Grief in Section 60
The Hanging Gardens are described as a lavish home of exotic plants and animals, waterfalls, and gardens hanging from palace terraces, however the structure might never have actually existed except in the mind of Greek poets and historians. The Hanging Gardens were located on the east bank of the River Euphrates, about 50 km south of Baghdad, Iraq.
Later years´ language lessons by Elisabeth Gyllman
A tale of a car mechanic who became a global traveller.
Longing for Leila It was as though their two children didn´t exist, at least all he was thinking of was Leila. He ached for her presence, to hold her in his arms, to have her by his side. The loneliness in his new abode scared him. The huge modern buildings and office blocks closed in on him as he was walking the silent streets of this foreign place, the solid house walls came alive, swayed threateningly over his head, paki go home. The last Leila and Mohammad saw of each other was at the Lebanese refugee camp. They parted as Mohammad climbed aboard the help organisation the Red Halfmoon´s lorry. He was on his way to travel to the international refugee assembly venue in an old run down school building outside Beirut, in Lebanon. Upon arrival everybody was de-liced, men and women lined up to take showers and got an oddsmelling sponge soaked in anticeptics and licekiller, then they were fed with a small bottle of condensed goat milk and some sesame seed bread. His heart ached seeing his two kids sitting dumbfounded in these new surroundings, little three year old Ahmed and the first born daughter Nadia, who just turned six, they were just de-liced and cautiously snapping bites of bread and gulping down the familiar tasting milk. For a child curiousness always takes over feelings of fright and both children peered with unveiled interest at all the people around them. There were Palestinians in this camp having lived all their lives there, the camp was formed in 1950. The Palestinian residents of the refugee camp at all having a decent job here, were forming the welcome committee of the newly arriving refugees from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. A sturdy Arab dressed in a white long shirt was giving out orange colored combs, he screamed on top of his lungs: - Apply the anti-lice agent to dry hair during 10 minutes. Shampoo and rinse hair and comb with powerful strokes. Repeat anti-lice treatment in 7-10 days to kill nits that may have hatched. All refugees proceeded to different stations in the medical check-up that would determine their status as human beings ruled by a 1 to 10 scale, starting with the top choice of such a list, a future contributor to society was a top scorer, followed by by more unfortunate subjects down the line, future burdens to taxpayers. They were graded by numbers like animals for sale. The lowest scorers were those with limited income potential, the absolute rock bottom was the 1 point scorer station refugee, which meant you either lacked a passport or were in such a poor mental and body state that you had to remain where your feet stood on the planet at this very moment. A refugee´s only hope then would have been mother Teresa´s appearance in front of him. There is no hope, was no hope for the refugee low score bastards, the pariah of the world, so why hadn´t they been left to die peacefully wherever God left them? The Mohammad Abbas family enjoyed the last social happening offered them in the Eastern world. They were now to be dispersed like migrating swallows in a world where everybody was happy to see them go elsewhere, they were the outcasts, the smitten lot nobody wanted. Upon arrival in the country called Sweden, the examinations went on. To think how much employment the refugees offered all these people administrating refugees in one way or the other! The European Union Immigration Bodies were a fortress, a stronghold where no Arabs were welcome, neither Africans of all sorts with dark tanned skins or women clad in veil and chador. The doctor in front of him peered at Mohammad behind oldfashioned roundframed glasses, which had shifted place and now dangled at a dangerous angle on the doctor´s nosetip. - Anxiety, depression, anguish or obsessions, the doctor asked matter of factly and studied Mohammad even more closely with squinting eyes, as if trying to find a clue to where the wasp stung him. - I beg your pardon, Mohammad said in Swedish, what was the white dressed man saying? The doctor sighed loudly and repeated. - Anxiety, depression, anguish or obsessions? Now the doctor was stern and craved an answer. - Do you understand what I am saying, asked the doctor, an Iraqui as himself putting in some extra hours for the Swedish Immigration Authorities´ medical team. - I understand, Mohammad mumbled. - I long home, he said in his mother tongue. Why was this person speaking Swedish to him? It all seemed senseless. Before the seizing of himself by Saddam´s men five years ago, there had been no anxiety, depression, anguish or obsessions in his mind, nor that of Leila´s. These were however new times and new rules applied. He was to be taken care of. The Swedish Immigration Authorities following international standards by monitoring how much damage Saddam´s rule had done to Mohammad´s personality and ability to deliver to the Swedish state turnover. Could Mohammad be of any use in western industry, would he contribute to the European Union economy or would he be one of those in the gray zone always needing to get their allowance from the state tax money, compelled to live in poverty for the rest of his life? Would Mohammad be an asset or a burden to the tax payers? Would he ever be a tax payer himself? It would be a sure win if you choose the outlayed anxiety, depression, anguish or obsessions way of life. Or would it? By getting a life pension on medical grounds, he would not have the pleasure of colleagues at work and would not be able to have that special life quality deriving from being able to support yourself and your family by own efforts. He would not be in a position to raise his standard of living, not having a job. He would for the rest of his life live on declared state poverty minimum, barely staying alive, having electrical and water bills payed by the state and social welfare. Mohammad knew it was his own choice to decide whether he was to be a victim for the rest of his life, or if he should choose to fight himself back to dignity, with or without Saddam´s grinning face forever in front of him. As if the doctor was a mindreader he said slowly and this time he was speaking in the Arab tongue: - You can´t stay in the past forever. You have to move on in life, be done with it, forget it, see the road ahead. Almost everybody that Mohammad met representing society in one way or the other would be saying these same words as if they were repeating a well red homework. Everybody was brainwashed in earning money in the western world. A dope like himself engulfed in his own misery, was no asset to any society that wanted his tax money, he would be a burden to the social welfare accounts, on sick leave for the rest of his life. Mohammad´s new status as a refugee triggered people to utter these words, he was an obvious threat to their jobs, their economy, their realities so far from his own past life back in Salal Street in Baghdad. Once he had grieved enough he would snap out of it, but not just yet. Oh yes, he had obsessions, he was engulfed in guilt for not having moved the family away from Baghdad earlier, they could have gotten away southwards to Basra, not so many suicide bombs were going off there. Now both his parents were gone in the bombs and all because of his own greed. Mohammad had been reluctant to leave his business, the night garage and the car repair shop, though a very small income it supported himself, his family and his elders. His reality was veiled in anxiety, depression, anguish and obsessions and he could feel the thoughts of Leila sweeping around him as a soft caressing breeze. He cried so long the tears fled from their glands, dried them out as Babylon´s now waterless barren hillsides. Mohammad felt himself become a lizard fleeing the hawks to reach some green´s and bushes above the mudhole he was hiding in. The minute he stopped crying the hawks would be over him and he must be strong then. The first days in the new country he zigzagged between different immigration and employment bodies. - There is no way you could work as a car mechanic in Sweden, the busy woman at the State Employment Office told him. The market is saturated. What you could do, you could work with Iraqui war invalids in a hospice and I think you would have a chance to get that job even tho you don´t speak much Swedish, of course those are my own thoughts, she added fast not to be reported for discrimination, - but then you would have to travel 300 km away from here and live in a small country town. Would you like that, she asked, glancing a little too obvious at his invalid status, half an arm less on his body after Saddam was finished with him. Would he like to be tending the dying, Saddam´s legacy, living in a remote town in the provinces in a foreign country? All Iraquis in Sweden were here because of Saddam and his evil reign. How many people was Saddam responsible for killing? One million, twenty million? What´s a life? A life could be working at a hospice for his own people dying in a remote place they had never heard of before arriving here. At least they died void of the sounds of grenades, bombshelling and rocket fire going on outside. Dumbfounded, Mohammad didn’t say a word, just stared at her. - Or you could maybe - just maybe - she repeated, - apply to get a carpenter training, the construction industry is screaming for trained carpenters, but such training doesn’t start til February next year and goes on for a year for the introductory course, and it´s now summer, so you would have to take that into consideration. But to get access to the carpenter training you would definitely have to be fluent in Swedish, how would you yourself like to work with people who didn’t understand what you were saying? He still didn’t say a word, he was trying to take things into consideration. - The first Swedish classes comprise three months studies every weekday and you have to pass the diploma, or you would get a prolonged study term up to another three months, she said dryly. - Skipping school without a reason, that is if you have no doctor´s or dentist´s appointment, would enhail reduction of your Activation Pay, of course. If you fail to report to school on scheduled hour, you will not be let into the classroom until the half hour has passed of the decided report time and of course corresponding money would be deducted from your pay. Do you have any questions? He shook his head and felt his lips press hard together. What was this, the military? Allah knows he didn’t ask to be here as little as they wanted him. That woman´s eyes were cold as a cod´s stare. He was a paki and she was a lighthead and she had all the power over him. Her skin was white and she wore a pink top with a bra that let him know exactly where her nipples were. She looked at his sad face and made a movement with her hand as to whisk him away to make place for the next unemployed in line. He knew he must get over himself, but how? He owed Leila to make it in the western world. He would show Saddam who was in charge of his life. Thinking this Mohammad shuddered and his mind returned to the Swedish class. - In Sweden we are very fond of walking in the woods, we love nature! We love to gather cantarel mushrooms in the early autumn, yellowy orange small mushroom that are very tasty, you eat them fried in a light creamy stew on toast. And the mushrooms are free out there for anyone to pick. We all own the Swedish land together. There is no discrimination in Sweden, everybody have the same rights to their life and to nature, the teacher exclaimed. He excused himself from class and left for the bathroom, again sobbing, longing for sweet Leila, for her very presence, her whispering in the night when the kids snoozed close to them. Their love. Their world. Iraquis in a snapdragon game, someone was trying to catch the raisins put in burning liquor and one of those raisins was Mohammad. He had to be strong. He had to fight for the Abbas family, for Leila and the kids. After he arrived home from school, Mohammad sat right down and wrote a letter to Leila about the western forests full of yellowy orange mushrooms called cantarels, that everybody in Sweden owned together. He told her he was thinking about opening a night garage in a small town of Sweden where they housed all the dying victim´s of Saddam. Since all the people were dying there they would need some new blood and Mohammad figured they would welcome someone like him with a clean de-liced family, the Mohammad Abbas family, paki Babylonians with soft eyes stemming from king Nebudkadnezzar who built the hanging gardens of Babylon.
Excerpt from the novel Later year´s language lessons by Elisabeth Gyllman