Before the movement restrictions were imposed between cities and villages due to the pandemic, I used the excuse that I was busy to cover up my desire to not stay at home. I want to make a comment here:

This is what I thought about all the time but I did not talk about it openly. However, the fact that I did not express my thoughts does not mean that I want to turn it into a subject of defence.

Defence of what, anyway?

Of staying at home, merely staying at home?

Defence of the right of time in space

I was used to going back to my village every week when I first moved to Ramallah in 2011. After two or three years, I started going back every two weeks and during a crucial period in between, I visited daily, using public transportation. I used to wake up very early for months and stand in the middle of the village in front of Tabash Well on the main street—even during the cold winter mornings, when the loneliness stung. After I bought my own apartment, I started using the term ‘busy’. The excuse worked; I also said, “I can’t take the public transportation to go back to the village.” But this ‘busy’ state was useful in its persuasiveness. It was cutting like a scalpel, appropriate as an excuse. The word ‘useful’, even though it has a loose meaning, describes any work done by an individual for a certain establishment; one that makes the person a slave of another, such as committing to a job. Any job anywhere as a commitment does not mean obtaining a salary for slavery. And even if a salary is paid, what is more important is guaranteeing the slavery itself, then the pay is transformed into a chain. If we think about it, the chain is not more than an accessory that completes the role of the slave and its justification. Everyone seeks to define me, like all the others; in this way it is easier to deal with me when I resemble the person speaking to me or who expects me to give a result, or an answer if one asks me or merely holds a conversation with me.

The aim is that we become copies of those who leave their houses

Servitude within a group indicates another acquired gain: one of fakeness. Then this indicator is connected to another word: useful. If you are busy, then you are doing something useful, which means that you are within the safety range. But for how long can the words ‘safety’ and ‘usefulness’ be used alongside ‘busy’?

In my case, ‘busy’ could be used for one month at most. The result was affected by the virtues of the group I was dealing with as I did not live alone; and if I did live alone, I would live in isolation within a group such as a family or friends, or in a number of groups at the same time. Lonely amongst everyone, even those I do not have direct relations with. Alone with the supermarket owner just because I buy my bread and eggs from him. Alone with the Ford minibus driver to whom I pay three shekels every time I go from downtown Ramallah to my neighbourhood. Whether I was going to take this minibus depended on the number of vehicles on the transport line, the number of times I went out of the house, the number of times I used public transportation and the number of coincidences that made me ride this particular minibus. Despite all that, this driver furnished my loneliness as he was sporadically there.

The reality is that there is no completely lonely person

I was ‘busy’ in this way in August 2017, but the real story was that I got stuck in Lebanon due to my Palestinian passport. A young, newly employed security officer (as I presumed because of his jerky movements and flushed face) took one look at it and then looked at me as if he had found fresh prey. He was trying to prove to his masters that he was ‘useful’. He caught an Israeli border crossing stamp on the cover of my passport. Of course, I did not transform into a bird and fly over the borders to land in Jordan (the eastern part of occupied Palestine) without Israeli soldiers catching me (in the same way that the employee had caught the stamp) and having stamped my passport, proving their role in reducing my loneliness.

Both of them—the employee who had found the stamp in Beirut and the soldier who had placed it on the ‘Allenby’ bridge—were slaves to their jobs, and since they were working for an employer, both had to do ‘useful’ jobs as long as they were receiving payment in return for messing around with moving my loneliness between two cities.

I had travelled for a book signing of my novel Ginger with the artist who created the art on the book’s cover—the Lebanese painter Maya Fiddawi. Maya drew the dog Ginger, the cat Kasha and Clemence in her orange dress—and her mother Um Murkus in her embroidered Palestinian dress. One day, Maya said excitedly, “Why don’t we have a book signing together here in Beirut?”

So, we signed it at the Ta Marbuta Cafe in al-Hamra Street in Beirut.

Sometimes I get involved in things due to my restlessness and love of adventure. But in reality, I like to stay home. So what has driven me out there? Outside the house?

‘Out there’ and ‘home’ are two different places, so who drove me from one place to another?

What was this force that moved me?

It was as if life had become a mere place without time and the moving force was unimportant.

What is important is here and there—inside the house and outside the house.

Being ‘busy’ was not related to what I had travelled to Lebanon to do. I had made up a story and told my family that I had returned to Ramallah with a hectic schedule, while I was actually in Beirut visiting the General Security offices every morning in an attempt to save my passport. Many friends and volunteers kept pushing for the passport’s return until it reached the personal desk of the General Manager, Mr. Abbas Ibrahim, at the General Directorate of Lebanese Security. My friend the Iranian poetess Miriam Haidari went with me once and my Qatari friend Hanadi came another time. Both had come to Beirut to meet me, but to no avail, as we ended up just going back and forth to the General Security offices.

The practical explanation I gave my parents was that I was busy in Ramallah preparing for an imaginary conference, which meant that while I was living one day to the next with my hopes restricted to simply regaining my passport in Beirut, I was protected by the word ‘busy’ to mean doing useful and safe work in Ramallah.

Whatever made me leave my home?!

Look at the question. I can only find one place in it.

This means that exiting a place I know is like going into a void. The exit method is unimportant, whether downwards or upwards, whether by pushing at the sides of a place or going out by turning the key in the door and hurting it.

At this point and while looking back, I find that it was not such a big lie. I told the truth to only one of my sisters to free myself from others’ worries. The subject was not related to lying as much as to the definition of an individual within their group; that is where an individual gains freedom of movement and the ability to draw their real map of movement without having to lie. A person is able to leave or stay; that is, they can determine their place on this Earth through travelling all over the world and that is the epitome of his passion?

Where can this person gain their definitions, from a person dictionary or that of their group, so that they can afterwards place definitions for the words?

The words ‘benefit’ and ‘security’, for example; then how I became the practical application of the model of voluntary servitude, even though apparently I was the practical example of the revolution against that servitude. And the word ‘revenge’, which carries a meaning of refusing and within which you find a temporary excuse for me to be a slave. But as soon as the idea of volunteering is involved, all that is negated; the revolution is negated. I negated myself by my own accord.

So, what does art do here?

I was pretending when I said that I was busy, but I instead went every day to the General Security offices to ask about my passport. I gave others, outside my house, the opportunity to completely confiscate my freedom, so I felt as if I were in prison, to an extent that I was blighted with disturbances in my digestive and nervous systems! And my friend, without whom I would have become homeless, along with another two friends, held on to my big toe and the one next to it to keep them in their place, as they were pulling away from my other toes. I think they would have kept pulling away without my friends’ interventions and I would have become a woman with only three toes on her feet just because she left her house. Also, when I was in the lane to go back home, I felt terrible pressure on my stomach, so I placed my head in the sink and threw up in one of the hotels on the southern edge of the corniche in Beirut, in order to throw up this pretence. I wrote while sitting at the edge of the swimming pool. An old Lebanese man, who had recited poetry by Nizar Qabbani to me that he had learnt by heart, thought I was a servant that had come to swim in the pool. So, I said to him, “No I am a poet.” And I read to him:

Red seats

Scattered on the windows

Void of thoughts

Behind which are grey curtains

And helpless static curtains that cannot do anything

I am watching all this coloured silence from here

Next to the blue pool

And it does not awaken a desire in me to call him

All that surrounded me outside the house, in that place, was loneliness; even the taste of the water, the food and the air was all I wanted while I dangled my feet in the pool and stared at the blue towels strewn all over the red seats I had mentioned in the poem. I felt a great void in that place—I wanted to be in the house.

I wanted to be busy in the house.

The house, once more, becomes related to being busy in a place that I know and am familiar with as it is useful and safe, and these descriptions are related to a house. If there was a salary for someone working in a house—that is, for its owner—servitude would be to oneself.

Being busy at home means submission to one’s own servitude

To pay the price of three words without batting an eye.

Can you see how price has a relative meaning and how every loose meaning cannot be expressed by a narrow word? Value is not imposed by the text as much as the need to use the word from the beginning.

If I had not left the house and had not travelled, all of this would not have been necessary. Why did I think of the book signing at the Ta Marbouta Cafe in Beirut? Was it not enough to write and publish it?

Is it not enough for the writer to write?

What obliges me to read other authors is my worry of not finding any more stories to write. But I can do so by merely looking at a panting dog, a blooming flower or a fluttering curtain, or hearing a doorbell ring. Why should I participate in conferences? I am a writer, not a door-to-door salesperson.

Why should I participate in facilitating the exposure of an artist and their art to slavery by going abroad to meet them?

I have questions about the manufacture of value, such as the pine trees that James and Mary saw on the sides of the road in the film Certified Copy. James said that each tree is not a replica of the next, so each tree is like a piece of art displayed outside. But everyone passes by them without giving them their true value; a monetary price if they were in a museum. But they are instead left outside and everyone enjoys them for free.

We can place the trees in a book, not to give them value, but to exert our authority on others by saying: They have a value.

But it is impossible to place everything in one book. James answered Mary’s suggestion to place these trees in his book on art criticism in the same way: It is impossible to place loneliness in a book for it to gain value.

Loneliness has its own value by itself, even far away from those who experience it outside their homes, called the house of loneliness.


The purpose of a foetus’s exit from its mother’s womb is to continue life. Similarly, a citizen leaves their house every day to guarantee their daily livelihood, and one travels outside the country for study or tourism. But isn’t that all just extra expense? We need an effort which mostly aims not to cover up reality, but to make everything seem useful and safe. In the case of the foetus, its purpose is the continuity of the human race. In the case of the citizen and traveller, the purpose is to refresh life. But the foetus that left its safe home to instead go to a place full of worries and fears makes one wonder whether life is worth living.

In my case, my purpose was to give my parents an excuse that I am not wasting time in my life but investing well in it. I am a lonely person who invests her time in everything useful, which emphasises my commitment to my community, and every time I go missing, I say to my family—as if defending my absence—“I am busy writing.”

Writing: a strange word

What does this word do in life? How can you attach the word ‘busy’ to it? Why would anyone on Earth be busy writing? Writing what? My friends are not spared my attitude either—they only change their expressions. Being busy writing is an excuse that can be used once, twice or three times, but not forever. What is the meaning of a woman busy with writing all her life?

Is she crazy, psychologically ill or socially unsuccessful? She could be unconfident or incapable of being happy or a bad cook or dancer or cannot adapt or is not beautiful, etc.

I came back from Bethlehem after visiting Tanween Bookshop, on the 21st of January 2020, two months before the restriction of movement in Palestine, and I had a book with me as I had fallen in love with the author. The book was translated by the young Palestinian translator Amalia Daoud. It was an anthology of creative articles by Janice Waldand and others. I went there to sign my novel The Memory Factory, introduced by my friend, the novelist and researcher Usama al-Ayaseh. I came back with the book feeling satisfied, as if I had come back with an answer to a question that others had not put forward. I felt like passing the book to all those around me, so they could read the article on page 139 by Janice Wald, titled “Things to Remember if You Fall in Love With an Author.” Wald gives advice about writing and discusses the beautiful world of literature while marvelling at the greatness of being married to a female author.

Oh my God! There is someone who glorifies female authors the same way that wood appraisers glorify carpenters

Great, amazing, equitable.

Then Wald gives his advice, hoping that it will help whoever lives next to a female author to understand her. He then ends the article by emphasising the fact that authors have the right to have those around them understand them.

I cheer along, agreeing with all of Wald’s advice.

Oh! And with tears in my eyes!

What is this loneliness?

Isn’t a female author crying without finding a way to explain to others the reason, loneliness?

She can find enough time to write what she was unable to explain and then stays at home. This is the loneliness that I started to experience away from the Ford minibus driver and the owner of the supermarket since the 23rd of March 2020.

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