Rimah Jabr

This Is Not What I Want To Tell You

 

Dramaturgy: Guillermo Verdecchia | Actress: Kaat Arnaert | Music and Sound design: David Mesiha | Visual Art and Set Design: Bianca Guimaraes De Manuel 


Based on multiple true stories 


This text was developed with support from the Ontario Arts Council and Why Not Theatre in Toronto, Canada



Characters: Madama. A 15 year girl. 

 

Scene 1


When I walk, I follow the ants’ trail because I know that they will take me to a safe place where humans can’t put their foot in. It’s autumn and the ants store their food for winter. Let’s say that I follow the food trail, this could be pieces of bread, dead leaves, and dead insects, all moving to a definite destination. The ants' home.


But it’s not possible to follow them anymore. Now I see a thread of small ants in my cell exiting from under the door, but I am trapped here in this interrogation center. Nothing of me can find its way out but my voice. Here, if I get a visit from you, I hold a phone and speak to you from behind a glass window. Only my voice knows its way out of this place. The rest remains here behind the glass, the doors, and bars.  


I’ve been detained for no reason. The interrogator wants to know who brainwashed me to do what I did. He asks many questions about my life and what I do at home. “I do nothing” --I told him. He wants to know what I do when I am alone, but we are a big family, I share the same room with my sisters, and I am rarely alone. I was never alone except last Friday; my grandfather was dying, and everyone left for the hospital. I loved having the house to myself. I smoked cigarette butts. I tried on my mother’s dresses all of them. I danced naked around the house. And I wore makeup. But then I felt ashamed. I was supposed to feel sad for my grandfather’s death. My mother is right, I sometimes lose touch with reality. 


When they came back home, I ran to my room before they could see me and hit my knee really hard against the door, exactly at the same bruise I had when they punished me. 


Short pause


You don’t want to say something? 


Silence 


It’s OK, I talk, you listen. I was punished because of a love letter. 


We live at the edge of the village. To go to school, I take the road between fields. No one shares the road with me. All my classmates live in the center of the village. 


And every morning I feel him watching me from a distance, a guy who works in the field.  I never dare to look at him… he follows me with his eyes. I do nothing but think about the way I walk, so I stand up straight. I suck my belly and I walk very slowly. I think it’s best I wait until he takes the initiative.


But after a month of waiting, I decided to write him a letter and hand it to him. I rehearsed how to say hi to him… I take a deep breath. I walk slowly across the field towards him with the love letter in my hand.  My eyes watching my steps, smiling, and walking like a supermodel until I am a few meters away from him. He is standing still; I look up at him: to find out that I am in love with a pillow, a stick, and a nice red hat. This pillow with the red hat made me write the first love letter in my life. And probably the last.


I’m telling you this… 
Because I liked the idea that there are some creatures around us that are not human beings, but they make you dream. They could be anywhere, they could be a kite on the tree, a plastic bottle on the window, a pile of paper ... or a scarecrow in the field. Then I started to feel that I needed more and more of these objects around me. They are dreamers like me. So maybe you are a stone. It doesn’t matter. I’m just a voice for you. It doesn’t matter. Most important thing is that you can hear me. I can feel you.  


No one knows about the story behind the love letter, only Lena and you. Lena is the best sister ever. When my teacher kicked me out of the folk-dance group, she fought for me to go back. When my sisters snitched on me to my parents and read the love letter out loud, it was Lena who protected me with her body, to make them stop beating me up. This is all I needed in life, someone to stand up for me. 

They said they'd transfer me soon to the central prison, but if I'm gone, that doesn't mean there will be no stories. Don't worry; there are plenty of stories. I'm not the only one here, and there are many others, kids like me. I counted already 70 of them who have been detained; they come and go. Right? Anyway, I don't know any of them personally. I just saw them in the news and saw the knives. each one of them is alone; they move alone, attack alone, and end up here alone. 


Scene 2


We’re only allowed ten minutes per visit.  It’s good to keep listening until I’ve told you everything.

 
I’m worried that I won’t be able to answer all the questions they have for me, I don’t remember what happened. 


My family says I’m a sleepwalker. My mother is afraid I won’t get married because of that. 


They can ask my mother about my situation. One day she told me that I got up during the night. I walked around the house and peed on the couch, then walked back to the bed.  But I don’t remember, this is a fact… I don’t remember what I do while I’m sleeping. 
My father always tries to wake me up during these episodes. He slaps me in the face, but I don't feel anything.


They think that my family made up the sleepwalking thing to get me out of prison. But it's always been there. It's just that my family doesn't talk about it to people. Because rumours go around fast, it might affect my sisters' chances of getting married.


My mother asked her cousin-doctor discreetly to treat me, but the cousin doctor said, “Forget about the sleepwalking, it will go away” but the problem is that a 14-year-old is still wetting her bed. They spoke in private and after that, my mother became cranky all the time. Yelling at me for small reasons -- for example, I usually put the mattresses out. If I put them in the corner, she screams there is no sun, they’ll never get dry. And if I put them in the other corner, she screams: “Stupid! You want the neighbours to see the peeing spots?” 


What is the big deal? All the neighbours put their mattresses out to dry, I see many of them when I go up to the roof, all of them with spots of different sizes. 


My father too has changed with me. I asked if I did something wrong, but no one would talk. Lena wouldn’t tell me about it either. I couldn’t stand it. When they were busy burying my grandfather, I thought if I pack my stuff and leave, no one will ever notice. But where would I go? 


Then the neighbour came in the evening to visit and told us that one of the neighbours saw me sleepwalking naked in the village and that there is a sheikh who can help me. People in the village think that I am haunted.  It was Friday, they just buried my grandfather, and everyone was sad and mad. My father wanted to leg cuff me to the bed so I wouldn’t sleepwalk at night, but Lena said no, and she promised she would watch me the whole night. Of course, now that I am here, I think my father is giving her a hard time. 


Anyway, I don’t know what I should say in court to defend myself. If they hear that I’m a sleepwalker, they will send me back home, right? 


Scene 3


Thank you for listening. This means a lot to me. I’ve been sitting on this chair for days. And I’m hungry, but I’ll talk. I’ll try to remember everything. But if you don’t like my words please don’t leave.  


I don’t remember if I did something wrong. I didn’t carry a knife on me. I didn’t want to leave the village. I was just walking. 


No one asked me to do anything. As I told you before, I was walking while I was asleep, it seems that I left the house. It was Friday evening or Saturday morning. 


My house is at the edge of the village, I probably walked in the wrong direction… and I crossed the gate to the settlement, maybe, but how can I decide which direction to go when I’m sleepwalking?  What did I do? The problem is that I don’t know, am I accused of killing someone? I don’t know. 


I was the one who got hurt. It seems that the guard at the gate was the first one to see me, I guess. He shot my arm, and the blood covered the orange I was carrying. Then it fell. Then I fell. I woke up, I heard the guard saying freeze, freeze. He pointed a flashlight in my eyes to block my vision. I think I was awake. And scared. For a short moment, I didn’t feel my body. My limbs got hard like a rock, I thought I was being transformed into an object because I couldn’t say a word although I wanted to scream loud.  


I felt the blood was hot on my arm. Then something happened and somehow, suddenly, they found a knife.  But for sure it doesn’t belong to me. For sure.  Everyone in my family knows that I wouldn’t use a knife to peel an orange, I would use my nails. 


Maybe there was a knife, maybe there were many knives that belonged to the farmers from the village. It could be! 


They put me in a car, I was blindfolded. They sat next to me, they took some photos and they smelt bad. 


Silence 


My arm hurts a lot, I need painkillers. 


Scene 4 


They’ve just told me that we have only ten minutes. So, I’ll brief you on everything quickly. You’ll be visiting again, right? 


First, they said they won’t keep me here, and now they say I’ll be going to court… They ask me if I have a witness. Will you be mine?  
I’ll tell you what I’d say, and you tell me if there is something I shouldn’t mention when I go to court.  


They keep asking me about the last day I was home. It was Friday so actually it’s easy to remember everything.


Like every Friday, breakfast was at 10:00. omelette, tomatoes and of course tea. Then cleaning: cleaning the bathroom, bedrooms, I put the mattresses outside, then I washed clothes, I cleaned the floor with soap and hot water and Clorox. No one goes to the Friday prayers. Not my father nor my brothers. I just want to spell out here that we are not religious. Is that good?  


We set the table for lunch, always rice and tomato sauce with beans. Everything goes as normal until this moment, but all at once Lena’s fiancé arrives and breaks up with her. It was very confusing and shocking to everyone.  And the electricity went off.

 
My sisters wouldn’t look at me.  I went to the garden. I picked up an orange and I threw it over the wall. “I’ll pick it up later,” I told myself. When it got chilly, I went in. I made dinner. no one would eat. I cleaned the dishes. I slept in the living room. They were all sad and angry about Lena’s breakup. Her fiancé is an ignorant fool, he thought that she also might be a sleepwalker or crazy or haunted. Now people will think even worse of me. My situation affects me but will also affect all my sisters. They might never get married. 


Silence 


Why didn’t the guard shoot me in the head? (pause) They don’t stop questioning me, every day is harder than the last. Yesterday they brought me to the office, and I looked at the clock on the wall. It was 3:00 a.m.  


Here I tell you what happened? There are many computers in the room, and a camera above the desk. They call it God’s eye. Around the desk, there is a doctor, a captain, an investigator, and me. 

The captain doesn’t do anything but watch and eat. 


Investigator says: You better just tell me everything. If you lie, we’ll punish you. I’m too tired. I say nothing. I’m pretending I’m asleep. 


The Doctor says: I can tell she’s awake. I should get going. 


Interrogator says: You can leave. 


Doctor says: Bye.  

 
I say: Are you going to torture me? The interrogator smiles. They all have the same smile when I talk. Why? 


They ask me if I’m an enemy of their state, I don't understand. Then the interrogator asks me if I recognize their authority. He is standing beside me with his gun next to my ear. I don’t think I have any choice. 


He asks me ten times in a row: Where were you heading off to? Where were you heading off to? Where were you heading off to? … 


Then, I burst out crying. I look at him, he doesn’t smile anymore. 


“Believe it or not I’m not afraid of anything anymore”. When I say this to him, he gets up from his chair, he comes closer to me, I hear his stomach gurgle, he holds my shot arm, and presses on my wound. He says: I’ll see you tomorrow. 


Silence 


Before they can transfer me to the central prison tomorrow, they want me to confess that I had a knife and that I was willing to stab a soldier like the other kids in here. They’re giving me one last chance to think, tonight.  


I need your help. 


Scene 5 


It’s a relief to have people’s attention. Even if we die, it is good to know that people know about us.  A journalist took a photo of me and asked me to smile. 


The court was like a nightmare. We waited all day to find out that the trials were postponed.


There were around 50 boys and girls like me all accused of stabbing someone or something. From all different cities. Waiting for the trial in a big hall with their lawyers. Fifty kids, maybe more. All silent.  Just staring at the security guards. No emotions.  No reactions. Just waiting, calm, there. Except for a girl who looked like a witch told me: “In a few days you’ll stop talking too…” 


Two months ago, her brother attacked passengers in a bus with a knife and was killed. She wanted revenge, she planned to stab a soldier.  But she is dumb. How can you kill someone with safety scissors? It’s amazing that they didn’t kill her. But they evicted her family and filled the apartment with concrete. 


They used to demolish the houses, so at least people could rebuild them but now this is how they do it. They just fill it with concrete. Her lawyer showed us a photo of her family’s apartment. The apartment is 3 quarters filled with concrete. You can see the lamp on the ceiling is touching the new floor, and the light is still on. If you want to enter the apartment, you have to crawl. Two picture frames are hung on the wall; one of the two frames is a photo of her brother, the martyr, you see only his eyes, but his mouth is buried in the concrete. Someone spray-painted the date and the name of the martyr on the wall. I pray they don’t do the same to my family’s house.  


I’m sorry I talk too much, but I want to tell you everything, I’m afraid I’ll stop talking after a while like the other kids.  


Scene 6 


I can’t send letters via the Red Cross until I am sentenced. And I want to send a letter to my sister Lena. Whoever you are, wherever you are listening to me, can you please write my words: 


“Dear Lena, 


This will be our new means in communication. So, you better start working on your handwriting. I’m in the women’s prison now, until the trial.


It seems I have to follow a program in prison, but I don’t want to do that, I hate reading. I hate making ugly handmade necklaces. And I hate studying. All the books we studied at school were a waste of time. The only useful thing I learned in school was numbers so I can count my days here. 


I don’t know what I should feel. So, I try to focus on my body, on my heart, my ears, my eyes and my feet. This is my way to connect with my familiar old world, the ants, the leaves, the red hat and the pillow.

I am writing to you to apologize. Though, I still think your fiancé is stupid to break up with you because of my problem. You deserve a better person. You maybe wished me dead. Our mother did, she didn’t say anything, but I saw it in her eyes. I wished myself dead too.  


Before I went to bed that Friday, I threw an orange over the wall, and I watched it roll away until it disappeared. I wish I could throw myself and roll until I disappear. 


I miss you. I miss talking to you. You always stood up for me. And I only caused you terrible problems. I am sorry. Write me back.  


Big hug, 
Madama 


Oh, I also would like to add: 


P.S: A soldier carried me in his arms, don’t tell anyone. He walked all the way from the field to the street carrying me. I was a bit shy, but I pretended that I was asleep. I just think about my first love letter now and I wonder if there is something wrong with me, I am either in love with a Scarecrow or with the enemy. But I was never carried like this before, it felt nice and warm. (she chuckles) 


Oh, one last thing to add:


A girl told me that I will stop talking. But If I stop talking, what will I do with all the words I know? I started writing them down.  But the words I have written are different from those that I speak. I wrote already three texts. Here, I will read them to you: 


1- 
Pain in my joints. Pain in my belly. Pain in my eyes. Pain in my head. Everyone will laugh once they know that I am a statue. 


2-
The tragic thing about balloons is their sudden death. 
The amusing thing about their death is that it’s called “tension release”.


3-
There, I was a colourful word on the alive wall.  My reference point was a white curtain. 


Sometimes it hid me, sometimes it hid others. 


But here I am exposed like a trivial secret. 
 

tiffany jolowicz Monday on Michigan Island, Yesterday, the Day Before, Two Thousand Years