The One Who Did Not Want to Come into the World

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“Nine months, Sara, the time is up! Are we going to have to go and fetch him?”
Sara, covered by her indigo veil, stroking her belly, as round and smooth as a bud, listened politely to the doctor.
Sara had known that since the beginning of time, since the first woman had given birth. She lowered her veil a little more over her forehead as a sign of consent. For nine months she had been waiting for the day of the birth. She thought of nothing but that future time when, from being a woman, she would become a saint like all mothers, the day when she would wear her crown.
The sun burned a little more as its first rays struck the desert sands. And the child would not come. Then Sara no longer went to see the doctor. Nor even to see the women elders of the tribe, those who made her drink bitter potions and waved dead chickens around her head intoning somber chants. She had decided that nobody would force her child to come into the world, nobody would push him around. “He will come out when he decides to come out!”
One moon succeeded another, round and full, and Sara’s stomach swelled splendidly; it preceded her everywhere. Sara went to fetch water from the well, and her tunic that stretched like a skin tickled her. Sara, sitting cross-legged, flattened the supple dough with her burning palm, and her hands found support on the improvised resting place.
The hillside of her flank continued to bloom. You could see Sara’s stomach and you hardly saw Sara herself any more. The little man was growing in her breast, but she was not worried. Sara said he was nice and warm in the winter when the winds were sweeping over the desert, and that in the summer he was in the shade of the protective tent of her bosom.
She had one answer to every question: she was his mouth and ate sweet pastries and brown dates for him, she was his eyes and watched the harmattan blow over the dunes. She listened for him to the tam-tam mingled with the singing of the sand. Every evening, Sara told the child stories, the same ones that her mother used to chant and that her grandmother had taught her. And she sang tunes to encourage him to go to sleep:
Sleep, blue child, sleep, child of the dunes,
The day will come when you will recognize me.
Sleep, angel of the sky,
Tomorrow, you will give me your hand.
Sleep, seraph,
Tomorrow, we will dance.

When more moons had passed than it takes to make a man, Sara felt very weary. She could no longer get up to attend to her everyday tasks. When she was admiring her stomach, far from prurient stares, she sometimes saw a foot or a hand pressing against its wall and pushing so hard she thought he might tear it. The other women fed her, washed her, and massaged her stomach with perfumed oils to soften the skin stretched to the extreme. If the child was happy, he would clap with his little hands, and she could hear a little slapping sound coming from her insides. She imagined him floating or swimming in the sea she had created for him. His curly hair tickled Sara inside. She liked that.

The days passed, and the child kept putting off his entrance into the world. Sara knew this, and that he was afraid of the idea of what he would discover. The world and its dangers, the scolding voices, the harsh hands wielding a stick… The child knew, because children know everything about the world that awaits them. Then they forget.
Sara had understood, she let him take his time.
On her own in her tent, she waited, patiently, for a sign. Becoming a mother is full of sweet hope.
But one day, when she felt his pointed teeth biting her stomach from the inside, she knew the time had come. She wondered how she could inspire in the child a desire to discover the beauties of nature and to encounter the community of men. So she told him about the caress of the wind, the softness of the sun in the early morning when skin is still cooled by dew, the speed of the sand fox when he chases insects and rodents at night. She spoke to him about the elegance of the dorcas gazelles, of the sweet taste of honey, of the infinite colors of the women’s dresses as they dance barefoot on the sand, of the splendor of their body, and of the voluptuousness of their kisses. Sara’s patience was limitless.

One day, framed by his halo of golden curls, the child put forth his head to be born. He was dressed in a white veil like those worn by princes. A little dazzled by the morning light, he screwed up his eyes. He glanced at the world around him as if it was familiar to him. Then he kissed his mother and took from his belt a yataghan with which he cut the cord linking him to her. He stroked her forehead and consoled her. The child, already a man, bestrode a black horse and rode off into the desert until he disappeared.
Sara, joyful, had brought her son to the age of manhood and she watched without any regret as he vanished into the horizon of dunes.

Translated by Wendy Cross

111

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