn't make me feel what I feel with you!
So... what is this feeling? I only know it exists... but I don't know what it is...
Are you again seducing me with music? And with your body moving to the rhythm of your music?...
I don't know where this is going. Tomorrow, you will not be here. But that doesn't mean anything. You have entered my soul and given me new experiences and new emotions that I will carry with me always...
Tomorrow you will not be here, and I will stay with Tayseer.

I feel like making love with you... Tayseer... now...
I leaned toward him and let him read this last line.
This line is...me. This is the real me. The me who never hesitates to express desires or feelings.

I saw Nurit on a few more occasions after that, but I never felt those intense emotions with her again. Maybe it was a one-time experience... or maybe just the influence of marijuana. But nevertheless, I am glad I experienced those emotions, for I discovered new things about myself.

One night, and a lifetime of feelings... this is what I live for – complete freedom of feelings... complete freedom of thoughts.


After that night, I discovered – for the first time – that writing can be dangerous.
I also found out that just as I hide behind my words and my writing, he hides behind his music. But, like Nurit, some people decide to ignore the emotions boiling inside them and screaming to be let out. Instead, they repress them even deeper. But not us. We are aware of them, and release them. I on the paper, with my words; he into his passion for music. And this is the very reason why he is so hypnotizing when he plays... because his soul gets tangled up in it as well, not just his fingers. This is the secret of great artists. That they express their emotions, desires, and fears in their art.


how can i tell my feelings
not to,
when they do
how can i ask my heart
not to,
when it so desires to?

1 March 2010

To my Invisible Readers

Dear Invisible Readers,
we think there are some certainties in our lives that we can count on. small ones. like the fact that my two dogs will knock me down with their love every time I come home. or the fact that my daughter - at 15 - will still call me every night to cuddle up with her, hug her and stay by her bedside for a while. or the fact that the blog we enjoy reading will be there tomorrow as well.

Well, guess what? there are no certainties in life. the other day I came home and both of my dogs were sleeping on the sofa, neither of them jumping to greet me. they were just enjoying a lazy evening - and who can blame them, really? with my daughter, I'm sure a night will come when she won't call me, though I dread that night, because that will be the night that she will cease to be my little girl, and become her own person. but of course it's a most natural process, and I will embrace it when the moment arrives.

as for blogs - I received an email a week ago from a friend of mine asking me "what happened to your blog? It won't open." well, for private reasons, I decided to change the URL (the web address) of my blog. I didn't think much of it, as I thought I only had a handful of readers. well, guess again. Today another friend of mine asked me: "why did you delete your blog?" apparently, she received an email from a woman who reads my blog asking her how come I "closed my blog".

every now and then I meet a friend and she would refer to something I wrote on my blog, and I am taken aback each time to learn how many women (and men) read my blog.

- [I kinda' forgot the whole point of this post, so please bear with me]

anyway, now that I know I have many more readers than I thought, I feel more responsibility... for what, I have no idea.... maybe for the contents?? Or the frequency of posting?? Hey, I need help here...

for those who are not that familiar with the format of the blog - it allows you to post comments at the end of each post, and you can post the comments anonymously or through your google account. I'd really like to read your comments and feedback, what you would like to read more about, what you don't like, or if you have any ideas. because it's true that first and foremost I write because writing is my life. But for that, I have my own personal journal where I write all my personal thoughts - my own desires, fears, lusts, grievances. but here, in this public format, I write because I think it's important to make my voice heard. though I write about personal issues, they are also political.

- [ok I'm writing this at 3:25 in the morning, and have no idea whether I'm making any sense]

In short, just leave me your comments and let me know your thoughts. for more personal thoughts, you're more than welcome to send me a personal email to khulud.kh@gmail.com.