Written by Alaa (aka Lols)
Salma’s idea of a weekend never involved house cleaning. Why she decided to clean the house, rearrange her stuff and go through tons and tons of things both old and new, was beyond her; especially since she wanted to relax that particular weekend after a hellish week of news reporting, political analysis and work tension. It wasn’t the best week for her career seeing as how Hany, the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper she was working for, rejected almost all her column articles.
“They’re not your usual “perfect”, Salma! You can do better than this!” He said one time after she submitted her 5th edited version of a column article entitled: “The State: a ghost or just an ineffective being?”
“H, this is the most perfect I’ve been ever since I worked here. I can’t just report the news as it is without having to criticize what needs to be criticized!” she answered blatantly, taping her feet on the floor.
“I don’t give a shit about criticism, Salma! We’re a newspaper not the national front for critics!” he added sarcastically.
“Is this what you learned while studying to become a journalist or are you just being an incompetent ass right now!?” Salma’s voice was shaking from the rage. In her book, a journalist is someone who drives the public opinion, stimulates it and spreads the truth no matter how harsh it is. She, the one who didn’t even study journalism, knew that criticism was the best way to retain the public’s attention and spread awareness. An empty reportage does the exact opposite.
“WHAT DID YOU CALL ME!?” Hany shouted and stood up, his eyes wild and crazy. A vein seemed to pulse in his head more clearly than normal. His face was almost red and his graying hair seemed to vibrate from the static rage he was emitting. One thing he hated most was being called “incompetent”.
“An incompetent ass!! That’s who you are!!” And Salma stormed out of Hany’s office, to the bewilderment of her colleagues and the rage of her boss. After they had calmed down, they apologized and worked things through but reached nowhere when it came to Salma’s article. Instead, to forget the whole thing and start the weekend, following her boss’ directions and comments, Salma wrote another plain, boring and stupid article about how effective the new price hikes were for the economy and how the people should back the government’s decisions in order to get out of the current crisis, no matter how hard they were. She never felt this bad before, sensing her betrayal to her moral codes and job ethics. Writing against her views and beliefs, stupidly and blindly following the media stream of “glorifying” what needs no glorification. She believed, like so many like her, that criticism is always the best way to move forward. Sure, some of the decisions taken by the officials were good but implementing them was way off line and it is in that sense, that criticism should help steer the ship on the right track.
So instead of relaxing by the pool, reading a good book and following up on her doubts about her husband’s faithfulness, Salma found herself holding bucket, broom and sponge and cleaning the house from top to bottom. It was her way of dealing with the tension. Karim Imnan, her husband, left early in the morning because of “a case that seems to never end, babe” and he planted a kiss on her cheek. Salma pretended she was okay with him going to work on a weekend and decided to meet him for lunch or dinner later that day, whichever suited him best. However, deep inside, she knew something was off. Something didn’t quite add up. That’s why Salma called up the one person she promised herself was out of her life for good, to help her get to the bottom of her doubts and either confirm them or deny them completely.
With every stroke of the mop on the floor, with every dust particle being thrown in the garbage, with every tune and lyric ringing through her headphones, Salma felt her tension and overworking stat slip slowly away. After the cleanup and tidying processes, came the part she was dreading the most: going through her old stuff. Memories, memorabilia, notes, souvenirs, gifts; they all reminded her of a past she preferred forgotten. She didn’t even know why she kept hold of them all those years even though the people related to that past were out of her mind and life.
If they were out of your mind for good, you wouldn’t find the past that hurtful, her inner voice resounded, showing her an apparent paradox. Slowly and painfully, she dug up note after note from her childhood best friend, Sarah Al-Tomoom; notes that she wrote for her since they were in primary, sketches of both of them, memories etched permanently on paper and painfully, in Salma’s mind. In the garbage, they went. She also dug up stuffed animals and jewelry from Nevine, portraits and paintings from Samir and all of these memories were quickly thrown in the garbage as well. Every piece – a reminder of how the Gang was closer, of how she was an integral part of it – thrown away took a part of her with it; the memory associated with each of them was strong and despite her hardening of her heart towards them, she couldn’t help but feel a bit torn inside till her hands dug up one item that completely blew her away.
It was a small wooden box, covered with a thick layer of dust garnered across the years. It was etched with small lines and small flowers, with a small intricate “S” carved on the lid. Salma’s heart was beating fast and she could feel its beats in her ears, she felt her memory tape rewind way back to a time where her heart was full, happy and beating with life, the image of what the box represented was vivid and strong. Shaking, Salma slowly opened the box to find a dead rose, whose petals were all withered and dark, lying dry on a small piece of note. Barely holding back her tears, Salma slowly took out the note and started to read the words written upon it:
أصابك عشق أم رميت بأسهم ”
فما هذه إلا سجية مغرم
ألا فاسقيني كاسات وغني لي
بذكر سليمة والكمان ونغمي”
It was a song that Salma loved and she used to listen to it when she was with Fady. The lyrics were filled with everything he felt towards her. He used to tell her; “I made the box myself for you. It represents my heart, a container of these words, the “S” represents the hold you have on me and the rose represents the beauty of your soul, your being and the hope that no matter how dead the Earth is, something with life can always bloom and blossom from within, which represents the love I came to feel for you…”
Tears started to roll down her face as she remembered these words and what the gift represented. Composing herself and reminding herself of the hurt he inflicted upon her, Salma snapped the lid shut and threw it away in the garbage, unhesitating yet hurt and torn more than ever.