I moved it off my desk chair as I grumbled. I pulled it out from the fabric of my clothes. I crushed it with the cigarette in the ashtray. It, however, crawled into my dreams while I was making fun of its blisters. O sorrow, you will not find within me the spirit of defeat as I will honourably die on your remains.

I admit I am a girl who does not like to live behind curtains. My endless desire to provoke my emotions and rebel against them probably caused me excruciating spiritual pain. Recently, I have learned to eliminate the body or the machine through which I became accustomed to living my day. This machine that drives the car, goes to my work, picks my shirts, looks into the eyes of my loved ones on my behalf and mocks my feelings to diminish time and deny alienation. I have become very mindful about my soul: I do not want to forget it at a job interview, in a waiting room or on my bed while the ill-fated machine makes a cup of coffee.

My soul has been picky and hard to please ever since it settled into this body. It decided to have the mind of an old lady who cares only about silence and her addiction to coffee, cigarettes, smoking, books and writing. I know that a traditional soul like mine will become a joke for people from my generation. Therefore, I have not been deeply angry about the corona pandemic.

I do not belong to places nor people. However, I got used to sitting under the sun in my free time. The sun significantly affects shadows. They become ridiculously long and short. They rearrange things and people. That reminds me of a colleague. She used to practice reciting literary texts while sitting on a wooden bench under the shade of a tree whose leaves the sun penetrates. When I sat next to her, she yelled while complaining and waving the paper around in her hands: “At the very heart of tragedy, there is light…” She moved her eyebrows closer together and begged: “I am unable to come up with a sad tone of voice.” She was planning to read Van Gogh’s letter to Theo, his brother. I have no idea whether she managed to do that or not.

During the pandemic, books disciplined me. I am in a love relationship with the Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. The contemplative characters captivate me and suffering appeals to me. I learned from Radical Alterity by Jean Baudrillard to not fear forgetfulness as it is the opposite of death. The death of reality means killing the details in the first place. Perhaps it means the death of everything else under this simplified definition. When the human is absent, they become some long-expired memories that mix until they lose their significance. Elimination is death.

I know a cancer patient who does not fear death. We are not close friends; she borrowed books from me when we were in touch. She likes reading and divides a human into two categories: Random and organised. She tends to be in-between. Cancer turned her into a random girl. Because of the pain, she had lost the privilege of sweeping her room or stopping a spider from building its web in the corner. When I visited her, she said: “I’m a bald girl today. I don’t need to dye my hair. It’s alright. I will dye my wig hazelnut brown. It is depressing, though. It’s long and funny.”

What do I remember about the quarantine? As I was writing a news story about the dispute over the tax revenues, this employee confessed to me in an interview: “Before my daughter went to college, I gave her all the money I had. I hugged her and told her: Forgive me.” I will never forget the way she uttered, “forgive me,” nor how she cried and buried herself behind the smoke of her cigarette that had already burned out.

I tend to listen to people more than talk to them. Although I can put together words, rarely do I find a well-organised sentence. Why? No good reasons. Some characters develop differently than others. Perhaps it is due to the different levels of awareness, experiences and slaps.

The awareness one has at a very young age does not just go away—the way my mother’s face feels, my first memory of what the word ‘moon’ means, my name, my first disappointment and the pain I have built on as I grew up because I was unable to figure it out during my childhood. I am scared of what I cannot bury with me. Many are the things that will live after me, perhaps an entire world. My world is inhibited excessively with things, people and books.

It makes me sad that Bethlehem is far from my small and tangible world. It occupies a large space in my memory. I keep digging in the pockets of friends and acquaintances in search of news about it. Your birthplace remains dear in your heart and pulls you back to it with strings of longing and identity. Have you ever tried to be safe? Bethlehem forms an aura of aspiration. When I walked along its roads some time ago, I blended with its stones, walls and the images of sadness and resistance painted all over. If I had one hour in Bethlehem, I would spend it inside Tanween Library, the place where I missed leaving my mark and stealing marks of writers I love.

What strikes me is that there are things in life that will remain beyond our control. If the pandemic ends, the feelings never will, nor the hint of indifference that will always frame the image of a girl who does not laugh but looks with sharp eyes at a fixed point. The best that she can give to a soul she loves is a brief and reserved farewell smile.

One cannot know oneself. And I am not saying that I know myself. I am only sure that my identity will always renew, as a static identity is a dead identity. And this girl, suffocated by her constant zoning out, will never be more than a childish gesture to the bamboo stalk that my mother placed on the opposite table for decoration.

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