The Magical Self-Cleaning House of Al Twani, Occupied Palestine

Posted on 26th March 2014 in Notes, Reflections, Stories

for Luna

by H. Gibrain


Sometimes the strangest things happen in the most ordinary places. Normally such happenings would be classified as miracles because they seem to defy logic and the laws of nature, but there are no miracles; there is an explanation for everything, sometimes it is just so foreign to the capacity for understanding and located in so remote a region on Earth that it is experienced by so few within that context it seems so entirely normal to the indigenous. Yet, it is never elevated to the status of miracle because only a handful of people – in the hands of god, of course – bear witness to it on a regular basis so to them it seems entirely normal and it requires that more than one person at a time experience it to qualify it as such. This is the case in the remote village of Al Twani, Occupied Palestine.


It was on such a rare occasion when a small group of unsettled people came to occupy a space in this place, albeit for a very short period of time. These people fit into the broad category of “people who know things are not right.” They know, somehow, that there is a way to change the shituation and they are looking for that magical key to open up the door to the past – the door of to the house of return, discovering the twisted history of a land, a peoples, a narrative and so much more than those things: a reality of collective trauma and suffering injustices imposed upon them by another tribe of collectively traumatized individuals so entirely disconnected from their karmic debt they created a story of triumph for their future to convince themselves they were not victims but victors. This is one way to deal with the past sufferings of a people. There is no justice in this method since, by the very same laws of nature that prevent miracles from happening, such stories require a new victim.


An alternative would have been the long and arduous process of understanding what went wrong, where and at whose hands were they bloodied so when their time came to assume a position of power their hands would be clean of the guilt and shame which brought them to this place of despair they had to dissociate from. It would be odd, and violent, to say that their success required someone else to suffer – though this is the story of the collective trauma of human history, there are alternative paths to a peaceful resolution absolving anyone and everyone of the guilt, shame and blood that have soiled the collective hands and lands of human history – perhaps elevating the species to a collective status of demigods and goddesses running wild and free in the Garden.


In the world of theater objects can speak, breath and take on lives of their own. “All the world is a stage,” it has been said so you can imagine that when a group of weary travelers seeking to unlock and unleash the past from the enchanted prison there is not limit to the mysterious, fascinating and frustrating things that one, or a group of ones, may encounter. To arrive at such a place as Al Twani there seems nothing mysterious at all. One might measure a simultaneity of humility and generosity wrought of the kinds of humiliation that an inherently peaceful people, thinking as one mind and breathing as one body, are subject to. To walk into an unwitting house in such a place seems normal enough: gravity is the same, floors are horizontal, there are sinks and beds and chairs and windows. The real magic comes in the middle of the night when most normal, decent, god fearing people are sleeping so the village dogs and cats can do the dirty work of restoring the loving order of the confused psychic energy that occupies the small spaces between olive trees, chamomile, cactus and clover; diffusing the air around goats, sheep, chickens and millipedes that accumulates as a result of peoples unaware enough to attribute the blood sweat and tears of loving hands and lands – working behind the scenes – to miracles. Such people are fools.


To wake up in the morning to a clean kitchen, for example, would make it seem like the kitchen cleans itself. After all, when some 30 people are occupying such a small house, each of them leaving their little item behind thinking, “hmm, there are some olive pits and a candy wrapper in the sink, the sink must be the garbage in this magical town” or “yesterday that garbage pail was empty and now it is full and I will now place on top of this pile the critical mass from my ass that will make it all magically disappear.” Cigarette filers, empty bottles and cups – no problem. There are little faeries which double as hotel servants in first world countries who, in their spare time, flit their wings just once and will themselves across oceans, through valleys, over mountain tops and through the vast network of caves carved from time immemorial to come to towns like Twani to do the dirty work of mischievous fools who are traversing the nether regions of their spiritual life somewhere between lost and wandering. These faeries, if they could, they would no doubt wipe your ass for you but most of you have figured out, since a time not long after birth, when the diaper was ready to come off, that the ass does not clean itself. In fact, it requires some semblance of careful attention, a gentle hand and a versatile wrist skilled in the martial art of wiping. So you get to your ass before the faeries leaving them to clean the mound of human waste accumulating next to the inadequate toilet that somehow seems to be enough for the peoples of Al Twani.


Different cultures have different customs. Humans are amazingly adaptive creatures. One can move from, say, a modern full on exquisitely decorated bathroom built on the occupied lands of North America – where the indigenous peoples once live freely as inhabitants of the land – to modernish yet humble hills on the Occupied Territories of the West Bank of Palestine, come across the need to cleanse themselves of the dust and dirt that inevitably accumulates on human flesh, and re-figure out what soap is. This is an easy task. Soap has both a universal appeal and a small set of universal shapes that make it highly identifiable as soap. However, certain structures are seemingly so out of the realm and context of privileged peoples that common sense seems to catch a ride on the rising smoke from cigarettes and the vapor from coffee and dissipate into the air we all breath. Where in the lands named after an Italian explorer, collecting land for Empire abroad – stolen from the indigenous, not a single soul would spill a bottle of olive oil on their kitchen floor and walk away thinking it, too, would magically vaporize into the air we breath or somehow sop itself up and find its way to dress their salad; these same people will, when they come to the occupied lands – collected for Empire abroad from where they began their lost wandering, come to the conclusion that wet floors will mop themselves, that shelves will self organize and replace absconded goods. The only way for such things to occur, of course, is that such a house, such a small house occupied by such a small, intelligent, and good willed people, must be a magical house.


Where magic fails due to little flaws in the divine plan, simple tools can be used to accommodate such inconveniences as wet floors, soiled toilets, garbage piles, dirty dishes, blood stained floors and any matter of clutter, accumulation and a lack of organization. Where magic fails, common sense mixed with a little logic and extrapolation can remove hard to get out stains, dry wet dish towels, empty dish racks stacked with clean dishes, and evacuate the foul air of human animals splayed out on cushions clustered into corners of rooms as they sing their midnight madrigals. When all of the faeries have gone back to their hotels to serve Wasichu (“white man as occupier”), when logic has returned to its rightful place in the sky, when the people of good intention decide to step out of the enchanted prison to which they, themselves, hold the key in the palm of their hand and decide to realize that they are not lost and are only wandering amid the endless beautiful diversity of beings and spirits, the collective shame, guilt, trauma and discord will rise into the skies on the back of mister nice guy and humiliation will be restored to humility, the hatred and anger wrought of denial will be replaced by love, the occupied land will once again be inhabited land and all of the magic that took care of the shit people were too lazy or too stupid to come to terms with will be replaced by gentle hands skill in the art and craft of caring for the land and each other as if everything were a baby just born and still covered by whatever it is that covers babies when they leave the comfort of those wonderful substances that keep us comatose as we get ourselves ready to prepare for a life in the enchanted prison.