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Amal- Worthy of Praise
“He is gone.” The three words, those three words, hardened me. I could not speak, I had to leave, I had to run. I tried to hold back the pain. My cousin who told me of my father’s death reminded me of a hollow tree. As always, she looked strong, but her joy, her emotion, was gone. So I left, I ran.
Through the winding derbs of the souks of Marrakech, the busy markets, the bargaining began to drive me mad, so I quickened my pace, and continued through until I hit the main square. Surrounded by tourists, I sat under a wall, trying to have a straight thought, trying to organize my fears. My first thought rushed to my brother Hassan. He is approaching six; he cannot live without a father. Tears, they finally came. Sitting against the wall, I quickly buried my face into my lap. “Let the tears flow,” my father would tell me as a boy, around the time my mother had passed. I buried my head deep into my hands, as I followed my father’s words, ones I would never forget.
My vision was blurred as I glanced back up from my now wet hands. My thoughts again went directly to Hassan. I had to pick Hassan up at primary school; he had just begun his first year. I walked slowly to the school, torn up, deliberating how I would tell him of our father’s passing. The children storm out of the school, reminding me of the day father took us to the Atlas Mountains to trade his wood workings. While there, little puppies, hearing the excitement outside their homes, came running out, running to the new wonders of the world, the undiscovered world.
I spotted Hassan. He came running, a smile so warm- he is a boy who sees with his heart rather than his eyes. Father and mother chose the name Hassan, meaning beautiful, and he fulfilled every aspect of the name he was given. He ran up to me, out of breath, as I quietly said to the ground, “Father...”
Hassam screamed and screamed: “The hole in my heart Amal, the hole, it hurts, it will not stop”. It was a hot day and no clouds cluttered the sky. I felt like the sky should be a painful black, but the sun burned and the air was slowly suffocating me, and as I looked up from the tight grasp of Hassan, I realized I had to get out. I had to leave the wood workshop, and most importantly, I had to help my brother. He needed more than the sky to brighten his life.
Yet there I was, back in the woodshop. One foot, two hands, the continuous spinning. The spinning of wood has become my life, the only thing I can do, the thing that keeps my father alive. We now live at the back of the shop, running low on money. The pain eats away at me, it leaves me in the darkness. I see the tourists walking, I try to sell them my pieces, but what I can sell is not enough to live off. I see their glasses, their pants, their shoes and all I wish for is for Hassan to live a life of happiness. He cries every day now. The wood keeps spinning.
I am saving my money. I am determined to change life for Hassan. We will move from Marrakesh. But then, without warning, I develop a bad cough. Although I have pulled back from society, I live to help my brother. I have saved over three thousand dirham. The money will take us places; the money has begun to brighten my world. I have plans, I have great plans, and we will take on the world, the two of us, together.
The money; the one thing we had; the money is gone. The shop was broken into, while Hassan was sleeping, he awoke, and told me he hid, still, “still, like how I felt when father left us, it was an awful stillness.” The wood has stopped spinning, but the pain needed to stop, I needed it to stop. Hassan cried, “Amal, what will we do?” I cracked a smile. This boy, beautiful, innocent, the only one that brings light into my life, he counts on me, I can change his life, the way no one was able to change mine. I told him, that in the future, whenever he is sad, to write, to tell the truth, to write his own story.
My cough has worsened. I am frightened, and I have stopped spinning wood. I sit in the dark workshop at night, I watch Hassan sleep, worrying. I have seen him writing, he says it helps, helps the hole shrink away.
“Amal, I need you, you say that... you say that I bring sun into your life, but you are my everything, you bring everything to me, I cannot live without you,” my brother said, as I trembled in pain. I was ready with an answer, a comfort that Hassan deserved: “Hassan, our cousin, she and I have been saving money, you will move with her and her husband, they will take great care of you, and whenever you look at the sun, think of me, think of how you were able to brighten every day of my life.”
The direct translation of the name Amal means worthy of praise. Amal passed away that night. The hole in Hassan’s heart was unbearable, the day was rainy and dark, the sun, his connection to his brother, was not visible. All he could do was write, it was the only way he was able to lessen the pain. He wrote, and wrote, and when it was finally time to leave with his cousin, he looked at the workshop, the place where his brother had poured his heart into and forgot his own pain, to lessen the pain of his little brother. Hassan had discovered the things that are unable to be hidden in life, the deep hurt, the joy love can create, and the sun -- Hassan’s eternal connection to his family, the one thing that will always bring him joy.