Illustration: Jordan Isip
My New Talent
Suffering from a bout of insomnia last night, I found myself in front of the television, channel-surfing. I was looking for the usual—an interesting interview with one of the council, some fresh news, a miracle. . . . Promptly at 2 a.m., the electricity went off and I was plunged into the pitch black hell better-known as “an August night with no electricity in Iraq.” So I sat there, in the dark, trying to remember where I had left the candle and matches. After 5 minutes of chagrined meditation, I decided I would ‘feel’ my way up the stairs and out onto the roof. Step by hesitant step, I stumbled out into the corridor and up the stairs, stubbing a toe on the last step (which wasn’t supposed to be there).
(For those of you who don’t know, people sleep up on the roof in some of the safer areas because when the electricity goes off, the houses get so hot, it feels like you are cooking gently inside of an oven. The roof isn’t much better, but at least there’s a semblance of wind.)
A few moments later, my younger brother (we’ll call him E.) joined me—disheveled, disgruntled, and half-asleep. We stood leaning on the low wall enclosing the roof watching the street below. I could see the tip of Abu Maan’s cigarette glowing in the yard next door. I pointed to it with the words, “Abu Maan can’t sleep either.” E. grunted with the words, “It’s probably Maan.” I stood staring at him like he was half-wild—or maybe talking in his sleep. Maan is only 13—how is he smoking? How can he be smoking?
“He’s only 13,” I stated.
“Is anyone only 13 anymore?” he asked.