Another beautiful piece from Najah Awadallah, whose short story appeared on Tuesday.
(Five days under Attack)
The violin bow is completely taut, conversing with its strings, while a gigantic bird delivers its first blows, and the residential high-rise trembles…with a shudder the violin’s bow snaps backwards, though quickly I retune it in order to control the fear in my music teacher’s eyes. I lead her to the safest spot in the house.
I smile to ease her tension. They’re working and demolishing upstairs while we play music.
Hysterical thoughts overwhelm me: What if we went outside and played a little over the rubble? Will this bird chirp and flap its wings away from us? She smiles a sad smile, we restart playing a piece from Tchaikovsky’s “Sad Song,” the bow falls in sorrow on the violin, while wrath pours from the sky.
I say goodbye to my teacher before the lesson is over. I fear for her safety. I say goodbye until the next lesson.
While the violin is frightened in its box, the metal birds play their music from the score of Gaza’s remains.
In a book I find shelter from a death I see and smell, a book in which I don’t want to be the heroine or the narrator, or even a street corner, just a period or a comma, a question or an exclamation mark at most.
I ask myself: Is it fear for life or escape from it into paper where I alone hold the decision to end the sentence or turn the page?!
I look out of my forlorn window at the street that pedestrian feet have abandoned. It is empty of the noisy vendors who had often annoyed me and I had often assailed them with a thousand curses. Now I implore a single sound so I can feel alive and so the city can feel the living are still ringing the bells of life within it.
I spot a herd of goats whose shepherd risked his life in order to feed them what remains of grass untouched by rain. Joy ululates in me like a child when I hear the little goats bleat. I delight in them as I hide behind the curtains.
The sun wakes me from my sleep and I wash my face with its light. I feel pleasure in the notion that humans are unable to invent a devilish idea and conceal it from those they war with and hate. Exhausted, dark Gaza has had enough night.
The molten bullets are still pouring over the city. They grant the foreigners the right to leave and exempt them from war. I call my teacher and her husband tells me she has already left. The violin has left the city. Music raises its arms up, in surrender, to the bullets.
I get my violin out of its coffin and play “Sad Song.” My lids are swollen. I am ashamed to tell my husband I’m crying over my teacher’s departure and my violin’s aloneness.
Only now has Gaza become orphaned.
Translated by Fady Joudah.
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