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He Put me in a Bubble by Marwa Haitham Melham

Posted on 31/05/2018
By Commonwealth Foundation

In a few moments, you will hear a loud noise like a shot from a high cavernous space.

The echo will be massive. But you are probably used to loud noises and will not know what is happening.
I used to be different from what I am now. My mother was very pleased the day she brought me into the world although she was aware of the mistake she had made. She had given birth to her daughter in a prison, and it would be difficult for her to protect me or smuggle me out. Anyway, it was done.
My mother and the midwife had already buried two of her children before I came into the world. That was the best thing that could have happened to them. Some said I slipped out carrying a bag on my back as if I were ready to set off. Others said I arrived angry. They all agreed that I was so stubborn, I began lashing out from my first few months.
The Dictator was a God. Wherever you went, you found him; whatever you said, he heard. All my movements were suspicious to him. My words were threats. My toys angered him, and he found my brisk footsteps in the prison irritating. He shouted for no reason, and sometimes beat my mother – perhaps to give vent to his hatred whose source we did not know. I was so small I slipped out of his hands whenever he tried to beat me. He got so tired of me teasing him, he began to ignore me.
Our quarrels began when I opened his desk drawer. We were not even allowed to go near it. In there, I found old pictures of the Dictator – always on his own, straight-backed, staring sternly at the camera. In the extremely tidy drawer, there were parts of old handguns with bullets scattered amongst them. There were old diaries and notebooks with their first pages torn out; an empty lighter; scattered rosary beads; keys of varying sizes – some like the ones which came with handcuffs. The big keys, I imagined, were for the huge doors to his magical world, and his castle where he went at night.
The day the Dictator caught me opening his drawer, his eyes bulged and the small veins on his face turned red. He shouted so loudly in my face, I felt like my head was going to explode.
He rampaged through my belongings, stepping on them and crushing them: the bike frame that I’d made from scrap metal which, every night, I rode in my dreams; the sheets of paper on which I drew my friends; the pieces of string that tied my letters to paper planes. And in seeing all my belongings destroyed, I grew up overnight.
When I woke the next day, I had grown taller; my body had gained extra weight; my breasts had emerged and my hair had become thick and wavy.
As the years went by, the prison gained extra rooms and lost some windows. My mother became slimmer, and my siblings more stupid. Though my younger brother knew how to sneak out at night, all he did now was lay in a hole that looked like a grave in the back garden of the house. My older brother had filled his room with mirrors. Whenever we cried, laughed or screamed, he took us to his room, stood us before them and begged us to repeat our actions. His mirrors, he said, would record everything and at the moment of our death, they would show a film of whatever we did from beginning to end.

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