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

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March 10, 2005

21. God, What Are They Doing Here At My Doorstep/Part Two

Mum mistily understood what had happened. Pale and shivering, she sat for a few moments with both hands resting on her thighs. She managed to pull herself together. She inhaled a deep breath and hugged me close, stroking my head. ‘Silly you, you scared the hell out of me. So what if they came here? This is how they do it. Stop worrying, everything will be fine’.
‘No mum, it won’t be fine’, I said, sobbing with tears flowing down my cheeks and neck, and still trembling like the leaves of an aspen in a breeze. ‘They usually investigate from far, not come into people’s houses. Something is not right here; I’ll call Dad’, I said, and made a dash for the phone.

Mum hurriedly followed. ‘DON’T’, she ordered, ‘the phone might be tapped now that they are investigating’.
My blood chilled, and I stood thunderstruck. ‘Yim-kken, yim-kken, perhaps, perhaps’. she instantly corrected, reassuring me, upon realizing the shock she had induced. She stepped to the phone, ‘I’ll talk to him. I know how to get the message through without raising any suspicions’.

However, although mum appeared outwardly in control, her parental love endeavouring to belittle the event, I guess she was desperate herself for Dad’s solace and reassurance, perhaps even more than I was.

She spoke to him in Aramaic. Slowly and cautiously, she proceeded.
Ee-mann baa-thit, What time would you be home?’ she asked first, making it sound like a normal phone call to check up on his schedule for the end of the day. ‘An hour? OK, then. Oh no, no, I just ran out of tomatoes and I was wondering if you could get me some on your way home’, she said, looking at me, while her hand tenderly patted my head. ‘OK, then. Yea, yea she is all right. She is here next to me. No, they are still out’. And so, she started guardedly to venture into the real purpose of her call. ‘Say, you remember when Lu and Fury came home upset a couple of weeks ago. Well, someone raised the same issue today here at out place’. Dad understood her meaning at once, and he must have realized how petrified I was. Mum listened for a few more moments, then said, ‘OK, dah b’amm-ran-neh, I’ll tell her that, bye now’.
‘See, I told you’, she said, and hung up. Still with her arm around my shoulders, she kissed my head, and continued reassuringly, ‘Dad says everything will be fine, nothing to worry about. He’ll be here in an hour, and he’ll explain more’.
‘Ooooh, an hour? Why didn’t you ask him to come now?’ I whinged, still pale and wobbly.
‘Relax, sweetheart, it’s only an hour. He’s got a few things to finish,’ she said, while she grabbed her apron from the floor, put it on, re-tied the strings, and returned to the kitchen. ‘Come and help me with the salad’, she said in a stillborn endeavour to divert my attention elsewhere. ‘He’ll be here before you know it’.

I stood by the sink washing the salad ingredients and further pressing on her nerves through my incessant ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions. She was incredibly patient and tolerant, but her words were to no avail in such an emergency. ‘After all, what does she know of such stuff; the only words I trust here are Dad’s.

Done with the salad, I whirled around the house, peering out through the windows, cracking my knuckles restlessly, and frequently glancing at the clock, my mind pullulated with worries, and impatiently counting the dragging minutes and seconds. It just seemed as if time had come to a halt.

In forty minutes, Dad was beeping. I bolted out and opened the gate. He drove through, and in a twitch of an eye, I was standing next to the car opening the door. Dad looked at me with a serene smile that had a touch of magic, wiping away instantaneously most of my dreadful anxiety.
‘Worried?’ He asked, putting his arm around my back and pushing me gently towards the main door. ‘Nothing to worry about, sweetheart. They are substantiating your details. You’re aware your details were sent out to them, aren’t you?’
‘Yes dad, but why come here?’ I asked.
‘To ensure that the information you provided is not untrue,’ he comforted. ‘It’s their way of hunting down any slips of the tongue, or faults of the memory that reveal different info to those provided earlier. One thing though, DON’T, I repeat, DON’T mention anything about this visit to any of your girlfriends’. He admonished, seriously gesturing with his hand, while he walked me through the living room. ‘They’ll be visiting them soon, if they haven’t already. You must be cautious; things could backfire on you if you’re not’.
‘But why?’ I asked surprised. ‘My girlfriends are all trustworthy and reliable, plus we’re all in the same boat’.
‘I’m not judging your friends’ trustworthiness’, he nodded, ‘but they do get reckless and big-mouthed sometimes. Stuff like this must be dealt with cautiously and most discreetly. Am I clear enough?’ he asked, in an even firmer tone.
‘All right, Dad,’ I replied grudgingly, ‘but what if they tell me about being visited, should I tell?’
‘Provided that you keep it all extremely secretive, and never ever discuss it over the phone', dad carried on. ' Tell them how dangerous things could get once the matter starts spreading around, although I’m quite positive your girlfriends will get the same advice, and they, too, will not talk about it’.

In my zealous attempt to shun any unwarranted harm that my political ignorance and lack of knowledge could have triggered off, both to myself and to my family, I persisted with questions, thirsty for information. I was overwhelmed by an enormous need for vigilance and consumed by fear, and, not least, by a sense of responsibility. I sought to decipher and fathom as many of the ugly decrees and regulations of the republic of fear and horror as I could, hoping to dodge thus the slightest possibility of making errors that could swing the doors of hell wide open. Taking into account that my encounter with these infamously obnoxious people was my first, though not the last as it turned out, I suppose I wasn’t in the least bit magnifying my concern.

Dad looked at me in astonishment when he learned about the presence of Al-mukh-tar, which he saw as uncommon in such errands; the notoriously capricious security apparatus of the regime usually functioned independently, in the majority of cases, indifferent to any cultural or even religious dictations. And it further surprised Dad to hear that the questioning lasted only a few minutes. But when I recounted the entire episode, ‘Ru-bba dha-rra-tin naa-ffi-a’, he remarked smiling. ‘What’s thought to be most harmful, perhaps, turns out to be most useful’.

So, that was, indeed, what saved my skin. The state of fear that I strenuously stifled brought forth great confusion, which seemingly contributed towards my being classified as a ‘dullard’, politically off course, and thus effectively shortening the interrogation. They were quite notorious for outfoxing people, and they employed every possible strategy they could device to entrap those they interrogated.

Dad, nonetheless, was quite right. None of my girlfriends ever mentioned any disturbing or intrusive visits, evidently in conformity with the pieces of advice similar to the one that I received from Dad. However, months later, when the jeopardy and menace thinned with time, I brought the matter up with Fury first, and with the other girls later on, driven by the obligations of true friendship, and mainly for not being able to endure the bitter sense of guilt for distrusting my friends.
‘You’re far more sincere and honest than I am’, Fury said dolorously. ‘You have been frank unlike me’. She hugged me and cried. Seething, we both cursed deep in our hearts the obnoxious regime, and the weeds of fear, horror and distrust that it disgustingly planted in the innermost hearts of Iraqis, which, at some points, played, not only friends, but members of one family against each other. And as we say, ‘It’s no longer a secret that which spreads beyond two’. Slip-ups, with five of us involved, were hugely plausible. The situation allowed zero tolerance for any negligence or incautiousness. Our feelings, in the end, were not unimportant and they certainly counted, but not to the point of outweighing or jeopardizing our safety and welfare.

Two weeks after my trying interrogation, a phone call brought the glad tidings that I had obtained the full pass certificate, washing away all those misgivings and apprehension. And the relief wasn’t actually for getting the job, as much as for the official declaration of our political transparency. Here was convincing proof of our being ‘worthy’ citizens, and ‘patriotic’ enough to fit obsequiously into the world of sheep that the dictator had enforced upon us. This was a society of abject submission and docile servility where there was no margin for expostulation or remonstrance, for any desire or dream beyond the permission of his dictatorship. He was ‘the leader, the necessity’, who guarded tenaciously our welfare and interests, the ‘blessed’ who sacrificed his entire life for the wellbeing of his own people, the ‘genius’ who knew everything so as to spare us any unnecessary or onerous thinking or planning. Could there be any chance of one being ‘ungrateful’ for getting such a certificate of rebirth and flawlessness from his minions on his behalf?

I was over at Dina’s place on a Tuesday when I received the good news. She was off work for a few days from her job as a banker, and I had slept over the night before. Around noon, Ranni called imparting the news of a phone call from the establishment instructing that I was to start work on the following Saturday. Dina gave a hug, wishing me well. Instantaneously, I was over the phone bringing the ‘good’ news to Dad. Communication among the group went into a frenzy. We were either calling or being called. Our phones were constantly giving or getting a busy signal. Two of the girls had already received the news and the other two received them a short time later. We had all jumped over the impediments, and the big day was a stretch of only three days away.

Those three days nonetheless seemed like three years. My mind worked overtime, driving mum and dad, Dina, and even poor grandpa Mathew, crazy with my unabating ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions. I was all esurient eyes and ears, with an avid curiosity to learn and succeed, to which my crazy financial calculations were quickly harnessed. Eyebrows arched and jaws hung open at the answers to questions such as, when would I afford to own my own car, or pay for an overseas trip or even buy my own house. My budget swelled daily, revealing figures that could have perplexed the best chartered accountants. It seemed as if buying the whole world was quite viable if it hadn’t been for just one slight problem that I was facing: governmental salaries were not too high.

Mum and Dad’s list of ‘bewares’ provided a challenge to my enthusiasm: ‘Avoid familiarity and blabbering; it does not suit a well-mannered girl to allow male colleagues to trespass the rules of decorum, regardless of how informal relations tend to be with time or with co-working; be wary of female informants; never trust or take on fast to any new girlfriend, especially, those overly nice ones, for that is their style for wining peoples’ trust; ‘work hard to avoid any unnecessary disciplinary embarrassment’. And so on and so forth.

To Be Continued.......

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