Beirut , Monday July 24th , 2006
She's much prettier than her pictures, Hweiyda. Despite what they did toher.The one safe eye she still has is green, sad, and beautiful.The stitches that go all the way down from her right eye to underneath herneck, are almost as deep as the look in her eye.She was sitting on her bed, very silent, very small, so small. Her aunt was trying to get her to eat. Jelly, custard, cheese, chocolate,fresh orange juice. There was everything on that tray. Everything any childwould want.Only when she saw the books my colleagues brought her, did she havesomething that looked like a twinkle in her eye. The one eye they left her.She's Fatma's room mate. Lucky Fatma, she has her mom and her sister next toher. They were injured too; they stay in the room next door. The wholefamily is at the same hospital, although on different floors. Hweiyda'sparents are not there.Hweiyda's father, her sister Abla and her brother Ahmad were in the gardenof their small house in Marje'youn in the south when the Israelis wenthunting.Hweiyda was in the house with her mom and other sister. So, they didn't die.I don't know who brought Hweiyda to Beirut. It was probably her aunt who'sstaying with her. The mother and sister were taken to a hospital in WesternBekka.Nobody dares to tell Hweiyda what happened. She speaks to her mom on thephone. She keeps asking for her brother, Ahmad. Her Ahmad has left her, butshe doesn't know it yet.She holds her tiny sandwich with her banded hand. She bluffs, she's noteating, she's somewhere else, that look in her eye, the only they left her,is so deep, it's not the look of a seven year old.It's that of a much older person. A wise one. Experienced. Someone who'sbeen through things other people can't even know they exist.It's the same look in Fatma's eyes. Fatma turned 12 today. We got her a cake, some candles that we weren't allowed to light not to hurt her lungs.Her whole body was burnt. She and her family were in the car fleeing Bleedato Tyre in the South; they believed the Israelis who'd told them to evacuatethe village before it was too late. They should have know better. Theyshould have known they were going to get them anyway , anywhere.Wise; not only the looks in their eyes were wise. Wise was the way they bothhandled us, with our stupid cake, our presents, our fake smiles; smart us,acting as if nothing has happened, is happening.Sad, no other word in the world can describe it more. Sad. So sad it makesyour heart ache, and your faith shiver.Happy birthday in Arabic is :sana helwa ya jameel , that is : (we wish youa) beautiful year .Singing that, there, was the most incredible thing on earth. Fatma waslooking at me with that "you ought to know better" look in her eye. I didn'tgive up, I told her that this coming year will certainly be better. Howworse could it get , I asked myself.They already lost their house, their village, they got hit by a bomb . whatelse can happen to them?Meanwhile , Hweiyda was busy listening to the cd on her walkman. I think itwas a smile , that thing I spotted.A colleague asked her aunt when we were leaving : what is it you need thatwe can get you?The answer was : the only thing she keeps asking about is Ahamd. He's allshe needs.
PS : I did take Kinda along. She gave them CDS, but then got scared.. So mysister took her to the hall and waited for us there. When I came down shewas playing with kids her age who were waiting for their parents
this is Huweida