16 ︎︎︎ That Waste Land - أرض الخراب تلك

by Nora Amin
translated from Arab by the author

© Nora Haakh / gedankenstriche.net
Written in response to the image of Tahrir square, the iconic location of the Egyptian revolution of 25 January 2011. An imaginary rendering of how the place, the beings and the objects transform with grief, and how movements become instruments and performances of mourning.

It was a white car, but it was not a taxi. I did not pay attention. I waved to the driver "Talaat Harb Square". I was already in the back seat when I asked him
"Are you a taxi?"  

His answer was evasive. His slender brown face was perspiring, emaciated, naughty. And I, who had struggled all my life to avoid being picked up by private cars on the road, could not believe that I was the same one sitting there without any worry.

In the past, I was afraid for myself, I was looking for safety and protection. I was avoiding danger. Now we are all in the abyss. We are equally in the abyss. There is no difference between private cars and taxis. There is no difference between danger and safety. We all live in violation. There is no longer any danger from that abused man to that abused woman. The streets are nothing more than mass graves of sweating, walking ghosts. I'm a ghost sitting in that white car. Mortuary car. It is led by a beautiful dead man with pharaonic features, but he is tired of delivering his dead peers. Rather, he was looking for someone to deliver him.

The memorial radio loudly shouts
"Welcome to the high mood and the best mood with the stars of FM"
while a dusty old man urinates towards the street path. He pisses on us. Because there is no longer a difference between discretion and confrontation. Between insolence and politeness. I feel like the whole universe is pissing on us.

The beautiful dead driver strives not to collide with the other cars. The truth is that I still fear accidents even when I'm dead.

We pass Tahrir Square. Nothing but crying. Tears cross the road. Tears drip from broken traffic lights. Tears from the fuel vents of the cars. Weeping exudes from the asphalt. Weeping from the balconies. The howling of car horns.

I'm this stranger. He drives me in his own car. It removes from me my traditional suspicion of strangers. And replaces it with a new bond, the bondage of the violated. There is no more sanctity in that wasteland.


This text is audible in the Podcast A Space for Grief.