Translated from Arabic by Sara Elkamel

Every day I wake up and stay in bed for over an hour. I find myself thinking: “another day” or “the nightmare begins again” or that the same day ceaselessly slays and reincarnates itself. I wonder: So this is the Day of Resurrection, then? Dystopia? The end of the world? The Day of Judgment? How will all this be inventoried? The ceaseless accumulation of sins? The bridges and buildings? Will the land finally roam free? Will it backstroke across the ocean, without bridges to pull it towards the stake of the world?

I seize this chain of thought before it slips completely out of my hand. I pull on it as I climb, with my two feet, into reality.

I attempt to exercise. I begin by warming up; I twist my waist in both directions, followed by my back. Like many women, I never learned to dance—I never learned how to make my body mine. My body, in truth, belongs to my mother. It was up to her to decide if I was a girl or a woman. One day, she declared my transformation. She said my ability to use loose-fitting shirts, a soccer ball, and a short haircut as camouflage would soon expire. She said that my body—which belongs to her—was a secret, a simple, boring secret, but that it gave me away. Whenever I cut its hair, she scolds me. Marred by the sun, she complains about its tan. And when it grows too thin, she accuses me of being a failed mother to this body, and of keeping nothing safe.

I also attempt reading, writing, translation. I read about various quandaries which, if accumulated, would explain my life. Of exile and language, and how the migrant prefers poetry in his mother tongue, and prose in his sister tongue. I read of the subtle differences between the migrant and the exiled; one of them returns to the spring when besieged by thirst, while the other stockpiles his years in an electronic file he does not revisit until he loses his mind. Rags you’ve outgrown, and that no one else wants.

I lock myself in the office for at least five hours daily. I get things done. I write this poem, for instance. I make a plan to toss it into the ocean should I find a glass bottle. I write this poem first as a Facebook post, then as a yellow note on my phone. I distill and refine it, after I’ve plowed rock to weed it out from the belly of the earth. I haul it towards the crust, its blood polluting the aquifers. I complete this procedure on my own; self-sufficiently mining, manufacturing, exporting. Things often go well, despite having polluted reservoirs in the process. The poem is consumed by others in seconds; while thirst consumes me for days, no—weeks. For weeks I wander the desert of poetry.

Sometimes I turn towards translation, because it is a forest. I love its moisture, the lush green expanses, and the way the symphony of the universe flows like a waterfall in its vocal field. I try my best to only translate poetry, or an article I claim will change people’s lives in the target language. I write down the title, and the author’s name. I avoid writing my own name until I have successfully completed the procedure. If I fail, I leave the body open on the table, its heart still beating, and scurry out of the room. The nurses will dispose of the body—a little alcohol, cotton pads and twine, before depositing it in the fridge. Maybe one day, I’ll go down to the basement, pull it out of the fridge, and breathe life into it once again.

And when I’ve gotten enough done, made my contribution to humanity, laid in the tracks of production so it may level my back and carry on, indulged in the illusion that time has an iota of meaning, I decide, finally, to leave my mind at the desk and carry my body to the kitchen. I eat vegetables, making sure they’re a bouquet of various colors. I avoid bread and rice; I’ve consumed enough of them in my previous life. I invent a new concoction of vitamins, and inhale them robotically. I realize I am a good woman who has everything under control. This realization makes me nauseous—makes me wonder: if today is in fact the Day of Resurrection…dystopia…the Day of Judgment—then what do I care if this body stays healthy? I rip open candy boxes, one after the other. I go out to smoke a cigarette. When I return, I pull open the fridge. I forage the drawers. I pick up every harmful body and devour each of them fiercely. I devour them like somebody relishing revenge. Like somebody who knows the end is near, and all they desire is a play-by-play.

I bathe in hot water before bed to settle my body; my teeth gnash and chatter, as if clinging to the edge of time’s shirt. Relentless insomnia. Endless review of old mistakes. I add a sentence here, I remove a sentence there. Sometimes, I insert entire pages into the past, even characters—all the many characters I wish I’d been. I play my life’s scenario without reservations; I have an open budget and a full crew eagerly awaiting the completion of the script. For years, I had divided the story into two parts: Exile, and Before Exile. Or: Before the Revolution, and After the Revolution.  Now, the narrative structure has shifted. Now, my life has chapters. Sometimes, I encounter characters from early chapters who try to remind me of themselves, but I fail to recognize them. I crowd my life with strangers, with passersby; I no longer care about their names and faces, so they end up taking turns occupying the same few roles. Even my nightmares have grown repetitive, boring, and predictable. They’re filled with chases, even though I abhor thrillers. Someone is chasing me. I hide. Then I jump out to surprise them, as though in a game of hide-and-seek. We may reverse roles. Or, I might let my body double participate in these chases while I watch, from my bed, as she pants, leaps, staggers, kills someone, or gets killed herself.

And at the end of all this—despite all this—it is all the same, never-ending day.

I listen to an entire album. The unity of the text has become important to me. Unity, meaning, style and genre have all become extremely important to me. Sequence, too. It is not possible to start an album halfway through, for example. I begin with the first second and end on the last. My soul calms with this rise and decline; because I have handed it over to the musician’s hand, certain that they will not let go until I am safe. But all the world’s songs still fail to get me to shutter a single eye. I may shed a single tear, which rinses off the anxiety of sight.

I abandon music, and I turn to nature. I play videos of waves in the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean—oceans I’ve encountered by chance. We remain strangers to one another. Oceans that—had history proceeded as planned—I would have never known existed. I search for audio recordings of a New York morning; a police siren, an ambulance siren, lovers tearing each other apart, addicts begging the sky for one more lick, young men filling the void with Hip Hop, children—most of them born out of a miserable accident—trains that barely arrive before they depart. I feel that the world exists, and that I am in it. I close my eyes. Only recordings of the city manage to calm me down, ever so slightly.