Translation of Ahmad Hasan al-Zu‘bi’s “The End of Summer”

The carpenter puts a kettle of tea to boil over the wood that had been left over from the bedroom set he finished last week. The folk singer’s songs call all the young men of the neighborhood to the corner store, pouring for them what is left of the songs that have welled up in his throat after all the summer weddings. There is a rectangular plot of dirt, broken pieces of concrete and deep holes where poles of tents were pulled out of the earth like thistles from skin, where watermelons were sold all summer. School bags are hanging to be sold at the entrances of bookstores, and the blue school aprons for elementary students are flapping in the wind, their collars propping up the dreams of childhood. The highway boy stands, pointing to with his right hand at the two cartons of figs he tries to sell to quickly passing cars. Everyone disappoints him. He covers his eyes and shields them from the sun. There are some peaches, beaten up and thrown in the back of a pickup truck being sold at a fourth of the price, and the driver swears over and over to his customers that the holes in the peaches are from the birds pecking on them at the tops of trees and not from worms eating holes through them after they’ve fallen. An apricot tree that has already been picked clean trembles at the sunset, and one yellow leaf falls over the well in the ground. That leaf, in the braids of green leaves of the apricot tree, looks like a white strand in the bangs of a thirty-year-old. The feeling at the end of life—or the beginning of that end, is like the feeling of waking up to an alarm in the middle of a deep sleep or like the feeling of sleeping when you’ve snoozed the first alarm and are waiting for the second to go off. The alarm is disturbing, but it opens your eyes up better than anything else can. At the end of summer, the grapevine sprouts the final bunch of grapes. Fireworks become a rare phenomenon. Talk about “there” becomes more frequent than talk about “here” because everyone is leaving. The expatriate opens her phone to confirm her flight and the arrival time. She wipes the dust of June and July and August off her bags, peels from them the stickers of her old flight, old airlines, the old dreams, and checks them again to make sure she had everything. The handles that have been torn with repeated goodbyes and the distance of travel, and the sides of the bags that have ripped on the conveyer belts where irritable travelers pick them up are sewn once again. The wheels of the bags are attached again with shoddy thread they found in the house the night before—in the way that our lives are fixed by dreams we know are unrealistic. The wheels need to be fixed, since the departure gates have frayed them and so has the rushed dragging them around as the expatriates try to make a living. The bags are the last thing a traveler drops when she arrives here, and the first thing she picks up when she departs from there...Her luggage is home in a nutshell, it is her passport, inside its great heart summer shirts are folded, summer nights occupied by joy and children’s toys, the heat of the day, the climate of evening gatherings, all of them folded, one on top of the other. And then all these memories are zipped into the bag, and they refuse to open up to the New Year At the end of summer, the carts at the airport are weighed down with nostalgia and yearning, the bags of the different travelers console each other in the belly of the plane& the clouds wipe away their sad tears. At the end of summer, and before getting on the plane, the traveler murmurs under her breath to the officer checking the passports: “Please stamp my heart instead of my passport, stamp it with a permanent “arrived” because its pages are too filled with departures. I’m begging you. Go ahead and do it, I can’t bear to hear the final call... I hate the voice that comes after that beep. Final call. Final call. This is the final call for all travelers aboard flight... Please make your way to gate number...