3/27/2003

Nursery rhymes, sung in Arabic

As we drove towards the british camp outside Basrah, I noticed blood on the floor of the car. Much blood. Then I noticed blood on my hands. And on my arms. I raised my head up, which suddenly felt very heavy, and I saw that my shirt was drenched in blood.

I looked up, and looked around, and I was walking through the desert. There was a chair in the middle of the desert, that I was walking towards. I needed to get to that chair, so I could sit down. Sitting down was important, very important. But as I walked towards it, the chair started sinking into the sand. The chair was in the middle of quicksand, and I stopped because I did not want to die. Just 3 meters away, and I would never reach the chair.

I felt hands lift me out of the car, and as they dropped me in the stretcher, it turned out that it wasn’t actually a stretcher after all, but a dark deep hole. I had been terribly tricked, and I grabbed into the air, trying to cling to the sides of the hole as I fell. There was screaming and shouting around me, and as I looked down into the hole, I saw that it was a well, and it was filled with blood. The blood was frothing and foaming. I heard huge whoops of someone taking their breath, and I saw the face of a man shortly lift itself out of the blood, take a last gulp of air, and then sink into the blood.

I heard a song, an arabic melody that my father had sometimes sang to me. My father was a busy man, but sometimes, when he came home at night, he would take me and my brother Khaled up on his knee, and sing this song. The song was about the man who had lived in the belly of a fish for 3 days, because he had been afraid to fulfill the mission that god had appointed him. He had ran away when he should have stayed and fought his personal Jihad, but as my father explained to me, God had given him another chance to win, but only after making him suffer. My father always completed his missions, and he taught us never to be weak.

The song continued, and I started to come to my senses. I drifted into and out of sleep, and when I finally woke up, I saw that I was in a hospital tent. There was another man on the matrass next to mine, and he slept quiet. I hardly heard him breath, and as I watched him, I felt he was near death. He muttered to himself every now and then, and his talk made no sense. His face and upper body were blackened, and his eyebrows seemed to have been burnt off.

The door of the tent was ripped open, and a soldier was carried in, groaning. He was dropped on the matrass next to mine, and a doctor and two nurses started fussing around him, slicing open his uniform, and then slicing open his arm to remove some chunks of metal.

I was getting more alert by the minute, alert enough to notice what a lovely backside the nurse next to me had. I looked myself over, and concluded that my injuries were minimal, a large number of bloody cuts, probably by all the flying metal from the mortar, and my blackout and hallucinations had most likely been because of loss of blood, and not because of any major wounds. To be safe, I checked that my important appendages were still attached. The medical personel saw me stir, and the nurse I had previously noticed turned to attend to me.

The nurse looked arabic, and she was stunningly beautiful. I was already weak from my wounds, and the sight of her finely moulded features made me even weaker. Had I been standing, I would probably have needed to sit down. And I noticed that I was dressed in a dress, some kind of hospital gown. Where my skin a bit lighter, she would have notice me blush.

“I’m Nurse Jasmine”, she said, in arabic accented english, and in the very same voice I had heard sing my fathers song in the middle of the night.

“I’m Jeff Steinberg”, I said, in a perfect American accent. “What happened?”. She proceeded to explain the details of the battle up till then, and I didn’t hear a lot of what she said, I was too distracted by the movements of her perfect lips.

She left soon with the other personell, and I looked across at my new neighbour. He turned towards me, and smiled.

“Hey, I’m Tom Thompson.” We went through the introductory formalities, and started chatting. He was from london, and spoke with an awful accent that I could hardly understand. He was a funny chap, andd I actually enjoyed his company, enemy though he might be.

I’d been to london a few times, and we talked about many banal things, all the better to get our minds of the war. He gave me tips about clubs, I told him funny stories about my orthodox Jewish parents, and our family voyage into a comedy club that turned out to be borderline pornography. He told me about his father, whose major battle in life was to save the London doves from the London cats. He had me in stitches time and time again, or rather, almost had me bursting my stitches. Literally.

He was a nice friendly chap, and I almost felt bad that I was not fighting on his side. But my thoughts turned with increasing frequency to the lovely arabic woman who knew the nursery rhyme my father had sung for me, and which he had always told me he had written just for me.