December 12, 2006

Lucky You !


We have a ritual that we share on a daily basis.
It is an unspoken agreement.
No matter what the distances are , whether we are next door to each other or miles away , we call each other daily just to "check".
This ritual helps us preserve whatever familial and social fabric we may have salvaged , a protective wall from the total disintegration around us.
Today was my turn to call.
Radhee was on the other end of the line .
We have skipped asking the usual "How are you".
The sentences are short and usually start with "Is everything ok? Am just checking".
Radhee spoke very fast and went into a litany of all the woes around him .
Auntie Salma cannot make it to the doctor , it's too dangerous .
Uncle Wassem has run out of medication and it is nowhere to be found . Trying to cross the city to another district to find it, is too dangerous.
Cousin Reema , a widow, has not been getting any of her husband's pension, she needs to go and search for a job, but what's the point, there are none and in any case it's too dangerous.
Abu Saleem, a father of 4, has been out of work for nearly a year now and can no longer feed his kids. He is in total despair and proposing his services to anyone is out of the question, it's too dangerous .
Radhee himself dares not go shopping for food in the neighborhood, it's too dangerous.
His son Bassel, a brilliant surgeon stopped showing up at the hospital, it's too dangerous.
Abu Issam and his wife and their kids left the country because everything is getting too dangerous .
And the list goes on ...
Once we finish checking on the family network or what is left of it ,we start with the neighbors, friends and acquaintances circle.
And it usually goes this way : " Do you remember so and so , well he is kidnapped, and remember X , they abducted him and Y , he disappeared and Z, he was tortured to death..."
Once we are done with this round , we move to war zone reporting.
"Three mortars here , a car bomb there , loud explosions in the vicinity, bullets across the street checkpoints here and checkpoints there ..." and it goes on .
Radhee paused for a minute or so , took a deep breath and said : " By the way , I forgot to mention that Uncle Kamal died ".
"How, when, who killed him, was he tortured, was he imprisoned, who found him, where, was he dumped ? A street, a prison, the morgue ?...
I bombarbed him with questions .
"No , no , he died a natural Death." Natural Death in today's Iraqi lingo means: old age, an illness, lack of medication or medical care , that kind of stuff.
I sighed with relief so did Radhee .
"Praise to God , may he rest in Peace", we both uttered at the same time.
And Radhee concluded by saying:
"He is lucky, now he can rest . What about us left behind, when will we find rest ?"

Sleeping, if one can sleep that is and waking up if one is "lucky", with dread and anxiety,24 hours a day, 7 days a week, day in and day out, non stop, no respite.
No this is no General Anxiety Disorder that a couple of Prozacs can cure . No amount of anything can cure that- short of a total Peace . A total Peace that only dead Iraqis know.

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen , the "living" or more aptly the "surviving" Iraqis envy the Dead .
Some, miles away cherish Life and hold on to it and some wish its clement ending.
A crazy paradox ? I don't know.
All I know is from whichever way one looks at it- It's lucky You.

Painting : Iraqi Artist Ismail Fattah.