“I don’t want to die, Ibrahim.” I tell him.
“Everything dies,” he replies. “Don’t be afraid of death. Fear dying without being satisfied with yourself.”
But Ibrahim, life is not a performance. Although there are people bent on assigning us roles and binding us in a specific timeline ending with the end of the play and the destruction of the stage, life is not a performance. Why the need to be satisfied?
“I’m not afraid of death.” I say, I lie.
I lie again. “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to die before seeing anything beautiful in our region.”
There are plenty of beautiful things in our region, I remind myself, but seeing them, and participating in them, requires money. I don’t have money. I have an Internet connection, so I only get to see pictures and read articles about beautiful things in our region.
“I don’t want to die before witnessing a streak of hope.”
I’m so full of shit.
“That’s just it. Death is coming anyway, and I have immense respect for it.”
But there are people dying way before their time, and then branded as dying just at the right moment. “Martyred”, they say. Well fuck you and fuck your martyrs. People are being sent to die, people are being paid to kill. Fuck you and fuck your martyrs.
“I just want death to take a vacation.” I tell him. “I just want to hear about someone dying naturally of old age in our region. Just once.”
You can get killed in many ways here, and this is for the tourists. You can die from a shell and get buried under rubble, you can be shot by a sniper, tortured in an underground prison cell, commit suicide by exploding yourself, but they won’t say you committed suicide, no- you were “martyred”. Here, stay with me, this martyrdom culture is of vital importance to understand how savage we are, but with some good hard cash, hopefully you won’t have to meet any of us as you lay on one of our beaches which we’re not allowed into, because we’re too disgusting and poor to enjoy it, but there are always pictures and articles about these places, so really, no big deal.
Life is not a performance, Ibrahim. I don’t want to act. I don’t want a script. It will be issued by our governments anyway, and our governments lie; they lie a lot. Plus, there is the issue of the theater, and since we’re in an Arab country, the theater will be owned by the government. And since we’re in an Arab country, Ibrahim, we, too, are owned by the government.
Dear, and since we’re in an Arab country, too, no one will come to watch the play. We will hope, in the backstage, that it’s because they know the government lie, but it’s not like that, Ibrahim, it’s because no one gives a fuck about theater anymore.
People are dying in the streets, love, no one gives a fuck about theater anymore.
So no, spare me, Ibrahim, I don’t want to act.
Spare me the pain of getting a hundred papers from government officials, and then spending the entire week just to sign them from a security man, and then kissing hundreds of asses, licking hundreds of boots, just to be allowed to stage our play.
I don’t want to act in their play. We all know how it will end; you and I, dear Ibrahim, we’ll be martyred. People will stand up and applaud, but they wouldn’t know why they’re applauding, or what’s about dying prematurely that is so exciting to them, but they will stand up and applaud anyway, because we were taught that something about this whole martyr business is important. No one really knows why, but it’s important, so no one questions it.
Death is yet to take a vacation, Ibrahim. Death is just as tired and frustrated and depressed as we are. Death did not attend the play, though it surely knows the script. Death thinks it’s cliché. Though our lives are anything but clichéd, they’re just mundane.
I’m not afraid of death, Ibrahim. I’m just afraid of dying without really knowing what life is like. We don’t know what life is like. We’ve never known what life is like. We think we do, but we wouldn’t know life if it punched us in the face, Ibrahim. We’d probably run away from it when we see it.
But who cares? We’ll be martyred! Think about it, dear, it’s a lucrative business, this martyr thing, but not for us. No no, you and I, love, we just die. It’s a lucrative business for the big heads, for God’s men on Earth. People like you and I, Ibrahim, just die.
They call us martyrs so no one will have to think too much. Our governments are exceptionally kind, you see, they don’t want to strain people’s mind with bullshit like reasons why a young man in his twenties was sniped from a rooftop, or way a baby died under rubble. No, sweetheart, government officials, standing for the population, will come, watch the play, and go back home.
They have lives to go on with, after all, not clichéd lives, just mundane, like the rest of us. But the difference, dear Ibrahim, is that people like you and I, just die, so government officials can continue attending plays issued by the government.
I’m very sorry, love, I cannot share that dream of yours, of spending our lives away in an isolated island, in nudity, drinking and partying our lives away, and pissing in the sea. I also don’t want to act in that stupid, fucked up play, but I cannot get off the stage. The stage is disintegrating under my feet, Ibrahim, and yet I cannot get off it and go with you to that isolated island.
What if the government owned that island? Maybe our governments own all the islands. Maybe they own life as we know it, but as I demonstrated before, we don’t really know life, so don’t worry.
Until our governments stop issuing scripts, I cannot go.
Until our governments no longer own theaters, I cannot go.
Until people are no longer martyrs, I cannot go.
Until the people stand up and applaud because the whole stage fell apart, I cannot go.
Until Death comes vacationing with us on that island of yours, Ibrahim, I cannot go.