Observations of The Village that Became a City in One Night

By Aicha Bint Yusif

The splintered sidewalk follows my footsteps

As I climb the narrow, steep hill to my house.

The bus stop is decorated with trash

And its screen that shows the time remaining for the arrival of the busses is broken.

Grey 4-5 floor buildings are everywhere;

Each one houses a whole family and is full to the brim.

The air is thick- it gets stuck between my teeth

So I stop for a second to chew on my surroundings:

No pedestrians >> no sidewalks

Or is it

No sidewalks >> no pedestrians.

Worn out signs from couple of years ago

hung on few houses to welcome

Pilgrims coming back from Mecca

or to celebrate a wedding.

Street poles fail to direct me in my path

But rather confuse me, for they hinder

The flow of the collective memory of space.

Walls are everywhere.

They demarcate territory

And stop the streets from expanding.

Two cars can’t pass simultaneously.

You stop to the right

Until the upcoming car passes.

Walls are suffocating,

Being the only way for one to practice authority on one’s own.

Yet, even walls are not able to let me

Enjoy my privacy: even walls are inept before my aunt's bulging eyes

And our neighbor’s enquiring good-mornings.

Paint buckets and big cans of corn are cleaned

Then filled with dirt and cacti, zaatar, zoufa

And geranium to dot the walls and the balconies.

The sidewalk is a stuttering boy, begins

End, stops, then begins again.

In winter, the water floods the streets,

And an implicit agreement announces lethargy

To stay at home and roast castana- chestnut.

Last time the streets witnessed snow,

was 35 years ago, and until today

my uncle says when he wants to swear on his word

“on the life of the Snow’s year”.

In the summer, kids risk their lives riding their bikes

Cruising down the hill into the main street

Flanked by more stores and shops

Where cars park on sidewalks: