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Updated: Jan 17

Sami Al-Kilani
Sami Al-Kilani


Short story by: Sami Al-Kilani

Don't be surprised if I talk to you face to face, and don't tell me that it's a nightmare. I am really talking to you. Perhaps you will agree with me that it's the language of beauty or art or any other name you might choose for it -- for this language in which I'm speaking to you. You may have hear the phrase “The stone spoke”, or “someone makes the stone speak” when he hews a sculpture out of it. If you agree with me that this is a language, then this is the language in which I will talk to you.

On the front side is inscribed “I choose you, my homeland.” On the reverse side a hand is drawn, raised victory and its handcuff broken in two. Isn't this language? Isn't beauty itself a language as I am hanging here from this gorgeous neck, resting on this attractive woman's chest? In short, I'm very lucky being where I am and the way I look. It took a lot of suffering to get here!

When a bulldozer came to the place where I had been deposited by running water a long time ago, I said to myself “The days of sun and air are over. My friends over here and I will be used to fill a hole in some street and covered with concrete, and we'll be finished “I tried to say good-bye to sun and air as I fell from the mouth of the bulldozer into the belly of the truck. Piles of stones fell on top of me until the truck was full. We moved a very long distance before the truck reached its destination and delivered its load. We slipped down and then I was lucky to land on the top of the pile. I thanked God for my return to sun and air. My luck increased when another bulldozer came, levelled the stones, and thus kept me at the surface.

It was very hot. I thought it had to be a desert. Water was being poured over us in large quantities, and a heavy steamroller rolled over us. I became one with the earth, firmly embedded but with my face upward. My friends and I, kept thinking about this new place of ours. At first, we could not comprehend a thing. I reckon that none of my ancestors had ever seen such a place: a wide area surrounded by barbed wire that was attached to short metal pegs. Then tents were being set up, and we were left alone with the barbed wire, the metal pegs and the tents. Then one day, the place was suddenly full of feet, coming and going, walking to and fro. We were delighted to receive human beings. Our delight helped us forget the pain of being stepped upon. Our dignity remains intact when it is human being who passes over us.

After some time, men dressed in dark blue garb arrived who spent most of their time inside the area surrounded by barbed wire. One of them bent over me, poured some water over me, and checked my colour. But he was not able to determine my value from first sight, so he dug me up with a long nail, again poured water over me and consulted with a man who was kneeling next to him, they decide that I was useless. I didn't even realize that they passed me by until they began pouring water over another stone and expressed admiration over its colour. The first man picked it up, washed it carefully, and studied it appreciatively. He told his comrade “This will make a very nice necklace!”

They sat and talked, and then decided something. The first man took a nail out of his pocket and began to chisel away at the face of my neighbour. After a while he moved to the shade and continued his work. I envied my neighbour very much for the new direction his life was taking. He'd make a great souvenir, kept in some house, while I was staying here, neglected and with no value.

My ignorance continued until the day arrived that a hand picked me up and took me inside a tent. was put in a plastic bag that smelled bread. A piece of paper was placed next to me and then the bag was tied hermetically. A strong hand tossed me into the air, and I crossed over to the other side, flying high over the barbed wire that separates the sections. Someone there picked up the bag, opened it, took out the piece of paper and read it, wrote another note and put that beside me in a new bag, and returned me to my old place through air. And this continued every single day. I liked this game, but I still envy my old friend. I couldn't help myself, thinking about the good life that he surely was living now. Then luck came my way, or, as you say, bad times turned for the better. During my last flight, I fell down on top of the wedge of one of the pegs holding up tents, and part of me broke off. Someone opened the bag, took me out and put me aside, and started reading the slip of paper. Suddenly he looked at me, held me in his hand and examined me. Then he spoke to one of his friends. They admired my colour that had become visible after I broke in two. He poured water on one of the concrete slabs in the toilet area and began to polish me. This way I lost a large part of myself and turned into a piece with two flat surfaces, round in shape, like a heavy coin. He wrote some words on one side of me, and printed a hand on the other.

On the day of his release, my keeper hid me in a place I shall not mention since others till use it to smuggle out their stones. He and his friends stood with a straight face in front of the soldiers who was about to search them. The soldiers found a stone on one of them, and threw it into the garbage. So I was scared as hell and snuggled into my hiding place. The check passed safely.

My keeper reached his home. A crowd was waiting for him. Among them was the girl from whose neck I am hanging. He took me out from my hiding place and put me around her neck. I had forgotten to tell you that he had spun a coloured string and attached me to it. He told his girlfriend that he would buy her a golden necklace instead of the piece of string, but she disagreed and said that she likes the string better. I was delighted to hear her refuse because I have no relationship with gold. This string is my friend: we came from the same place, and shared the same fears.

Translated by Joost Hiltermann and Sami Al-Kilani


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