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A Discourse Between an Old Man and a Young Girl
Sheherzade: I watch the news each day bitterly, gazing at the images of riots and helplessness that fall upon the streets of our brother countries. They, the people in my school, tell me, "You are a talented girl, Sheherzade. Why do you do this to yourself? Why do you want to go there?" But how can one explain this to them, they who are blind to the world and are only in tune with their bulging wallets and tall homes: I see a people struggling, my people, because of our own American ignorance. I see death fall upon children and women, men in concentration camps: and yet, they are the terrorists. How can we stand and watch this? How can I remain home and bow my head in submission? I will tell you: I cannot.
Old Man: She said, she walks like a Sultana, on the shade of a tyrannical empress, and sees the News. Does she know that I see her walking on her toes? She eats like a bird; she’s a dove, flies without wings over all grounds, looking for love’s seeds, but also, watches the News. She’s only a teen, and yet led all wars: the squabbles, the great battles, the ancient ones and the ones in our intentions, and he reads the News. She reads like a poet in ecstasy, truly she’s the coming great poet, and thinks always of the News. She sleeps like the Innocence, like pure water in the bottom of a pure crystal, under the care of her papa, and she dreams of the News. The News, the News, they invaded the earth and the sky, they are the stars and the sun, they are making days, nights, the streets, the stones, people’s minds and even growing grapes on the cactus. Yet, she laughs like a child, loudly, crazy, but bitterly, because of the News and what exists hidden behind the News.
Old Man: She gazes the images of riots, the disarmed hands feeling the trails of dignity, and she's upset of all tear-less eyes, the ossified hearts, and total misunderstanding. She sees beyond the images, because she was raised on the ash of her genocide, and still remembers Srebrenica. O Srebrenica, another but forgotten 9/11, when it comes, she wonders if babies without canines, laying there, into perfectly aligned graves, prefer darkness to light? The blacks and the whites, the pure and the mixed, call her gently: Sheherzade, and dare to advise her to not look back, she’s an Alice on a true wonderland! Do they not know that she holds the past and the future in both hands, and that her life cannot be identified with her biological life or confined in a golden cage? Life for her, begins before the creation of this universe, and goes beyond the end of this world. She's a Muslima, a beautiful virgin, and yet she has just given birth to another Jesus, to me. I read the Bible as I read the Quran.
Sheherzade: Look into my eyes and I will tell you what you see: you will see a young but old soul, a smart but stupid mind, a happy yet sad heart. Judge me not by my age, but my actions, dear friends, for the depths of my eyes tell much more than biological time. Tick-tock, the clock is ticking, I pay no attention. Time is infinite to God, nearly meaninglessly spent by us humans. I look outside the window: most will tell you they see a tree, a bird, a rock. I will tell you I see the feathers of the dove ruffling in the wind, the leaves bowing in prayer to God, the still and aging rock witnessing our horrors and follies. Judge me not by this term 'year' for it is false-- explain to me the logic of thirty year old men prancing around women as if children? No, I look not at age. Mentality says all.
Old Man: Who dares to look deep into the green eyes, hidden behind the well-shaped eyelids, in the middle of a forest dressed in orange leaves by the will of God? Is she a witch, or just a kid’s drawing, where the sun is strangely blue, the sky is beautifully green and the grass, amazingly red? Whatever the mud or light which she is made, she’s alive and ravishing! But, why it’s by the eyes, that everyone invites us to enter into his heart, for exploring its confines, and discovering the reasons of its sorrow and its happiness and drink of its sincerity and its pureness? Why not from the nose? Why not from the ears? Why not from the mouth? Why not from the breath? Why not from the pores of our skin? Why not even from our sins, that we can allow to someone to invade our shielded hearts against temptations and attempts of conquest? If it is recognized that a rapist may enter in spite of us, by the unseen pores of our skin, like a wizard, a doctor enters by our consent, via our veins, using sometimes his scalpel, in both cases the transcripts of the heart will vanish. And when the mouth and the ears are just pits towards the unknown, places for lust and lascivious words, the breath, when dissipated, leads nowhere. Also, when the religious enters, in case of faith, by the weight of our sins, the heart become like a Sufi in his cave. The lover instead, enters always by the eyes, because it was said that (the eyes are the windows of the heart) and a lover, like a conqueror, like an usurper, like a thief, he never comes through the door, for the simple reason that hearts are not like houses equipped by doors. He enters and reads all secrets, one by one. Then, from where a friend like me, just a friend, will enter to enlighten the darkness of the heart of the slender body, like a bud, carved on the border of adolescence and youth ? From where enters the blind, and the one who can’t touch, the soundless heart and the speechless lips? I tell you: By words, the way to apologize, and the way to say “O, my friend”.
Sherherzade: I call to you, "O Friend, dear Friend, you are right. Of course, my Teacher...", my voice echoing within the depths of space. The eyes tell all-- it is the reason I cannot peer into the eyes of others. It is the fear of being read, being discovered as if a hidden mouse in someone else's garden, that prevents my eyes to look into the faces of others, and it is only those that I trust most do I allow to gaze upon my face. The eyes are most revealing, the windows to our souls, our emotions: fear, anger, love, sadness, happiness. And because of this, I leave my eyes to the ground, for the fear of feeling disappointment is too great. From first glance, I am strong, independent, and hard-hearted. Yet, my heart knows that with each furthered glance, this image becomes more of a sham. My heart is shy, fearful, and, although it truly will never give up, it often falls into despair. It has been torn, shredded, by loved ones and the wounds have regrown. And yet, the regrowth is still irritated, still aching.
Sheherzade: How can a heart be so striking and so fearful? How is it that, when my ears hear the notes of music, when my eyes fall upon the words of a sentence as if strokes of pencil on a large white canvas, my heart feels strengthened? My soul awakens with a single word, a single letter of hope that brings a gust of thoughts and emotions swirling together in whirlpools. It is the shield of my face, this paper that allows the words to flow out of my heart in ways that only my fingers can tell. It is the expression of a human being, this writing, it is the dhikr of the Sufi, forever whirling with hands in submission to the One and Only. These words are the lightning flashes, occurring with the loud thunderclaps that strike against the dark night sky, bringing forward only one thunder bolt across the night. And yet, although it is only one thunder bolt, it is enough to light the entire sky with its bright red streak that reveals the sleeping villages and quiet forests.
Old Man: Imagine someone. Let it be the neighbor’s naughty boy. He throws a stone on the dove resting on the centennial oak. The dove then flies, and the stone falls near the tree trunk. No one sees more than that, and no one says more than the white dove was like a bride sitting in the middle of a meadow. Only she, and she said that the dove is not anymore a dove, but feathers ruffling in the wind. That the oak is not anymore a tree, but leaves bowing in prayer to God. That the rock is not anymore a rock, but a witness of our horrors and follies. Can you imagine me then inside her heart, these words were the key? Imagine now you speak with her. Imagine her words as a light rain sprinkling her femininity. Imagine the head down, by modesty, not shame, seeking the flame of wisdom in your soul. Imagine….
Sherherzade: What is more painful: the tears that flow down one's cheek, or the cry of the heart, crippled from the inside by an invisible force? It takes no genius to fall in love, even with what is wrong for them. It is easy to tell one's self, one's mind, "Enough is enough." It is easy to say "I will think no more, I will breathe no more for you." But what does one do in the silence of the night, where there is nothing to occupy your mind but the creeping thoughts of one's wrongs and rights? Once again, I wake in the morning and plaster the smile on my face; yet inside, the bitterness spoils within. I will never apologize, even if the sky is so much to turn the darkest of black and if the whitest of snow was to cover my body in the coldest of pangs. But will you not apologize? Will you not free my soul from your grasp and leave me to my sanity? When will you leave the depths of my mind and it's dreams, to leave me to the present, instead of the past? Apologize to me; so that I may forgive and let my rotten heart heal.
Old Man: Imagine the eyes looking down, asking you a favor. Imagine she said, oh my friend, I'm sorry if I breathe the air you exhale. Just imagine me then, inside her heart, because this goodness, gone today, allowed me to profane her sanctuary with my sincerity: I have not found (a young but old soul, a smart but stupid mind, a happy yet sad heart), I have found me, when I was twenty, thinking that love is possessing and not giving. I laugh at her, at me, because feelings at this age are not sincere. Thirty years after, thinking that I am touching the edge of my end, it still in my heart a string vibrating for her, that woman who never came, but I discovered at this age that the only true love is the love of God. In fact we have the same heart, inhaling and exhaling the only remaining healthy air: Writing. ..
Sheherzade: I have never written on this emotion before: nervousness mixed with happiness. My heart is beating fast, thoughts are racing. Joy fills my body, the breathe caught in my throat as if a sudden unexpected draft of air in empty space. I close my eyes, again thinking of the words you have just told me. I bite my lip anxiously, what if they don't like me? What if they see me as an ignorant girl, a useless Barbie? I am determined-- I will learn your customs, your way, your language, and show you my capabilities, my inner strength, and happiness. I know I have entered a new river, leading with God's help to an ocean of gratitude and love. I again hear your echoes, “I will see you, my dearest” as you excitedly chatter. I am smiling, the smile spreading across my face shyly. Although I know the road is difficult, I am ready for this new challenge. I have stepped into a new culture.
Sheherzade: I sit here on the grass at the top of the hill, letting the wind rearrange the locks of curls that cover my face. I look around; I see interlocked trees with scalded bark, birds of paradise peering from the small bushes that trail the neatly trimmed yards. Everything seems normal at first; and yet, when I look again, I see a small hiding pot of bright dazzling pink orchids among the dull green cacti that hang from our neighbor's porch. I feel sadness for the flower, looking at it quietly. At times, I feel like this flower: misplaced. I know I do not belong among these species of strange trees and copied bushes. Not just I realize this: these people, they shake my hand and look at me strangely, eying my red hair and bright eyes, remarking on my accent. "Where do you come from? They ask. I shake my head: like this pot of flowers, I belong nowhere. My heart is stained as pink as its petals, as free as its arms. As Mevlana says "Someone brought me here. I know not why, but someone will take me back."
Sheherzade: My dearest, open your heart to me and pour out your troubles. Hide not the conflict within for I am the mirror of yourself, the second set of ears to listen to your woes. Your pride and hope is wounded, I know; let me be the one to listen, to pour my words into the palms of your hands with loving gentleness. Let your fingers uncurl its sadness and let my voice enter the darkness of your mind. Let my spell of words leave my lips into your eyes and release your bonds of anger, for you yourself know that the cause of your anger is myself, my absence; thus, let me be the one to take away the anger. Let down your fists, forever in guard for life's next fight, and take my hand: for one moment, one second, stop worrying and fearing. I know the thoughts that come across your mind, and I know you are wrong: you fear I will leave, I will let you go if you let your hands out of guard. No, love, you are wrong. Let me touch your face and tell you to unclench your teeth, and smooth your brow, for I will not leave.
Sheherzade: At times, I fear my words for I know the power they hold, the moving current that transfers from the tips of my fingers to the pulse of one's mind. I know that the words pour from my mouth as if a steady stream of splashing rivers into the vast ocean. I have been told by my teachers to be careful of my gift, for my words convey my emotion and thus transfer the emotion to its reader. I twist my words with my hands, letting them fly out from my palms as if a magician releasing white doves. I realize I must be careful, for already do I begin to see the effects of not one, not two, but many of those who read my writing. It is not because of any particular skill I have or advanced language; it is because my writing conveys my soul; childish and innocent, loving and bitter. I have long since tried to explain; the process in which my mind thinks is different. I do not see normally. I fear my words for the effect they have is heavy, and the power given to me is great; the power to persuade, to seduce, and disarm.
Old Man: How life must be for Sheherzade, the quiet faithful beauty that weaves words from the looms of the mind, working to spin the wool of phrases, sentences, and complete thoughts for her Sultan. She must speak as if a dancer lightly placing her small feet in line, hands outspread in the air as she moves as if a loving wave gently embracing the shores of sea. Sheherzade is a woman of grace and poise, her long dress of emerald green spilling across the floor as if emeralds themselves. And yet, her eyes are weary, her strength quickly evaporated, for the position itself as a 'Sheherzade' is one of great powers; it is the position of being strong and gentle, thoughtful and playful, wise and reckless. A true woman, a 'Sheherzade', needs not physical touch to make her impact; rather, her presence is simply enough to bring attention to her aura, her love for the creations of this Earth. A presence of a 'Sheherzade' is the danger to the Sherherzade herself, for the presence of such soul cannot help but bring attention.
Sheherzade: I was told by a dear Turkish brother of mine, “Sheherzade, canim, if you were in the time of Sultans, surely you would be in the Harem. You would be the Roxana, the guiling wife of the Sultan”. I shook my head to this and told him, “I have no desire to be a Sultan's wife. What use is it for a singing bird to be caged, even if in a golden cage encrusted with diamonds and rubies? No, my dear Abi, let me with my Bedouin, with only the moon as my guide through our travels. Let these power-hungry women bicker over one man, but give me my only poor nomad, let us share our bread together and let our hopes grow like the rare flower amongst the desert sands. Let my feet touch the wisps of sand that blow across the land, and let the sun touch its rays upon my head. A Sultan's wife's pleasure is her cold jewels and long sparkling robes that weigh upon her shoulders as if chains”. He looked at me and smiled. “Yes, Sheherzade canim, I understand.”
Sheherzade: For what do I write, you ask? Why do these words flow out of my heart in steady ripples, forever bombarded by the small pebbles that my dear friend throws? I write for my soul bursts with thoughts, with every glance I see words, stories, and phrases. I cannot help it: it is as if a muscle reflex, these words waiting to be written. And yet, why had I stopped writing? For writing is an expression of the soul, it is the eyes of Scheherzade. My image to dear ones is a mirage: my mother sees me as a meek submissive daughter, my loved one sees me as a dear kitten to be watched over, my teachers see me as an overly intelligent impertinent student, my coach sees me as an aggressive explosive woman. And yet, what really am I? What does the crown of Sheherzade really show? Only my writing can show. What right does this world have to my thoughts, my words, my soul? I have seen my mother's expression when she read my work: surprised, and fearful. How is it that such a young daughter can write words that fly off the tongue? Only once have I truly allowed a person to enter, not only into my heart, but into my soul, my writing; this proved to be the worst mistake I have made. To enter a person’s writing is no folly—it is the acceptance of another as a part of the writer. It is the melting of a writer’s dreams and another human being: a dangerous combination. And for this reason do I hide my writing, away from prying eyes and scheming humans. Let my words be written to release the depths of my mind, to clear away the clutter that accumulates in my brain. Let my love for this world be written as if a violin and masculine voice played in duet, intertwining notes flying through the sky around us as if wisps of ribbons idly floating. Let the Sheherzade create her mirage, leave her thoughts in peace, for Sheherzade knows what she wants; she only needs to say it.
Old Man: O my Lord, save me from the scorch of fire, from the scalding of Hell's highest flames. Save my soul from those who seek wrongs, who taste Sin as if a bitter victory, who watch one's downfall in coy smiles. Keep me on the right path, as curved as it may be, as much as our humanly desire will protest, and forgive the Sins that I may have done, or will do. Let the winds of this earth guide me closer to You, let the thoughts of my mind trail to Your love, Your blessings, and let my heart sing in honor of you. Let my fingertips spin the thread of love in gratitude for Your acceptance of me, and for Your creation of my destiny. Keep my head clear, my heart pure in love of You, and let my loved one fulfill my honor for only You. Protect those who protect me, and let bountiful blessings fall upon them as if a sweet spring shower watering newly budded roses. Let my faith never waver, even with life's exams, and be as strong as this world's strongest rock, ever firm to this life.
Sheherzade: I walk solemnly, my head held high as I hear the drums notes flow in the sky, the musical bars intertwining. I walk on the streets on Gaziantep, the ancient city of Turkey that borders between Turkey and Syria. I draw my hijab closer and walk with my friend, Ismail, watching the ancient walls that fall apart. I stand in awe of the buildings, the dried remains of the Mesopotamia, and feel the spiritual power that only the Creator himself could have put. It has always been this way: I find myself as I search for the Creator, a sudden peace filling me. Ismail and I walk for some time, his kind eyes guiding me and soothing the distress I have in my heart at times. I have no interests in this physical world: I am only interested in the attitudes, the power, the faith that led to the human creation of glory in honor of our Creator.
Old Man: Let the shy rays of the sun strike against the greenest of grass, the sweetest of dew fall against the hidden roses. Let my fingers tremble upon your forehead and your shy smile brighten the darkest of moons. The music will continue onwards as if a Sufi's dance, let the beat fill our hearts with joy. The lyre will play, the drum to ring, our eyes to tear: let these beauties fill our hearts. Let the words of knowledge enter in our lips and the kindest of emotions to pour from our palms in gratitude for our life. Embrace our mothers and thank our fathers; kiss our sisters and laugh with our brothers, this life is too short. Let the words of poetry remind us of our mortality and of our duty to live; let the words of Sheherzade remind you of life.
Sheherzade: Your angry words flash from your thin lips, gaze falling upon my face in sudden hatred. "Why do you do this to me," you ask. I look into your eyes and you cannot bring yourself to look: you tear your eyes away to the ground. My hair falls beside my face as if a sudden curtain, announcing the end of the performance. "You know I cannot be yours.... You know I cannot...." I say dryly, my voice breaking as if wisps of sand against the wind. "It is because you make it so," your words ring bitterly. I pause to look at the window, the sky burning brightly in the mid-day. "I cannot do it." I tell you sadly. Your face darts again and fists clench. "I have loved you for years, for months, why do you do this to me?" I wish to put my hand upon your shoulder to comfort you, but the angry snake poison that fumes from your veins is enough to set me away. You shut your eyes as if to stop the feeling, the emotion that leeks from the cracks of your heart. "I know you well friend. I am not for you."
Old Man: Sheherzade, let go of the past and never look back. Let the pangs of your heart be gone forever more and let the wisps of anger escape through the cracks of your fingers. Let go of your sharp words and daggered thoughts, and let your forgiveness be your escape.