January 3, 2008

Walls...


I will let you in on a secret, well it’s not so much of a secret but more of a new fetish, a new obsession I am developing…

Just like a hypochondriac, whenever he hears or reads about an illness and its symptoms, he automatically starts imagining them in his body, he checks his pulse, listens to his heart beat, checks his lymph nodes and measures his temperature...

I am the same, but my new object, my new fixation is Walls.

I am totally obsessed with walls.

Every time I pass by one, I stop and study it. I look at its width, height, thickness, the material it is made of...

I examine the mass of concrete, the bricks, the stones...Its color, its texture...I check if it is newly built or old...

Then I look for cues, hints and signs - any writing on the wall, any graffiti, poster, even the imprints of the mason's spatula - any expression of a human hand that may have touched it.

Then I look at the cracks, fissures, holes, gaps, if any - and imagine what lies behind it...

Then I survey the immediate surroundings...

Is there anything to find at the bottom of the wall, anything lying on the ground...a blade of grass, a flower, an empty bottle, a piece of an old worn out cloth...

Sometimes, I am taken by the details and I linger on longer than what is deemed socially acceptable or normal...

I stand there and imagine what goes on behind this wall, and then my thoughts take me further, and I ask myself questions. Who lives behind those walls, what are they like, what is their story...?

For some odd reason, I always assume that someone lives behind this wall which is not always the case. Sometimes it is just a barren desolate land filled with garbage...But I still believe that it is inhabited.

I am sure some seek refuge behind those walls...and in my mind it is always at night.

Then, I play a mind game. I say to myself, who is really behind a wall, the onlooker or the one who lives on the other side ?

Who is freer, the onlooker or the one behind it ?

When you come to think of it, it is not that clear cut...not to me anyways...not anymore.


I was caught with my new fetish the other day.

A nosy neighbor who has nothing to do but stand on her balcony all day, stood there, observing me...

I noticed her from the corner of my eye, she stood there, with her arms folded against her chest, like a policeman about to catch someone red handed.

I was just walking past the wall in my neighborhood and the urge took me again, I was inspecting it once more, hoping someone would have a left a sign, a trail, a new element that I can add to my repertoire of fetishistic cues...

So naturally, I stopped by and examined it again.

I noticed a new crack and a new blade of grass and more garbage thrown in front of it...

I was a little disappointed. I had nothing new to report or add to my curious obsession.

And as I bent forward, hoping to catch something that I may have missed...I heard her voice from across the balcony, across the street, landing on me.

“An shoo am betfatshee - What are you looking for?“ she said in an imperious voice.

“I lost something and maybe I will find it here.” I replied with the tone of someone caught with... her back against a wall.

She shrugged her shoulders, “Ya haram, (poor one) and you think if anyone found anything you lost, they will leave it there for your return?”

“I guess not, I was just hoping...”

“Eh yalla, keep on hoping“ was her final say, before she haughtily turned her back and disappeared inside, leaving a dark shadow behind...like a wall.


Painting: Iraqi artist, Mohammed Fareed.