Booom! And I felt the earthquake under my butt. I jumped up like crazy and the sand was sprayed on the food table that was laid between us!
Unbelievable! Even right now I don’t know how did that happen; a bloody evening, a bloody night, a bloody Ramadan, a bloody life. The hell! I still live it as if I am looking at it right now, right here and forever.
We were sitting on the sandy terrace putting the Futra (Ramadan fast-breaking food) on a long plastic blanket that my mom sowed especially for that terrace. The whole extended family of over twenty people of children, adults, men and women a few seconds before the evening call prayer waiting to drink and eat after 16 hours of fasting. Most were sitting on the sand around the long extended carpet full of food in that breezy bloody evening.
BOOOM! I can still hear it right now and my ears were deafened. I jumped like a fool and the sand was sprayed out over the food bowls and plates. I rushed toward the sound source without thinking, I heard my mom shouting: “come back! Where are you going?”, my wife was shrieking and her voice mingled with the crying children, my dad was mumbling loudly, but I wasn’t there.
I was running like a bull and in a few seconds I was on the smoking rubbles. It was the bombing of the house of our neighbors less than two hundred meters away from ours. When I arrived there was no trace, no sound, but the hot smoke of the rocket coming out of the rubble. Oh Gosh! Take me now, oh earth split and swallow me now! Like a lunatic fool I stood with glaring eyes looking around, no trace of the whole house; evacuated guts, scattered limbs, shelled skulls, grey brain matter mixed with blood all around me, children cut off and scattered body parts, beheaded women, hair, toes, thighs, evacuated bellies; I saw death glaring at me!
I stood there helplessly frozen with wide open eyes that stared out at nowhere. In a few seconds the place was full of life; young guys running, shouting, dragging bodies, holding heads, matching body parts, cursing some blasphemous words while others were praying and praising God, I was still frozen with my glaring eyes! I looked down my feet, Oh! Shit! I was barefooted standing on a torn skin of a baby; it was Nidal’s, the youngest of our neighbors, whitish brain matter mixed with the childish blood. I collapsed, I fell on the rubble and my chest ribs hit the sharp edge of a broken brick. Flung on my back on the scattered bricks I felt the piercing pain of my fractured rib, still glaring wide open staring at the celestial skies. Oh! God, take me now!
A young guy dragged me a bit and my jallabeyya dress was full of blood, “hey! He is still alive!” and then another guy came hurrily and both held me swiftly to shove me into the awaiting ambulance. I was still glaring with a vacant look: “not me! I am OK but ….. a bit of pain in my chest.” I tried to shout feebly but the paramedic calmed me: “shshshsh! Don’t move, you will be OK.” Then the ambulance rushed beebing to the hospital. I looked around in the cabin, all guts, no bodies but evacuated guts, bleeding tattered skin and distorted limbs. How can I close my eyes?
Soon I was held by two nurses and was rushed to the operation room, blood was all over my Jallabeyya, on my hands, on my bare feet and on my face! “Calm down, inshallah salimeh, everything will be OK!” the doctor said consoling me. “I am not there, I am here, I’m alive, they are dead!” I hallucinated while the doctor was checking my body gently and when he touched my chest I shrieked out of the piercing pain in my fractured rib. “take him there, he’s OK” the doctor ordered and two nurses held me to lay me on the ground near the wall in that jammed and damned hospital, more urgent and dangerous cases were rushed in and the doctors had no time even to breath. I was still glaring nowhere and it was dark by now.
Nobody was looking at me and I was visioning the whole world into my glaring eyes. In a few minutes I dragged myself and started stepping slowly out of the hospital among the running people, the ambulances and the paramedics, soon I was out in the street alone dragging myself home.
God, Jews, Zionists, shelling, babies, blood, guts, matter, butchers, I was covered all over in blood, not my own, but the blood of others women, men, babies and pets. I was about to reach home walking back when I crossed through a short road among the orange trees when I felt I wanted to pass wind, I squeezed my belly feeling the pain in my belly but it was followed by brownish liquid. I stood near an orange tree and squeezed again hard, the stinky liquid came down my thighs and then down to my bare feet. Oh Gosh! I am stinky! I cant go home like this. What would my wife think? Oh Gosh!
The sea! Yes, the sea. The sea will wash everything, and I strode heavily toward the sea that is a few minutes walk from our home. I dragged myself hiding among the orange trees not willing to meet or come close to the few passers and I reached the beach finally. The smell of the sea, oh shit! I stepped down the dune into the water, it was early night and the water felt warm. Shit! I am all blood and shit! I walked with my glaring eyes into the sea until the water reached my chest, my neck and up to my chin and then the water slapped my face to fill my glaring eyes, I was blinded by the salty water then I pushed up with my bare feet and flung my body floating. Oh! The sea, my love and my eternal companion. Feeling the pain of my fractured rib I stretched my hands slowly behind my head and floated peacefully looking at the dark serene sky.
Blood, shit, matter, skin particles, hair and the sea, the bloody sea of Gaza. Floating and looking up my whole life came up to my mind as if I live it all now and here; when my dad used to hold me on his back, to walk into the sea and swim while I was riding his back, and slowly I became independent with the sea, living together as I swam farther everyday. Who lives by the sea and in the sea can never die by the sea or in the sea!! The hell! Why I say this now?
I remembered as a child when we followed Othman who was herding the goats by the Zionist border. “it is full of green grass there and good for the goats.” He said repeatedly. He was a bit older than us and more daring. That damn day my cousin and I followed him for nothing, just to play there. When we came close, there was no trace of him but the goats grazing peacefully. When we came closed we saw the trace of the Zionist jeep on the sand and grass. My cousin looked meticulously at the trace and asked me: “Can you tell where was the jeep heading through the trace of its whels only?” “No, how can I tell?” I looked at him bewildered. He pulled me down and said: “look! Can you see the grass to which direction is bent?” “Yes, this way, it is still not straight.” I said trying to make it easy on him then he went on: “Yes, exactly! The way the grass is bent, It is the same way the jeep headed, the wheels push the grass before them.”
We followed the wheels trace for a while looking at the trace “OH, My God!” I shrieked and it was the body of Othman distorted, stepped on by the wheels of the jeep. It was almost flattened as the traces of the jeep went over him forth and back several times. His head was flattened and the white morrow splashed out news it. We ran home as quick as we could shrieking and in an hour the men came back holding Othman on their heavy shoulders.
I woke up at the roaring of a raft in the far distance, it must be a Zionist one as the Gaza fishermen are banned at this time of the night, and it seems that the sea has dragged me a bit deep tonight. I sunk deep into the sea and left only my glaring eyes up peeping; I could see nothing, not even the glistening high beulding of Gaza, but I could tell my way. I dived in and out, in deep and out to wash my garment and soul. I took off my dirty undies and swam back home diving in and out every few yards and finally I got out in the cold breeze heading home shivering, but clean.
When I arrived home it was probably midnight and I found my dad sitting on the out stairs awaiting: “Where have you been?” he asked angrily. “I was in the hospital.” “Liar!” he replied abruptly “You where in the sea.”
Damn! Did I lie? I smiled a pale smile as I passed my dad in, and I felt hot tears dripping down my cheeks. I felt thirsty and hungry but my stomach felt as if it was evacuated out. I wanted to blow out and bent down shrieking and coughing out of my throat but nothing came out except the piercing pain of my fractured rib, then I headed to my bed out in the terrace and slumbered exhausted, hungry and thirsty !!
Note: This story is dedicated to the memory of the deliberately assassinated Kilani family, one of thousands of devastated families of Gaza.