The Orchard of Broken Dreams
6 months ago, 5 Dec 09:43
I Other people die and stay dead. Others leave and never come back. But not Farah, my younger brother, who left one day and only came back after he was dead. At first, I thought I was the only one who could see him. That was before Bibi, whose roaming eyes were the colour of old beads, saw him in the corner of our large but old tent and asked him, Ala! What are you doing there instead of coming to eat with the rest? He did not respond. My parents, who had been trying to tuck away the memories of Farah’s leaving like one does with old clothes, thought Bibi was wicked to evoke the memory of Farah. Is it to spite me? Mama asked Bibi who stayed silent and shifted the piece of meat she was chewing from the left side of her mouth to the right. II At a different time, on a different day, I would have said Bibi was finally getting the old people disease that ate away at the brain like weevils do with maize in the granary. However, I had seen Farah a few days before this. When he came to me, he came in three parts: a low wind that made the opening of the tent flap – once, twice, thrice – and carried his musk of stale engulfing my room, stinging my nose and eyes; the prolonged cough that is the sound of the tractor engine as it tears into the earth in readiness for planting season; and then the body, full in all of its 6 ft. 2in. that startled me when I saw it. He looked like he had stumbled on the opening of the tent by mistake. But this was no mistake. III No one ever prepares you for the eventuality of your dead brother coming back home looking like an escaped prisoner of war. His skin was tight against his bones and his hair looked like it would fall off his head. I wanted to give him a hug, but I remembered Bibi’s warning, Allah will punish you if you welcome back the dead. Let them go. Bibi always said things that didn’t make sense. Her language was laden with metaphors that rolled out of her tongue like they were honey and the sap of aloe vera rolled into one concoction. Like how, on the day Farah left, as mother cried and sucked her teeth for her son, Bibi leaned against her cane and said, I saw death in that boy’s eyes the day I pulled him outside you. IV Farah died the same way he had lived; like a dog. Not that he deserved it, no one deserves to live and die in a way that doesn’t fulfil Allah’s purpose on this earth. But when you are born in the largest refugee camp in the world, you grow up thinking you don’t deserve anything better. The sound of the trucks coming and leaving is the way ...
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