Edited by: Maggie Rosenau
The days did not change. They played on constant repeat. Days simply continued as their own prison of brutality, forcing you to adjust your life according to the hours decided by the cook rather than your hunger. The endless repetition destroys everything. It corrupts any happiness—or any sadness for that matter. And you acclimate to them without effort, the way an insect naturally hums and proceeds in the sun. Someone from the ward Nr. 12 told me once: It is funny to think of what the fate of the last god will be. It is also sad that this last god will not even get a funeral! No one will fight for him anymore. Like a wind blowing over an ocean, he has been seen by sailors of a cargo ship who have never heard of sails and thus did not change their way. Funny too, that they killed the goddess of music—the only ones who know how to control time.
It is common to feel fenced in and bored when you are, for extended periods in a single day, between four walls. And it does not matter where. This could be at the office, a friend‘s place, even in your room. The amount of time spent in the same place causes headaches and fatigue.
Today is the twentieth day I have spent in this place. Twenty days feel like years. When confined to one place, surrounded by the same people, a single day feels like a lifetime! Every morning I wake up and pray that it will pass as quickly as possible, and every night as I lay my head to sleep I feel I have grown one year older. Many stories are told and many conversations had during these protracted days. It makes any normal person needs a lot of time to process the number of words that have been spoken.
This morning when I woke up I repeated my number to myself as I do every morning—a kind of ritual, not out of fear of forgetting, but rather in preparation for hearing it come from outside the room. I need to be ready for the next interrogation. Every morning I repeat everything I have confessed to, in order to remain consistent and not say anything else that may cause me new troubles.
At about 10 am, the window of the door has been opened. The guard looked at us for a moment then shouted: seventy-eight! That is it. Seventy-eight is my name. I jump immediately from my place and try to reach the door before he repeats it. This is what I practice. Quick responses mean less punishment. I go out of the ward and am ordered to follow him. The guard leads me to the first floor then orders me to cover my eyes with a piece of black cloth placed in a box. He then points for me to face the wall and wait my turn. The cloth looks like a sleep mask and is smelly and dirty. The air is filled with blood smell and screams have broken the silent barrier I was in. A few minutes later someone calls my number. I walk toward the sound and I recognize the one who has called me. He was the same one who questioned and tortured me before. I can see the distance between me and him by looking at his feet under that mask, which is the only way to block the guards’ blows. It is always better to know when their swings are coming than have to take them by surprise. Logical. He started to repeat my prior confessions then asked if I had more to say. I said no, I did not do anything else. I swear.
Everything was quiet for a moment. My eyes focused toward the ground, searching for any movement around me.
Investigator: Do you know the brothers Fadi and Shady S.?
Me: Yes, Sir I know them. They are my neighbors in the house and they live on the fourth floor.
Investigator: And what do you know about them, do they have guns? Tell me everything about them and do not lie because I already know that they are involved in this. I saw them in many demonstrations!
Me: I know them as my neighbors not more, Sir. They are older than I am and are not my friends. I never saw them doing anything wrong, they are good guys as I know.
Investigator: Oh, yes? But they didn’t say the same about you! They said that you participated in many demonstrations and secret gatherings. So someone is lying here and I want to know who.
Me: (I sense things are collapsing.) Sir, I swear I did not participate in anything more than what I already confessed to. If you start to beat me now and force me to accept all the new charges then that will be my lie, Sir.
Investigator: You know that they are here right?
Me: Yes Sir, I know this. You arrested them two months ago at their home!
Investigator: So if I bring them here to you, will you confront them both and tell them that they are liars and prove your innocence?
Me: Yes I will Sir. I will confront them. I did nothing more than what I said.
He ordered me to wait near the stairs, facing the wall until he brought them to face each other.
I was immersed in deep thoughts and fear. Did they say something like that? I know that whenever a prisoner is forced to accuses another in his confession, he is excused. I knew people who have accused their parents under torture! So there is a good chance they said something under pressure about me. How should I react? One of us will get hurt today if not all of us! I tried to consider all possible scenarios psychologically prepared for the worst. After five minutes, someone shouted at me to follow him, so I did. He led me to a room and when I entered, I noticed one person sitting on a chair, and another standing close to him. The guard who led me to the room was behind me. I could see torture equipment under the mask: all kinds of chains and iron rods were placed around the room. It was terrifying to be covered and not see more than blurred glimpses from below the blindfold. But you know you are in the worse place to be when you feel, see and smell blood under your bare feet.
As the investigator insisted I start talking and giving information about the brothers, I heard loud voices and screams from the next room: No Sir! That is a lie! We are innocent! He is a liar, please believe us!
At that point, I understand there is something wrong. I recognized Shadi and Fadi’s voices. Who is the liar, me? I have not accused them of anything yet. Is someone else talking?
Investigator 1: So seventy-eight! Here it is written that you said: Fadi participated in many secret gatherings with the help of his brother Shadi. They organized demonstrations in the area.
Suddenly Fadi shouted from behind me. The guards had quietly brought him to the room, though I was still shocked by what I had just heard. I did not say those things. I understood that I was brought here to confront them of what they falsely accused me of to prove myself innocent.
Fadi: Sir that is an absolute lie. We are family men. I have a wife who is pregnant and I care about her. I love my country and my president. I could never do anything to harm this land.
Me: No Sir, I did not say anything of the sort. You told me the exact opposite of that. I have accused them of nothing. I do not even know how they live their lives—if they are guilty of anything. I know that I have to say, but that what you have written there are not my words, Sir. I am here to confront them about accusing me of things you told me.
Investigator 2: (angrily) One of you now will say who is the liar or no one of you will see the light.
Shadi: Sir, you told us that Anas accused us of the same charges. And now he says that we accused him, but this is also not true and you know this!
Investigator 1: (to me) You are a piece of shit lying in front of us all.
So that’s it. That is the game they were playing with us. They expected us to turn on each other—which was obvious to everyone—so what came next was most difficult. Despite the forthcoming torture, we all three needed to stick together and remain silent. Of course, they began to beat us. I heard the first strike meet Fadi’s body. The next blow landed on my head. Hit by a thick wooden board, I felt that everything was blurring around me. I was dizzy for a moment, spinning in dark circles, but knew there were more coming and needed to protect my head. With my hand, I blocked several strikes that could have otherwise killed me. The guards were laughing as we screamed, but we were brave enough to stick together despite the severe torture. They continued beating us for what I measured was close to a half-hour. When it was understood that we were not going to turn on each other, they got tired of us, knowing there was no chance to turn us! So they ordered us back to our cells and promised they would continue it all three days later. This did not happen though, at least not with us three. They led us out of the room and had us stand near the stairs facing the wall until someone came to pick us and brought us back to the cell. They warned us to not speak to each other while we were waiting. But for a moment it was clear and no one around, so I faced Fadi and whispered.
Me: I swear I said nothing, and I have no hand in this. They asked me about you and I answered nothing.
Fadi: (with frightened voice) Yes, I know. They tried to turn us on each other. How silly and stupid! They could have played it better, but I guess they are bored and they found some fun with us.
Me (with faint laughter): Yes, obviously. Are you both fine?
Shadi: Yes, we are fine. Let us remain silent for now and hope to meet outside someday.
Two months after the confrontation, the brothers received their release papers. I was told this by someone who shared their cell.
After this incident, I put myself in temporary solitude to rally my strength and think about a way to get out of this place.
There is no cruelty in solitude when it is chosen. Cruel is when you are surrounded by many and still experience isolation. The details of solitude are amazing. Words become meaningless, so you speak without a voice.
The loneliness is not in the distance, one can be lonely in the bosom of the one he loves. But you can breathe in and be content in your solitude because you are kept company by the intimate details of your lover’s fingers, or the wrinkles of your father’s face the moment you left.
We can live in solitude, but not isolation.
Edited by: Maggie Rosenau