•°• Tales Within a Queue •°•
Part I, II
I”ve got it. So satisfied was I that I didn”t care whether the whole story was nothing but a pack of lies. So, it doesn”t matter. What really matters is that I”ve ultimately got it. I looked for the safest place inside my bag to keep it. Being constantly haunted by the sinking feeling of losing it, I decided not to put all my eggs in one basket. My eyes were feasting upon it; the moment I got it, I raised the back of my palm to wipe away the fatigue pressed like a LOAD on my forehead, heaving a heavy sigh with words echoing in my mind that YES! it”s worth every single drop of my sweat.
On this memorable day, on the eleventh of November, at the end of the would-be-journalistic writer course which targets excellent English major students with the aim to give them the chance to better their creative journalistic abilities to read profoundly and write effectively, having looked around to find my co-workers wearing this blissful smile which has brightened up their weary faces, for a split second, having wondered what the matter was, I asked.
“We”ve got our salaries,” merrily my colleague replied. “What what! Why the hell didn”t you call me?”, I furiously wondered. “I thought you knew”, my mate unexpectedly bewildered. “Don”t you know that since the very first moment I signed up the contract, I started the countdown awaiting this moment?”, I couldn”t but shriek… I paused for a moment, then I posed “can”t I go to the bank now?”
“Sorry”, my colleague mumbled, “mmm you can”t. It”s 2:00 p.m. and the bank usually closes at 1:30 p.m.”. “It”s ok. I”ll go on Saturday”, I talked back spitefully. “Sorry again but Saturday is off; you”ve got to wait till Sunday”, the other workmate meanly advised. In fact, she didn”t mean to be mean but I felt it this way that day. “Never mind”, I ended up this nonsensical chat & went out.
A day-to-remember was Sunday. At 6:00 a.m. my friend called, telling me that the bank opens at 9:00 and I should be there at 8:00 to be the first in the queue. A queue? I didn”t take her advice seriously. I don”t know why I had the feeling that the bank was to open for NO ONE but ME, so I thought it was ridiculous to be there at such an early hour. I dressed up very well, went to work at 8:00, signed attendance, headed to my office, checked some papers, then I called my friend to come to my office. She opened the door with this unpleasant look on her pleasant face, then she cried out “you”re gonna be late, can”t you get it?” Trying to soothe her, I smiled. I thanked her for her caring and worrying about me. I asked her whether she was coming with me. Definitely she was. We called a cab to pick us up. The instant the cab pulled over, I asked the taxi driver to hold on a minute till we IMMEDIATELY come back.
Much to my surprise, the moment we stepped inside, I gasped at the sight of the LONG queue which, as it seemed to me, was viciously staring at & ridiculing me, putting the blame on me for not taking my friend”s advice with great consideration. So stupefied was I that I couldn”t but think of our poor taxi-driver whom I promised that he wouldn”t be held for so long. I told my friend to go tell him to take his leave because seemingly “IMMEDIATELY” was mistakenly uttered and that we would queue up for, hopefully not more than, two hours. I held my posture at the back of the queue, fidgeting and peeking at the stunning scene that lied before my eyes.
Being unable to resist her weirdly unfamiliar ironic look that mocked my naïve thinking that the bank would exclusively give me a red-carpet reception and welcome me with widely open arms, my friend rashly came back. I hurriedly initiated the conversation even before she could open her mouth to hurl insults on me so she would bite back her anger. God! But It was 9:00. I was punctual. I truly was. Still, she was dead right. Having attempted to seek some reasonable justifications for being the last one at this lengthy, seemingly-endless line, I started laying the blame on those early birds, who were impatiently waiting in this apparently unmoving queue, by praising my punctuality but, sadly, TIME has never been on my side.
As rarely do I waste my precious time on waiting, my friend and I decided to pass our time educating ourselves by gaining some knowledge through reading something. The moment I looked up, turning my eyes around, I caught all the eyes gazing at us. As long as you are in Gaza, you should have already realized that you are not in Japan or any western country. Holding a book all the time to use it for the time-passing while you walk, while you wait in a cab, in a line, in a clinic, while you rest in a cafeteria, is something unusual in Gaza that you would be negatively characterized as a mere studious, dull, slowwitted, or a show-off who wants to grab people”s attention rather than online casino games time-waste haters. I folded the papers up and looked back and forth and I found my posture split the queue down the middle that the number of those who were eagerly standing before me equaled the one of those who were intolerantly waiting behind me, and the imminent end was yet to come for me.
I started eavesdropping on people around, scrutinizing their faces, interacting with anyone ready to interact back & forth in finely tuned reciprocal ways. Each face artistically tells a compellingly untold story, a story of real-life oppression. But at times things are better left unsaid, words are better left unspoken & tales are better left untold because having authentic knowledge and actual enlightenment about what really goes on would be, oftentimes, the shockingly worst thing to happen in one”s entire life.
In Gaza, everyone is perfectly good at faking a seemingly-real smile to get-by. In Gaza, any keen observer or interested bystander can catch the glimmer of a smile amongst the teary eyes. Painfully, everyone simply flashes a smile to whosoever casts his eyes upon. It”s not a mere queue. Of countless hidden tales this queue is. After having brief autobiographies about who they were and what they worked, I found out that most of them were part of UNRWA”s Job Creation Program which provides temporary employment opportunities designed to alleviate the current unemployment & poverty crises. Since the blockade has been severely tightened, Gazan families earnestly struggle to make ends meet.
After the risky declaration of being financially independent of my parents that I once heroically issued, I know pretty well what it means to scratch a living and adapt oneself to meager earnings. It ain”t Easy. Who the heck says otherwise? Once you free yourself from your parents to achieve your dreams on your own, you become enslaved by your own dreams for being worried all the time how to make them achievable. How IRONIC life is!
Of all the speak-for-themselves scenes, two were a real standout. With much puffing, huffing and heaving, so fidgety I was that I kept looking at my cell-phone to check the time on automatic pilot till I heard some noises emanated from the front of the line; I had to stand on tiptoes to watch the would-be-amusing fight scene, trying to escape this entrapped place by busying myself with something- with anything. I sharpened my hearing & my sight struggling to know what was up with the ladies in front. Amid the lively, yet tempestuous sounds, I could hear a lady screaming in a very weird dialect “BY FORCE I WOULD LINE UP IN FRONT OF YOU”. I hilariously laughed and I asked my friend to look forward, trying to identify that lady who apparently still believes in the jungle law that survival is for the strongest.
The whole queue bent forward, trying to reach that strong lady with their own eyes while sticking to their places in this long queue. Other ladies kept shouting at her telling her she should have respected other turns, advising her to go back at end of the line & to wait her own rightful turn and that she could take things by force in her dreams only. It seemed that no-lady was willing to give up her own spot to give it to that trying-to-look-invincible lady. Women, who occupied the front positions, kept nudging & pushing her backward till she reached my spot.
Having dressed flamboyantly in a bright pink smock, she was thought, at least by me, to be in her early 20s. As she turned her back, I could see that wrinkled face. she wasn”t a lady. Sorry, she was. I meant she wasn”t a young one. She was very OLD. she donned a colorful headscarf; I myself hadn”t ever tried on such bright colors. She looked a freak to me, acting like an FOB. I spoke to my friend in English trying to make fun of her outfit but to my surprise that emaciated, pale-skinned woman threw me this detestable look asking me in English “WHY?” Simply, I was shocked. Both my friend & I exchanged some confused looks and I was like “Ooops! She understands English!”. I told my friend that she doesn’t have the Gazan mien; she was black so I supposedly assumed she might be Sri-Lankan. In English, I asked her where she was from. To my second surprise, she yelled at me in Arabic that she couldn”t understand what I had said and asked my friend to translate for me, thinking I wasn”t an Arabic speaker. I was like “No, dear I speak Arabic but because you uttered an English word and you don”t look Gazan to me, I thought you were a non-Arabic native speaker”. She told me she didn”t want to waste her time in such bullshit and she started fighting & lunging me that she wanted to line-up before me. I pushed her out of the line and she couldn”t but scream and blow in my face. As I couldn”t bear her roaring voice & piercing shrieks, I asked her to choose another spot to practise her tumultuous screams away from me.
Out of a sudden, she stared blankly at my Palestine-flag embroidered wristband. Beaming with joy she asked “are you Fatah?” “No” beaming with shock, I answered. With her, I alternately conversed. She & I were respectively like:
“Then why on earth do you wear this”?
“I am Palestinian, ma”am”
“mmmm well, I am a wholehearted supporter of Fatah party”
“Good-for-you” I paused then I said mockingly “but what a nice outfit; it makes you younger than your age, aunt”
[feeling rejoiced at such a compliment] “if only had you seen me in the late President Yaser Arafaat”s memorial ceremony a couple of days ago! I looked glowingly fabulous! I really did. I was all dressed in yellow”
My friend couldn”t but burst out laughing at the way that woman was talking, bragging that she was all in yellow. Interrupting our laughs, that woman returned to her discordant screams that she wanted to take a front position by force. Then, She started to hallucinate, making a fool of herself, that she used to be a heroine who did gallant indescribable deeds and that she could take whatsoever she wanted by nothing but force.
Being agitated by her pushy behavior, I told her to go away. She threatened me & my friend to report us to Hamas, vowing she would throw us in jail the moment we got out. I laughed at her sometimes. I cried out others. “She should have been a crazed psycho”, to myself I imparted.
it was the first time for me to be put in such a position in which I fought an old woman. She was hilarious, though. I told her to leave me alone. She refused. I begged her to go practice her craziness on someone else. She renewed her threats. My friend was gradually losing her temper. She went to the bank employee and she told her that this woman was messing-up the line. That nice-looking employee started to scold her asking the security men to come and drag her out of the place.
OMG! The freaky old woman kept swearing and cursing us, vowing that she would spend the rest of her life supplicating to God to send us to Hell for being unjust for her. As she was dragged out, her cries for the reprisals didn”t stop. Accusing us of injustice, she said she would never forgive us for what we”d done to her, terrorizing us that God always answers her heartfelt prayers. Regrettably, I started to blame myself for being that mean & ugly creature. I should have let her line-up in front of me. What would I have lost if I had done so? Each time this scene comes across my mind, I ask God to forgive me for making fun of this odd woman. Being frightened by her scary prayers against me, I took the pledge that next time I would be nicer with whomsoever asked me for some help.
YeY me! The moment the woman was taken away, I realized that I was the third in this miserable queue. I wanted to get out of this place ASAP. Panting heavily, I thanked God. While being extremely rejoiced, I abruptly felt a gentle tap on my shoulder from behind broke my reverie and as I turned my back in reaction, I saw a pretty lady with a beaming smile, willing to talk to me. I smiled back. I hesitantly asked her whether she”d mistaken me for someone else.Part III to be continued..