What made her keep smiling? He stripped her of all her possessions and her makeup. He shredded her clothes. He sold her jewelry. He pulled her hair and cut it off with a knife. Her locks fell like mutilated snakes twisting on the floor, letting her scalp shine through.
And now? She got up. She came back with a broom and a bucket. She swept. She washed the floor. He saw her smile glide over her shorn head and slide down her back. Why didn’t she scream? Why didn’t she cry, complain, beat her head against the wall or some hard object? What enabled her to stand up to him? What gave her this power, this tyranny? She would kill him if it went on like this! She would be the end of him.
And now? He abandoned her. He kept her away from his bedroom. He made her sleep on the floor. And her smile, which he didn’t see, pursued him and came to his dreams in the form of demons. Like the sun. Like fire. Like a genie. Until it stole his soul and destroyed him.
One day, she made tea for him at his request. It tasted bitter. He grew angry and cursed her. He looked for more sugar but didn’t find any. He said he was going out to buy some, that he might be gone for a while to visit some friends. And he went out. He didn’t lock the door. He dug carefully and set the trap for her. Then he went away and hid, watching from afar.
And now? She was seated in front of the mirror. In her hand was a green walnut shell that she was rubbing on her puckered lips. Her mouth became scarlet like an aged red wine. She hadn’t betrayed him. And here she was making herself up for him. She was alone. There was no fear in her eyes. No shadow of disturbance or surprise. He approached. He kissed her. She jumped and drew away. He approached and grabbed her. She stood, frozen in his hands. Cold, like ice. He blew his hot breath upon her. She didn’t smile. He asked, “So who were you making yourself up for then?” She didn’t say she was making herself up for him, that he was her husband, whom she desired and loved. Her tears flowed down. He slapped her. He struck her again. She stopped crying. He was powerless. Was she provoking him? “Who was it for then, you whore, if not for me?” He started hitting. Perhaps she would utter a word or a groan, or cry out to protest her innocence, with a complaint, with some curse. At least let her say something! He kept hitting her until she was covered all over with a deep crimson, like her lips stained with the walnut.
And now? It was finished. She lay stretched out in a pool of red. Her ears and mouth were bubbling blood like a fountain. It subsided. It died away. Fate and chance. Destiny. It was fated for her to die at his hands. And if she had been innocent, he would not have been struck blind, and he would not have started beating something that seemed like a ball between his hands. He would have found a reason, just once, for that smile of hers.
And now? Tomorrow they would suspect him in connection with that lopped-off head. There was no doubt. Hadn’t he already committed an act of murder? How would he make them understand? They would add, “Someone who kills his wife because she puts on makeup might kill a man because he doesn’t like how he looks.” He would answer, “If you were in my shoes, you would have done exactly the same thing. I don’t regret what I did. It was the hand of fate that chose me to carry out her destiny. Indeed, I don’t regret it. Prison is no shame. Prison makes a man.”
They set me free. And they kept that lunatic who drove me crazy with his talk about “the struggle.” If he only knew I had adopted his stories, he would have been happy, rejoicing and thinking that my getting out of prison was like him getting out. He made me miserable with stories about his friend, Jameel the Baghdadi. I learned them like the back of my hand. I made these hypocrites listen to them as though they were scribbled on my palm or engraved on the open book of my memory. What’s the difference? What I said wasn’t a lie, even if I was lying. Even if the other guy was lying and fabricating all his military exploits in “the struggle.” What fault is it of mine that they believed me?
I lied. And they believed me! They honored me! They left me alone! If I had confessed the truth to them, would they have treated me that way? No, by God! People are scorpions. As soon as you trust them and reach your hand out to touch them, they jab you with poison.