The walls and the sidewalk

It was the best of times, far from the worst of times.

I still walked with a limp then, an injury, a mark I bore with pride. That tingling pain in my right knee was proof that I had stood where it mattered. It was a reminder of the battle against Goliath, of the dawn that came up with a new sun – one that smiled down at us proudly while we bandaged our wounds and laughed.

I sat down to speak to the sidewalk and graffiti-covered walls of all I’d seen and all I dreamed. I could swear I saw them smile. They were a part of it as much as me – as much as any of us.

I told the sidewalk, as I fervently rubbed it clean, that I would never clean the blood spilled there. It has become part of the sidewalk – part of the legend – like little beads of pearls bursting with memories. I’m just cleaning away the dirt to honour that blood – ever precious to me.

I told the walls of the valiant stories and we laughed heartily together as we thought of all the little kids who’ll stand where I am now, and listen wide-eyed to us both tell them the stories of how we inherited a dead land and created life out of it. We would tell it over and over a thousand times – and love it just like the first time – till I fade away into song, soon to be forgotten. The kids would grow, and retell the stories a thousand times more with the walls – as passionately as when they were young.

It has been a thousand years since that day. I’m a much much older man, still trapped in a young man’s body. I smile less often, am harder to amuse and don’t find much in life I’m proud of. But I still remember that day. I still remember the walls and the sidewalk – and wish with a dusty heart they remember me.

I went back to where it all started. I’m not limping  anymore. Time may often heal some wounds of the body, hardly ever of the soul. There’s no tingling pain in my right knee, but my bandaged heavy heart is falling apart.

I sit down and talk to the sidewalk. I ask about those precious pearls weaved inside its very existence. But all there is is dirt, and piss and a thousand smashed dreams. I wipe at the dirt with my bare hand, but all I find is more dirt and more piss.

I lean on the wall and ask her to tell me the stories again. I beg her to remind me of the names, of Karim, Khalid, Mina, Emad, Bilal, Ahmed and all the others. She stands silent. My tears wet the graffiti but it doesn’t laugh. I look around but there are no little kids waiting to hear the legends. I trace my fingers across the cracks in the wall as I map the cracks in my heart.

I crawl up between the sidewalk and the walls and scream at their silence. I scream like a mad clown till my voice is hoarse and don’t stop. Nor do they stop their silence. I roll up in the dirt and piss, under the wet graffiti, till I fade away like the stories.

There shall be no more.


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