I was probably running slowly into my fourteenth year on this planet, when I moved with my parents to that very remote town on the south of Saudi Arabia.
The name was ambiguous to us. We were extremely curious to investigate the name. Al Kharkeir seemed to be related to Alkheir which means goodness. We found later, that the locals never cared for names, never thought about the meanings.
It was a water well that attracted old natives to start a life surrounded by a land drowning with oil. Water and promising future, that’s how Alkharkheir came to life.
Our driver had a rough voice, and a very complicated accent. You could hardly see his face from the red scarf wrapped around his head. He seemed like an angle at first, dressed in white driving a huge 4×4 car. He checked us carefully, gave no signs of interest, and counted his words carefully.
We hit the rood by eight. It was unusual for us to start a trip by night, so that was our first ever. Our imagination couldn’t give a clue for what could be waiting us. Moving from a city to another, that’s all we could expect.
Our family never took the risk. My parents always leaned towards the conservative side. Always embracing the well-known, and never taking the risk.
The moon was shy that night, the sky dominated with the stars. There was a party, and I was invited. For twelve hours we were shaking vigorously with the car fighting with a very rough non-asphalt road. The car flashes were the only source of light. And the stars were our guide; our driver knew exactly how to follow, as if he was born for the road.
My stomach was fluctuating. I stopped the car several times to give up all the stored non digested food, even the yellow greenish gall bladder juice.
My brain was suffering too, all the protecting fluids failed to preserve it from swirling like a bee locked in a wooden box.
Our driver finally showed us the human side of him when he asked for a nap, he is tired you know! And soon after, his white galabya were swallowed by the darkness.
The very expected behavior of Egyptian parents is to lock the car and wait inside with their children while this alien wakes up. The possible predictions are, if my children hanged outside the car they might be bitted by a snake or a scorpion, we might be robbed, kidnapped or killed by anyone. These thoughts are absolutely normal; we are in the middle of nowhere, with barely enough light to see glimpses of each other.
Instead of going insane, my parents stayed very calm on the back seat, my siblings played around in the dark, while I found myself a spot on the sand. I stayed still, unaware how long it took our driver to recharge. The view was spectacular, my head dropped to the back, eyes wide open trying to suck the scattered sips of light, while my soul whirled the galaxy, I was swimming in a pool with a million stars. I experienced a moment of elation, I thought I could touch that silky transparent membrane and catch myself one of these gems, my mind wasn’t mine for a day and a half or maybe it was just half an hour I don’t remember.
My father disrupted my meditation by calling me back; it was time to hit the road again.
I couldn’t sleep that night, each time my eyes give up, the storms in my stomach awakes me. I remember it was a very long night, but we managed to stay motivated by promising each other that our destination will be right after the next hill. Hill after hill, mile after another and the sun announced her arrival by spreading boiling heat.
Our driver played the same game with us, he kept the same answer each time we ask about the end of the road ‘’ soon Insha’Allah’’.
Finally the last hill arrived, looking back was scary, and we were inclined with a slope, in a high speed vehicle when we had the first glance of Alkharkeir.
YELLOW, that’s how I saw it. Although yellow is considered therapeutic and cheerful, it meant nothing that moment except total loss.
No signs of life, just few scattered houses made of solid tins, with air conditioners. A ghost town, no one wanders the streets, not a single shadow, even the roads were empty of cars, except the ones parked outside the houses.
The music of wind played in harmony with the heavy grinning of air conditioners motors.
The town looked tiny, a valley squeezed between two sand hills. The whole town lies within the average sight range, when you take a look from uphill.
It took us less than five minutes to arrive to our place; it was one of ten houses, enclosed in a campus. Ours was the first in the last row. We opened the front gate, to find a nice yard, with a corridor to the back. The house lied on the right, with a step to a glass door. Two rooms, one living room, each one was air conditioned even the wide kitchen.
We were welcomed by food, waiting for us inside the house, but no one came to say Hi. A huge platter of red rice topped with pieces of meat, with red sauce on the side, wrapped with cling film in the living room.
We ate in silence, any conversation would lead to another disappointment, I waited for my father to say anything, I wanted him to say ‘’what the hell is this, let’s go back, we can’t stay here for a moment’’ but instead he said nothing, and when he finally spoke he said ‘’what a lovely place’’
‘’what? ’’ I said.
‘’what, what? ‘’ he said.
‘’ what the hell are we doing here? This shouldn’t be our place. How are we going to survive her? ‘’
‘’we will survive’’ that was the last words I hear before I start my endless crying episodes.