Rana Shubair

Sounds and Sights in Gaza

I’m trying to enjoy solitude as I sit and write away. I’ve kept the windows closed in a desperate attempt to block the noisy bustle outside. That way I can pretend it’s still early morning and my muse doesn’t escape. Despite this, some sounds penetrate the windows. The buzzing Israeli drone, the rumbling of cars and roaring of engines, the vegetable cart seller calling out, and the muffled screaming of kids from the kindergarten across the street. 

It’s all outside and I’m safe inside. Away from the anarchic rhythm of life out there. The minute I set foot outside my home I’m attacked by too many images and sounds of urban life. My ears and eyes are forced to take in a cacophony of life reels. Indiscriminate honking of horns. Reckless pedestrians. Yes, it’s not only drivers who fail to follow traffic rules. A pedestrian crossing the street at the intersection. In any other country, you’d think this person wanted to commit suicide by doing this. But here, in my chaotic city, where many people reject rules, it’s ordinary. You can teach kids at school about traffic rules all you want. In real life outside school, those rules mean nothing.

It’s almost 11:00. I put my laptop to sleep knowing I won’t be able to get back to writing till very late at night. Life does come between me and my writing, everyday.

I make my way down the street trying to stop the pondering over everything I see or hear. I need to get to the bank. Shops gape at me from both sides of the street, but I gaze ahead. I’ve lost my spontaneous shopping self. The clothes, shoes and bags fail to lure me, except for sporting shoes which make me go weak in the knees. Every person has a weakness after all. No shame in admitting it.

  I make my way around a donkey-pulled cart, but I allow myself to contemplate the ripened red of the tomatoes, the dark purple of the eggplant and the lush green of the parsley. Other vegetables sitting in boxes next to each other all form simple yet a momentary eye-relieving portrait of nature. 

A motorcycle whizzes by and the driver isn’t wearing a helmet. A truck loaded with a mountain of sand  approaches from my left as I stand waiting to cross the street. Looks like a giant that has invaded a miniature world. I cross, and on both sides are cigarette sellers standing displaying the packs by holding them. My heart tugs at this particular sight. In their desperate attempts to make a living, they’re selling poison. I walk down just a few more steps and the bank is on the other side. It’s a six-storey building with two ATMs outside with a fuchsia and black exterior finishes. Even in Gaza, the bank’s appearance tells you that it’s made of money. From where I’m standing, I can already see two twisting lines of people at both machines. I imagine the number of things that are better than standing for two hours waiting in line in the street. It only takes me two seconds to decide to turn back and go home. 

I guess deep down I can never hate Gaza. It’s a love-hate relationship for sure, which is hard to extricate myself from.  

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