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: