I spent many days on that long street – which is surrounded on both sides by trees, cacti, and brambles – far away from urban life. I would rush, with my school book, to my friend to review what our teacher taught us. As I returned to this place of memories, I felt I had a date with a close friend and I found myself longing to meet him. I was reminded of the first time I came to know of that beautiful street, Barbour Street.
My friend in high school was handsome, quiet and calm. He did not like chatting but he was fond of watching movies. The Diva Cinema was showing period themed video cassettes. Every Sunday, I would go to see the American cowboys with their big hats chasing the Native American Indians. I would not miss Babour Street until Sunday, when Jamil accompanied me and bought two tickets from the box office. One for me and the other for him.
At Babour Wright Street, Fahima, a high school student, also strolled back and forth with her school bag lined with colored threads. I have been spared by the stray dogs that are often located in that street away from the buildings and houses. When I dared, one day, I told her of my friend’s feelings. With a lovely smile, she gestured acceptance and satisfaction, pointing to her hand. He took courage from Abu Khalil, the guard of the barra in the street. Abu Khalil with his thick neck and his blue coffee-stained wrap around his head and his long red stick, was always sitting on a straw chair in the afternoon in front of the school, where students opened a gap in the fence to get the beads of orange.
On Babour Street I was witness to all, to the passers-by: men, women, children, school students, bicyclers, even cats and dogs. But the thing I remember most is the daily motion of Jibril . All day into the evening when the sun set, all the people were going on their way to the cafe, each one leaning on the other, talking and laughing.
On arrival at the coffee shop, immediately, Vjbriel, who leaned on a long black stick, was like mobile radio broadcast news. The gossip and politics are picked up by hurrying passersby. The coffee shop is like a large warehouse that stores everything small and large in the neighborhood: marriage, divorce, weddings, family quarrels, what is going on in the country, what happens to the women and boys and girls, the deaths of people.
The voices rise and laughter rises. The owner of the coffee shop is in a hurry. Abu, is there in his wide black trousers. A fishermen of the Jaffa Sea is smoking a cigarette that does not leave his lips. Almzomtin aged fifty years with his long mustache, used to raise them since he was a young man in Jaffa, his head is covered after he conquered his gray hair card. He bought it from the market of Firas .The cafe with its lights on at night and its customers; the stray dogs roaming nearby who, when the darkness scatters, are found rummaging through piles of garbage.
Babour Street with its mariners is still one of the most vivid places in my memory, despite the passage of years. When I returned to Gaza, after 30 years in Ghar, I was eager to see Al-Babour Street. Its features have changed so much. No longer do trees and cacti line both sides of the streets. The trees have been uprooted. The orange trees, which were guarded by the late Abu Khalil have become a commercial street. After an Israeli air strike, a large house was built in place of the life and movement of the cafe. After a scene of death, of angels and of devils. No one mentions them – only on a few occasions. But the bodies of each of them walking in the street together are still stuck in my memory.
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