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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dionysus in Qena

A bell rings deep and the sound of shuffling feet trickles in through a broken-glass window. They charge the door and some dig their heels loitering, setting up. A fleeing hooded wild-eyed boy collides with carried bags and warm beige aprons at the door and bounces back indifferent, howling with joy through desks and fallen chairs, he is agile and indiscriminate like a kicked rubber ball. The mass by the door thins and the boy shoots out into the cold kicked-dust air.

A yard strewn with milling fiends, an ever-morphing matrix of standing-room, room for fighting and running and playing anything with anything. Running nowhere at speed is a joy in itself and many run, smiling, alone. Alone like the docile wanderers, comb-haired doe-eyed retainers of common sense, their bags on their backs they walk in the sun nibbling at thin-cheese tongues of bread, delighting in the crystalline timbre of the gibberish they dribble at prayer-volume, inching entranced along shaded walls, skipping and striding half-cautious through the mire, its shouts and screams.

In corners boys gyrate snatching prize empty bottles and sharp splintery sticks, they are rackets and batons and swords and clubs, and pacifiers for the stupefied when consciousness recoils. They thumb their noses at the nightmares of adults while their deference to the laws of other worlds keeps the swinging bottles from noses and brick walls and the sharp ends from their eyes.

A boy stands pondering engaged, on his shoulder a small mate perched like a wooden beam huffing protest. They are blindsided by a chuckling deliberate hot-limbed tumbler who tumbles on, still fiending for marrow, his trip on this day. Slapstick violence and curious torment, colored sugars sticking teeth and tempering the frenzy. A boy crashes, shoulder and temple to the ground, a kicked rock stopped before the goal.

Girls giggle crammed in a breezy dim corner like ducks, one lunges to whack a dissenter with love, come here. The loner turns her eyes shooting daggers, nyeh nyeh nyeh. She is punished. A circle is drawn with her steps, another girl its center and outstretched arms the diameter hands locked on the clever girl's dress, they swing her round till vengeance is had. Enemies and brethren are one, and crying not an issue. Compassion abounds. Cry alone and they might find you and avenge your pain, anyone.

A bell rings and men with long sticks billow, swoop and strike, sweeping chatter from the yard and into spent-air holes, but one or two remain. Kicking a ball into the calm. Running, drinking Fanta.


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