The Hollow Hill

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


The Hollow Hill
Epigraph:
Bordj Sebaou is said to be the fortress of ancient Ottoman occupiers in the 18th century.  The village lies on the desperate west bank of a river called Sebaou. The fortress was the final destination of many executed Kabylian Caids (chieftains) in that epoch. Grandmothers still tell terrifying stories about the execution of more than forty Caids during the Ottoman rule. Near the ruins of the fortress, there hangs an old olive tree that stands on the top of the Hill. Nobody could explain why the tree is still alive despite the tough circumstances it underwent.
  In a summer morning, Mohamed woke up in a state of fatigue after a terrible hot night. He washed his face that looked pale and scarred with the stings of mosquitoes. Mohamed had to go to work in an apple farm. Meanwhile, he remembered that he had to pay his debts for the prayers of dawn. Quickly, he put on his dirty clothes. Then, his friend and neighbor Ahmed called him.
Ahmed: hey! Hurry up turtle. It’s already 5:00.
Mohamed: Hang on, I’m coming.
Ahmed: The boss told us to come early today otherwise we’ll be fired. 
Mohamed:  He always threatens vainly. He doesn’t have other alternatives. Who is going to accept working for him? He is a kind of talkative…bothering bosses.
Ahmed: Shush! That spy is coming. Don’t mention anything about the boss in front of him.
Krimo: Hey, what are you whispering in the name of God! We’ve just woken up. Let’s go to work.
The atmosphere of work in the morning had always been demotivating. Workers stared at the same faces they used to see. The scream of the boss broke the silence” Hurry up! You grannies… I think I’ll suck somebody today…?” These rehearsing phrases pierced the ears of the workers. However, the tone of humor was never lost. Sometimes, gossips invaded the farm. 
Ahmed: Hey! Haven’t you heard of what happened yesterday?
Mohamed: Who hasn’t! Even the smallest ant that comes in and out would be perceived. Satellites are set everywhere. 
Ahmed: So, you know that the daughter of uncle Omar is going to be married within a few months.
Mohamed: Yes, I know. Lucky is the man who got that beautiful girl. 
Ahmed: Look at Brahim. He is 37 years old, yet he is still single. Marriage has become the project of the century in this country. 
Mohamed: Yes, true. Even dowries cost high these days. In this country, poverty truly kills.
The boss: Hey! You always talk like grannies. Can’t you work silently?
  The themes that workers treated in their mundane conversations did not actually vary. They spoke about marriage, football or trivial facts that they experienced in their lives. Sometimes, they bit each other’s back. For, few dared to say honestly what they feel about each other. Nevertheless, time passed. Each worker felt tired after four hours of doing the same actions. The recursive taste of apple didn’t open their appetite. But, other workers grabbed mouthfuls of delicious apple they seldom encountered. In the end of the working time, a scene of escape overwhelmed the farm. Everybody fastened his pace to reach home. For, all were going to have their lunch. 
  Mohamed entered home and found his mother washing the laundry. His mother represented the kind of desperate rural women. She inherited loads of agonies after her husband’s death in the so-called Black Decency. Unfortunately, the lines of oldness and sorrow marred her beauty. Her melancholic tone reminded Mohamed that he had to succeed in his studies to satisfy her. 
Malha: welcome my son. How was your day at work?
Mohamed: Quite good mom. The boss promised to pay us soon. 
Malha: I hope so. They said that Ramadan would be on the next Friday. May Allah help us fast this year.
Mohamed: Ramadan is hard in summer days. We fast from dawn to sunset. That’s really hard. But Allah always helps His devotees to perform the worships He ordered them to do.
Malha: I remembered thirty years ago. Ramadan coincided with summer. We had no air conditioners or television. But the smell of Ramadan’s cooking was charming. It is true that we were poor, but we lived in benevolence too.
  Mohamed ate his modest lunch. He lied on the bed for the noon nap. During the noon, the village looked deserted. The heat of the sun compelled the villagers to hide in their homes. Few went to the mosque to perform the noon prayers (Dhuhr). In the past, the mosque represented not only a sacred place of worship, but a meeting place for social and religious occasions. However, the new generation overlooked the position of the mosque in the village life. More and more villagers abandoned the mosque in favor of gaining more profits. Mohamed fell in a long sleep. 
  Many villagers could not understand how unjust life turned. The exploitation of sand in the river made the village change. Those who worked illegally in the river increased their fortune. Now, they own dozens of machines and colossal mansions. On the other hand, small farmers were still indebted to the fluctuations of the market.
As days ran, Mohamed continued to work in the apple farm. The routine of life in the village and the farm bored him tremendously. So, he decided to break this routine by a journey to the beach. With his friends, they went to the most popular beach in the district of Boumerdes (Zemmouri). The week before Ramadan was the last opportunity for swimmers to enjoy the freshness of water. They chose a remote place where there were no sun umbrellas. For, they did not want to pay for the sun umbrella. In a glance, everybody jumped out to the sea except Mohamed who stayed to watch out his buddies’ clothes. Meanwhile, he perceived a group of charming city girls with their parents. Among the crowd appeared a pretty young lady in the twenties of age. He watched her carefully as she moved across her wavy hair. The instants of eye pleasure took him so far away in a romantic illusion. As she exchanged eye-contact with him, she seemed interested in him too. He sneaked to the waters while she plunged like a bright goldfish in the sea. The momentums of curiosity swept his shyness away. He dared to utter the first words that finished up the wordless admiration. 
Mohamed: Such a beautiful day, isn’t it?
The girl: Yes, with beautiful people too.
Mohamed: Absolutely. What’s your name lady?
The girl: I’m Leila. You must be…
Mohamed: I’m Mohamed. They nickname me Moh. Your parents named you beautifully. They must have an aesthetic taste.
Leila: It’s just a name. I like yours too. Well, how old are you?
Mohamed: 23 years of age. I’m a student of medicine in the faculty of Algiers.
Leila: Interesting. Well, I’m 20 and I’m a student of biology.
Mohamed: So, we are scientific guys. You know medical studies are quite complicated and long. I’m in the fifth year. I’ll graduate within two years. By the way, where are you from?
Leila: I’m from Algiers. I live in Lebiar. You know... It’s a crowded district. Summer is a time where we flee the city to the beaches or forests. Thus, we are originally from Kabylia. 
Mohamed: Wow, I’m from there. Do you have relatives there?
Leila: Obviously. I usually visit them in Azzeffoun. I love that place. Well, my mother’s calling me. I had the pleasure talking to you. I hope to meet you soon.
  Mohamed seemed desolate when he was watching her disappearing probably forever as she left the beach with her family. Then, a voice came across to disrupt the romantic scene. 
Ahmed: Hey! Moh. Come on, we’re having lunch. We bought a water melon. Hurry up.
  The moments that followed the departure of Leila made Mohamed be more enchanted to her beauty. He pictured in his mind every detail of her complexion and physicality. Her picture made him dream of beautiful mirages at long summer nights.
  For the week to come, Ramadan began with a hot Friday. In Ramadan, Mohamed continued to work in the farms. But this time, he moved to picking up pears. Pears were picked up in big crates that weighed more than 20 kg.  The workers felt tired due to the heat and thirst. Everybody thought that he had to slow down a bit to economize some energy for the rest of the day. Hopefully, the boss accepted to reduce the working time from six to five. This was good news for Mohamed and his comrades. It meant an additional hour for the noon nap. In the afternoon, Mohamed preferred to stay in the mosque, for Ramadan was the sole occasion for him to open up the Holy Book of Quran. He was bothered by the snores of some people who napped in the mosque. As he was reciting with a low voice, he flipped the papers and stopped at remarkable stories of ancient peoples whom Allah had punished because of their disbelief in His Oneness. Sometimes, his subconscious took him away to think about his futuristic plans. He also thought about other people’s sufferings in the world. He asked himself, “Why does all this sadness occur in the world?” The inner compassion that he felt toward his oppressed brothers and sisters detained his mind from concentrating with the verses that he was reading. While time passed, more worshippers entered the mosque as the time of the Maghreb prayer approached. Somebody volunteered to distribute some dates for the prayers to break the fast. Mohamed thanked Allah for having completed a whole day without drinking or eating. At home, he swallowed the first spoons of a traditional soup called “Shorba”. He drank caps of coca cola soda. Thus, the thirst of a whole summer day made his emptied stomach demand lot of liquids. However, the soda he drank swelled his belly. After, Mohamed traced his way to the mosque for the night prayers called Eltarawih. In spite of the fact that these prayers are considered as a Sunna, most of the prayers preferred to perform it. However, Mohamed resisted only for four units of prayer. He went outside to have some desserts. There, he found some people playing domino. That scene bored him. He went back home to sleep. He could not sleep because of the heat and the mosquitoes that sang annoying music in his ears. He fell asleep after an hour of useless thinking. He dreamt of that beautiful day on the beach where he met her. They ran along the beach together and alone. They played with water until …. The surrealist scene was interrupted with his mother’s calling him for the sahur time. The sahur consisted of couscous filled with zabib swallowed with a cap of curd. As the dawn (Fadjr) prayers approached, he went to the mosque where he would find his friend Ahmed. Both would go to the farm with other workers in a camion. The days of Ramadan for Mohamed looked the same. The same song repeated itself each day. What Mohamed was actually waiting for was the end of summer. As Ramadan reached its final days, Mohamed intensified his presence in the mosque. There, he would find the tranquility that he needed to finish up reciting Quran. Outside the mosque, he would just talk uselessly with shallow people. Mohamed was the kind of guys who preferred being most of the time alone. He had few friendships with his peers. Hence, there existed few educated guys in his small village. 
In a national broadcasting, they announced that the feast (Aid) would be on Saturday. For Mohamed, this announcement seemed like a nonevent. For him, the feast had lost its charm after his father’s death. He would spend the ninth Aid alone with his mother. In the morning of the feast, he took a bath then ate the gateau that his mother prepared. He wore his new clothes and perfumed himself with some musk. The congregation of the village’s old men gathered to recite the Madih.  The congregation repeated Islamic phrases that glorify the All-Mighty. Silence spread all over the mosque as the Imam entered. Worshippers listened to the Imam as he preached them to tolerate each other and open new pages of understanding and compromise. In the end, he invocated Allah to better off the situation of the torn Umma of Islam. He saluted everybody and asked Allah’s forgiveness and admission of the fast.  Right after the end of two preaches, the worshippers prayed two units of prayers. They stood after to hug each other. 
  After coming back home, Mohamed hugged his mother and congratulated her for the feast. 
Malha: Congratulations my son. May Allah bring forth mercy and happiness to your life. Did you felicitate our neighbors?
Mohamed: Not yet mom. I’m going to do so. Then I’m going to see my aunt in Bordj Menail.
Malha: Fend on yourself my son.
In fact, Mohamed had few relatives. However, he only liked his aunt because of her support to his mother after the death of his father. She was a middle-aged woman of a deep complexion. She considered Mohamed like her son, whence she had no one. As he knocked the door, she inquired who stepped behind it. “That’s me, Mohamed, my aunt”.
“Moh! I missed you. Come in my son”. As they exchanged greetings and felicitations about the feast, she invited him to a luncheon.
“So, how is your mom? How is the village?” said his aunt khadoudja. 
“Ça va … you know. It’s terribly hot these days”, replied Mohamed.
“That’s summer my son. How about your studies? Aren’t you about to finish?” inquired Khadoudja.
“Pretty good. I still have two years to finish. I have then a training phase of three years. It seems long, but I rely on my perseverance to succeed by God’s will”
 The conversation lingered a lot. It twisted between the different mundane themes that most Algerians talk about. She insisted on him to look for a woman for marriage. She was the kind of curious women who searched this kind of marital ties. The visit arrived to its predestined end as Mohamed bed his aunt his farewells. 
  The feast was the scarce occasion where relatives of the family gather together. However, the new technologies cut these visits. They were just gratified by a phone call. Few relatives visited Mohamed‘s mother. The spirituality of the feast was losing in modern life. Mohamed as a thoughtful guy inquired why all this shallowness that was killing his society? Why all this crazy pursuit of pleasure by any means? Was it because of seductive Western individualistic influences? Or was it just a sign of the approaching end of the world? Whether it be political, religious or social, the principles of the society had lost many of its governing impact. 
  As the summer vacations finished, the university entrance frustrated Mohamed immensely. The nature of his frustrations was his financial inferiority. For, he collected the maximum of what he could during the summer vacations to satisfy the minimum of his needs. He waited impatiently for the scholarship. Itself, the scholarship did not really suffice for buying a nice winter coat. Mohamed always bore in mind that whatever was going to happen; it was predestined to happen. He was a sort of thoughtful religious guys who strongly believed in fate. 
  The fifth year of medical studies began with an atmosphere of unusualness for Mohamed. He undertook a very complicated specialty which was that of oncology. The specialty was a challenge for Mohamed who had few references in that field. The medical books he had did not actually form a roadmap for this kind of specially. He had to rely mostly on internet downloading of files that granted him direct access to what he looked for. Nevertheless, his academic concerns were of no comparison to that of the campus. The university residence was a mere agglomeration of old buildings that gathered hundreds of students from different regions; and with different orientations. Plus to its crowdedness and uneasiness, the campus looked like a big camp for war refugees. The dirtiness of the WCs and the narrowness of the rooms made the residents call it Guantanamo.  However, Mohamed was not the kind of pessimistic students. His ambition and enthusiasm constituted the weapons by which he fought such obstacles. 
  In a morning, Mohamed would usually find a crowd of students waiting for the bus. Waiting for a bus was the most boring habit that Mohamed resented. He was lucky this time when he didn’t wait a lot. However, he stood behind gazing at some students attacking the bus as it parked to guarantee a place. However, this phenomenon didn’t astonish him because he got used to it almost daily. Sometimes, he led analytical discussions within himself. Why those students behaved that way? Was it due to the extreme egocentric attitude of the society? Or a mere landmark of an ethical decadence? He couldn’t make any motion till the way to the bus was safe. The daily scenes that he saw in university buses were no more than that of  two couples discussing their lucid romantic dreams, or a group of boys who were quarreling over a football match that happened a week before. The unusual scenes that he scarcely encountered were that of a student reading a book. The rate of reading in the country was often reported to be vey unsatisfying. The murmurs of students’ chattering were overwhelmingly female. The ladies chattered over the show of the Arab Idol. They were whimsically fascinated by the guy who got the trophy. The guy wore very stylish clothes as they described him admiringly. The bus arrived at its terminus. 
  As Mohamed crossed the gate, the security agent called him loudly, “show me your card”. Mohamed searched for the card in his bag, but he didn’t find it. “I didn’t bring it today, sir” replied Mohamed. The security agent glared at his innocent eyes then said, “You are a kind of honest people. Come in”. 
  Epidemiology was the first session that Mohamed had to attend. The module was one of his favorite; however, the teacher looked so pretentious and rude. He was not that extrovert as much as to utter a word in the first session. He recognized some faces with whom he studied the precedent years. The classmates looked quite individualistic. Mohamed sat in a remote corner where everybody could hardly perceive him. He didn’t bother himself to stand staring at the classroom. He embarked on taking notes while the session was in progress. It didn’t matter how reasonable what he was writing, but the usefulness of details would be noticed in exams. 
  In the faculty, there were students from almost everywhere. In the yard, Mohamed saw couples of students mingling around. He sat lonely in front of the administration. Suddenly, a voice whispered behind him. The voice didn’t look very familiar to him. When he turned back, he could not believe his eyes. He saw the same girl that he once met in the beach. She recognized him while she rendered a visit to her friend who studied in the faculty as Mohamed.
“Hi, such a surprise. You must be Mohamed. I hope I’m not mistaken”
“Hi, there. Aren’t you Leila the girl I met in Zemmouri?”
“Absolutely. The world is so small. How is it going with you?”
“It’s alright. How about you? You look so beautiful today just like that day on the beach” 
“Thank you. But you look quite meager and pale? Are you sick?”
“No, it’s just the effect of summer. Well, it’s only the début. What’re you doing here?”
“My cousin invited me to her graduation. Normally, it should have been done in the end of the last university year, but the admin of this faculty does not seem serious”
“Truly. Everybody is complaining about this idle admin. I feel hungry. Don’t you?”
“Me either. I think you usually have lunch in the refectory. I’m sorry, but the food there is awful. There is a nice pizzeria nearby. Would you mind coming with me?”
“Actually, I ….” Mohamed hesitated.
“Come on… Don’t be shy… Let’s go” 
He felt shy as she took his hand abruptly. She ordered a pizza. They looked at each other’s eyes. As they broke the silence that followed eating, she asked him about his situation in the residence. She was quiet informed by her friends about the awful status of resident students in campuses. 
“But, how can you stand that situation? Myself, I can’t live too far from my family. I don’t support the fact of sleeping in a bed that survived years ago”.
“Well, it’s just a question of habit. In the time, I found difficulties sleeping in a crowded room or eating in the refectory, however, I’m too much experienced now. I have already spent five years in the campus. Besides, I go ever month at home.”
“Hopefully. By the way, how many siblings you have?”
“Actually, I live alone with my mother. My father died a couple of years ago”
“I’m sorry for your loss. I think it was hard for you to live your childhood fatherless… we are Muslims and we have to believe in fate. Life is a choice but a predestined fate”
“Absolutely, I believe in fate whether it is good or bad. Now, I have to construct my life myself. I can’t stand lamenting the past. I have a mission to accomplish.”
“Nicely said. I strongly believe that you will accomplish this mission successfully. Being a doctor is a big responsibility on your shoulders.”
“Despite the disturbances in the healthcare sector, I bear strong hopes that this sector would change to the better.”
“You’re right. I study microbiology which is very connected to medicine, but I see that this science is overlooked in our country. We have few laboratories that hire microbiologists. Whereas, getting a job in public hospitals has turned to be a dream because of nepotism. But, I still have a strong hope to go on further studies abroad.”
“We all share this dream. Thank you for the invitation. I feel so grateful to you.”
“No problem. I always invite my friends and I think you’ve become one of them”
“That’s a pleasure for me”
“There is a play this week-end. Are you interested?”
“Well, I love theatre. I hope I will be a good company”
“So we keep being in touch. Here is my phone number……”
  As the exchanged their phone numbers, Mohamed breathed deeply because he will catch her somewhere, someday. He thought that he finally found what he was looking for throughout his colorless life. He thought that Leila was certainly the kind of truthful girls who would sacrifice for what they believe worth-sacrificing. These predictions would for no doubt be approved by time and only time.
In the afternoon, Mohamed studied epidemiology. This latter was quite interesting for all students. They all focused their attention on the teacher to grasp as maximum as they can. For, the teacher should finish the lengthy program even though many students looked rather confused. How tired students became as the session arrived to its end. They all stared continuously at their watches or mobile phones. The countdown was an exhaustive task for students in the College. Hopefully, the teacher allowed them to go ten minutes before the official time for they were afraid of missing the last bus.
Mohamed threw his bag away in the corner of his room as he got in. He untied his shoes, put off his clothes then washed to pay back all the prayers he left during the day. Then, he fell asleep for about an hour. He woke up as his roommate Mourad made some noise while he was arranging his clothes. 
Mohamed: Hey, till now?
Mourad: Unfortunately, I missed the last bus so I had to walk the way down to this pit.
Mohamed: Next time, do not forget yourself chattering with the girls. 
Mourad: (smiling) I was not chattering with the ladies. I’ve submitted the file for updating the scholarship. They said that the deadline is about to end.
Mohamed: Thank you for reminding me. May Allah remind you of the last Witness. I’ll accomplish the file to update the scholarship. By the way, have you passed by the refectory? What’s on the menu today?
Mourad: Do not ask me again. I’ve already told you that you eat beans every Monday.
Mohamed: I’ll take some olive oil though. So, let’s go to the queue.
Mourad: wait, I’ll get my card. Here it is…
  The poor guys found the queue full up. However, they had no other alternative. They had to queue up for about an hour to get the plate. There, they talked about their daily nuances and trivial facts. Sometimes, they twisted the conversation to talk about politics or sports. The most important thing was to kill time as swiftly as possible. Finally, they arrived to the serving place where they took their dishes. They ate forcefully in order not to feel hungry at night which can certainly disturb their sleeping. In the room, Mohamed set up his stuff to revise some lessons. He looked carefully at the previous lesson in microbiology that seemed quite vague and ambiguous. Meanwhile, he received the call that he was expecting to receive a couple of days before. 
“Hello Moh, how are you doing?”
“Hi there, I’m not doing well at all”.
“Why, what’s the matter”.
“I feel like having a stomachache after taking that dish in the refectory”.
“I’m so sorry to hear that. Take some medicines. I think it will ease the pain at least for this night”.
“I would like to, but the dispensary has already closed”.
“That’s awful. Well, ask your roommates if they can give you some. Well, I called you to know whether you’d like to come with me tomorrow for the play I have already informed you about?”
“Tomorrow! What time? Since I do have some important classes!”
“It’s scheduled at 19:00 in the downtown”.
“At 19:00. But, I’m afraid I will not be able to catch the bus”.
“Don’t worry; I’ll give you a drive to the residence.”
“That’s good news. So see you tomorrow”
“Alright, take care of your stomach so that I can see you shining tomorrow. Goodbye”. 
“See you, good bye”
The day to come would be one of the most magnificent days in Mohammed’s life. As it was agreed on, they met in the downtown half an hour before the starting of the play. What was really weird is that Mohamed did not ask even for the title of the play. He was not interested in it. He was looking forward more moments to look at the face which he tremendously admired. But, he dared not to say the word that all lovers say. 
“Hello, how are you doing today?”
“I’m not really doing great after the battle that I have witnessed yesterday?”
“A battle! which battle?”
“LOL,  the battle of Algiers that took place in my stomach”.
“LOL, and how do we feel today”
“Thank God, I drank some mint that eased the ache somewhat”
“That’s interesting. So, you are applying what you study in College”.
“A bit. What we study is chiefly theoretical. They do not set us to practice till the next year by God’s will”.
“That’s quite difficult for you. I think it’s time to get in the theatre. People do like to sit close to the stage. Let’s have a good seat”.
For the first time, Mohammed entered a professional theatre. Every corner of the theatre made him certain that it was the best place for a romantic meeting. They sat beside each other and glared at the beautiful fences of the above seats. Meanwhile, a person stepped up to the stage to announce to the audience that the play would start within a few moments. The play’s title was “Waiting for Godot” which was written by the Irish playwright Samuel Buckett. The title seemed very strange for Mohammed that he asked Leila to enlighten him with her aesthetic taste for art.
“It’s an absurdist play. I think it’ll be quite hard for you to grasp the content of the play. There is only one scene of two tramps waiting for somebody called Godot who will never come”.
“This implies that life is not really worth-living since Godot is the core of existence that humans do actually look for, but in vain?”
“Hey, you didn’t tell me that you are such a philosopher! Look, the curtains are being opened. Enjoy”.
  The play was rather scornful and ridiculous that Mohammed wasn’t so interested on it.The most important thing was getting as closer to Leila’s persona as he could. For, every detail from her doings and sayings would tell a lot. However, she seemed too keen on the ideology of Absurdist theatre. She focused her attention to the stage while the play was in progress. The second hinder that prevented him from talking to her was the absolute silence in the theatre. Almost nobody spoke; except in moments of sarcastic reaction from the audience. So, what remained from was obviously the body language. The language that everybody understands but they are usually ashamed of releasing. When he touched her soft and silky hands, he felt the deep warmth of her delicate spirit.  She, herself, understood those bold gestures that broke the ice. Finally, she stepped aside to announce the end of the adventure since it was not really the right moment for it. 
By the end of the play, they walked out to her car. The fact that a university student owned a Chevrolet was a clear sign of wealth and prosperity.  She didn’t talk much as she was driving owing to her new driving license. When they arrived to the gate of the campus, the unexpected happened. They exchanged some warm kisses in the car. She bed him goodbye as he stepped out of the car. This was indeed their first kiss since they have never been kissed.
As time never refrains, Mohamed continued attending courses at the college. He also continued to meet her occasionally. Their emotional ties had been interwoven in a shape of an emotional relationship. But some worries overshadowed their connection since she announced to him that she would leave the country someday to continue her higher education there.
“Is it possible” inquired Mohamed.
“I just want to construct my future abroad then come back to Algeria”, she replied.
“What about our future?” asked Mohamed in a stressed tone.
“I’m not quite certain to get the scholarship. It’s just a possibility!” She said.
“I hope that we are going to stay together since I really feel too dependent on you. I just can’t imagine living without you.” Mohamed said.
The biggest error that a man could make was to love a woman blindly. This utterance guaranteed to Leila that Mohamed fell in her complete control. In fact, her love connection wasn’t that innocent.
  In one of the most tragic chapters of his story, Mohamed received a call from his neighbour to tell him that his mother fell terribly sick.  He went back to his village to check on his mother. As soon as he arrived, he found her in a terrible condition and asked her : ‘What’s wrong mather? What happened to you?’
‘I’m not for a long in this world my son. We believe in destiny and I have lived enough to see you grow up. I wish to hold your baby in my arms but ...’
  Mohammed felt these words deep in his heart. He couldn’t probably hear them once more. All the women came separately to check on the dying mother. She couldn’t talk anymore as she was dying. She was just whispering those words all Muslims know. She eventually passed away after long years of struggle and loneliness. Mohammed rushed to arrange the funeral and honour her body by burying it. Every villager attended the funeral and condoled Mohammed the only grieving son for the marhouma. 
  Moh stayed more days in the village and received more condolences from far away relatives who rarely paid them a visit. It was just out of making a cultural duty that made them come. 
  Months passed and Moh didn’t get any news from Leila. She changed her coordinates and basically settled in France and decided to begin a new life full of opportunities. However, Moh couldn’t forget what happened and how stupid he was to believe that a privileged girl could sacrifice her life with such a miserable young penniless man.  He finally graduated as most students do, but finding a job was his next disappointment. He filed job applications in many labs and hospitals. Jobs were scarce and low-paying. Nevertheless, he was rejected each time he applied. Was it due to bad luck, nepotism, his bad omen or just the whole community he lived in? Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve such fate? His despair grew bigger because he returned to work in farms as he used to do when he was a student during summer breaks. Now, he became permanent with some intervals during winter as orange harvesting ended. He thought of immigrating. He applied for many visas but got rejected each time. The motive was usually ticked (financial insufficiency). He abandoned that dream knowing that it was all money and time wasting to follow all those complicated procedures in vain. 
  The last thing he could try was to venture across the sea and risk it all. Whether he’d make it to the other side or sink and perish. The choice was hard. He thought and thought and thought. He eventually decided to embark on that adventure. He sailed with 20 other young dreaming-despaired young fellas who were mostly drug addicts. He didn’t talk much. They were singing those stadium songs to cherish and forget the long voyage to Europe. After 2 hours of sailing, they ran out of petrol and the GPS stopped working. The all panicked and began yelling. It was a dark night. They waited hours and consumed their provisions. There was little food left and they fought for it. It was survival for the fittest. They were gone since sought after by their parents except for Mohamed who was not missed. He went with the missing and was added to the number of people who were lost here and there. Nobody knows what happened to those harraga. But they were gone forever with no trace, no future.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Submitted: May 07, 2020

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