Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Scream

By Edvard Munch

Everything was grey and dark and filled with glittery charcoal dust. It was a warped setting, and I was traveling in between time zones. The scenes flitted every few seconds but there was something constant, and it was the feeling of dread, that heavy leaden weight in the pit of your stomach.

Finally one scene was forming into something concrete. My uncle Mahmoud was standing against a wall, anguish etched into every fiber in his body. I looked around and saw people sitting on mattresses, bowing their heads and silent. It was a funeral wake. There was a bombing. Someone had died. The people were blurred, their setting not important. Mahmoud was propped up by the wall,  his face ashen and smeared with dirt and dust. Where were his children?

My mother suddenly appeared and was standing next to the wall. And then Mahmoud spoke, in a mechanical way of someone forced to speak.

"I didn't want to take all the children out of the house. I wanted to leave the girls behind, perhaps the house would be safer for them. But we all fled."

What was he talking about? How many girls did he have? I began naming them on my fingers...ah that's right, three boys, five girls..the twin girls are five years old now, followed by the youngest, who is three. Mahmoud stared right through me.

"If I had insisted on the girls staying behind, then the twins wouldn't have been killed."

"Stop it," my mother whispered. "Stop blaming yourself, stop."

As the realization dawned on me, the scene began to flake away, dissolving into darkness. I woke up gasping for breath, my mouth open in a silent scream, the sheets drenched with tears.

A few hours later, when the sun was properly up, I read the news that for the first time since the summer invasion, Israel had bombed the Qarara area of Khan Yunis. No one was killed, but another layer was added to the post-traumatic stress disorder to the people there. Mahmoud's family woke up screaming, and I wondered if they preferred to be alive screaming or to die all together to end this nightmare once and for all.

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