Act I: Mother
Mother hurried towards the phone, looked at the caller ID and pressed a button to accept the call, saying: “Sa’m Aliko, any thing new?”
“The door is locked, no one is responding. We are trying to break the lock now. Wake Yasser and Ahmad and tell them to come here, I think something might have happened to him.”, Answered the caller.
“Isn’t it possible that he just went for cigarettes? Did you check the coffee-house?”
“I don’t think so; we haven’t heard from him in two days. He hasn’t been to the coffee-house yesterday either.”
“Has any of the neighbours heard any sounds from his apartment?”
“God be with you, I will wake them up now. Do you need them to bring anything for you?”
“No need, the door isn’t locked, it’s only the latch.”
“Ok. Salamo Aliko.”
She went to one of the bedrooms hastily while inaudibly muttering prayers of mercy and supplication, switched the light and leaned over the bed placing her hand on the sleeping figure to wake him up. “Ahmad, wake up, come on, your father is waiting for you, Ahmad, let’s go, you need to get dressed ..”, with those and other invocations Ahmad slowly came to, and looked at his mother still in slight confusion, mumbling: “Ihs iht tehnh alreahy?”
“Is it 10 already?”
“Wewl, why are you waging me up?”
“Your father wants you to get dressed and go to him. We think something may have happened to your uncle.”
“Why do you think that?”
“It’s not important right now, just get dressed and go”, said the mother while heading out of the room.
She went to the other room, turned on the light, but before she could call upon Yasser to wake him up, she found him sitting on the bed, looking at her, with a questioning look.
“Your father wants you to ..”
“I know, mother.”, he interrupted, ” Do you think he is dead?”
She looked at her son a moment, and said:”I think so, yes”. She kept her gaze on him for a bit, half expecting him to say something and half studying his expression; he smiled at her knowingly and said: “Don’t worry, mother; I won’t say it out loud. Not today”. She gave him a despising look and left the room.
Act II: Brothers
The two brothers were standing in the street, waiting for a cap, when Ahmad’s phone rang. “We are on our way”, he said after seeing his mother’s name on the screen.
“Your father just called, they broke in. Your uncle is dead.”
“Tell your brother. Salamo Alikom”
“Ok”. He hung up, looked at his brother and saw the question in his eyes, he nodded and signalled the incoming taxi to stop.
Act III: Apartment
“Would you hurry up?!”, said Ahmad with a commanding tone and a disagreeing frown on his face, to his brother, who was walking at a slower pace, after the taxi driver dropped them a little off their destination.
“Well, you have a funny way of showing it, with your hands in your pockets.”
“Why would we hurry anyway?. What’s there to do?”
“Do you think this is the best time for arguing?. Be a little bit respectful, will you?”.
“To whom?”. They arrived at the open door of the apartment by then, so Ahmad contended with darting a disapproving look at his younger brother, before heading to his father who was talking to two other men, one of which he recognised to be his uncle’s next door neighbour.
“… my condolences, Doctor, everyone dies”
Ahmad advanced towards his father, gave him a hug and shook his hands firmly in an expression of compassion, and stood beside him taking condolences from others. His brother followed his lead and did the same, a little mechanically, and stood by his father’s other side. Several individuals appeared and disappeared inside the apartment, shaking hands and giving condolences, asking about circumstances, burial arrangements and displaying varying forms of compassion as time went by, before Yasser felt bored and went to stand in the balcony feigning to answer a call.
Act IV: Wake
“He was a good man, and so kind. If only he was right in the head. But, despite his sickness, he was still a good kind hearted man. By god, he was better than me, and I’m right in the head.”
“I always made sure to ask if he wanted anything, when I visit, or when I was close by doing some work, I would stop and drink a cup of tea with him. He always kicked me out and yelled at me, but I would still go to him. I just loved him.”
“Sometimes he would come to my shop and buy on credit and I would give it for free. He still owes me money, but I will never take it. It’s charity, now. Yes, yes, I’ll take it from him when we are both in heaven.”
Act V: Lunch
“… and that’s the point exactly; people don’t become united or resolve their conflicts under great distress or in accidents, they just put them on a side shelf; because in comparison with the distress, those conflicts appear small and out of scale. But take that distress away, everything returns to perspective again. I say ‘returns’, because life isn’t filled with great distresses, on the contrary, they seldom happen. So the natural is these conflicts you feel are little, the original view is the narrow view not the wide one, and we shouldn’t put much importance on how the conflicting parties behaved during a certain distress or event, but put the utmost importance on how they behaved before it, when nothing belittled them. But some people want the great distress to be the rule and we should all forget our differences, because they are on a smaller scale, after the distress as we did in it. Take death, for example; no matter how hard life was for the now deceased when he was alive, and no matter how difficult he made everyone else’s life be, to the point there was no denying, both reasonably and emotionally, that his death would be a blessing and a comfort to him and those around him, when he dies, reason leaves the stage, emotions become driven by a misplaced sense of guilt and all is praising the dead and his glorious life, straining to remember every good memory, inflate and extol it so that bad memories pale in comparison or be forgotten altogether. Remember when Uncle …”
“Enough!” Yasser’s older brother interrupted his heated argument, pointing his spoon at his brother across him, with an authoritative air. His brother continued without heading his interruption with more than a look of mocking defiance:
“… died, and the laughable attempts of some of the guests to remember his virtues and forget his vices during the wake?”
“You are a disgusting animal. The man is dead.”
“Precisely my point. His only virtue, to you and all acting like you, is death. You are his champions now, but let me hear you recite how many times you visited him in his final year, the one before it, or, my favourite, how many times you refused to pick up the phone because it was his number on the screen?.”
“Can you say with all honesty that you loved him?.”
“Can you lie and say it anyway?”
“I rest my case. What changed you is that you experienced that feeling of elevation and rising above conflict when he died and considered all that you thought before it to be false and base, that you can’t bear to think about it, and now you want, and strain to, to keep that feeling years after. But the truth is, he lived unloved and died alone.”
Ahmad looked at him awhile until he finished and said:”I hope you die alone”.
Act VI: 304
“Please, where is room 304?”
“It’s in the trauma ward, third floor to your left”, the nurse answered the frantically panting man in front of her, while making a sign with her hand to indicate a left turn. She made an attempt to ask him what she can help him with, but he ran up the stairs three at a time and disappeared from her view. He arrived at the trauma ward, and hurried across the corridor looking at room numbers, 301 .. 302 .. 303 .. 304. He grabbed the handle to open the door, but a shout from behind him and a hand on his shoulder made him start and turn around, to a man in a white coat asking: “Are you the brother?”
“Yes. You are the Doctor that called me, right?”
“Yes. I’m Dr.Ayman”
“Please tell me what’s his condition? Can I see him”
“Yes you can, he is awake now, but I’m afraid he …”. Ahmad left the Doctor and went into the room, knelt beside his brother’s bed affectionately and said:”Hey, brother, you are up. It’s okay, man, I’m here. I knew you wouldn’t die on me. We got only each other now. I .. I know you are tired, so I’ll leave you to rest now”. Ahmad went up from his brother’s bed to the Doctor standing by thinking why his brother is looking away from him, and asked him in a low voice:”He doesn’t seem to be aware of me.”
“I was trying to tell you. Your brother is paralysed”.
Act VII: Home
“It’s a lovely place; they have everything you need. You will have your own room, the nurses will take care of you night and day and read for you if you wish; there is a television in your room too. And look here, I asked for this specifically, you can have a nice view of the garden and the courts. Your neighbour is a nice man too, and he smokes, I know you loved smoking. If you open this little window here, you can smell it when he does. Hey, look, don’t let this get to you, it’s nothing; we still have each other. I will come visit as often as I can; and I’ll bring the kids too. They miss you man, and ask for you all the time, they were so sad you were leaving our house, but, you know, the baby is older now, he is starting school next week, and he needs his own room. But don’t worry about a thing, I’ll take care of everything, in a week or two. A month at the most. I tell you, brother, you will be among us before spring break, and if you aren’t, we’ll all come to you; my wife will make you your favourite meal; you just name it. Meanwhile, you get to enjoy this lovely place, you lucky bastard. Hey enjoy it man, it’s not at all expensive, and you lent me money as well back in the day. I’ll call the nurse now, to set you up in your new home.”