Saturday, 26 February 2011


A windstorm comes out of the desert, bending the few scrawny pine trees parallel to the ground and howling around buildings. One whole end of the college is open to the outside, and the wind rushes in and down corridors, rattling windows and sucking at doors. If doors are left open, and people never seem to learn to close them, they will slam them so hard that the handles fall off, sometimes hard enough that the brittle wood shatters. The narrow stone stairwells become blocked for several stories with lemming-like students, every one in turn trying to force the handle-less door open, finally deciding to double back and find a different route to their lecture, and having to shove their way through a mass of other students all going through the same process. 

The wind carries dust and grit from the desert, and pelts it against everything in reach. It drums against the windows, sands the paint off cars, and coats the cabbages and radishes in the farm plot next door with a layer of sandy brown. The wind buffets struggling pedestrians, tearing at their billowing abayas and thobes and scarves. Everyone who doesn’t wear niqab shields their face from the dust with a scarf or a book.

After a few days of howling wind and blowing sand, I wake up in the night to the sound of raindrops tapping on the windows, and rushing water. It is raining hard somewhere, and torrents of muddy water come gushing out of the desert and into the wadi, water turned the colour of chocolate milk by the soil it carries from far away. I listen to the little river behind the school roaring, the wind howling, and the pine branches rustling, and I remember the crashing waves, and the wind in fir trees, and the unearthly silence of falling snow in my former home, far away across oceans and continents, and I fall back asleep.

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