10 April 2012

new beginnings

Meet Maria, a spicy and fresh new character of my new novel in progress. Just a short fragment, the very beginning of the unraveling of her identity:

“Maria,” I pronounce my name in a casual way, having the privilege for a moment there to play with my identity. I never carry my I.D card with me on these trips. Because it gives me away. Only my driving license. My fair looks don’t betray it either. Only the accent. So I try to keep my mouth shut as much as I can – sometimes. When the soldier begins suspecting, he asks me what holidays we celebrate at home. But I got that down too. We don’t. I like playing these games with them. Today the checkpoint is quite crowded, and there’s a long line. I look at the side of the road and see the old woman at her usual spot with her shai. I throw a glance around – the soldiers are all out of earshot. I walk in her direction, she is bent down, her head low, stirring the na’ana into the shai. “Marhaba sitti,” she looks up, no surprise in her eyes. “Ahlan wasahlan, binti,” her voice is scratchy but clear. She smiles at me and pours some shai into a metal cup and hands it to me.

Layal’s family moved to Ramallah last year. It took baba a whole month before he allowed me to go and visit. I refused to do my homework, I refused to eat, I threatened to drop out of school. Until he gave in. He’s such a coward. Listens to the news and shakes his head. Ammo Hilal had to come all the way from Ramallah to pick me up. Baba didn’t even let me ride the bus to Jerusalem. “Too dangerous for a 19 year old girl.”

The language here is so different. No hybrid sentences. I have to watch myself when I’m out with Layal. My sentences get always mixed up with Hebrew. It’s a constant effort to search the brain for the right words in Arabic. And they always come out awkward. Like foreign words. Hasub instead of computer. I wonder how Layal changed her dictionary so fast.

At the checkpoint, it’s the other way around. I try to hide my language. In Ramallah, I try too hard to make it clear.

(c) khulud kh (2012)

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