Guernica Magazine

Children of the Ghetto: My Name is Adam

I admit I felt something strange as I listened to the popping of the bones as they were devoured by the fire: Murad spoke, and I saw. It was grief. Grief squeezes the heart till you feel you’re about to die and your heart bleeds tears into your eyes. The post Children of the Ghetto: My Name is Adam appeared first on Guernica.
Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

Scene Seven

He spoke of the fire and of the burning of the bodies, saying it was a moment he neither wanted to remember nor talk about.

The guy choked on his words. He wrestled with meanings, so that he could speak of how he experienced the fire that burned the last of the bodies and their remains. He produced the words like one who has lost the ability to produce words and wept like one who has no more tears.

(When I tried to write about this moment, which I did several times, I’d suffer a complete collapse. I’d be drenched in cold sweat and feel as though my heart had stopped beating. I’d be overcome by exhaustion, stop writing, throw myself on the bed and doze. This is my seventh attempt to write down what I heard. I drank half a bottle of vodka, sat down at the table, and decided to forget all the dreams I’d have when such exhaustion struck me. But I couldn’t forget one dream that pursued me for seven days and seven nights: We three–Itidal, Murad, and I– are sitting down. Murad drains his glass to the dregs and gets drunk. He pours another glass and drinks it, and the words come out of his mouth and turn into a rope that winds itself around his neck. The man cries out for help in words that come out as separated syllables, and with each cry the rope tightens around his neck and his words turn into a sort of rasp. Itidal and I never move from our places. We’re like people watching a horror movie. The dream begins and ends without anything happening: the guy doesn’t die and we make no attempt to save him. I’d wake up from this dream, light a cigarette, and open my eyes as far as they’d go so that I wouldn’t fall asleep again. Then, when the heat from the cigarette’s little glowing tip reached my fingers, I’d get up in panic, then fall asleep again and enter a world in which delirium blended with the memories of that night. I became convinced that if I went on that way, I’d end up dying in a fire caused by my cigarette, so I decided to stop writing temporarily, but the decision did not release me from the maze of fires that Murad described as he choked on his words.)

Murad spoke of those days: “Look, it’s true that collecting the bodies and burying the remains were the hardest parts of the work, but during those days there were two teams of young men working on looting the city and clearing the roads. You were a baby and don’t remember anything, so you can’t help me remember the names, and you know that old age has its claims, which begin with memory, and memory forgets, and the first thing it forgets is names. First, the name disappears, then little by little the features evaporate, and finally the person vanishes into his name.”

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from Guernica Magazine

Guernica Magazine9 min read
The Ways We Take Ourselves Apart
While I am texting the man who is not my husband, bacteria is growing inside the bodies of my daughter and her best friend.
Guernica Magazine6 min readFood & Wine
Everything Hiding the Secret of Its Taste
Great chefs are mysterious. They work miracles behind a swinging kitchen door, saying little, piquing our curiosity. And why not? They have the skill to transform what we eat, play with our tastes, change what we think food can be. In the right hands
Guernica Magazine17 min read
Namwali Serpell: “I Almost Always Find My Errors Productive.”
Using archival photos, excerpts from language courses, and eBay finds, the author and critic explains how she mines mistakes for discoveries.