Saturday, May 24, 2008

Brief as Photos - 5: They Had to Clean Up the Mess

© Photo by Vividpixels |

“When the Taliban religious movement decided to stone to death a couple caught in adultery, it chose a blazing afternoon in late August …”

Excerpt from the International Herald Tribune, November 4, 1996

The span between the last of breath and dark death is treacherous. For some, it comes as quick and clean as a scythe, and for others like her lover, it took all of ten minutes and was over. But for her, it lingered. It came and went; it came and went like a huge pendulum, shattering the small bones of her ears. She wondered in some quiet place inside her if this was what a trapped lamb felt like when cornered by a pack of wolves. She feel sorry for that lamb; but she realized that wolves have yet to evolve; and have yet to learn how to use rocks for starting fire, or for wounding creatures they don’t like. Lucky for the lamb and the pack of wolves, she mused. Nature has always been less messy than people.

For a moment, she wondered if it was over, but the cascades of stones started again once more. This time, it broke her nose, poked her eyes, pock marked her blue-sky burqa with a smattering of deep rose and dirt. She recognized the exact moment when pain registered in her primary somatosensory cortex, because she grabbed it hard in the neck and pushed, until it retreated to the region of dull darkness in her brain. She imagined that it would be easier if she would just shut down her body and avoid this mess, but why should she make it easier?

The question floating in her mind was who would tire or expire first? The crowd in its collective wisdom hurled fist-sized rocks, seeking to hear a plea, a moan – her full pain; things they must feel she owed them. She did not know if they trained them as to size of rocks and impact when they were young. She was never interested in those details, before now.

In the safe memories of her brain, she hummed her favorite song, drank apple tea by the lakeside and thought of her lover. Why should she give them the satisfaction of her full pain? She breathed in and roped her sighs firmly inside; then carefully buried her voice in a secret chamber deeper than Amu Darya. As if in a bold, silent movie – she laughed quietly at the unkind crowd. They could watch and wait all they want; who would they complain to in a free show?

The silent movie concluded. And through a hazy curtain of red, she saw a young man, the son of her next door neighbor, picked up a huge slab of rock. She supposed it must be the right size for this kind of thing. The young man made a ceremony of holding it high above her then dropped it hard over her head.

This time it was over quickly. It was not clean – but there was a smile on her disfigured lips.

And no one ever heard a sound.

And no one saw her pain.

And they had to clean up the mess.

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