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Nocturnal Journey

Najati Al-Bukhari

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

In total, my Mother stayed in the operation hall for about six hours. For me, this duration of time was long, very long for such an operation. I do not know why this was my feeling.

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In the first two hours of her arrival in the room of the intensive care unit I was not permitted to enter this room. In the waiting-room, that was specially designated for the relatives and friends of the patients who were normally kept for a certain period of time in the intensive care unit, I entered and I had a circular look in the spacious room so as to acquaint myself with the space in which I was.

There was nothing extraordinary. One could see chairs, armchairs and one or two sofas that were made available for the use of all. Here and there, low tables of various sizes could be seen on which were made available for the visitors some old issues of magazines and newspapers. Two waste-baskets were made available in two corners of the waiting room. People of the two genders, women and men, as well as children of all ages were seated in the seating facilities made accessible there.

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I counted the people in the waiting-room, eight women, ten men and six children. Some of the people were of rural and others of urban origins. The veil at that time was not very common at all amongst the urban women, while women of rural origin had their traditional white head cover, the scarf. As ladies of rural origin these women never used the veil to hide their faces.

The waiting-room of the intensive care unit was a strange as well as a bizarre place as I have ascertained myself and observed later on.

First I seated myself in an armchair in a corner nearby the large window. In spite of me, I occupied myself in looking at and watching the visitors, men and woman, in the waiting room.

Hi
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

The members of one group, any group, spoke amongst themselves, and from time to time, they laughed, sometimes so loud that one could hear their laughing from a far distance. The members of another group kept in absolute silence because nobody talked, but practically all of them stared at the emptiness of the space, the void.

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The children in the waiting room were naturally active and have been moving from one place to another in running around in this waiting room that was considered by the children like a playground. Nobody could stop these children and nobody could address to them a word of reprimand, rebuke, censure or reproach. As I was sitting in this waiting room the children never stopped their playing and their amusement.

As for me, as a person in sadness and in distress, I was surprised by this unusual behaviour, as it was manifested by all of those who were present in the waiting-room.

While the people in the waiting-room were occupied, each by something, a young woman of thirty years or somewhat more than that entered in the room and she was accompanied by a nurse. This young woman was crying in a loud voice full of sorrow and affliction. She was crying and weeping. She was shedding her tears in abundance and she tried to speak in a strangled voice.

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She had on her head a scarf of a pure white shining colour and she was dressed a long robe. Five of her relatives who were in the waiting room, four women and one man, hurried to her for consoling and appeasing her. The man, an old fellow, embraced the young woman while saying some words to her which I could not hear well.

After that, three children of the age of four to ten years entered in a rapid manner in the waiting-room. All of these children went to their mother without realizing what was going on in the waiting room. Evidently all the visitors, men and women, stared at the unfortunate and miserable young woman.

In a short time, everybody in the waiting room came to know the full story of the calamity that happened to this young woman.

"He is there in the intensive care unit. He is there dead, a body without life." said the young woman in mourning and in sorrow.

"How could that has happened, to die because of a simple operation of appendicitis? This is something unbelievable and unacceptable." said the old man.

"Yesterday evening he was in a very normal and good health. He did not complain from anything. In fact, he played with the children joyfully." said the sad and the mourning young woman in crying.

"And after that, what happened? Tell us." asked one of the relatives.

"This morning, he woke up suffering from an unsupportable pain in his belly, may be in his stomach. The pain was on the right side of his waist. I was sure that he should be examined at once either by a doctor or should be carried to the hospital. With a lot of difficulty we have found a car for going to the hospital. At nine o’clock my husband was taken to the operation hall. At ten o’clock he was taken to the intensive care unit. When I visited him in his room, he was about to say to me few words. In fact, he spoke about our children, and while I was standing near him in the room his heart stopped beating. A number of nurses and two doctors have rushed to the room of my husband to save his life. Unfortunately, it was very late. My husband was dead." said the sad and moaning young woman, the widow.

"One should be patient and accept the will of God." said one of the women, the four relatives.

Monument
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

I witnessed this tragedy taking place in front of me, where the young mother of five children has lost her husband of thirty years and because of nothing. Really I got shocked.

At that moment I thought instantly of my Mother who was at that moment in a room in the intensive care unit. I was wondering whether she was dead or still alive. In trying to enter into the unit of the hospital where my Mother was kept, I was not yet permitted to have this visit, this privilege. The guard had the orders of not permitting anybody to enter into the rooms of patients. He asked me to be patient and to wait for more time in spite of the fact that it was difficult to wait for the aspired permission.

The waiting-room of the intensive care unit was at that time almost full of people of all ages. One could notice that all available seats in the spacious room were occupied. Some visitors have entered into the waiting room while some others have left, went out of the room.

Always it could be noticed and observed that new visitors embraced friends and relatives who were present in the waiting-room. Always, it could be heard that somebody told others news and mostly rumours and gossips concerning the private life of families in the rich and well-to-do quarters of the City.

All women who were there, with the exception of women of rural origins, have been dressed in the most recent models and styles available in the "boutiques" of the Holy City. All of those visitors of urban origins have visited the hair-dresser, the "Coiffeur", the best, before coming to the hospital.

Involuntarily, I looked at a lady visitor, in looking for somebody whom I might have known. Certainly, there was nobody whom I knew. Nevertheless, several visitors were staring at me with curiosity and indiscretion. Very few of them showed their willingness and intention to speak to me in order to pose to me certain questions about the purpose of my presence in the waiting-room.

Probably, they were extremely astonished to find me all alone in the spacious waiting-room in which all people were part of a certain group. I was, in fact, the only "Solitaire".

Beside me, a woman of forty years and of a white complexion and golden hair was seated in a simple armchair who seemed to be a member of a group composed of three women. She had stared at me several times and discreetly. She opened her mouth to talk to me, but she has changed her intention at the last instant. Consequently, she kept silent until that moment, that critical instant, when she thought, with a little bit of certainly and conviction, that it was possible for her to talk with me.

Facing this strange situation, and because I was entirely occupied by the operation and the illness of my Mother I did not show any inclination whatsoever to speak to anybody. In spite of all, the lady visitor has never lost hope to start with me a dialogue, any dialogue whatsoever.

The lady visitor cleaned up her throat several times, but in a somewhat repulsive way, for attracting my attention. I pretended that I heard nothing, nothing at all. I was certain that this strange lady thought me to be both speechless and deaf.

The moment I was about to establish a sort of relationship with her, we were, she and I, surprised to see a very old woman who was crying and lamenting while she was tearing out her hair of the colour of white snow.

The guard and two nurses have accompanied her till the interior, inside the waiting room where a small family tribe of eleven members have been awaiting her with a little anxiety.

As for me, I was looking for a long time and with interest at the old woman who was sobbing and was surrounded by her relatives and the members of the family. The lady visitor, near me, has found this incident a suitable occasion to speak with me. This charming lady, my neighbour, was surprised and even stunned to discover that I was in reality all ears ready to listen to her conversation.

"This is an old man, older than his wife who gave his last breath of his life. He had an illness in his breast for the last ten years. He suffered from a sort of an "insuffisance mitrale". He was a very rich man and has a lot of orange groves in the valley of the Holy River. He was considered as the king of this domain of agricultural activity. And as you can witness, all the members of his small tribe and specially his grown up children do not hide their satisfaction and their happiness to know that he is dead. All the members of the family wait to share the patrimony of the defunct." said to me my lady visitor who did not hide her satisfaction because I lent voluntarily my ears to what she was telling me about the dead man.

"Surely, certainly, his advanced age does not give any hope for his coming out safe and sound from the intensive care unit." said I to the lady visitor.

"Tell me, young man. Is this your first time to be in the waiting room of the intensive care unit of the hospital? It seems to me you are all alone, solitaire, or what?? Is it your wife, the sick, the patient, or what, or another person more important and more dear, "dearer" than all?" asked the lady visitor.

"She is "dearer", more dear than all. It is my Mother, the patient, the sick. She had an operation this early morning and now, at present, she is in a room in the intensive care unit. I am prevented to see her now in her room. They have told me that I should be patient and wait for some time". I said to the lady visitor.

"Sick? Sick of what?" demanded the lady visitor.

"Most probably the Cancer, or in other words, it is surely the Cancer. I wish that the surgeon has totally extirpated, "excised" this monster out of the body of my Mother". I answered while I was dialoguing lengthily with the lady visitor in the waiting-room.

At that moment, I was surprised and even I was stunned and bewildered to witness the entry of the diabolical couple, my wicked relative and the wicked neighbour, the witch of the quarter where I lived in the past.

All the seats in the waiting-room were almost occupied. Perhaps, there have been one or two vacant seats. The two wicked devils, the relative and the witch, waited for a short time until five seats became vacant and the two devils seated themselves with comfort and satisfaction in two chairs. The two had on their face designed a mischievous and a deceitful smile.

I was sure that the two devils knew very well that I was with them in the waiting room. In spite of all of that, they have behaved as if they did not know that I was in the waiting-room.

Woman with Hat 9
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

They talked to each other in whispering and they have looked all around them in the room with the exception of the place where I was seated. In my case I have not stopped staring at them all the time in trying to attract their attention, or at least to indicate to them that I was there in the waiting-room.

The time has passed by slowly. Many events have taken place in the waiting-room. I have never imagined that the world, our world, could be full of such misfortune and bad luck. I never thought that this life, our life, could hide behind a black and thick veil an unlimited number of tragedies that strike man at any moment.

The waiting-room of the intensive care unit of the hospital has revealed to me many secrets of our human life. Always and always everybody waits, in the waiting-room, the bad news, the news of the death of somebody in such unexpected manner. If somebody wished to look for the real history or story of the suffering of humanity, he would find it here, in the waiting-room of the Intensive Care Unit of each hospital.

"Why have you been, in the last five to ten minutes in a more or less bizarre disposition? I noticed that you have been staring at the corner of the room which faces us. As a matter of fact, you have been making grimaces on your face and then you used to give a mysterious smile. I have noticed also that you have been talking with some persons in front of you." the lady visitor addressed these words to me.

"There, in front of me. O! There are two persons who have been following, pursuing, me everywhere I moved to since my departure from the City of Brotherly Love. But now, the two have disappeared. Nobody is there". I replied.

"Who are they, those two persons?" demanded the lady visitor sitting next to me.

"One of these is a wicked relative of my family and the other one is the witch of the quarter. They pursue me everywhere like two phantoms and they appear and disappear in a sudden manner". I explained to the lady visitor.

"Listen to me, young man. These two persons are not real. They are the creation of your own imagination." replied the lady visitor sitting next to me.

"Perhaps; but I see them as real persons, creatures! Their abrupt appearance or disappearance looks to me as an unexplainable phenomenon. They are, in a more precise way, a riddle, or riddles, and nothing else". I explained.

While I was talking with the lady visitor, my neighbour on the left, a nurse entered into the waiting-room and then she came towards me while she was having a simple smile on her face. As soon as I saw her coming towards me, my heart started to beat more or less in a violent way.

I looked at her with despair and distress in spite of the smile that was designed on her face. I thought that she had for me a message from those responsible of the room of my Mother in the intensive care unit. Unfortunately, I was surprised to realize that she wanted to speak with the person on my right, a young man who kept silent since his arrival to the waiting-room with his family.

This was a disappointment for me. The lady visitor sitting near me has no doubt noticed the incident which has taken place some minutes ago and she wanted to calm me and to appease me and at the same time to assure me.

"Your neighbour, the young man, is the head of his family. He is the eldest son of his father who died of a heart attack last year. His sister of twenty years of age is now in a room in the intensive care unit. You know that she tried to commit suicide by the way of taking a sort of a poison. The smile on the face of the nurse means that the young girl is now safe and sound." said the lady visitor sitting next to me.

"Why did the young girl attempt to commit suicide, to kill herself?" I asked.

"This is a simple and a common story in our society, in our community. The young girl is in love of a young man of twenty-four, twenty-five years of age and she was determined to get married with him. But the family, her family, did not give its approval to this arrangement that goes contrary to the established traditions and customs of the family. The rumours say that the young girl has slept several times with her lover and consequently she has been afraid to be pregnant. This is why the young girl wanted, insisted, to get married with the young man, the lover, the soonest, for avoiding whatever bad and grave consequences if she becomes pregnant. Faced with the obstinate refusal of her family, the only solution for the young girl was to put an end to her life by committing suicide." said the lady visitor.

"It seems to me that you are well informed about all what goes on here in this waiting-room. You know all the news in details and the rumours and the gossips. Isn’t it so?" I replied.

"Certainly and why not; I am well informed because I am here in this waiting-room during all the days of the week. I do not take leave in this work. This is a full time job for me and I come here at eight o’clock in the morning and I finish my visit at eight o’clock in the evening. I devote myself only for this interesting activity. It is here in this waiting-room that I collect all the bits of tragic news and stories and here in this hall nothing could escape me." said the lady visitor.

Without any notice or warning I remarked that the surgeon was standing in the midst of people in the waiting-room. His undeclared presence was a surprise for me and for all the visitors in the hall.

For a little bit of time he examined the entire hall by looking around in the search of somebody or something. He had seen me seated in my chair and listening attentively to the questions posed to me by the lady visitor and to her explanations.

"O! You are here. You must come with me to the room of your Mother in the Intensive Care Unit." told me the surgeon.

I could not know what to say or what to do. And I could not equally behave in such a way which was acceptable in such a situation. I had the intention for saying something to the surgeon, but the appropriate and the suitable words were far from my spirit and my mind. However, finally I stood up and shook the hands warmly with the surgeon. He asked me to follow him all at once.

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"Is everything going all right?" I addressed him these words while we were walking towards the door of the intensive care unit.

"Why not... Why not? You would witness that by yourself." answered the surgeon.

"Is it possible to talk to her, even to tell her one or two words?" I asked him.

"Certainly, that would be possible, only few words, some words, otherwise she would get tired." said the surgeon.

It was not possible for me to continue dialoguing with the doctor because finally we have arrived in front of the door of my Mother’s room. As soon as I was inside the room I was astonished to find her branched everywhere in her body to so many types of tubes and of sophisticated medical apparatuses. By chance, the eyes of my Mother were closed and yet it was quite evident that her heart was beating in an irregular way and that she was certainly alive.

I was told by the nurse that my Mother has started sleeping just before few minutes. Nevertheless, her face was evidently pale. The nurse asked me to leave the room all at once and to go once again to the waiting room. She told me that the visit of my Mother would be possible in an hour’s time or perhaps more.

Naturally, I left the room of my Mother and I went to the waiting-room. I discovered when I arrived there, that the place was full of visitors, men, women and children as expected.

Camp
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

Fortunately, the seat which I was occupying before was still vacant and the lady visitor who was sitting next to me was still there. She was attentive and careful to see and to watch all. She was looking around without interruption in the hall. Obviously, she saw me and she became excited and at the same time relaxed and satisfied. She invited me, asked me, to be seated in my previous seat. However, there was no other choice for me. Instantly I sat in my old chair.

"You are welcome, my dear young man. I assure you, you have missed nothing, during the short time that you were away. Nothing new and of importance has taken place. As you can notice, everybody is in a strange and bizarre disposition. Every time somebody enters into the waiting-room, all people at once stare at him. They, the spectators, and the visitors, sitting in the waiting room, think that in few moments a tragic event would take place. This is what my feeling tells me." spoke the lady visitor sitting next to me in a tone full of an immense excitement and even nervousness.

"I found my Mother plunging in a deep sleep. Obviously, I could not talk to her. I hope I would soon be asked to go to her room." said I to the lady visitor who was staring at me with amazement.

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"Certainly, that would be possible. Why not? But later on! I am sure that your Mother would remain in the intensive care unit for some days. You would have the chance to see her and to talk to her. But at this hour, now, at this moment, you have to look around you. For me, this is the silence before the storm, before the tempest." spoke the lady visitor in looking around her.

"What kind of a silence do you mean? Is it that somebody is going to die, or what? This waiting-room is really an inexhaustible source of unbelievable and tragic stories". I said.

"This is no doubt your first day here in this waiting-room, isn’t it so? If you had visited this place for several days, as it is my case, you would have become for the exterior world a source of unbelievable stories that are all true and real." answered the lady visitor.

"This would be impossible. I am here only because of the illness of my Mother. I have the conviction that this Holy City, Jerusalem, would cure, or more precisely would save her. Her sickness, disease, is fatal and horrible. But I have the sentiment that a miracle would take place and my Mother would be saved. I have to witness this event, the coming of this miracle". I explained while I was staring at the lady visitor.

"You are a strange young man. You really have the disposition and the nature of very old people. You believe in miracles and you are convinced that a City has miracles and supernatural effects and powers. Of your type, there are many who believe in the divinity of this City and in its divine and heavenly powers. Those people, the believers in this City, come here to be blessed and to be pardoned, to be absolved, to be forgiven, to be acquitted, and to be exonerated of their sins".

While we were talking to each other, I and the lady visitor, a young woman accompanied by two nurses entered into the waiting-room. The young woman has almost fainted and she did not say anything. When she came into the hall, several members of the family, the adults, went to her.

They looked at her, but the young woman did not give any reaction and did not give any answer to many questions that have been posed to her by the family.

I came to know later on that this young woman was actually the mother of five children whose ages ranged from five to twelve. Three of her children, two girls and one boy, were found in the intensive care unit because they had on their bodies some third degree burns caused by the fire that has ravaged the bedroom of the three children this morning immediately after the departure of their father from the house to his work down town.

After having received the necessary and urgent medical care, these three children have been brought to the intensive care unit of the hospital. When the young woman came, almost losing her consciousness, to the waiting-room, it was confirmed to her that two of her children were dead and that the third child was in a very precarious condition.

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The father of the children, the victims, has arrived, finally, to the hospital. He came directly from his work, the restaurant. In the hospital, he just came to know of the death of his children. His face became pale, taciturn and non-communicative. All the people in the waiting-room were staring at the mourning and the moaning mother and at the father.

The guard of the intensive care unit entered into the waiting-room and he indicated to me that I should follow him. I told myself that my Mother has at last woken up from her deep sleep.

In walking behind the guard solemnly I had the strange sensation to be in a condition of tranquillity and quietude. Before arriving in front of the door of the room of my Mother I hesitated for a short time to open it fearing that that would awaken my Mother.

Inside the room, I witnessed a pleasant and an astounding surprise. My Mother was fully awake. When she saw me she has given me a smile of full satisfaction. Really, she was extremely happy to see me. I hurried up my steps towards her bed and I embraced her. She did not say anything to me, except a short sentence. "May the Almighty God bless you my son."

I stayed nearby my Mother for few instants which seemed to me to be the eternity. I was, for a while, satisfied and I felt myself spiritually gratified. Then, afterwards, I left her room.

The darkness of the obscurity of the night, at that time, has not come yet. Nevertheless, the twilight has made its appearance all over the Sanctity and the red-golden rays have been seen scattered in a miraculous way all over the Holy City of Jerusalem.

I stood up nearby the window for sometime to try to appreciate the beauty of the Sanctity, her fascinating charm and her spiritual seduction. In regarding the scene in front of me, I was really enchanted by what I have seen in front of me of the dazzling light which was covering brilliantly all the magnificent environment.

I found myself really in a mysterious amazement. I felt that I could go joyfully and merrily out of the window like a bird for flying freely in the vast and immense sky of Jerusalem.

An enormous and immense power was pushing me towards the exterior. Yet, I resisted obstinately any attempt to throw me in the void of the darkness of the night.

In my days of childhood I was obsessed in my dreams to be only a small bird that was all the time in flight in the midst of twinkling little stars. Sometimes, I flew in the profundity of the sky and often in the midst of the shining Milky Way.

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Nocturnal Journey

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© 1980-2017 by Najati Al Bukhari, Mont de Marsan, France

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