A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
He looks at the clock, which has begun its countdown of his time. It has been a long time — and feels ragged like a set of old clothes worn since eternity, clothes he could not get out of.
Even his pens are beginning to dry up, and his papers no longer welcome his grief. He has adhered to all that was dictated to him: how to speak, what to wear, and how to think.
Life has become impossible and suffocating. He is a stranger at home and at work, and from everything that is happening around him. The pain he feels after all these years is unbearable. At that moment, he decides to withdraw from people and reality and return to his lost self. At the early threads of dawn, he starts walking on the road leading out of the city. He does not feel the distance he travels. Nothing but the wind accompanies him, and his desire to get away.
In a region strewn with houses and plains extending beyond corn fields, he sits down, leaning on a rock, thinking about his life and what he has accomplished.
Everything was dark. He had revolted time and again during those days when he witnessed his disappearance from himself. He tried to find it amid all that noise, but in the end he surrendered and watched himself from afar.
Should he leave everything behind and rest? Life had not given him what he dreamed of, but rather he had carved away without hope. Should he leave and not return?
He grabs his phone wondering, if he died, would his family, friends and acquaintances miss him? But he knows that no one would care about his departure. What would he lose if he sent a message to his family informing them of his death?
His house was buzzing with news of his death. The sounds of screaming and wailing were so loud that he could not tell who was who amid all the crying. His neighbors and friends gathered and the voice of the reciter reading the Quran added to the pain of separation. Everyone rushed to prepare for the funeral, and he watched his naked body being laid and washed by the hands of the Sheikh. He felt resentful and could not bring himself to cry, or call his children to assure them that he was still there. Who authorized them to strip off his clothes and lay him on a wooden plank to wash off his sins? Are they not his sins?
Borne on the shoulders of the mourners, his coffin appears saturated with the words of those who came to bid him farewell — many of whom he was seeing for the first time.
What makes his senses stir with every word they utter to express his virtues? Does his departure rekindle his presence among them?
What good would knowing that do? It would only bring him trouble. He found it hard to believe what he heard as he was carried away in his coffin. What happened after his death? Why are they only now discovering who he was as their tongues cheer sincere prayers for him?
He tries to rise to return to life, which may become livable, or even beautiful, now that they recognize the multiple realities of his life. Instead, all he sees ahead of him are broad fields filled with corn and the sound of hymns echoing in distant shadows. He takes it all in as he tries to catch up with his funeral.
Soheir Al-Samman is a Yemeni author and journalist. She is the head of the publishing department at the General Book Authority and is an academic researcher in modern literary criticism. Suheir has published many social, political and critical articles. In 2011, she published the short story collection Another Date, and in 2017 she published Part of the Text Missing. Currently she is finalizing her forthcoming collection of stories.