It was a sunny day, although there were a few clouds in the intensely blue sky. I was on my way to a meeting with We Are Not Numbers and had been instructed to prepare for our “show-don’t-tell” writing lesson to notice small details on my walk to the office.
First to catch my eye was a brown-skinned young man, maybe 25 or so years old, clutching a box of biscuits he was trying to sell. His shoulders drooped with fatigue as he tried to convince every passenger and every driver in the cars jamming Gaza's most popular spot (Elsaraya Square) to buy. The price of his day-old biscuits was double what they should be, of course, but I bet he had a family at home to support.
Then he caught sight of a beautiful woman, all made up, dressed as if for an important meeting. His eyes opened wide and he shot toward her as fast as a lottery winner would move to collect his money. He had finally found someone who could buy his biscuits! "Buy two,” he beseeched. “They're only one shekel!” She ignored him, staring out the other window. He didn't seem to mind at first; he probably thought she didn’t hear him, so he offered her his precious goods again. Sill no reaction. His eyebrows sagged and he blinked a little. But no, he hadn’t lost all of his hope yet! He thrust his biscuits at her again, but now she screwed up her face in irritation and the driver scowled too. The biscuit-seller gave it one last try: “For the love of God, may He grant you and your mum health. Please, buy some, or at least one.” Then the street light flashed green and as the taxi shot forward, the seller almost dropped his box—his arms suddenly too tired to hold even a light load. My heart squeezed in sympathy.
Even the teddy bear on a table outside a street-side shop seemed to feel bad for the man. Its head was bowed, almost touching his chest. That teddy bear sees all kinds of beggars, I thought. After all, it’s Elsaraya! But he was imprisoned in his place, stuck in his place, prevented from reaching out to others or speaking in a voice that could make a difference. What a symbol of Gaza, I thought!
I needed something to cheer me up, and then I found it. An old woman, so classically Palestinian with her weathered skin; deep, brown eyes; and a smile that seemed to never leave her face. She was also selling goods: fresh, lusciously red strawberries. She clearly was proud of them. She patted them like they were her children. A kid who looked about 12 years old with puppy-dog eyes looked at them so longingly she immediately relented. After sprinkling one with a little water, she thrust it at him with a smile, saying, “Take it, take it, habibi!”
The day, I realized, was full of beautiful things. I think every day is filled with beautiful things; they just need to be recognized. I was eager to arrive at the meeting, knowing what to write about now. I'm a very shy person and I fear public-speaking. When life events force me to stand up and speak in front of people who I know wouldn’t bother with me otherwise, my voice trembles and my hands shake as if I’ve just killed someone. The demons in my head tell me I’m not good enough, that I should keep my mouth shut if I don’t want to embarrass myself. I sometimes wish there wasn’t something called a “social life” I’m supposed to have. My life would be so much easier.
But I discovered that when I write, I never stutter! I never hesitate; words just flow. Through writing, I speak! My pen (or my keyboard) is like having a microphone; it allows me to express who I really am and what I actually think, with confidence. Until I found We Are Not Numbers, my writing was almost never read, however. Maybe that will now change!