November 2, 2007

Caged & Lonely...

This sickness has forced me to take up a horizontal position for many hours at a time.

I’ve become familiar with every inch of this bed. I’ve studied its corners, counted its width, noticed the dust on its sideboards, the in-house spider “Ramdam” busy weaving its web and catching a small mosquito every now and then...

Curiously, I also spotted a pigeon on the window sill. Strange.
I do see every once and a while a little sparrow picking Ramdam’s fleas, but never a pigeon. This one looked quite desperate.
And it just stood still, there, peeking through that window.

What is your message? I wondered...

I ignored it. I have enough of the flu myself and didn’t want to worry about bird flu as well.

I took my horizontal position again and I must admit, I kind of like it.
Just letting my head fall on a heap of pillows, a body too feeble to do anything, constrained and caged by some fever that comes and goes like some ocean wave... Total inaction.

The fever abates and a few seconds of bliss transport me like some gentle, soft cushiony feeling... A motionless body, a mind too tired to think, and a horizontal position that invites all sorts of guests, waiting at its doorstep, and they’ve been waiting for a while now...

One of these guests, is the memory of my paternal grandmother. I don’t understand why she popped in to say hello. I guess it must have been that song on the radio.

There is a local station that I quite like, it plays oldies. I like oldies.
And Grandma’s image surfaced whilst Elvis was singing “Are you lonesome tonight.”

I was always quite surprised by the fact that Grandma could speak, read and write English even though she never studied it. I remember once asking her,

“Beebee, how did you learn all of this?” Her reply “I love Elvis and I love listening to his songs.”
She had two favorites. “Love me tender" and “Are you lonesome tonight."

Actually, she is the one who got me my first vinyl record of Elvis.
I suppose she picked up English from listening to Elvis. And here was Elvis singing one of her favorite songs.

I remember when Grandpa passed away very suddenly and at a fairly young age, I would play that song for her, hoping to ease her pain. Quite silly of me really. I did not fully understand the feelings of loss, then.

She would go silent and drift away into that lonely place and listen to it...and say “play it again for me.”

Loneliness is not an easy be in.

In my horizontal position, I also thought of loneliness.

People like to give it different definitions or masks.
They say “I'm alone but not lonely” or “I enjoy solitude but not loneliness” or “better to be alone than badly accompanied”...So many ways to fend it off.

Some lose themselves into things and people in order to avoid it or should I say to fill it up...

I think people in the West are quite lonely...lonesome.

I remember seeing men and women walking their dogs - walking them, as if pushing a child’s pram...They’d talk to the dog, feed it, kiss it, hug it, caress it and protect it like a child...They cared greatly about this companion.

Nothing wrong with that. A pet is good company and ideal to fill that lonely spot...

In the Arab world, loneliness is not so much of a societal disease as it is in the West. There is always someone who will ask after you. A neighbor, a relative, a friend...

You hardly ever hear of someone dying, in secret solitude, in their apartment only to be found when the odor from the decomposing corpse fills the building.

This does not happen here in this part of the world. Neglect and abandonment have not cut through as deep...loneliness is not the norm...except in Iraq.

Iraq the model of American/Western democracy.

In Iraq, you smell putrefied, decomposing bodies daily, it has become part of the National “flavor.” So have abandonment and neglect – our new national emblems.
And loneliness a by-product of our Liberation "à l’0ccidentale."

You have managed to export not only, your “freedom” with its death, exile and misery. Not only your puritanical, perverted sexual repressions finding release- Abu Ghraib style. Not only your men and weapons that guarantee instant rapture. Not only your culture that consists of nothing but junk. But you have also managed to export your soul sickness over here...Loneliness.

“Dozens of Baghdadis flock to the centre of the Iraqi capital on Friday mornings, ignoring the threat to their lives, with a sole aim -- to ease their loneliness in the company of a bird.

Their destination is not a cinema, theatre or concert hall -- a rarity in the Iraqi capital -- but central Baghdad's Al-Ghazl bird market

Fuad is one of them. "I do not go out of my home. Because of the dangers, I prefer to stay at home rather than seek work. So I decided to buy a parrot who can entertain me," says Fuad, an unemployed graduate.

Mohammed Arshad a student says "I already have two in my house...I am now looking for another parrot to teach as I taught the other two."

The above are excerpts from an article titled “Lonely in Baghdad? Chat up a bird." (full article here)

Ironic don’t you think ?

Here is a people unable to venture out, unable to enjoy the fruits of “their liberation," unable to taste the “culture of democracy," unable to have a normal life like any other people. So they go and risk their lives, and head to a pet market. Braving it all, to buy a bird to entertain them and ease their loneliness.

A caged people seeking a caged bird to give them the illusion of Freedom.

How terribly sad. How terribly criminal.

Your people are supposedly free yet so lonely-seeking the company of pets.

And ours were sociable but are now forced to seek the company of pets because of a solitude you imposed upon them - so they can be “free“ like yourselves...

And you tell me that societal diseases are not exportable ?

Maybe this was the message after all. The message from that free bird who stood there peeking through my window.

Maybe it wanted to remind me and you of yet another, simple, Truth.

P.S: Incidentally, one of the parrot pets was taught to shout out "Down with Bush." Maybe the loneliness will ease after all.

Painting: Iraqi female artist, Nadia Mohammed Yass.