Abdullah Abu Shalbak: On Visitation Day

31 Jan

Episodic thoughts always overlap, and the constricted prison turns wide. Meanings become delicate. Sullenness of prison and sterile bitterness of cell are merely segments of a broken, dying world of memory.

Defiance has always fed my traits. My life in prison has always been built on patience, silence and resilience. I shed tears a lot, though. I am a human being at the end of the day. My freedom was stolen the moment I felt my homeland was chained. I used to flee some scenes, and cry. I had always thought that tears could relieve pain.

At Junaid prison, light concerned me; it slithered shyly through the small holes. I stole some glances through them of the outside world. We have always dreamed that light atoms penetrate our bodies, and liquidize our fetters so that freedom of a different kind would be announced. I glanced at the prison gate, and sunshine nourished my eyes. A greenish tree seized my attention. It drew colors of life inside me. A bus squelched through the mud to the prison gate. Apparently, visits were not denied. Tens of bereaved souls alighted off the bus, and the same hearts were occupied with toxic stabs.

Images looked giddy; emotions looked choppy. A view of an aged women, waiting by the gate, seized me the most. She dressed up in white. Her headscarf looked traditional. Her drained palms crossed her waist, waiting for the soldiers approval to allow her in. I could not see her face, and I could not recognise her due to the narrowness of the holes and because of the far-off distance. After a long waiting, the soldier called upon visitors names to enter the prison buildings. I kept an eye on that lady. Something weird attached me to her intuitively. Suddenly, people knocked her down to the ground; they were pushing. She tried hard to raise herself up, but she could not. She was stepped on. Her dress turned black. The scene robbed me of my mind. I stood thoughtless. I screamed unconsciously from my cell. No one heard me.

The old woman got up on her feet. Tears were her only weapon. She composed up her clothes, put on her headscarf and walked towards the prison slowly. Her steps were feeble. She quaked me from inside. And my heart prayed for her.

As I was lost by the holes of the wall in my cell, a jailor came and told me that I have a visit. I smiled. Finally, a family member came to visit me. The jailor chained me, and pushed me to the visits room. There, I sat. An old woman in her fifties came and sat in front of me. It was my passionate mother – the patient. My captured emotions flinched. My breaths accelerated once I saw her white dress, stained with black. Her headscarf was furrowed. Many questions were drawn over my face. But they all vanished, when I connected them to the cold scene I had seen. A few tears escaped my eyes forcefully. I wish I could sacrifice myself for her.

These human dimensions never came to my mind in the midst of the defiance battle with the jailor. But this changed, every time it was about my parents. My heart was beating fast, and I surrendered myself to tears.

Once my father paid me a visit in my prison ten years after my imprisonment. He had struggled to get the permit. I was ecstatic to see him. I talked to him delightfully. I tried to enriched these few moments, but he was silent and sad. He could barely speak a breath. Surprisingly, he said “I am traveling to Mecca to do hajj, but I will not come back because I’ll die there”. I tried to change his weird thoughts and draw a forge smile over my lips. This did not change him a bit. Then he instructed me. The visit ended, and I was left bewildered. I tried to erase his words about death. And I wavered the yarns of hope.

A month later, I woke up while hearing a fuss outside the prison cell. I looked through the holes, and saw my friend Yassir pulling through the door. I asked him if there was something wrong the Israeli authorities. He gestured no. Then he fell to the ground frowningly. I interrogated him if something bad happen to his family. He said, “Something bad happened to your family”. I swallowed my pride. Blood rushed to my face, and I turned pale. “My mother?” I asked. “No. It is your father. He passed away while doing hajj,” said Yassir. “May Allah reward you the tribute,” he whispered.

Abdullah Abu Shalbak, Palestine

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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Flashback, Letters from Fulan, Risala



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