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חושבת באוטובוס
bus thoughts



hebrew


 

It happened a few years ago, on an evening bus. A soldier sits next to me, talking on a cell phone. So do I. We'd take turns. I don't remember who I was talking to. Don't remember if I could, if I concentrated. I remember being cold. My skin. And underneath. Now he's talking, I hear him, he's just telling someone that he misses his army base. I cringe, soon I'll turn into air, molecules, his legs are spread wide, thick, the smell of his uniform rises into my nostrils, into my soul. Stop my breath. His rifle, leaning. Just don't look at me. Children were throwing stones near the Qalandiya refugee camp, and the soldiers chased and shot them. Omar Matar was hit by a live bullet in his neck, and died, Omar Matar was murdered. I'm out of air, nausea creeps into my feet, and under my eyelids, that are just about to fall off. I shut my inner eyes. And he falls asleep. 

I recall the X-ray truck that the soldiers placed behind Checkpoint Huwara. So after the Palestinians went through all the inspections and preventions and humiliations, it was there. Next to it stood soldiers with rifles. The Palestinians would place their bags and packs on the one side, and break into a run, they already knew. Young women with their children and respectable men and young men and girls and old women in thongs, all running as fast as they can from the one side of the truck to the other, to the back side of the X-ray truck, yawning open, and the bags falling on the ground, and the youngest would sometimes manage to catch one or two, usually not even that, and tomatoes and underwear and neatly folded garments and dry beans would all pour out onto the ground and into the dust.

Time went by, in which I didn't manage to do a thing. I contracted my feet, released them, thought about nothing. And then, as he slept, his body leaned over to me, heavy, and his head fell on my shoulder. I froze lest I wake him, his body scent close, warm, the hairs on his arms light from the sun, his breaths, so close, his mouth slightly open, cracked lips, thick, hair no longer really short, brown, his absolute humanity, no idea stood between us, nor anything else specific, neither sympathy nor revulsion, nothing. Only that he was human, my body could tell, human.

Time stopped, I did not move, and his body sank further, breathing deeply. 

A young woman got up to leave, and he woke up. We were sitting on the back bench, all of us, I next to the window, and then he, and then she. Suddenly there was room, and he moved, leaving some space between us. And again I see a soldier, with a gun, and 5-year old Hussam who sells chewing gum at French Hill Junction from morning till nightfall because only children can still cross the checkpoint to make a living, under the Occupation, and Abu Omar who worries about Kassem his 10-year old son who has shrapnel inside his head and it hurts and he cries especially when the seasons change and Hafez and the Wall and I think, where does he serve, perhaps at the checkpoint, will I see him soon at A-Ram, and what difference does that make, he's a soldier.

Just don't let him touch me, I think, just don't let him look. His rifle. I hear my pulse coloring the sky, ideas rising between us, slowly, as big as the physical space.

 I swallowed my breath.

Aya Kaniuk.
Translated by Tal Haran.                                                                                               

 
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