[S1, E3]I am the Crossroads, I am good Death / Healing the disease of aloneness, going Home (series)

A {Birth of a Hakim} Multimedia Series

You can listen to or Read [S1E3]‘I am the Crossroads, I am good Death’

**Trigger Warning: there is some physical violence in this piece, though it is very brief.**

We are all drawn to the energy of evolution. It is our sweetest destiny. 

It lights us on fire. It is an intoxicating rapture that grips our hearts and pulls us towards a whole. It is an old, old song calling us home. But to get home, to get free we have to die. Death is the only gateway through to destiny. And most of us greatly fear the face of death. Or maybe what we really fear is the truth of who we are. Our very own face reflected back to us by Death. Who we have been, who we haven’t been and who we need to be. 

Sometimes the desire and need to evolve outweighs our fear of dying and we ‘butterfly’.

Most of the time, our fear of dying wins out and we run.

But no one can truly run from death. Death is the great equalizer, the whole of wholes. We can prolong the process and the suffering. We can also keep dying into another iteration of who we were -- no evolution necessary. A stunted death. Until we surrender…

Surrender to a good Death that makes us whole and free.

People come to me to meet Death, to meet their destiny.

People come to me when they are ready to let go - to die back into themselves. They come to face their greatest fear and deepest potential. To master how to die, how to be truly, truly alive. And I’ve known this from the day I was born. My life has never let me forget it. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know the face of Death very intimately.

Needless to say, most people don’t want to be around Death. And when that is what you carry, it can make for a lonely life. 

Today, we have forgotten how to die. We have forgotten the medicine of death. We have forgotten the goodness and magic of death. And with that, we have forgotten and forsaken those whose work it is to walk us down and through the crossroads of Death into who we truly are. And I believe this loss has indeed stunted our evolution as a species. 

I was born in 3akrabiyeh, a (then) desert town in Saudi Arabia which literally translates to “the land of scorpions”. We lived in a small house with high walls, “so the men couldn’t peak in” my mother said. For my parents, two recent Lebanese immigrants to the area, especially my mother who had been surrounded by the ocean of her family and friends, it was deeply deeply isolating. 

And then there were scorpions. My parents covered my crib with protective nets to keep me from being bitten by roaming stingers. And there were quite a few. My Mama said that they would constantly check their shoes before slipping their feet in, check their loose bags before carrying them and under the beds before going to sleep.

My birth almost killed my Mama the warrior.

When her water broke and she couldn’t reach my Papi, she put herself into a cab in the middle of nowhere and took herself to the hospital, alone. “They had to move my bones” she said to me “my bones, remember that when you wonder what I’ve done for you” she continues with a smile. It’s true. I was a difficult child. I was born a weeper. My incessant weeping and my mother’s postpartum were so severe that she travelled back to Lebanon, amidst a civil war and under fire, to get support in caring for me. “You didn’t stop crying” she said “we all took turns holding you.” They would walk or drive down the small street in front of my Jedo and Teta’s house, facing the ocean front. “That’s the only thing that soothed you” she would add “it’s like you didn’t want to be here”. And she was right, I don’t think I did. 

Over the years, I have met death many times but there is one time I remember so vividly. 

I was an 11 year old awkward, nerdy, boygirl who loved watching Micheal Jordan fly to the hoop into an assist from Scottie Pippen. It was a Michael Jordan era, and we all wanted to fly. We would gather in the rec center and watch recorded games on a mid-sized TV that lay on an otherwise useless bar. 

It just so happened that around that time, basketball tournaments and shows were broadcast on a Bahraini tv channel that we caught in the Eastern Province.  It was one of two English channels that looped early subtitled episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Family Matters and Full House and some sports. I didn’t understand a word anyone said, but I watched carefully. It was these shows and a few years later the advent of MTV and the mass globalization of American music that were my first English teachers. I would sit in my bathtub at night and repeat full sentences from the shows and sports commentators. “What do you mean you forgot to lock the door?” or “there he is, flying through the air!”.

I had a treasured ball signed by Pippen and marked with a 33 - yes, of course, it was manufactured that way but I liked to pretend that I had met him. My parents had bought it from Toy Town, the biggest local toy store that shipped American toys to the Kingdom. But I came up with a whole story about the ball that I told everyone who would listen. I was a dreamer. But I especially, especially loved the Globetrotters - even before I could say the word Globetrotters properly. I mean I thought I was training to be one. I spent hours in my room trying to make up tricks that failed miserably. I didn’t really care much for the basket, I was all about the theatrics. Mostly, I just wanted to fly away from this place. Even though I’d eventually become a skilled point guard with some MVP status (and two recognizable court names: “Skidmarks” and “Afro Puff”), my  favorite coach would later scold me for disregard for technique and my interest in the art of basketball rather than the sport of it. “We’re not playing street ball anymore Sam, straighten your feet, stop fooling around. You wanna play ball or be in the circus?” She was right. That kind of playing wasn’t going to cut it in college ball. I’d later realize I was indeed an artist with A LOT of physical energy and basketball was my warrior shield, a way to express and assert myself amidst the bullying -- especially with boys, especially when I was who I am. 

One day, I grabbed my autographed ball and headed out to the court. By that point we had moved into a compound, an average gated community of about 90 half-baked houses called the R.O.C. At the time it was commonly known as a land of misfits amongst us young folks and the young Arab boys were especially irreverent, rowdy and destructive. It was a compound of third-world middle class (what would be first world working class) folk. Most immigrants opted into these communities because living outside of them felt unbearable. The Eastern Province was becoming more and more conservative with the boom of oil trade -- which many believe was a way to keep people under control, to keep a local middle-class from rising amidst unfair economic arrangements. The women, Arab women in particular, were required to wear 3abeyes - even if they were not Saudi - whereas their foreign counterparts were not. Women could not drive nor move freely. Men and women could not be seen together in public unless they were married or family. The religious police would sometimes roam the streets and stores looking for someone to scold for ‘illicit’ behavior. There’s more to say about this but I’m not ready. All I’ll say for now is: in the compounds, we were freer. 

So I get to the court and the night had just fallen. It’s around 40 degrees celsius (over 100 fahrenheit) and sweat is already dripping down the side of my cheek. I walk over the chipped, peeling paint gaps in the court floor. I’m totally alone and it feels amazing. I would pretend like I was in some big tournament. I could hear the crowd roaring in my head. Warm up with dribbling drills, through-the-legs and behind-the-back. I loved feeling the heat of the ball return to me ten fold after it bounced off of the hard cement floor. It made me feel the God in me. The energy would rise from up under me and I felt invincible. Here it goes: an alley oop off the backboard. That’s what I wanted to work on today. After my 5th throw to the board, I hear the ruckus in the distance. Yea, it’s the neighborhood boys filtering through the street and makeshift court entrances over the bushes like night bandits. “It’s time to leave” says one of them holding a football - soccer ball, if you’re Americans. 

Usually, I do. I just leave. But tonight, I had a streak of courage. Tonight the court was my court. I had tried getting to the court every night that week and it was never free. Needless to say, we were in a constant battle around this, especially in the summertime. “Do you hear me kharoof?” he said again. ‘Kharoof’, a sheep, a reference the neighborhood boys hurled at me because of the unusually thick, curly texture of my hair that my mom kept in a short afro. I kept playing by myself. “You have 5 minutes or else”  and they set up shop. Goal parameters. Teams were picked and I just kept playing. “Get the fuck off the court kharoof”. They set the ball in the center and just started. They play around me, try to trip me up, bump into me for a good 10 mins. “You think you’re a boy yea? Show me your dick, you want to see my dick? Look at my dick” while he grabs his crotch. That was a thing Arab boys liked to say to me often (and they still do), to assert their feeble manhood in my presence. I stay focused on the basket. Fine you want to stay like that? Let’s see what happens” I stay. And then came a standoff. I was standing at the free throw line and the goalkeeper had the football placed in front of his foot. We stared each other down. “I can’t see, you piece of shit, move!”. I didn’t. Maybe I should have but I didn’t. He carefully places the ball a couple of meters away from me. He shouts in English “Fucking Sand ****” (and a word that starts with N that I had never heard before and would later learn about from my Mama). He kicks the ball with the strength of a violent man into my chest, and his foot jams hard into my stomach. I fall back. 

My head hits the ground. The fog gathers in my eyes. I’m trying to open my mouth when I realize it’s already open. I just can’t breath. I’m trying to, but I can’t. I’m gasping. I see the faces hanging over me, one by one looking down. “She’s turning blue” I hear a voice “You kicked a girl you stupid fuck”, “That’s not a girl fuckface, that’s Kharoof”, “Shit, she can’t breathe”. The last thing I hear is “RUN!” and the pitter patter of scrambling footsteps. It was dark now. I was alone. 

I felt myself floating into the darkness of the sky and it was beautiful. Maybe I’m dying, I thought. I get to fly like I always wanted. Fly away from this place. And I see a light. The light becomes a woman. A woman with thick curly hair braided down to her shoulders and brown skin. She leans over with a smile like she’s about to kiss me. Our lips meet and I feel the wind blow through my lungs. 

I close and open my eyes. 

I wake up in a coughing fit. I can feel my chest. My heart beats strong pumping life back into me. I can feel my arms again. My body. But there is no woman. I’m alone. There is no one around. I get up. 

I walk into my house. My mother catches my face. “What’s wrong?” she says. I ignore her and walk straight into my sister and I’s bedroom, and I lay on the bed facing the wall. She walks in after me. 

Mama: “Samia, what’s wrong you don’t look normal”

I’m quiet. 

Mama: “What’s wrong, you’re scaring me”. 

Me: “It’s nothing Ma”

She comes over and sits on the bed next to me. 

Mama: “Are you crying?”

Me: “No Ma” I said with my face against the wall and tears pouring into my pillow

Mama: “Why are you crying?”

I hesitate

Me: “I don’t want to play basketball anymore” 

She sucks her teeth “Luk shou sar? What happened Mami?”

Me: “Nothing Ma”

She pauses 

Me: “There’s something wrong with my hair”

Mama: “What’s wrong with your hair?”


Mama: “This beautiful hair? What’s wrong with it?”

She puts her hand through my hair

Mama: “One day Mami, everyone is going to wish they had this beautiful, thick, curly hair, sadd’ineh”

She pauses

Mama: “Samia khallas, stop crying, sit up, look at me” she says with her no bullshit voice

I sit up and wipe my face

Mama: “One day, you will be taller and bigger and better and stronger and more powerful than all these pieces of shit you see, smi3teeneh? Look at me, do you think I care what these people think of me?”

Mama: “Look at me, do you know who you are? Look at me, do you see who I am? Do you see who you come from. Do you know who we are? Do you know who your Jedo is, how strong he is? Let me tell you some stories so you know who you come from… yallah tomorrow. Where do you think all your gifts come from? Look at all the gifts God gave you! You think God would give these gifts for nothing? Put your head up! And never, ever let anyone stop you from doing anything you came here to do.” 


Mama:”You’re going to get back out there tomorrow and that’s it. Now get up and come get something to eat.”

My mother’s medicine is hard but it is good. That night my Mama prayed into me like that. I lay at night, sleepless as always, scared of what might come through the door. Scared to close my eyes because of what I’d see on the other side, again. I’m staring at the ceiling. Buffalo Soldier’s coming through the headphones of my little cassette player. 

Two women had saved me that night and there must have been a reason, I thought. There must have been a reason to be alive. I did go back to the court a few days later.

“Said he was a Buffalo Soldier

Win the war for America

Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock Rasta

Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival

Driven from the mainland

To the heart of the Caribbean

Singing, wo yo yo, wo yo yo yo

Wo yo yo yo yo yo yo yo

 wo yo yo, wo yo yo yo

Wo yo yo yo yo yo yo yo” - Bob Marley, Confrontation

This is a Birth of a Hakim series: Healing the disease of aloneness / going Home by Samia Abou-Samra.

Thank you for witnessing Season 1, Episode 3: I am the Crossroads, I am good Death

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