My Voice / Remah Jabr

I yelled at her unconsciously. I was not aware that I had broken a rule. It was the first time in my life that I breached the sound barrier imposed in the house. I then withdrew, leaving my little sister shrunk on the seat. When I looked around, I saw my grandma biting her lips, and my sisters leaving the room as if lightning had just struck the house. The sound coming from the TV was no longer loud; my uncle had turned it down. And, at that exact moment, five fingers were landing on my face. They blew me to the other side. My feet, following my own command, stayed still, and I did not fall. Following another command of mine, I decided to leave the house.


While my hand was embracing my face, I looked at my father’s face. I felt pity for the man. He was full of remorse, as if he cursed God himself out of rage. But I didn’t give him any chance for mercy. I stormed out of the sitting room into my room, bypassing a crowd of silent heads. I didn’t cry. There was no time for that. I started to plan a revenge. I needed to come up with a retaliation plan. I checked the height of the window to the backyard. Not close but I would try. What would I need?. For how long should I go?. Is one week enough?. Where would I go?. I guess I would decide when I would have been already out. Most importantly, I thought to myself, I would leave when he would be out for the prayer. How I hated Friday prayer. How I hated this doomsday when we-an angry battalion- would be sitting in a circle around food. How I hated rice! and the spoons scraping on the plates. How I hated the forbidden around a pack of twelve people roaring in one house.

When would he be leaving for Friday prayer? I wanted to get my head out of the window and swear at everybody. Instead, I buried my head into a big blanket as if I was gathering all my ideas in one place. I was going to wreak havoc in here. I was starting my war against oppression.

I heard the call for prayer, but nobody was going anywhere. My brother’s shoes were in the room and nobody had come to fetch them. I hear whispers behind the door. The door knob was moving down like my mother’s knife while cutting a raw chicken. I didn’t move, only moving the corners of my eyes underneath the big blanket. I could see something … It was not my brother’s head , but a belt surrounding a nicely ironed blue shirt and a pair of grey pants stretching over a pair of black shoes.

I could not recognize the remorseful face. It had become incomprehensible. It was another man wearing my father’s outfit. Another man who after he had scolded my father, came to apologize on his behalf. I found myself surrounded by him, I didn’t know how he wrapped himself around me. With his exact five fingers he pulled my head towards him and laid it over his chest. With his other hand, he covered my head as if he wanted to protect me from some storm. He kissed my forehead few times like a mother welcoming her newborn baby. I raised my arm hesitantly and hugged him as if to say goodbye, and exploded with joy and cry.

He kept saying “I am sorry I am sorry” as though he was singing it. I didn’t care much about what he said. I only wanted that moment to last forever. I did not mind that the price of that love had been a slap on the face even if it would happen again.

My voice has gotten weaker since then.


Translated from Arabic by Ashraf Zaghal