It was the first time for me to go back to Tunisia…after 456 days and 11 hours.
But that’s not the problem. What I saw there was shocking. And that is the real problem.
What was thought to be a revolution to liberate the caged soul, turned out to be the riot of the desperate mind. I saw that in their eyes. All peoples’ eyes. Everyone’s eyes.
I reached the airport, 456 days and 11 hours, and 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 5 seconds…tic, toc, tic, toc,…later
I was counting the seconds. I was thrilled and excited to hear “happiness,”…But all I heard was sad.
And then I left the airport. It was a long ride after that, but I was still counting…1 hour, and 39 minutes, and 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 5 seconds, tic, toc,…later.
I had to start a new count, because I am there now. I was still counting, waiting to meet “hopefulness,” yet, all I saw was desperate.
I decided to take a walk. To breath in the liberate air. To inhale the free breeze.
It was 7 hours, and 40 minutes, and 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, and tic, toc,…into my new count. And yet, all I saw was this:
I ignored it. I ignored what I saw there, and what I read. I thought 7 is not my lucky number, so it shouldn’t be the country’s lucky number either.
I kept walking, and I decided to eat– I thought I would eat my surprise away.
So I walked. This time, I walked into a restaurant. It was 9 hours, and 45 minutes, and 1 second, 2 seconds, and yes all the tics and tocs, later into my new count, but I still saw those eyes again
They asked me what I wanted. His eyes; they asked what I needed.
How can I answer these questions? I didn’t. I couldn’t.
So I simply left. Like we all do. And smiled the idea away. Or laughed it out.
Again, like we’re all used to doing.
I walked. And this time I walked back. The same count, but a different path. I stopped at 10 hours, and 13 minutes, and 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 5 seconds,…tic,…tic,…tic,…I decided to stop counting.
It took me 10 hours, and 13 minutes into my new count to understand that I am not going to find what I was desperately looking for.
It took me that number of hours to realize that they were victims of despair. The country–and that means its people, and I am one of them– was victim of a lack…lack: in faith, in childhood, in innocence, in emotions, in belief, in ambition, in beauty, in Arabness, in Islam, in religion–what ever that is–, in creativity, in…in life, I guess.
I couldn’t criticize, and I could’t blame either. I am just an outsider, or at least that’s what I felt, with my full-of-ambition-creativity-belief-soul.
What chocked me the most was this though. What I read in between their looks; their words; their acts.
1 hour, and 2 minutes, and 1 second, two seconds, 3 seconds, and tic, and even toc,…That’s what got me counting again. Them, the allegedly hopeless ones, restored my hope, faith, and patience again.
May God protect and bless them all. People of Tunisia, and elsewhere–everywhere– in the world. Those who allegedly have no hope, or faith. Those who can restore all the supposedly theoretical values we talk about, in just one look. one sight.