My father knew he had a daughter of a different nature. It wasn’t by chance that we were a family who knew a lot about telepathy. Since my innocent childhood mornings shone I had touched people’s belongings and immediately seen their faces and known what they were thinking of. Sadness calling from their chests would pain me, yet sometimes I would be admitted to the worlds of their happiness. Whenever a little child went missing it was enough to bring me his shirt, dewed by his childhood scent. I would tuck my confident fingers in its fabric and close my eyes. The corners of my mind would take me to wherever the child was and, as if I were the mirror of the gods, I would determine his circumstances. Years have passed in which my only concern was those who went missing, or who were lost, or whose breaths were forfeited to waste.

It was a cold day when a stranger came, his features like the death that blows over the north’s cities. He was wearing the uniform of plagued affiliations and parties. He spilt his tarry existence on the walls of my room and looked at me with worry:

‘Are you Sarah?’

‘How can I help you?’

‘She’s the wife of a very important man. Of course you can have all that you dream of if you find her.’

And he tossed me a blue shawl made of silk and embroidered with roses similar to those in my childhood dreams. He looked at my son Ibrahim with an examining eye and said he would return in two days for an answer.

An evening of tiredness, with dreams on the other side. I saw a woman with a white complexion; sadness had cut into her youthful face. The shawl was his present. He loved her but thanks to fate’s mysterious interventions she married a man prominent in the state. She was not happy. She decided to buy another world without him. She left him, leaving everything behind her, on a day whose shining sun was feigned.

Here I am listening to the noise of gulls flapping happily. She is near the abandoned port. In my dream she looked into my face and said she would wait for me.  The pleading of her voice took away my heart’s negligence.

I didn’t go. Confusion blended with the hours of my long day. The man returned and saw that for the first time I didn’t have an answer for a man to whom nobody says no.  They took my son Ibrahim in the hope that my empty lap would activate my desire to tell of the woman’s whereabouts.

I left before the sun, and started the day pacing the winding roads leading to her place. The closer I came, the more prophetic warmth swept my frozen limbs.

I saw a house of dilapidated tin. Birds were sleeping in quietness as if beside a blessed shrine. I entered and saw her face, calmer than it had seemed in my dreams. She gestured for me to sit and she gazed at the sea opposite her.

‘Certainly you will tell him, one way or another. He is so good at getting people to confess, especially simple souls like us.’

‘He has taken my only child.’

‘He has taken the love of my life. I accepted marriage hoping to save my darling but the prison bars were the beginning and the hidden grave was the end. Or rather, I decided what the end would be. I left him. Tell him where I am. My fear will not defeat me anymore. Take your child back while you’re still able to salvage his life.’

I spent some of my day with her, accompanying another pain and another flood. Reluctantly I agreed to tell him her whereabouts.

Next day they returned Ibrahim to me, and I travelled with them in the armored car as it headed to the port. We approached the house. The birds never left their inner peace. As we came closer we heard her loud laughter. We entered hurriedly to find that she had tied her blue shawl next to the window, and that she had turned into a white gull. She looked at our blue faces, and she flew east.


Translated by Rana Zaitoon

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: