March 12, 2008

Invisible Faces...



I had to go again to have some "paperwork" done, authenticated, officialized, approved, signed...

Again the fucking queue. One would have thought that I'd be used to it by now...

Again, all of them were Iraqis. One was limping, the other holding an infant, an elderly woman so frail, I felt she was going to collapse any minute, a man perspiring carrying around 10 passports, he was trembling so much, all his papers fell dispersing themselves like white flakes on the grey, dirty, floor...

He apologized to the "official" a thousand times for wasting 3 minutes of his precious time, he needed to get approval, he needed that signature...

Your name?
Your father's name ?
Your mother's name ?
...

Go and get your security check !

I've had my security check.

Not enough, more ...

The basement with thick metal doors. It actually looks like a prison.

I could have sworn I saw cells there...

Went into a bare room. A desk and a machine made in the USA.

Again the same questions

Your name?
Your father's name ?
Your mother's name ?
...

Sit down !

Look into the machine. Look at the circle. Wrong ! I said look at the circle!

There were two circles but the idiot did not even know it.

Wrong! Tilt your head to the left. No, tilt it to the right...Yalla look at the circle...there is one circle !

"Actually there are two circles" I said...one for each iris.

Yalla, give me your fingers said another. She was very heavy, perspiring under her polyester veil and the odor emanating from her armpits was making me nauseous.

She gripped my fingers one by one, with her pudgy hand, and she could not even work the fucking machine...made in the USA.

I wanted to shout, "can't you see what the computer screen is telling you, it is telling you CANCEL you fucking idiot..." but I said nothing.

She kept repeating, why can't you lay your fingers properly, on the scanner?

"But I am, I am laying my fingers on your scanner..."

No you are not !

And she would take each finger and press it so hard, I felt my tendons about to snap...and all I wanted to shout was "look at your fucking screen you moron, it says CANCEL...you can't work the damn thing before you click CANCEL..."

Now look into the camera. click, click, click....

And here I was. They had my eyes, my fingers, my face...thanks to the "security" machine made in the USA.

Another elderly man was there with his cane and he was blind, his daughter in black was helping him, she looked so pale, so lost...how is he going to look at the circle?

And then came another couple and I saw the woman anxiously tearing little pieces from the tissue she was holding in her hands and stuffing them into her pocket.

And there was a woman with a little girl wearing slippers and no socks.

And there was a man with stained trousers.

And another woman carrying a handbag with holes in it, as if perforated by a machine gun.

And another woman covering her head with a woolen hat, hiding her chemotherapy.

And another elderly man badly limping.

and another, and another, and another ...

All numbers...

Number: 154, 155, 156, 157, 158...

All Iraqis. All here because of You.

All waiting to sit in front of the machine made in the USA.

Fingers, eyes and invisible faces....

And as I saw more of them approaching the thick metal gates, I prayed.

I prayed that you all become exiled, displaced...

I prayed that you lose all your belongings, your livelihoods, your homes, your parents, your children, your families, your loved ones...

I prayed that you get invaded and occupied by China, or anyone else...

I prayed that they appropriate your wealth, your resources, your work, your country, your lives...

And the longer the queue, the harder I prayed...

And my prayer took a life of its own, breathing by itself, beyond my control...
My prayer shrank to one sentence, and I kept repeating it like a mantra, over and over, compulsively repeating it until...

Until, I forgot the queue, forgot the faces, forgot the holes in the shoes and in the handbags, forgot the little girl in plastic slippers with no socks, forgot the bald elderly woman, forgot the lost young woman dressed in black, forgot the numbers....and I kept on repeating it over and over...

May you not find a day of Peace in your lives.

Then a voice called out

158! 158! where is 158 ? Yalla, it's your turn!

Your name ?
Your father's name ?
Your mother's name ?
...


Painting : Iraqi artist, Sina Atta, 2007 "Numbers"