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Drama Fiction Sad

Sarima decided to walk. 

She came to a crossroads. To the left, a tank in the distance; to the right, nothing but rubble. She turned right. 

She walked for a long time. Each step kicked up clouds of dust that clung to her sandals, and her worn t-shirt was starting to stick to her skin, but she kept going. On the horizon, there were two tiny dots. She didn’t know what it was but kept walking towards it anyway; there was nowhere else to go. With time, the dots revealed themselves to be an elderly man and woman. Upon seeing Sarima, the man smiled warmly; she reminded him of his daughter. 

“Good morning! As-salamu alaykum, uncle, auntie. How are you today?”

“Wa alaykum as-salam, dear child. We are good. Where are you off to on this warm day?” the man asked. 

“Just walking.”

“Where to?” the woman probed. Sarima’s matter-of-fact response resonated with her, making her smile. 

“I don’t know. I’m just going to keep going on this road until it goes no further.”

“Well, here, have some water then,” the man said, handing her a bottle. 

“That’s very kind of you, thank you.” She took a long sip of the water. “How are the olive groves doing?”

“It’s a challenge. But we keep going,” the man answered. “Just like you.”

“How do you find the strength? To keep going, even when things are tough?”

He laughed. “I didn’t know there was another option.”

“He’s right, though I hate to admit it,” the woman added with a chuckle. “How can we give up? This is all we have. By the grace of God and the support of our family and the community, we manage. All you have to do is survive one day. And then one more. And so on.”

“That is good advice, auntie. And a timely reminder for me to keep going, if I’m ever to find out where this road leads.”

“Be well, child. Stay safe.”

“I will. Goodbye uncle and auntie. All the best to you.”

She continued walking, putting one step in front of the other. That was all she needed to do. Survive one step, then one more. She had to keep going, and not think about what happened yesterday, otherwise she might not be able to continue. She walked past rubble that used to be a school, or maybe a hospital. After some time, she came to a wall where a young man was spray-painting something on it. He was deep in thought, determined to choose the colours that would maximise the effect of his message. 

“Hello, how’s it going?” Sarima enquired. 

He looked around and smiled upon seeing Sarima. “Greetings, sister. I have my health and that is something at least. How are you?”

“I am healthy too. What is it you’re doing there?”

“Art, I believe it’s called?” he said with a smirk. 

“Hmmm,” she said. “‘Freedom is never’? That sounds about right. Keeping expectations low, are we?”

“Smart one this,” he laughed. “I’m still busy. Why not wait until I finish before you judge my words?”

“I’m afraid I have to go… I’ve got somewhere to be. Perhaps you can give me a spoiler?”

“Very well. Only because you asked so nicely. ‘Freedom is never given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.”

“Quite wordy. You may want to think of something more catchy. Or a rhyme – that tends to work well.”

He chuckled. “Maybe you should come work with me, be my content manager.”

“I have the feeling that my calling lies elsewhere. What does art help anyway? It doesn’t change anything.”

“Well, I have to disagree. I believe it was the little prince who said, ‘The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart’. I think art can have a profound impact – it provides comfort to the oppressed and makes the oppressor uncomfortable. At least, that’s the goal.”

“Perhaps you are right. I guess every bit helps and each of us must do what we can. Best of luck to you, brother.”

And with those words, she was off again, walking on the endless road. The sun was already high in the sky, sweat dripping from her forehead and soaking into her bra. There were blisters on her feet, but they wouldn’t impede her determination. Despite hearing loud bangs and shots fired in the background, she smiled reflecting on her encounter with the young artist. 

After a while she came to a wailing woman. The woman had long stopped crying, not because her grief had passed, but because she simply did not have any tears left. What was the point of crying, anyway? It would not bring her baby back. Her empty eyes looked in Sarima’s direction. There was no spark or warmth in them. Sarima hesitated; should she stop and comfort the woman? But to what end? There was no consolation to give. Perhaps it would be kinder to leave the woman to her grief. She didn’t acknowledge the real reason for her hesitance: that she simply couldn’t bear hearing the gruesome details of what occurred. 

She continued walking, determined to not have any more distractions. She tried focussing her gaze on the horizon and to clear her mind, a remarkably difficult thing to do. Her thoughts kept drifting back to the events of the previous day. As soon as this happened, she would refocus her efforts, concentrating on a happy memory. Like when she was seven years old and her father gave her her first kite, and they went out in the afternoon to fly it. Or when her older sister became a lawyer and they had a feast to celebrate, the whole family joining in the festivities. She could still smell her mother’s musakhan, feel its texture on her tongue, and taste the fresh and tangy chicken. Her stomach grumbled. 

A man was standing at the side of the road, looking in her direction. She was hoping that he wouldn’t talk to her. It had been a long day, and she still had a long road ahead of her. 

“Excuse me, miss, can I ask you something?” 

“Of course,” she said, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice. 

“Have you seen my son by any chance? Marid, he’s 14. I fear he may have been taken.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I haven’t.”

Though the man wasn’t surprised by her answer, it nevertheless pained him to meet yet another failure in his quest. “I know it’s unlikely that you would know, but I don’t know what else to do than ask everyone I meet. He’s such a mischievous boy, always getting into trouble. I always feared this would happen.”

“Well, perhaps he’s just somewhere being naughty, and he will soon return to you. Inshallah.”

“Inshallah.”

Sarima continued her journey, until eventually she met her friend, Zaim. He embraced her tightly, relief evident on his face; Sarima was alive. 

“I’m glad you’re safe. I was so worried.”

“I almost wasn’t. But what’s the point? I have lost everything. Maybe it would have been better for me to die, too?”

“Don’t say that! We have to keep fighting. There is no other way.”

“I’m just so… tired. I’m not sure I can do it. I cannot get their screams out of my head.”

Was there anything he could say that would ease her pain? He had so much of his own trauma to work through, though there was no time or space to do so. “Do it for me then. Or do it in their honour, or for your future children. Whatever you choose, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you keep going.” They hugged again, and for the first time since it happened, she allowed herself to cry, to let go of everything she had been holding onto. 

“I have to go, Zaim. I must walk my own road. Even though it may never end.”

“Go with safety, Sarima. And know that you are always welcome to join the movement. We can do with someone like you.”

“Thank you, Zaim. Farewell, friend. For now, at least.”

As she walked away, a part of him wanted to call her back, to insist she stay where he could ensure her safety. But he knew Sarima needed to find her own path, just as he had.

Sarima continued walking. She walked for a long time. 

She came to a crossroads. To the right, a tank in the distance; to the left, nothing but rubble. She picked up a rock and turned right. 

February 27, 2024 08:49

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6 comments

Yuliya Borodina
16:12 Feb 29, 2024

I know you never named a country, but in the light of the war in Gaza, the story hit me straight into the gut. Inshallah, the peace would come soon! Other than that, beautiful imagery and a very string feeling of grief, loss and hope. Thank you for sharing!

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19:39 Feb 29, 2024

Thanks for reading and commenting, Yuliya! I'm glad the story resonated with you, and yes, I definitely had Palestine in mind. 🍉🍉🍉

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Stella Aurelius
10:07 Feb 27, 2024

Very gut-wrenching story. The imagery of Sarima walking the road is very memorable. Lovely job !

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19:48 Feb 27, 2024

Thanks, Stella!

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Trudy Jas
16:20 Feb 28, 2024

In the end we walk alone. We meet others, but they are not us. They walk their road.

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23:08 Feb 28, 2024

Very true. Thanks for reading.

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