Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Love in the time of occupied Gaza

Allam Zedan | 20-10-2015

Beauties; acrylic on canvas by Basel El Maqosui

He asked each of us to bring him a story; I decided to bring him me instead!

He is a teacher. And we, the submissive students, must follow his orders and fulfill his desires. There's nothing I can do except give him what he wants, whatever it takes. I know my family struggled to scrape together the money to attend university and sit on these stone-cold chairs. They hope that I, one day, will achieve their dream of a happy ending to the tragic fairytale that is their lives. But I feel stuck, like I have nothing to contribute.

“The best stories are those you personally experience. Concentrate on one picture in your mind and its details. And believe me, you'll start writing a beautiful story.” That's what one of my foreign friends told me when I asked him for advice.

He didn’t know that I can't think of anything other than sad stories, ugly stories, stories of pain and loss—stories I lived in the days of war…three wars, actually. And who wants to read such stories? Do people really want to read endless stories about dead family members and messed-up lives?

I sat alone with the pen in my hand, and I decided to write about her.

She is very beautiful; tall, brown eyes and braided black hair falling down her shoulders. Her smile is so sweet that I can’t resist her. She never needs to hide herself behind mascara (or whatever Chanel and Olay produces). To me, she’s just perfect.

And I loved her. We loved each other. But we were very young then.

I remember when we used to go to the same kindergarten together. We played and sang like two little birds together. She used to get jealous when another girl invited me to play with her. She pretended she didn’t care, but she was crying. I remember the days I watched her growing in front of my eyes; we were growing up together.

The little girl I used to play with has become the princess every gentleman desires. Last year, when I proposed to her, her father rejected me; he didn't allow me to marry her. He didn't know of the love that we have carried for each other since we were 5 years old.  I had been told he would reject me, that I should not waste my time going to her home, carrying red flowers, asking the man for his child, the one he loves, the one he cares about. I ignored them; I decided to ask anyway.

Her father rejected me because I am not rich enough; he is a proud businessman, a very wealthy one, who has contacts with many influential figures in the country. (Yes, even Gaza has its haves and have-nots.) He wants a man of power for his beloved daughter. I am a hardworking man who has nothing but a small house inherited from my uncle.. I walked away, my heart broken.

I saw her two days ago; she is the same girl I loved once, beautiful as always. She was holding a baby. That baby isn't mine; that baby isn't ours. The life she is living is one we cannot share.

This is a story of me writing a story, a tragically romantic one. How can I write a beautiful story when I don’t have one? How can I tell about a beautiful life when I lack one?

At least, I tried.

Posted October 20, 2015

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