ALIM

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He was executed at dawn. He stood facing the wall with bound hands behind his back, waiting for the first rays of the rising sun. A new day was languishing on the threshold, not daring to disturb the solitude of his last night. The sun tried to delay its rise as long as possible. The sentence pronounced by Cadi the day before clearly stated, “Execution to be enforced with the first ray of the sun, of the tenth day of the current month.” The executioners would wait. No one would dare to defy the order. No one would disobey the law of Sharia.

He was silent. I`d wanted to know what he had been thinking at that moment. At that time, I was a sixteen-year-old naive boy crushed in love. I wanted to stand beside him, to hold his hand, I wanted to die with him or instead of him. But I was already far away. The same night, right after everything had happened, my parents smuggled me into the neighboring Iraq, and from there, I secretly went to the port of Mersin, hidden in a malfunctioning reefer container. They gave away everything they had for me to escape, for me to survive. The question was: whether I wanted to.

My parents returned home the same night. I knew I`d never see them again. I also knew they wouldn`t survive through the next day.

I am sure that on his last morning, his face was just as beautiful as when I saw him for the first time. His head was raised the same way, his nose, smooth and flawless, breathed calmly and confidently. His stubborn gaze wasn`t looking for mercy. His glasses in translucent frames no longer restrained his eyes. They`d been broken at that day, the day when my youthful thoughtless attempt to love sentenced him to death.

It all started when our old teacher was suddenly stricken with paralysis. The substitute teacher was sent to our school – the only school in our small village – right away. He had graduated just a few years ago from the University of Riyadh.

Alim – that was his name – taught us Islam. One day during class he said that Allah calls us to carry his word around the world. He said that each and every open-minded person can become Momin. Alim said that there are people who help the faithful ones with study abroad. The best and most humble will be able to learn and to carry the word of Allah over the whole world. Alim promised to teach a foreign language to anyone who wishes to devote himself to the service of the true God.

I was one of those who began to come for extra classes every night. But unlike the others, I didn`t want either to speak another language or talk about God. Also, I didn’t want to go to the distant worlds. I was fine with my own world – a world where Alim was beside me. I just wanted to see Alim, to hear his voice, to watch his face, and especially, his hands. He had remarkably-beautiful hands with long thin fingers and soft palms. In the dim light of the table lamps his swarthy skin seemed darker, especially standing out against his snow-white shirt. His eyes burned with madness, when he explained to us the strange rules of another world. In those moments, I thought he was especially attractive. I loved to listen to him pronouncing words of a foreign language which I couldn’t understand. They sounded like music to me. Shivers ran through my body and warmth crawled lower and lower, filling me with overwhelming desire and inexplicable compulsion.

I tried my best to be the most diligent student. Alim caught my ambiguous gazes; he took notice of my eagerness and began to give me more attention. He started to turn to me more often. The first time I touched him, was when I wanted to help him to pick up a book which fell on the floor. I rushed down, wanting to please him, to grab the book and return, but his hand was already lying on the hard cover. My hand lay on top of his hand for a moment allowing me to feel his warmth. He stood leaning forward, the top buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned. Summer heat was maddening even the most faithful sons of Allah. I could see part of his masculine body. His chest, covered with sparse dark hair, was sweaty. I momentarily was lost in space. I felt dizzy, my ears were ringing and while swaying, I fell back, stretched out on the dirty floor of the classroom. Alim leaned over me. He put his hands on my shoulders and gently shook me. I opened my eyes and couldn’t help but smile. A God himself stood in front of me in a snow-white shirt with unbuttoned upper buttons, baring his sweaty seductive torso. I couldn`t breathe. Alim helped me to get up, and we went out to the street together. He sat me down on the stairs and brought me a glass of cold water. The others went home. Alim sat down next to me and we talked for almost an hour. Of course, he was the one who spoke mostly. I looked at him with excited eyes, trying to catch his every word and every gesture. I felt the air around him smell differently. My head couldn`t stop spinning when he was around. I could sit with him and listen to his voice endlessly. I didn’t care what he was talking about; I agreed with every word he said. I was ready to follow him anywhere – even to another world, even to another life, or to another death.

We walked home along the same road. It turned out that he lived very close to me, just two streets over. So, I got his address.

The next day, Alim forgot one book at school which was important for him. He called the director and asked for someone to bring it in to his house. I was the first to volunteer.

His house was no different from the others. But not for me. That evening when I brought him the book he stepped quite close to me, looked into my eyes and said quietly that Allah sees my merits and they will be rewarded, if not in this life, then in heaven. Also, he asked me If I was afraid of death. I replied that I am under Allah’s will and I trust him, so I am not afraid of anything. He smiled and said that he would like to get to know me closer. I held my breath and waited with my eyes closed. My blood was hitting my temples with every heartbeat. I came around from his careful touch. He stood behind me. His hand slightly touched my shoulder. I shuddered and opened my eyes. He held the book in front of my face. The Holy Quran limited edition, as he later explained. I had to read it overnight and come to him the next day at the same time. He said that Allah had chosen me to carry  his truth to those who remain deaf. Alim said that together we could force the Kafirs to hear and see. I heard nothing but the word “together.” My head began to spin again, and I nodded, trying to hide my excitement.

I read a book overnight. Its content was different from the one we used to study. I didn’t pay attention to it. I didn’t care. That book was my gateway into the world of someone whom I unconsciously loved more than life itself. We began to meet regularly. Alim increasingly talked about the future that was waiting for me. He touched me more often. I didn’t hear his words. But I could smell him and it drove me crazy. I wanted to know his taste, wanted to get burned by his body`s warmth. I wanted to open to him my strange thoughts, wanted to let him into my young soul and body.

Alim talked about the other world and the other people. He called them blind Giaours. He named me “chosen by Allah.” He talked about forbidden love. I missed the word “forbidden” and only heard the word “love.” It rang in my head every sleepless night.

A few weeks later Alim suddenly disappeared. I learned about his leaving along with all the other students from the school Director. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t tell me about his plans. I felt betrayed. The first time I was hurt. I met a taste of resentment and frustration. But I didn`t suffer long. In a week, Alim called the Director and asked him to pass some papers. He made a note to let me bring those papers to his house, because I knew where he lived.

That day I thought I understood the language of the local birds. They all sang about love and hope. I imagined that my feelings were mutual. I decided to become the closest person to Alim. I wished our secret to be done, and then we`d carry our sweet secret, hiding it from prying eyes and reveling in it during rare cool evenings. I couldn’t resist and came to Alim earlier than the appointed time.

He wasn`t at home, but that didn’t stop me, and I walked in. The air changed its structure, became heavier, pushing on my chest with the anticipation of happiness. I went to his bedroom. There was a single bed in the corner next to the wall. The thought flashed in my head, somehow by itself. I wondered if we`d fit on this bed together, and I began to imagine us there. The doped thoughts finally possessed my mind and body. I became unbearably hot. I took off my shirt, then pants. The idea of crazy surprise ingrained into my mind, and I undressed completely. I threw my clothes under the bed and hid myself in the closet to wait for Alim.

Time lasted intolerably long. Finally, I heard steps and the familiar beloved voice. I was ready to come out of my hiding, but I heard another voice—unknown and rough. The stranger said my name and said he was not sure whether they could trust me. Alim said that he was as confident in me as in himself and could entrust me with his life, and not just his life. I didn’t understand what they were talking about. Again, I only heard what I wanted to hear. He said that I was the one they needed, the one they were looking for. He said I was ready.

“I’m ready,” I whispered under my breath. I couldn`t stay still and staggered and hit the closet wall with my elbow. The voices fell silent. I heard careful footsteps and a whisper. After a few seconds the door of my hiding place swung opened, revealing the true me. I was standing completely naked. Alim stood in front of me. Contrary to my naive expectations, I read horror and shock in his gaze. A man dressed in all black stood next to him. He had AK in his hands. He yelled something loudly and hit Alim`s head with the gun-butt from the back. Then he dragged me out of the closet and started screaming. He asked me what I was doing there? Why I was naked? I could not say a word. I shivered, I saw nothing but a quiet darkness. I lost consciousness.

I don’t remember what happened next. When I finally came around it was already late at night. My father was silent. My mother was crying. We stayed away from the main road. I had a bag in my hands. Mother said something about our distant relatives in another world. I realized what was going on only when the door of a refrigerated container shut down, and I was left alone in the stuffy darkness.

The next 18 hours, I thought about what happened. In the next 18 hours I was realizing everything. When the container door opened in the port of Mersin, a completely different person came out to the deck of a huge vessel. He took a deep breath of the sea air and filled his lungs with freedom. His mind cleared, and he understood. His naive pure love saved his life… My love has allowed me to live…

Alim was executed at dawn. With the first ray of sunshine they stoned him to death.

No one dared to defy the order. No one disobeyed the law of Sharia.

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