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my body’s memory. I pondered my legs, how they flexed and straightened with a suppleness I could hardly believe. Meanwhile, my desire grew more and more intense. I myself had become desire, and all feelings of helplessness, pain or weakness took their leave. They’d turned to ashes, and out of them emerged a tremendous will to triumph over my infirmity. I was determined now not to let myself be immobilized by my seizures. I refused to give in to them. The desire to dance and to restore my body to what it had been before charged me with a miraculous, irrepressible energy.

“I wished somebody had been there with me to see what I saw, and to witness my beautiful flight through space. I wished Youssef could have been there to celebrate me the way he used to do after attending my dance performances. He’d take me into his arms and dance around with me, and I’d laugh and laugh, my heart dancing for joy. And he would say: ‘You were free as a bird, the queen of space!’

“Did this really happen to me? Or am I getting ahead of myself and anticipating things that are still to come in a later chapter? I get lost sometimes, confusing beginnings with endings.”

Chapter Nine

“We hadn’t been in the habit of talking about politics, so I don’t know what got us on the subject of the ‘Arab Spring’ in a number of Arab countries, including yours. You told me things I hadn’t known, of course, and about the transformations you and your friends had gone through.After recalling our conversation, I peered out into the darkness and heaved a sigh.Then I asked myself: ‘Have I become a friend of the night all on my own, or do I have friends I don’t know about out there?’

“What do you suppose Youssef’s doing now? I wondered. Will a person be happy when his heart takes leave of his hands, his eyes, his memory, and the planet he lives on with the clean air, freedom and love it offers, then goes to some alien planet that he would have completely spurned before? I’ll ask his friend Nizar the next time I see him. I’ll be delighted if he’s happy and at peace even though I’m filled with rage. My loving heart doesn’t know how to hate. It’s

90 BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021

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