Liana telling the story in a nutshell

Love is the twin of a beautiful dream that survives birth to reality; but my love was a reality that survived arduous parturition only to remain a beautiful dream

Blog Archive

March 03, 2005

19. Had I Just Listened/Part Six

Fury, in no time, engaged in a give-and-take whisper with her neighbour, unearthing information about her presence there, and summing up for her our backgrounds. I shot her a few meaningful glances, lest she broadened her unselfishness, and divulged more than she should. Wisdom called for caution in such uncertain environment. The Iraqi aphorism , ‘Ishterri oula tbee, buy and don’t sell’, seemed particularly apt in this context. 'it takes a while to test the water out and discern good from evil'.

Moments crept by at snail’s pace. The wait extended for over an hour. Finally the decisive moment of truth arrived, and it was my turn to meet Ms. Hanna.

She was in her forties, short and full, longhaired, with some aging highlights striving for survival against the grand creeping of the silvery hair. Dangling on a neck chain, her specs lay upon voluptuous breasts. She was standing behind her desk when I entered. Her smile put me somehow at ease. We shook hands, and she sat on her chair while I faced her in anticipation of the imminent finale. She’d often put her glasses on and off while she attentively examined the application form placed before her. The interview covered mere technical details and, much to my surprise, no political issues were raised. Her main focus was on my English language abilities; she remarked generously on my proficiency. The interview lasted virtually twenty minutes, and on the face of it, Ms. Hanna seemed quite impressed. Things were looking quite good and promising towards the end, and I was somehow relieved, ‘Thanks to the Lord, my fears didn’t come true. We probably exaggerated the matter and those questions were mere procedure or for the records’.

Ms Hanna briefed on the details of the job, and on some other routine stuff. She even made mention of some training courses intended for supplying the new staff with the relevant know-how; however, as she concluded, Ms Hanna appeared to be saving ‘the best’ till last:
‘Congratulations Miss Liana for doing so well’, she said, rising to her feet. ‘I find it important to mention here that all appointments in our establishment are subject to the approval of LAMMEN ELAAMA. Your personal details as well as those of the other ‘successful’ candidates will be forwarded to them. From experience, I say it takes roughly one month for the approved names to be re-forwarded back to us. Again from experience we know that they usually don’t respond when the names fail to pass the investigation. So I am assuming that you will understand should we not get back to you. Hopefully it’ll turn out to be all right for you, and for the rest of the candidates. Our establishment has initiated recently some up-scaling and the urgency is quite high for new staff’.

Well, I guess Ms Hanna said it all and left no room for any erroneous conclusions whatsoever. I exited her office blaming my disobedience. Pursuing my postgraduate studies wouldn’t have been a cruise, but neither was this. Even mum’s one-year gap would have been tenfold wiser. Ban and Sumer had already got their shares of facts when I got down; Fury and Mai were still getting theirs. The two girls’ faces reflected apprehension. The air was pregnant with silence. Our eyes imparted what our mouths guarded. However, once Fury and Mai were down, we set out in an entirely different mood. The earlier childish behaviour was bartered for gravity and reason. With green wisdom, we seriously engaged in debating and analysing the situation and its potential fallouts. It was all the more ironic as we had marched into our predicament on our own feet. Terror built up, and we gnashed our teeth for committing such a bloody unforgivable mistake, enough, to brand us idiotic for a long time to come.
‘We should have given it some more thought’, I said, ‘or at least sought our families advice on how usually things work out here before dashing into it stupidly like that’. Sumer nodded, so did Ban.
‘Hey, what’s done is done’, Fury said comfortingly. ‘We can’t wind the clock backward, let’s take it easy, and Inshallah God willing, things would turn out all right’, she exhorted optimistically. However, the more our inexperienced minds brooded over what we had embarked upon, the more convoluted and shudder-inducing it looked. It seemed as if the world was coming to an end.

What we dreaded most were the potential complications that would ensue from dealing with this obnoxious body, now in possession of all our personal details and also those of our families’, and there we thought lay the danger. It appeared as if we had been stirring an oblivious monster. Being good-looking, young, university graduates, who had come from the kind of families we did, we made superb preys for men of the repulsive regime, infamous for their filthy hunger for all that is categorized as feminine. We’d heard endlessly loathsome stories of how sly and cunning they were in making up accusations and inventing charges. Once knotted, cutting loose was by no means easy.

Sumer dropped me at my place. Fury, in no mood to go home, decided to stay over. My parents and the boys were all gathered in the kitchen having lunch. She rang her mum first, and then we both walked towards the kitchen.
‘Uh, perfect timing girls, yella, c’mon join us. How is mum, Fury?’ Mum asked.
‘Says hello, auntie,’ Fury muttered, and she turned to the boys, asking in the same dispirited tone, ‘Schlonkum ya’awlad, how are you boys?’Mum dropped her jaw; Dad raised his eyebrows. Fury was usually louder and more impish.

I leaned against the kitchen door, silent, arms wrapped around my chest against the chill of the house. I shivered cold upon entering the house and sensed my fingers and toes freezing. ‘Weird’, I thought, ‘I always adored houses cooled on HI, especially at such hour. Panic had pussyfooted in, sponging off the warmth of both my body and spirit. I dashed upstairs to my bedroom, took off my shoes, and put on a jersey and a pair of socks.

From my bedroom, I could hear Fury recounting, ‘We applied, and our names will be forwarded to the secret police for final approval’. Under normal conditions, she would have dwelt long on the tinniest and most boring details, driving the listener nuts before she finished. To my surprise, she opened up that day on the very last part. I guess she was very frightened and desperate for my parents’ reassurance.

Back in the kitchen, I sat facing her, silent. I dropped one helping of my favourite cucumber salad onto my plate and sliced through, ostensibly eating, while I listened to Fury expatiating now on the ‘saga’. She talked and piled up her plate, too engrossed to realize her plate sufficed for three. Watching her devouring was quite amusing, but I was in no mood for laughing. I was familiar, any way, with her eating habits. In the wake of any fit of stress or anger or sadness, she would dash impulsively into the kitchen and eat unstoppably like a beast, but her joie de vivre and dynamism burned it all off, and she always maintained a beautiful figure. Perversely, I boycott eating, sometimes for days, when depressed or in a bad mood. Dad looked at me. I was silent. His little girl was obviously awash with concerns, and his parental love instantaneously plunged in, seeking to soothe.
‘No need to worry girls,’ Dad declared. He oversimplified the matter of the questionnaire as a mere routine in certain governmental businesses to ensure that ‘security’ levels were properly maintained. He concluded that the approval was certainly coming, because of the fact that we were all ‘Musttakillat’, independents, and had never interfered in politics or done anything that could possibly be taken to be against the regime.
‘You think so?’ I asked eagerly.
‘Not think, but am positive’, Dad replied. He was of the opinion that they would summon us before we knew it.
Dad’s words were much needed and quite alleviating. That was Dad all right; as usual, most compassionate, loving and caring, irrespective of the gravity of the situation. ‘God, how I wish I’d listened, Dad’.

‘Enjoy your lunch, girls’, Mum urged, seconding Dad’s optimism. ‘Besides, if worse comes to worst, you won’t get this job; not a big deal, try for another one’.

Tension somehow receded, easing off in the face of such profuse love and reassurance. Those dragons of worry and fear that kept us on edge seemed quieting. And I began retrieving the lost warmth of body and spirit, let alone the suppressed appetite that seemed now to be unrestrained. I took off my jersey. But when Danni, the youngest, saw me taking off my socks, he cracked up laughing, ‘You forgot to put on the overcoat and the boots too, Lu’. Fury giggled, giving him high five. I was not slow in avenging though. I rounded the socks up into a small ball and hit him, retaliating, but unfortunately missed the target.

To Be Continued.......