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By Mohammad Z. Al-Turk, translated by Essam M. Al-Jassim
Mohammad Z. Al-Turk – Jordan
When our father divorced our mother, everything changed. Our mother went her own way, and our father forbade us from visiting her. As time passed, I slowly forgot her and grew accustomed to our cruel, impatient stepmother instead.
Several months after the divorce, my brother began avoiding our home. He often snuck out of the house and wouldn’t return for a night or two, not seeming to care about the punishment awaiting him.
I was my brother’s best and only friend, but he never told me where he went during those secret escapades. Maybe he knew I was a coward, too afraid to leave the house, afraid of my own shadow. My father would slap and kick him, demanding the truth of his whereabouts, but my brother remained resolute and offered nothing. Instead, he feigned unconsciousness during the beatings.
One day, my brother returned after being away for more than three days. My father was red-faced and seething with rage. Spurred by our manipulative stepmother’s latent provocation, he viciously beat my brother and left him for dead. After the brutal punishment, I found my brother lying on the floor, surrounded by a growing puddle of blood. In that moment, I realized the coming struggle for survival could make me forget him too.
That cold night, I found a letter intended for me under my brother’s pillow. It was loaded with fear and left a fierce weight on my heart. I was sick to my stomach as I read his instructions:
Keep visiting our mother. She’s blind now. She won’t be able to distinguish your voice from mine, as we sound almost the same. Continue to take care of her, even if you have to endure Father’s severe beatings. Do not let her know one of us has gone.
About Essam M. Al-Jassim
Essam M. Al-Jassim is a Saudi writer and translator based in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia. He taught English for many years at Royal Commission schools in Jubail. Mr. Al-Jassim received his bachelor’s degree in foreign languages and education from King Faisal University, Hofuf. His writings and translations have appeared in a variety of print and online Arabic and English-language literary journals. Mr. Al-Jassim is a lifelong bibliophile.