Yesterday morning, I received a text message saying: “The beach looks stunning today. If you have time, go for a walk there.” To be honest, I had to think twice if I were to do this or not; should I stay tucked and warm in my bed and just do my daily morning ritual and watch one of my favorite Anime: Naruto, or should I take that message into consideration. After minutes of self-negotiation, I said yes, I am going to do this. Anyways, it is an opportunity for me to have some time with myself to think and clear my mind, and yeah I could use some fresh air as well.
Now it is past 12, so I started dressing up for my ‘little’ walk. On my way down, I saw my uncle, so I asked him: “what are you up to?” “Nothing” he said, “nothing until the power reconnects, then I have work to do.” I had that urge to ask him: “Care to join me for a little walk on the beach?” and so I did. Luckily, he said no; he had to work and power might reconnect any time soon, so off I went alone. One thing I will never do is spending some time out and alone without food. Therefore, I stopped first to buy lunch for two, because lunch for two is barely enough for me. It is ironic given my slim body!
Now I am all set; I have my food, headsets, all warmed up and music on, world off. I took a cab and went to my regular spot; clean, uncrowded and not too far. I sat down on the beach, started eating my lunch while looking at the sea; the sea I could not swim at the entire summer, for it was too polluted due to all the wastewater poured into it throughout the years. Shame on that! I felt very disappointed then because I worked hard to get my body in shape for the summer. The notable increase in muscle density, the weight difference, my six pack abs, my bigger thighs and all those veins popped up through my entire body that I had to follow a strict diet for. I had no chance to show off unfortunately, so Snapchat was the furthest thing I went for.
After I finished devouring my lunch, I stood up to take my walk on the beach and that was what I did; I went walking South. After only few minutes of walking, I had that unbelievable urge to turn around and look back. As if it were a magnet pulling me to the other side. I turned my face only to realize what was pulling me back; the thing which was whispering through my ears telling me: “You are going in the wrong direction. Come to me. Turn around!” My eyes widened and pupils dilated when I saw it! Standing tall and bright and staring at me. It looked very big although it was very far away! That lofty grey and white chimney with the pillar of white smoke emitting upwards from 20 years ago! That chimney was almost the only thing I used to contemplate whenever I went to the sea when I was a little kid. So many memories remembered, and so many questions remained unanswered.
When I was a kid, my father used to take us there with his car, to the far North, or to be more accurate, to the closest point one can get before he finds a bullet hugging his heart intimately. We used to stop the car and sit to look at the sea after every Joma’a prayer until lunch gets ready. Oh, my poor mum! Sadly enough, she missed many of those moments. I think it is one more saddening disadvantage of being a housewife. However, the sea was not the only thing I contemplated, it was also that chimney. As a matter of fact, that chimney captivated me, mesmerized me and most importantly, bewildered me even more. I always wondered and asked myself many questions about it. What is that chimney? What lies beyond it? What do they do at that site? Is it a nuclear facility? Or is that where they make weapons of mass destruction? Funny enough, I even thought that it was where they hold the aliens they catch to interrogate them. Not long after, I found out that it was only a power station located in Asqalan occupied city. However, that did not dispel many of the mysteries surrounding it. That only answered one question.
The older I get, the different thoughts I have about it. When I was little, my only concern was to know what was that chimney, what happens in there and what kind of people work there. However now, tragically enough, my thoughts have changed! Now I think of it as it is where a different type of people live; people with 24/7 of electricity, where we would be lucky if we had 4 straight hours a day. I think of what lies beyond it people could go anywhere anytime they want, where it is a fantasy to me, a Palestinian, to travel abroad! I think of it as it is where my dreams stop. The place standing between me and my homeland: Palestine. I think of how close I am to it, yet very far away. Only a couple of miles separate us, yet I cannot go further even onto those two miles, due to both Palestinian and most importantly, Israeli security checks and towers. The Palestinian security check halts your progress towards that land so that you do not get yourself killed with a sniper’s shot. The Israeli security check halts your progress towards life entirely, because then, you are deemed as a national security threat. I am not that! I only want to see what lies beyond.
Nonetheless, I felt like when I saw that chimney, I suddenly had a purpose. I had somewhere to go. Therefore, I turned around and changed my direction to North. It was a long way walk, however, and for reasons I still do not know, I was determined to make my way to that chimney on foot, even if it took me hours to get there. So, that was what I did. I started walking in a slow pace towards it and I could feel it get closer and bigger by the step, but when I looked at it, it was still far away. I went on a straight path towards it, mostly on the beach, sometimes I had to go onto the street, for no beach road was made in some areas. I went through streets I have never been before. I got stared at by tens of people. I guess people know when there is an outsider in the neighborhood. Why not! The entire Gaza strip is only 365Km2, and over 2 million people trapped in there! I walked through empty streets in the middle of the day. I saw a lot of animals; cats, packs of dogs, horses, donkeys, camels and even some animal corpses. The clock was ticking and I was counting hours, however, I was not there yet. I got so thirsty that craved a sip of water. I kept walking and looking for a mini market to get myself a bottle. I would have paid all what I had for it if necessary. Fortunately, after few minutes of walking, I found one and bought my bottle of water and luckily enough, I only paid its original price; 1 Shekel, which is around 30 cents. I believe the owner of the shop knew how badly and desperately I needed that bottle, because I went straight up to the refrigerator to get it. I did not even look at him nor said I hi. I only craved to kiss the opening of that bottle. To let my lips enjoy the warmth of it pleasure.
Now I fueled up and was ready to carry on my journey. I was closer than ever. I looked at my watch and noticed that I have been walking for over 2 straight hours, however the journey was going to take a bit longer. The closer I get, the more cliffs, holes and dead ends I encountered. Sometimes I stood a little on those cliffs to enjoy the landscape, and sometimes I just find myself another road.
It is past 4 a.m. now and my journey towards that chimney was coming to an end. I went down again to the beach road to conclude my journey when I met a fisherman and asked him: “how further could I still go.” “No further step you can take” he answered. “That is a border area now.”
Then, I knew my journey has already ended! It ended before I could touch that chimney that I have always been so close to. Whether it were from 20 years ago, or today from 23 and half years old. So, I picked up my phone and dialed the friend sent me the text message, and asked: “do you know where am I?” She hesitantly replied: “Ummm… On the beach?! I said: “That was a half correct answer. Yes, I am on the beach, but can you be more accurate?” She said: “No! Spell it out. I have an appointment now!” So I replied: “I’m right in front of that chimney.”
I wanted to say nothing else, because I felt that I have already done my purpose and that I want to go home now. I took some pictures and then went back to the road. I took a last look and then I started looking for a cab. Oh yeah dear! No more walking. 3 hours of straight walking is more than enough! I started walking on the street when I got stopped by a white old Subaru with two men in their forties driving their way towards that chimney. They asked me: “How further could we still go?” I smiled so wide at them and then I coldly replied: “You can’t! This is why I turned around.” We exchange smiles and then I carried on walking, hoping to find a cab in that almost deserted place.
I pointed to many cars but all in vain. They were not cabs. They were probably coming to enjoy the landscape. It took me maybe 10 minutes when I finally saw that old Volkswagen bus coming my way. I looked at the driver with my eyes saying please, take me with you! He drove past me a little bit, then I heard the squeak of his tires. He blew his horn to me and I was like THANK GOD! I ran to him and told him, just get me to the closest point I could get a cab. He smiled at me and said: “Hop in.”
I thanked him a lot. He told me you looked like you have been waiting for a car for while. I said yes, but in vain. He said: “Lucky you are I was your way. You can never get a cab here. Like never.” He was a young boy nearly in my age or a little bit older. I asked him about his name and he told me it was Mos’ab. We chatted a bit when he told he only went there to help his brother whose car was stuck in the mud near the chimney. Unfortunately enough for him, however, fortunately enough for me, when he got there, he found out that his brother has already freed his car. So, his journey was in vain, but not really, it was not. He saved me at least a mile of walking. So thank you Mos’ab.
When we parted, I said goodbye and thank you to him. I took a cab afterwards. It did not take me 30 seconds to find one, and in a matter of 10 minutes, I was home. I saw my uncle with my brother down the building smiling at me from distance and said: “It is going to take an hour you said. Yet, now, it is past 5. It took you over 4 hours!” I smiled back and said: “I went to see that chimney in Asqalan on foot.” His eyes widened and said sarcastically: “YOU ARE CRAZY!” I said: “Yes, I am.” and then I went home to hug back my bed.
You see now how that chimney is where it all starts and where it all ends? Our dreams, our memories, our journeys, our everything, lie beyond that lofty chimney.