See How Much I Love You
SHE SLEEPS THROUGH THE MORNING, INTO THE EVENING, she sleeps through most of the day. Then she stays awake for the best part of the night: it is an intermittent wakefulness, with moments of brief lucidity and others of delirium or abandon; she often faints. She is like this, day in, day out, for weeks. She is completely oblivious to the passing of time. Whenever she is able to stay conscious, she tries to open her eyes, but soon falls back into the depths of sleep, a heavy sleep from which she finds it hard to come round.
For days now she’s been hearing voices in her moments of lucidity. They sound distant, as though they were coming from another room or the deepest end of her sleep. Only occasionally does she hear them near her, by her side. She cannot say for sure, but it sounds as if the unknown voices are speaking in Arabic. They talk in whispers. She doesn’t understand a thing they’re saying, but the sound of those voices, far from being disquieting, is comforting to her.
She finds it hard, very hard to think straight. When she makes an effort to understand where she is, she feels a great tiredness, and very soon falls back into her dreaded sleep. She struggles to stay awake, because hallucinations torment her. Over and over she is seized by the same image: the nightmare of the scorpion. Even when she’s awake she fears opening her eyes in case the arachnid has survived the dream. But however hard she tries, her eyelids remain sealed.
The first time she manages to open her eyes she cannot see a thing. The dazzling light of the room blinds her, as if she’d been in a dungeon all along. Her eyelids grow heavy and give in. But now, for the first time, she is able to tell reality from reverie.
It is a soft, woman’s voice. Although she doesn’t understand the words, the tone is clearly friendly. She recognises the voice as the one she’s been hearing over the past few days or weeks, sometimes very close to her ear and at others, in the distance, as if coming from another room. Yet she has no strength to reply.
Still conscious, she cannot rid her mind of the image of the scorpion, which is more troubling than an ordinary nightmare. She can even feel its carapace and legs creeping up her calf. She tries to convince herself that it is not really happening. She tries to move, but has no strength. In reality the sting was short and quick, like the prick of a needle. If it had not been for that woman’s shouts of warning; ‘
She’s never sure what posture she fell asleep in. Sometimes she wakes lying face up and sometimes face down. And so she realises that someone must be moving her, no doubt so that she won’t get bed sores. The first thing she sees are the shadows in the ceiling where the plaster is coming off. Dim light comes in through a small window situated high up on the wall. She doesn’t know whether it’s dawn or dusk. No noises can be heard that might indicate life outside the room. Against the opposite wall, she discovers an old rusty bed. Her heart jumps when she realises it is a hospital bed. There’s no mattress on it. The bedsprings openly display signs of neglect. Between the two beds is a metal night table, which must once have been white but is now tainted by decay. For the first time she feels cold. She strains to hear a familiar sound. No use; there’s nothing. She tries to speak, to ask for help, but cannot utter a word. She spends what little strength she has trying to attract someone, anyone’s attention. Suddenly the door opens and a woman she has never seen before comes in. She realises that the newcomer is either a doctor or a nurse. A brightly coloured
Although she doesn’t understand the words, she assumes she’s being asked how she’s feeling. But she cannot move a single throat muscle to reply. She follows the nurse with her eyes, trying to recognise her features underneath the
Discouraged, she fell silent, because she saw that they did not understand her. At least they weren’t shouting any more. She stood still and quiet in front of the twenty women who, frozen with fear, avoided her gaze. She waited for a reaction, but no-one took a step forward. On the contrary, they huddled together like pigeons at the back of the cell, seeking comfort in each other, praying and covering their faces. For the first time she thought about the scorpion. She knew that of the one thousand five hundred living species only twenty-five are poisonous. She quickly swept the thought aside.
There was no time to lose. Now it seemed certain that if no one had responded to the shouts it was because they’d been left alone, unguarded. She finished wrapping the