"Forsaken" by Randa Jarrar

The King of Kings clings to his delusions all to the way to the end


Salon Staff
August 30, 2011 5:11AM (UTC)

They are encircling us, the demons and their forces. I am the King of Kings, and yet the demons continue to circle. Where am I, you ask? Imagine the tree in the books of your childhood; the magical tree inside which lie massive rooms, oversize chairs, and intricate rugs underfoot. That is the story of my current home. What above appears to be a small, worn, two-person tent, below is a narrow, half-mile subterranean chamber, which my Aishas dug for me.

Yes, my Aishas are here. Not all of them, but a small percentage of the original 400. I have promised them nothing, and yet they are my daughters and have promised themselves to me. They are my good children, the ones who were not drugged by the French or NATO, the ones who would never place a dagger in my back. My other children have gone astray. They have betrayed their father, their sole protector. Now that they believe I am gone, our home will be demolished by the highest of flood waves. And just when they think I cannot save them, I will return with an army of blacks and we will repopulate our Libya, and Libya will rise again.

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But in the intervening months or years, I am without the fabrics and layers of lavender and rust and camel that I worked so hard to collect. In disguise I do not feel like a King of Kings and I miss the careful layering of fabrics over my body. During the long days in this narrow tunnel, the Aishas take turns watching over me and when I dream, I dream of kilometers of wraps and fezzes. But in my dreams there are mirrors placed this way and that and I do not know which of the clothing is mine and which is simply a reflection. I do not know if I have plenty again or if I am still traveling with just a handful. This dream can be very distressing but I know it is just a communiqué from my fabrics to let me know that they have not betrayed me, and that when I return with my Aishas and my Africans they will still be waiting for me, waiting to drape themselves in protection and in prostration over my body.

I had many chances to give up on my children. I could have left all the millions of them behind and lived a quiet life, far away, without the noise and demands of leadership. But I chose to fight for them. I chose to stay and help them find their way. I spent all my youth and all my middle years fighting for them, standing up for them, making their country great. But all children take their fathers for granted, and thus they have forsaken me.

When I return the children will have nothing to fear. I will not begrudge them their betrayal because I know that they have been brainwashed by the colonizers who convinced them that they could rule over themselves. These colonizers want to steal everything I have worked hard building. But they will not succeed. They have been able to convince my children, because children are easy to trick. But they will not trick me.

My Aisha tells me not to rage. She brings me my camel-hide wine canteen and I sip from it. She calms me.

I meditate by staring at the shapes in the dirt walls that surround me. I see whirls and lines and they congregate and form visions that soothe me, visions of my children asking for forgiveness, of my children welcoming me home. Some of the whirls create saddening images and some create images I don't understand, of buttons and snipped hair and tossed spectacles. I don’t know what these images are trying to communicate to me yet.

Aboveground it could be daylight or it could be the dead of night. I have no way of knowing. My Aishas tell me their watches have stopped running. Perhaps time has stood still for me. For time respects kings, and those whom God has favored.

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