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The Night of Shame

Najati Al-Bukhari

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

Rajab

One of my small friends of my early childhood was the son of a big and a well established family that lived in the same quarter as that in which my family was living. The head and chief of the family, the father of my friend was married to three wives. This man liked to have many children, more than any other father in the community. So he married those three wives. Each of these wives gave him several sons and daughters.

The master of the family, in addition to these three legal wives had also two concubines of whom one was blond and the other was black. Both of these concubines were as beautiful and as charming as the three legal wives.

In addition to these five women, three legal wives and two concubines, the master of the house, the father of my boy friend, had living with him for certain family reasons a sister about thirty years old, who was the aunt of his children. All of these female members of the family lived under the same ceiling and within the walls of the same big house.

The father of my boy friend was about fifty years old or somewhat more than that by few years. Certainly, at that age, the master of the house was still enjoying a good health to the extent that he would look to be much younger than his real age. On the whole, the father of my boy friend should have been in his youth a good looking young man. It could be said with certainty that he was handsome in his youth. Still in his fifties, he had some traces of his lively and attractive youth.

The father of my little boy friend was engaged in agricultural and commercial activities and was the owner of a number of farms and plantations. He was, as well, the owner of stores and workshops. More than forty persons were employed by him in his agricultural and commercial properties and activities. He was, in fact, the source of the means of living to many families of the community.

Smile under the Hat 1
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 master of the family had plans to expand his business activities in all branches of commercial and agricultural activities and in all the quarters of the community. Actually, there were no limits for his financial activities ambitions. His sons were employed in all the branches of his enterprise as directors and as general managers. Nobody else, in our community could compete with this energetic, ambitious

On the other hand, all the people, inhabitants of our quarter and the other quarters, considered the father of my little boy friend, as a man of a special type. The people of the quarter and even of the community, as a whole, considered this man as different from other men in our quarter.

This man, the father of my friend, behaved from time to time; in a very strange and different way as if he was hiding some important secrets of his personal and private life. The opinion of the inhabitants of the quarter who used to see this man daily was unanimous. People believed that this man was hiding something which he could not tell to the others and which he could not share with others.

All the rumors that were circulating so often in the community concerning some eccentric aspects of his private life made the people think that this man was suffering from mental troubles. These troubles were manifested in his confused behavior and conduct towards the members of his family and even sometimes towards his employees and his close friends.

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The house of this important man, the father of my friend, was so big in dimensions and stature to the extent that each wife, each concubine and each of the grown up female members of the family had enough space, enough rooms, for herself and for her children, both the girls and the boys.

Each of the three wives of the father of my friend was designated a full well furnished wing in the big house for her and for her children. The concubines were also accommodated in special sections of the big house of the large family. Four maid servants, locally recruited, have been employed since a long time for the service of the whole family. All the four maids had already passed the age of fifty years. One of them passed the seventy five years of age. The main duty of these maid servants was to offer the necessary basic help to the three wives and the other female members of the family, to do the housekeeping in the best and most effective way.

Dish washing and the cleaning of toilets and the other parts of the house was the duty of the maids, cooking for the midday meal, the lunch, was always the duty of the wives and the concubines with the basic aid of the maids. The big house of the family of the father of my small boy friend was well furnished. Each room, hall and special spaces of the house was provided with all kinds of pieces of furniture. All bedrooms were supplied with special metallic beds, two or three chairs, a cupboard, a closet and a commode. Most of these pieces of furniture were imported from outside of our country.

The main room of the wing that belonged to the master of the house was rich with oriental carpets and pieces of arts. Everywhere in the bedroom all kinds of rare pieces of furniture could be seen especially the spacious bed made out of rare wood which was placed in the centre of the room.

Artistic pieces of tapestry and embroidery were hung on all the four walls of the bedroom. The two windows of the room had a type of red velvet curtains which could, when closed make everything in the room invisible to the outside curious eyes. The most important and visible articles in the bedroom was the large number of scent and of perfume flasks of various sizes which were placed on the top of the main commode of the bedroom. Such crystal bottles of perfumery were mostly imported from oriental countries and sometimes from countries of the western north.

Inside this luxurious bedroom, the master of the large house has built a bathroom containing all kinds of articles required for taking a bath with hot water in winter season and cold water in summer seasons. A small cupboard is found in the bathroom containing luxurious towels of all kinds of colors and sizes. In one of the corners of the bathroom a bathtub was placed which could accommodate two or three persons on the average.

My small boy friend, Rajab, belonged to this rich and luxurious family. Rajab lived in this big and beautiful house that was well known, in the quarter, or even in the whole community, to be like a small palace of fairy tales. Rajab was the son of the third and the youngest wife, the blond who was well known for her beauty in all the quarter.

Rajab was the eldest son of this blond wife, who had in total and including Rajab, three sons and one daughter. Rajab was almost ten years old at the time in which he started to tell me his tragic story on the life of his family during the long nights throughout the months of the year.

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

Rajab, like all other boys of his age of the quarter used to put on the long white robe and had his hair cut short. Rajab had a very long stature composed with the normal size of boys of his age at that time. In fact, Rajab looked to us like a boy of twelve or thirteen years old and not ten years.

Since the age of seven years, the behavior and the attitudes of my small boy friend, Rajab, have undergone some basic observable and fundamental changes. Sometimes, signs and symptoms of some kind of sadness, melancholy and inquietude could be observed easily in his daily conduct. This change was also observed by several other boyfriends and certainly by some members of his large family.

All the time, when he came out of his house to the square of the quarter, he tried his best to keep himself afar, away from all the other boys who were playing with each other and amusing themselves joyfully together. Rajab kept himself aloof from all other small and active boys. Naturally, all the other small boys of the quarter could easily and without any difficulty notice that their friend the small boy Rajab was not behaving in the normal and ordinary way.

With the passing of days, weeks and months Rajab's conduct and behavior have been becoming strange and more and more abnormal. Rajab seemed to his friends, the boys of the quarter, to be melancholic, sad and even depressive. All the boys thought that he preferred to meditate and to contemplate rather than to participate actively with the other boys in their daily activities of playing games and of amusing themselves in the square of the quarter, nearby the water spring and the small brook.

From time to time, it could be observed that Rajab was talking to himself or that he used to make some cried that could be heard by most of the boys who were found in the square at that time.

In the evening, which was the ordinary and the normal time for our return to our respective homes, Rajab, for most of the time, hesitated to leave his hidden place in the quarter and go to his house, to the small palace of his family. I could remember very well, and for several times, that he, Rajab, remained in his hiding place in the square of the quarter till after sunset and the arrival of the obscurity of the night.

The nest day, early in the morning, Rajab had the habit of waking up early in the morning before anybody else in the house. He had also the habit of taking his breakfast which he could not miss specially the cup of tea. Then he had the habit to leaving the house hurriedly and precipitately so as to go to the square of the quarter and to be the first young boy to be there. Several times, Rajab arrived there in the square before sunrise.

Yet Rajab, at the same time, developed the habit of not talking to anybody in the square, with the exception of few occasions. However, and in spite of all efforts the small boys to make contacts with Rajab, the depressive and melancholic condition of the boy, Rajab, has been degrading and even worsening with the passing of days, the passing of time.

All the small boys of the quarter were becoming certain and positive, day after day, that their friend Rajab was suffering from a serious psychological crises of which the exact nature was not yet known to us, the boys of the quarter, or even to the members of his own family.

"How could we help our friend Rajab? It seems to me that he suffers from something which we could not diagnose or identify. This suffering of our friend has started since a long time" remarked one boy.

"Most probably, and maybe I could say certainly, he suffers from some family problems and nothing else. You know our friend Rajab lives in a large house, in almost a real palace, where many persons, members of the family, live together. These members of the family, these persons are naturally of different age and of different character and personality. Consequently, each member of this big family must try his best to live with the others harmoniously. It is a matter of family cohabitation amongst the various members of this group of human beings," said another small boy.

"As usual and in conformity with our habits and traditions, we should help our friend Rajab and the soonest the better. As a matter of fact, it is not right at all to leave him suffering by himself. We are all friends to each other" said another small boy.

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"I think that the only person who can speak to Rajab and have contact with him is Amin" proposed another boy.

But the days passed by and nothing new has taken place. Rajab continued to suffer as before. His general mental condition continued to be worse and worse and he was looking more and more depressive and melancholic. In spite of the fact that he continued to come regularly to the square, he continued to keep himself aloof from all the boys.

Nobody amongst us tried to go near to him to ask him what was wrong with him. Rajab continued to contemplate and to meditate and sometimes to speak to himself as he used to do for a long time. But in all cases, he never spoke to anybody.

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I Amin, who narrated this strange story decided one day to try and talk to Rajab. I never tried in the past to come in contact with him because he did not encourage anybody to come and talk to him. On that day, Rajab, as usual, was seated on a big piece of stone, or rather a small rock, which he has chosen long ago to be his seat in the hidden corner of the square of the quarter. This stone was found in the corner of the square and was more or less hidden and could not be seen by others, either by the adult passersby or by the small boys of the quarter.

Whatever was the case, I continued to walk towards him. I was about to arrive at his hiding place, when I became just in front of him, that is no distance separated me from him, he gave me a simple smile. In realizing that he had no objection at all to my presence near him, I hurried myself to sit on another big stone that was found near him at that time. At that critical moment we, I, Amin, and him Rajab looked at each other fixedly and for a long time.

At that moment, Rajab tried to open his mouth in order to tell me something. Perhaps he wanted to utter few words. But I realized that Rajab could not even utter a single word. His mouth remained obstinately closed, but in looking fixedly at his eyes I could see and realize that his two black eyes were telling some unbelievable and mysterious stories.

In seeing myself in this strange and challenging situation I moved myself nearer and nearer to him by moving and carrying my stone-seat with me. At last Rajab opened his mouth and I saw his two lips each moving either upwards or downwards. Rajab uttered only one word "My father." After he uttered this word 'father' he closed his mouth again.

He kept silent for few instants that looked to be the eternity, I was afraid that he would continue to be silent forever. But fortunately enough I found him trying to say something. However, only one word could come out of his mouth, a word which I have already heard. He said, "My father."

Naturally, and without any difficulty I guessed that he wanted to tell me stories about his father and nothing else. I said to myself that Rajab was about to tell stories the hero of which was his father, the head of the family.

At last I decided to leave Rajab to himself, I decided not to dialogue with him. I waited for sometime not doing anything. I was waiting patiently that Rajab would take the initiative and talk to me. At last I came to the decisive conclusion that I should leave Rajab to himself, in his state of solitude. I began to make myself ready to leave Rajab to himself, to his day dreams, to his imagination and to his small, obscure and mysterious world. But all of a sudden and all at once, something took place which I have never expected to take place. The small Rajab threw himself on me and tried to cling to me by his two hands. Then he looked at me. From his looks and the depths of his eyes I came to the conclusion that Rajab did not want me to leave, he wanted me to stay with him.

Without any hesitation or reticence I stayed with Rajab in the same hidden corner in which he was found and for a long time. Rajab showed himself in a comfortable condition. He demonstrated that he was no more hesitant or afraid to sit with me and to talk to me.

Unfortunately, for both of us, me, Amin and him Rajab, the day has almost come to its end. The Sun has begun to disappear behind the horizon. The birds were flying around their nests found in the branches of the trees of the square of the quarter. The young boys have already left the square of the quarter in their way to their homes and to their compassionate mothers who were waiting for them with anxiety and inquietude.

I and Rajab, we were still sitting in the somber and obscure corner, the gloomy and the dismal corner of the square, the hiding place of Rajab who did not like to mix with the other boys of the quarter and to play with them till the coming of sunset.

As I said, I was just looking at him and not expecting any answer or reaction from him. At last I had to tell Rajab that we should leave the square and go to our homes, to our mothers who were waiting for us. I told him that all the other boys have left the place long ago.

I suggested to him that tomorrow we, I and him, would be meeting in the early morning not here in the square of the quarter but somewhere else, in a more agreeable and suitable place. I suggested to him that tomorrow we should not come to this place. I proposed to him that we would be meeting at the top of the hill facing our quarter to the left.

I myself was well familiar with this hill and I have been there in the past for several times either in the morning or in the evening. Rajab has nodded, more than once, his small head, as a sign of agreement.

Then I told myself that tomorrow I would have a meeting, a rendezvous, with Rajab on the top of the little hill that stands on the Western side of the quarter. I said also to myself, while I was looking at my friend Rajab and was attempting to understand the mental and the psychological condition of the boy, that this dear friend of mine, the son of the richest man in the quarter, would tell me, without any doubt, a lot of strange stories about the internal life inside the house of the father of Rajab, the rich man of the total community.

The next day in the early morning I went directly to the square of the quarter for accompanying Rajab to the top of the hill which I have chosen to be the place where we would be meeting, that is the two of us.

In the square, I sat somewhere there waiting the arrival of Rajab, my friend. Actually, a lot of time has passed and he did not arrive yet. All the small boys have come to the square, one after the other. All the boys have come to the square with the exception of Rajab who did not come. Why?? I said to myself several times.

Instead of staying in the square waiting for my friend Rajab, doing nothing, and in fact wasting time, I decided to leave this hiding place of Rajab and go and play with the other boys who were joyfully playing together. Naturally, nobody knew about my rendezvous with my friend Rajab. The meeting was just a secret between me and him. I began to think of possible reasons for his delay or for his possible absence for the whole day. Probably, he has fallen ill, became indisposed, or perhaps he was asked to do something which was not at all expected, something which he was not supposed to do. Also, it was possible that he traveled with somebody of the family to outside the quarter. Due to one of these several reasons, Rajab was not able to come to the square of the quarter so as to accompany me to the top of the chosen hill.

The absence of my friend, Rajab, from coming to the square of the quarter continued unexpectedly for several days. In fact, his absence continued for about one week. Whatever was the case, I did not have the courage to go and visit the house, the palace, of Rajab to ask about him from his mother or any member of his family. I wanted to know the reasons for his absence or his disappearance from the square of the quarter.

For almost one week or more, my friend Rajab did not come at all to the square where we usually played and amused ourselves daily from sunrise to sunset. For this reason and as a consequence to all of that, I said to myself that I should make a visit to his house so as to know the reason for his absence for a duration of one week, or to be more exact to a period of eight days.

In the evening of the first day or the end of the week, on Saturday, I decided that I should go to the house of the small boy, my friend Rajab, so that I could carry out some kind of an exploration of the situation. However, it was not necessary for me to go to the house of Rajab to know the reality.

Somebody from his family told me that during the last week a young girl of the family died, lost her life, in very ambiguous circumstances. I was told also that a newly born baby girl has died immediately after her birth. Most people of the family were more or less busy in the burial arrangements and rituals of the two dead members of the family.

I said to myself that this was a week of sadness, sorrow, mourning and bereavement. I said to myself that this was the reason for the absence of Rajab from coming to the square of the quarter for eight long days.

On the next day, which was Sunday, I was as usual in the square with the other small boys and was really excited to see my friend Rajab coming to the square towards us. He had on him his usual white robe and was putting on his pair of sandals of the black color. He was walking slowly, as if he was tired or even exhausted, or perhaps sick, or suffering from some pain somewhere in his body.

As soon as he arrived to where I was standing, Rajab, my small friend, looked at me fixedly and for a long time. He wanted to discover whither I was annoyed, disturbed or not. Actually, Rajab became very calm and really pacified when he found me tranquil and serene. I shook hands with him which was not normal to do for persons of old age.

"I am sorry; I beg your pardon, my dear Amin. O! What a horrible week full of terrible and sad events. Many unexpected events have taken place in my house, in our palace, during the last week. I am sure that you are already informed or even aware of these sad events. You know that one of my many half sisters has been killed and that a newly born baby girl was born dead. I do not know the exact story. Was the baby born dead or did she die after her birth? This is an important fact to establish. All the members of the family are in deep sadness but at the same time nobody says anything concerning the two tragic events. All the members of the family without any exception look scared and sometimes terrified. At the same time some of the female members, especially the young, cry and weep" said Rajab in a trembling voice.

"Yes, yes Rajab. I am now well informed of what happened in your house during last week. I do not know how we the small boys never knew anything about these sad events. While on the other hand, all people in the quarter know what happened in your house, but for sure nobody knows the details. All people in the community ask why and how. Unfortunately, as it is normally the case in such events, a lot of rumors have been circulating in the quarter and in the community regarding the unexpected and the strange death of the two girls, the two sisters. The inhabitants of the quarter speak, in whispering, about the mysterious death of the two females, the young girl and the baby girl" said I, Amin.

"Yes, yes, these are the rumerous which start to circulate after any event that cannot be explained. The rumors are transmitted from one person to another, from one house to another, from one quarter to another, while the truth or the verity remains forever unknown except by those who committed the crime. The truth about the incident, the event, or really, the crime, remains forever hidden inside the high walls of the house where the crimes were committed. The truth about the mysterious crime remains buried inside the walls of the fortress and the story of the crime becomes a fairy tale transmitted from one generation to another. Nobody ever tells these stories in a normal way. The story of the crime is told only by means of the eyes." answered Rajab while he was staring at the sun that was rising in the sky and he was also staring at the birds that were flying up in our small and enigmatic and mysterious world.

"Certainly and without any doubt, this is the general rule. The truth, the verity, remains a secret, a taboo and forever. However, everybody knows the truth with some details" said I to Rajab.

The dialogue between me and him, Rajab, was interrupted when I asked the small boy, my friend, to prepare himself for going up to the top of the hill which we have chosen to be the place for our meeting.

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The two of us, I and Rajab, started hurriedly, precipitately, to mount the hill so as to reach to its summit in the shortest possible time. I did not know why I wanted to hurry up and to be on the hill in one second. May be I was extremely anxious to listen to the true story of Rajab, about the private family life in his house.

The Sun of the summer season was almost burning, bright and shining. The Sun was already rising from the depth of the horizon and its yellow rays illuminated brightly and in a fascinating way our little world.

In a very short time we were already on the top, the summit of the hill. From there we could see down in the valley the whole quarter that was still plunging in a deep sleep.

I was sure that this place, the summit of the hill, was a very frequented place where

I was sure that this place, the summit of the hill, was a very frequented place where every weekend families of the various quarters came there, adults and children to spend the whole day eating grilled meat and drinking tea for the whole day.

As for me, I chose another small rock to be my seat which was almost touching the rock of Rajab. A lonely, a solitary bird passed by in flying gently and peacefully over our heads. The morning breeze made its daily passage over our summit.

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Rajab, the small boy of ten or eleven years of age, narrated to me the following story, the story of the family life inside the fortress, the small palace of the family.

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The Night of Shame

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