Nada Faris – My Last Good Deed on Earth (1)


When I was twelve years old, my family spent
a winter vacation in the mountains of Lebanon. We had an apartment in the town of Kornayel,
in a complex that was teeming with Kuwaitis. Khaled and I rollerbladed, rode bicycles,
played football, and hiked up and down the mountains with kids our own ages. He was ten, of course. One day, my father drove with other Kuwaiti
men to Syria to buy merchandise for family members and friends back home The wives remained
in Lebanon to keep an eye on all of us. Their idea of keeping an eye on all of us
meant giving us early curfews. “Eight! You’re joking! No way.” I crossed my arms and raised my chin defiantly. I was twelve years old. I’d just started to cut my hair in my bedroom
with school scissors because my mother forbade me from cutting it in a hair salon. She claimed that my hair belonged to my future
husband, who alone could allow me to cut it short or to let it grow. Sorry to disappoint you, future husband, but
my hair is mine to cut or grow as I see fit. Khaled, who noticed my mother’s stern expression
– eyes squinted, lips pursed — took one step closer to her side. Turning to face me he said, “It’s not that
bad.” I smacked the side of his head and spat “loyalty”
under breath. “Fine,” my mother conceded. “Nine.” “Ten,” I said. “Nada, this isn’t Friday Market. Don’t haggle with me. I make the rules. Nine-thirty and that’s final.” I fisted the air before running out of my
parents’ bedroom. Khaled trotted behind. “Wear warm clothes!” my mother’s voice echoed
in the hallway. So of course I didn’t. I slipped into denim trousers and a yellow
shirt whose sleeves I folded at the elbows, and then threw on my autumn denim jacket. I stomped into Nike sneakers as I ran out
of the apartment. My brother trailed after me in a comfortable
training suit, black with a blue logo in the center. “Get a jacket,” I said. “You’re not my mother. ”
“Whatever. ‘
We passed the green elevator, skipping steps down a single flight of stairs. Lebanon’s electricity went out at irregular
intervals. Our building possessed an additional generator,
but it came on only manually, so there was usually a lag of up to half an hour between
the power going out and coming on again. Khaled was caught in the elevator once when
the power went out, and never really recovered. He glanced sideways at the elevator as we
passed it. We ran up and down the mountain, tearing through
the fog that encircled the peak like Saturn’s rings. We called it Hide and Seek in Heaven’s Clouds. The angels hid. The demons sought. thirteen kids trudged down the pebbly slope
toward the canteen, a corrugated metal cube with a blue awning. The Iraqi salesman with the full beard was
smiling when we got there. “The Kuwaitis come to spend some pounds?” “Lays,” I said. “Salt and Vinegar. And a Pepsi. Make that diet. On second thought, Miranda. Give me the Miranda.” I pointed at the can. “Oh?” he said for the umpteenth time. “No Laban? No mach-boos? Are you really Kuwaitis? Or have you all become American already?” Thirteen expressions of give-me-a-break appeared
on all our faces, and one by one we ordered as if he had never spoken. “Say hi to your father,” he said to no one
in particular. “What a douche,” said Ayman, before stuffng
his mouth with a Snickers bar. I said nothing. I had heard that Ayman’s father had been a
prisoner of war during the invasion. Ayman was two years old when the Iraqis occupied
Kuwait, taking his father hostage, ripping his nails off his fingers and then hanging
him from a ceiling fan. We gathered on marble steps overlooking dirt
and shrubberies. To our right were ditches big and small, where,
in three years, four swimming pools would bubble with activity. I never got the chance to try them out. My brothers did, though only a few times,
before my parents sold the apartment. Somehow, Lebanon’s mountains were a hotbed
of terror. I don’t care for war. I don’t like picking sides and arguing with
people about who has more right to kill the other side. I care about non-killing… if that’s a thing. But then again, I’m a poet. so my opinions don’t ever count when it comes
to society and its way of life. When I’m King, or President, or whatever,
I’ll probably make rhyming a national pastime. “Did I tell you guys about the boy who died
in that ditch two years ago?” I asked, staring into a hole. Yeah, yeah I know. I’m “way too imaginative” for my own good. Heads snapped left and right. Whispers hissed. “There,” I pointed with my chin. I can be so mysterious sometimes. I sighed. “Some say it was a salesman who did it.” I cocked my head to the side. They knew. They all knew which one I meant. “How’d he do it?” Khaled asked, his eyes sparkling with fear. I swallowed my first instinct. Ripped his nails out with a Miranda bottle
opener, then suspended him from the green elevator until he bled to death. “Poison,” I said, shaking my head, using this
opportunity to examine their purchases. “He poisoned the boy’s Snickers bar.” The mountains echoed their shrieks, rising
in pitch as the story progressed, until the sky darkened and our entourage gradually dispersed. Three of us remained on the grounds of the
complex. I sat on the sidewalk humming ” Gharamik Shay
‘Ajeeb” by Miami — the Kuwaiti band, not the American city — while my brother and
Ayman played badminton. Ayman was winning. “Guys,” Ayman said, “I’ve got to go. It’s almost nine-thirty. My mother will kill me if I stay out later
than this.” “Nada, we have to go too,” my brother chimed
in. I stood up and stretched my arms. The temperature had fallen quite dramatically
and my stomach rumbled. I had snacked on chips, chocolates and soda
all day, so the possibility of a hot meal at home made my body tingle. Ayman asked if we could walk him to his apartment. I said “No” and Khaled said “Yes” at the same
time. “If we walk him to his apartment, Mother will
lock us out, I explained to my younger brother. “But we can’t let him walk alone! It’s dark and it’s scary and he could be murdered
by that salesman!” Oh lord. “It’s not real. I made it up. “But what if other things happen? My brother and his friend began listing possibilities
one after the other of everything that could go wrong if Ayman walked home alone through
the Lebanese mountains. My patience was tried. I pushed between them and stomped in the direction
of Ayman’s apartment. They skipped behind. We made it just in time for Ayman’s curfew. I turned to Khaled. “We’re late.’

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