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Nocturnal Journey

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

To the past, to the past in the years of the fifties of the twentieth century during which my country was submerged in a series, sometimes very serious and grave, of political and social disturbances and unrest and from time to time upheavals. The life of the ordinary citizens at that time was always threatened by dangers the exact nature of which could not be identified. At that time, practically on each day, one would be waiting for new developments which might have affected the life of the inhabitants of the City of Brotherly Love, Amman, and of the country as a whole.

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My Mother and I, we were, both of us, in the waiting room, the antechamber, of the medical clinic of a doctor who was well known throughout the City and in all the country and in whom most of the people in my country had absolute and total confidence. Practically he was considered as the angel of the City of Brotherly Love.

This doctor was not a stranger and an unknown to us, my Mother and I, because once at the beginning of the years of the forties this doctor has saved me from the disease of pleurisy and had given me life again and the hope when I was in my early young age a fragile, a weak and a slender adolescent.

The waiting room of the clinic of the doctor was not but a small room with only one window which gave the chance to see one of the main streets of the City of the Brotherly Love. This waiting room was furnished with few chairs, perhaps two, and one armchair. There was a low table which was placed in the middle of the room. But nothing was put on the table, as it was the tradition in such rooms, because during these years most adults, especially women, were either illiterate or not interested in reading. Moreover, there have not been a lot of magazines or newspapers in the country at that time.

In the waiting room, two women were waiting for the doctor. Strangely enough, both of them were veiled in spite of the fact that they were in a room. Later on, I realized that the waiting room was only for women. I was not wanted there.

I understood, later on, that men who accompanied their women waited either in the corridor or took their seats in an extremely small room located at the end of the corridor. In realizing that I was actually in the waiting room for women, I decided with determination to stay where I was because I did not want to separate myself from my sick Mother even for a short time.

The two women insisted to be veiled by the black tissue in waiting their turn with the doctor. These veiled women did not at all exchange any word amongst themselves. They remained silent and taciturn all the time and without any interruption. They were like two motionless and without life statues. In looking at these two veiled women, I realized after I was able to let my eyes penetrate into and behind their veils that they were both of them about to be in the fifties of their age. But, nevertheless, they were younger, by very few years, than my Mother who was during these difficult days of her short life at the age of fifty-six years or less.

It is understood that in these early days, and at the epoch through which my country was passing, all patients could come to the clinic to see the doctor without a preceding rendezvous, an appointment, with the secretary of the doctor. The majority of the people did not know of the existence of the telephone for making an appointment with the doctor.

All at once, a veiled woman entered the waiting room accompanied by a little girl of almost eleven or twelve years old. Perhaps, I told myself, that her husband, the father of the child, was waiting for her in the corridor or in the little adjacent room.

The little girl had a very pale face and she was coughing frequently. I guessed at once that the little girl had been struck by the deadly disease, Tuberculosis. This disease has been common in my country at that time and the contagious nature of the disease has been frightening all the people.

The impressive, the middle aged, and the smiling doctor, entered into the waiting room. He looked, in a quick manner, at everybody without exception. At the end he decided to choose, and without any reluctance the woman who has the little pale sick young girl accompanying her.

Certainly, the doctor has already noticed our presence and he had behaved and reacted in such a way, as all doctors would have behaved all over the world and in all epochs of human history, as if he did not see us. Yet, his movements indicated that he was aware of our presence and that we were his regular clients since a long time.

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The woman and the little girl left the room so as to follow the doctor. Naturally, I did not show any annoyance or impatience. On the contrary, I stayed all through calm and in tranquillity in front of my Mother. She has been looking at me with satisfaction and content. We must, both of us, wait the decision of the doctor to see my Mother who was patient and who looked at me from time to time just to assure herself that that everything was in the right way.

So as to appease and calm my Mother, I held her right hand in my hand and I smiled to her whenever our eyes crossed each other. Still, a veiled woman entered the waiting room and she was crying because of the pain she was suffering from.

On that day, at midday, and in our house nine months before her death and before we have gone to the clinic of the Doctor, my Mother has complained of an extremely severe pain at her left waist.

In the past, previously, and since five years, this pain has been repeating itself for several times. Once she felt that she had in her abdomen and another time in her stomach, something that weighed heavily on her.

This incident, or event, has taken place as far as I could remember in the mid-fifties. I was at that time a member of the teaching staff of the secondary school, "Lycée" of which I became the principal some years later on.

In seeing my Mother suffering I took her immediately to a doctor, a generalist, who told us after he examined her, that she had a tumour in the uterus.

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The doctor could not tell us if the tumour was malignant or not. At that time I learnt the important general medical principle, according to my opinion and my judgment, that every cancer is a tumour but not every tumour is a cancer. Actually, the doctor, the generalist, could not give us any indication of the exact nature of the tumour.

At that time, there has been a hospital nearby a town in my country, in which there was available a surgeon, a well known and a well-trained surgeon with a lot of experience in the country as well as abroad. Few days after the consultation of the physician, the generalist, I took my Mother to that hospital I mentioned above, located nearby the town of Ass-Salt in my country. Without any delay or difficulties she was admitted to the hospital. The operation was scheduled to take place two days after our arrival to the hospital.

At that time, and in that first operation for her, I did not find it necessary to sleep in the hospital nearby my Mother. The surgeon has assured me that she would be taken care of in the hospital. Nevertheless, for two days I have gone to the hospital for visiting her. I was all alone in this daily journey. Nobody of my family had the sentiment or the inclination to accompany me for visiting my sick Mother. As a matter of fact, all my relatives have behaved in such a way as if all the affair of the illness of my Mother did not concern them at all. It was my affair and I was to be responsible for everything regarding the sickness of my Mother.

As for my Mother, she has never posed a single question regarding the absence of the other members of the family. I had the feeling that she was satisfied of my presence near her and did not care at all for the absence of the other members of the family.

The day fixed for the operation of my Mother has finally come. On that day, I did not go to the secondary school, the "Lycée", in saying that I would be busy for the whole day because of the coming operation of my Mother. Naturally, I had the feeling that this day would be important and decisive for her as well as for me.

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At that epoch of the history of our community, nobody was well informed of the nature of the disease of cancer. It was a well-known fact in our community that the majority of the people did not like to speak about the disease, cancer. All what they knew about the disease was composed of superstitions and prejudices which were propagated and circulated by basically ignorant members of our society.

Myself, I was not really well informed of the nature of this disease. In my case, I did not know yet certain fundamental facts about this disease. Later on, the knowledge about cancer became an important part of the general knowledge of any person with an acceptable level of general education.

es/ Pink Parade
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

On the fixed day of the operation I have come early in the morning to the hospital located on the summit of a hill nearby to a town that is well known to be the first educational and cultural centre in the country.

The time was almost seven o’clock in the morning when the operation was started. My mother looked at me for a long time while she was smiling when she was taken to the operation hall. From that room I went to the waiting room.

The time, it seemed to me, passed very quickly and I was not thinking of anything with the exception of the coming out of my Mother from the operation hall safe and sound.

To my surprise and astonishment, my Mother came out of the operation hall after some forty-five minutes of time since her admission to the hall. It was evident that she was still under the effect of the anaesthesia and that she has not regained her conscience. Instead of following my Mother to her room, I was surprised to see the surgeon coming towards me and he invited me to follow him immediately somewhere in the operation hall. In a pot of the form of a kidney I saw a red mass of human flesh of a big size and of a length of twenty centimetres. I, myself, could not believe that this mass was part of the body of my Mother and the source of her pain. The surgeon told me:

"It is the tumour, a big size tumour that was in the uterus of the patient." told me the surgeon.

"This is without any doubt a very large one. Isn’t it so? I never imagined that a tumour could be as big as this one. Without any doubt it was the source of pain and trouble for my Mother" replied I.

"Your Mother can leave the hospital in few days time, perhaps after four days" Said the surgeon with a smile on his face.

"Thank you very much doctor. You have saved my Mother. But doctor, do you believe that this is the end of her suffering?" I asked the doctor.

"In this domain of the human life, one cannot say anything. I think that your mother will recover quickly and very soon, and in a shorter time than the normal" replied the doctor.

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In listening to the last statement of the doctor I kept silent because I did not know what to say in this field of human knowledge. I was not at all conscious, well aware, of the real implication of this type of surgery. I thanked the doctor again for the successful operation. The surgeon could not stay anymore with me because he was really a busy man.

I took my Mother home to the City of the Brotherly Love, to Amman, and I did not know what the destiny was hiding for her and for me. However, and during few weeks time, her health began to improve. In one month’s time, the life of my family became once more normal. The story of the operation and the tumour was almost forgotten by all.

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As for me, I had the sentiment that there would be other unforeseeable and unexpected developments for the family. I was not optimistic at all regarding the health prospects of my Mother. On that day I was extremely busy at the "Lycée" and did not have the sufficient time that would allow me to give more attention to the health of my Mother.

It was an astonishing surprise when one day I was at home for taking lunch, my Mother complained from a severe pain on the left side of her waist. When I saw her in this sad situation I immediately told myself that I should take her to the doctor for consultation concerning the pain in her waist.

As I have already mentioned above, we have totally forgotten the operation of the tumour in the uterus which my Mother had since about two or three years. Anyhow, I should mention that the pain in the waist was not an annoying and an alarming health phenomenon. Because a lot of people have been suffering from it and they have later on recovered in a short time and were cured by taking simple medicine for a certain short period of time prescribed for them by the doctors, the generalists.

However, the pain from which my Mother was suffering was extremely severe and sometimes unsupportable. From time to time, she had suffered from several sleepless nights because of the pain which she was enduring.

Nobody in the family has been observing, noticing, the suffering, the affliction of the sick Mother. The members of the family went and came back to the house without posing or raising any question concerning the pain which my Mother was suffering from.

One day, I have taken my Mother, about three years before her death, to a physician, a generalist, in our City. He has examined her for a long time. Then the doctor told me:

"Don’t worry, don’t worry. There is nothing serious or grave. I am going to prescribe for her some medicine which would give good results in few days time." said the physician.

"Thank you very much, Doctor, thank you, but if you permit me Doctor, I would like to inform you that my Mother had been operated on for the removal of a tumour in the uterus since three years. The tumour was of a big size. It is important to say that this tumour was not malignant". I said to the Doctor.

"Let me tell you that this has no connection with the pain from which your Mother complains, suffers, at present. The medicine which I have prescribed for her would soon give good results." the Doctor answered in a tone of confidence.

"I hope so, I hope so. You are the one who has the required experience in this field. I think that you are right. Perhaps, she would recover from this illness soon. Thank you very much". I answered the doctor in a somewhat sceptic tone.

"Excuse me, the patients and the clients, are waiting for me outside in the waiting room. There are four and I have to see them all before the end of the day" said the Doctor.

For approximately a year, this physician was giving my Mother some tranquillizing medicines. Nevertheless, the pain has never been defeated, beaten, by this simple and straightforward treatment. For several times I have gone to the physician with or without my Mother in order to report to him the degradation, the deterioration and the decline of her health. Every time I visited him he used to assure me that the illness of my Mother would be beaten and that there was no reason at all for my worry.

"I tell you once more that there is no reason for you to be annoyed or to be disturbed. One should continue to take the prescribed medicine regularly." said to me the Doctor.

"Of course, of course, and without any doubt, we have been following your instructions and prescriptions in a strict and regular manner. My Mother has been taking the medicine day after day". I responded.

"I am sorry. I do not have at all another option, another solution. You should know that I have several other patients who suffer of the same pain of the waist like your Mother. I give them the same medicine and most of them have been cured. One should be patient." replied the Doctor.

Unfortunately, the illness of my Mother has been degrading and deteriorating. Day after day, her pain and suffering have become more and more torturing and unsupportable. The sleepless nights have come to her frequently. During these nights she used to utter her moaning.

So often I sat nearby her bed for consoling and appeasing her and to tell her about my intention to take her to another doctor.

The culminating point of torture was that afternoon in which I decided to take my suffering Mother to another doctor, that one whom we were waiting in the waiting room of his clinic.

That afternoon, I recall, that I said to my Mother that we should visit and see another doctor and that we hope that this new doctor would give her, prescribe for her, a sort of an effective medicine. She did not say anything. However, I understood from her silence that she was in agreement with me and that she was willing to accompany me to wherever I wanted.

On that special and particular day I have come back from my work in the "Lycee" earlier than usual. At that epoch of my early life, as I already said, I was the principal of the main public high school in the City of Amman, the capital of the country which was located on the same hill on which our house was located. Always I moved to and from the "Lycée" on foot. I did not need a car to take me to and from my work.

An unknown call, coming to me from afar, from above, ordered me, asked me, to leave the "Lycée" a little bit earlier than usual. I marched hurriedly and rapidly in the alleys leading to my house. Several lazy and idle persons, who were accustomed to see me going to and coming from the "Lycée" at ease, were extremely astonished to see me walking in hurrying up my steps.

It was the end of spring season, the best and the preferred season in my country. The wild flowers bending their head on both sides of the road, were giving signs of their approaching withering, fading, and at last their death.

The dust of the road was covering my black shoes with its grey and clouding fine dust powder. From time to time small pebbles were rolling in all directions because of my quick and speeding up steps.

I looked at the blue sky for seeing up above in the infinite sky if there have been signs indicating the nature of the surprise that was awaiting me in my house. Before arriving there I was about to be nearby the residence of our neighbour, the wicked witch, who was living at the end of our street and who was already watching me wickedly. I closed my eyes for sometime so as to avoid seeing the horrible and the ugly face of the horrible and the wicked old witch.

The moment I arrived at my home, I found that I was tired, fatigued. Before seeing my Mother I prepared for myself a cup of tea. Tea was at that time my preferred drink to which I was habituated to take at whatever time of the day, but especially after each of the daily three meals.

es/ Abundance Of Waste
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

A dialogue took place between me and my Mother while I was taking my tea. There was no difficulty at all to convince her to consult another physician, the best at that epoch of the history of my country.

As soon as she gave her approval to accompany me to the clinic of the doctor, I hurried myself up in taking the last mouthful of the tea. My Mother and I hurried up our steps towards the doctor and inside his waiting room we were waiting patiently that our turn with the doctor would come.

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I had the strange and mysterious sensation that something very grave would take place. It was probable that my Mother has noticed the anxiety and the annoyance which were seen on my face.

From time to time she looked at me for a long time as if she was looking for explanations concerning my worries and anxiety. During the time of waiting, she and I did not exchange at all any words, any ideas. We have only exchanged our looks as if we were, both of us looking for the unknown.

"Say something, whatsoever. Why do you prefer on this day to keep silent? Say whatever you want because it seems to me that we are going to wait for a long time." My Mother told me in a low voice that was sometimes trembling.

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"There is nothing, there is nothing. I only try to recall the events of the preceding several years. I am wondering whether we were really wasting our time or whether we have been looking for salvation in the clinics of doctors who could not diagnose the exact and the real nature of your illness". I replied.

"Do not worry my son. I accept voluntarily the will of God. It is He who decides our destiny and not man." replied my Mother.

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"I think we have been so far wasting our time. I do not want to give you the explanations concerning my sentiments and my feelings. In reality, I await the judgment of the doctor. It seems to me that he would be able to discover the reality and he will be advising us regarding the measures that we should take for saving you". I said to my Mother.

"My son; you have till today, till now, devoted most of your time for saving me from my illness. Up till now, nobody has given us the right answer to many questions regarding my disease."

A woman entered into the waiting room accompanied by a child who seemed to be suffering from respiratory difficulties. The woman politely and in a low voice demanded from us to give her the priority to see the doctor. I gave her the priority which she asked and I justified my decision by saying that few more minutes would never change the sequence of events and the destiny of my mother.

Nevertheless, I said that the doctor would choose the patient whom he would see when he would come to the waiting room. At that particular moment I noticed that my Mother had shown some signs of fatigue and tiredness, but she did not want the others to remark that she was suffering from a severe and agonizing pain in the waist.

I came near to my Mother and I posed my right hand on her two small and tender hands. I felt, instantaneously, a high fever that was coming from her body. However, I told myself that my hand gave her a little bit of comfort and peace. Approximately half an hour has already passed in the waiting room and I found myself all alone with my Mother and we were waiting for our turn and the appearance of the doctor who would ask us to go to his consulting room. At last our turn has come. There was the doctor who saluted me with a smile on his somewhat long face.

"I think that it is the Mother and not the son who is ill." asked the doctor.

"Yes doctor. It is she who is the patient. She suffers from some pain on the left side of her waist". I answered in a somewhat shy and timid voice.

The doctor did not react at all to my answer, but he asked my Mother to enter into his consultation room. At last I was found all alone in the waiting room.

Then; the time of torment and anxiety came for me. I have been waiting and waiting that my Mother would come out of the consultation room. I was seated in the armchair and I was all alone and I was overwhelmed by an excessive disquietude and worries regarding the destiny of my Mother.

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The prevailing atmosphere in the small room, the waiting room, has become more and more heavy, strained and tensed while I was waiting nervously the door of the consultation room to be opened.

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Nothing has come out from the small room in front of me where my Mother was examined by the doctor, with the exception of some words of the physician. In spite of the fact that she has entered since about half an hour, I felt that this duration of time was longer than the eternity itself.

To avoid being occupied, engaged by the torturing waiting, I started fixing my sight, my eyes, with some hesitation on an imaginary point in the void of the room in attempting to forget all what was around me and all what has passed since our departure from our house.

My efforts to be in oblivion and in total forgetfulness were suddenly interrupted by the death of a small sparrow which has been crushed on the glass of the window in front of me which it thought to be open. I hurried up towards this window. I opened it, and I took the dead sparrow in my two trembling hands. Nothing, no movement came out of this silent sparrow to show that it was still alive. I put this little victim, the sparrow, in the same place where it was, where it was killed by the blind destiny.

I went back to my seat, the armchair, and resumed my waiting. Already, about forty minutes have passed and the door of the room in front of me was opened.

My Mother, who was paler than before, came out of this consultation room like a ghost, a phantom, a spectre or a moving shadow. Naturally, she was followed by the physician who had on his enigmatic and mysterious face signs of some worries or bad news.

As for me, I left the armchair and stood up in front of the doctor and I tried to have on my face just a simple smile. My Mother advanced her steps slowly towards me and then she sat in her seat.

es/ Enigma Chair
Above artwork is by the author's son... See more!
© 1980-2024 All Rights Reserved

"Would you please follow me into the consultation room?" The doctor addressed to me these words in a highly neutral tone. "I would like to tell you few words about the results of the examination. At the same time, your Mother would wait for you in this waiting room."

"Therefore, the decisive moment has come". I said. "The Judgment, the Verdict, would be pronounced." then I turned myself towards my Mother and told her "Excuse me, only few minutes, wait for me here please". I repeated this last sentence several times.

I left My Mother all alone in the waiting room. Then I accompanied the physician to the consultation room to listen to him and to his Judgment concerning the illness of my Mother.

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Nocturnal Journey

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