"There was a funeral far from the city that a group of friends travelled to attend. There was a trail left on the streets of footsteps by an old friend."
"How's that for a start?"
Meena said with a grin, as I started recording.
From the car's window, Darwich's heavy skin sensed daylight as it touched his shoulder. He felt his brother's nonexistence and the air got colder. He thought of what their father's response to his hello would be, and of their mother's joy and gloom. He thought of Azhar's wish to be buried in the holy land, and smiled to the thought that it's coming true.
"The few words we spoke on the way were about our roots and how Darwich is going back to his.
'Once a plant is cut from its roots, wouldn't it be dead?' Khader asked.
'Another reason to believe in ghosts.' I said.
'I'm not a ghost, Meena!' Darwich said with a louder tone."
The next day, they woke up at checkpoints and cars were lining up in the sand. It took them hours and a foreign stamp to get in Darwich's land. An hour later, they crossed by a golden dome and Darwich's eyes lit up for the first time ever since Azhar left home. On the way, he talked about an olive tree he grew around like he grew in it. And the closer they got to his house, the less his eyes lit.
"His mother_a middle aged woman with grey features and a patterned scarf_answered the door and he directly faced the ground.
'Hala!' she said. 'We don't lower our heads here, or have you forgotten?'
He faced her with his burnished forehead, cheekbones and glasses.
She took off his glasses and said: 'You look just like your brother.' She welcomed him kindheartedly, tried to hide grief, and looked at us standing behind him. 'Keefku shabab?'"
Darwich ran away from home at twenty; he traveled to be with his partner, leaving school and family. So, five years later, when he shook hands with his father - a traditional man raised on resistance and loyalty for his land - he knew that that would be the only attachment they'll share.
At the funeral, the priest didn't mention the attack on the boat; Azhar's family made up a lie to follow the king's oath. And Azhar's soul rested in peace, in a land that doesn't know it.