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Thursday , April 22 2021

‘Uday’ … and the café of Abu Hawatif

It was around six in the morning when I arrived at the “Abu Hawatif café. I parked my red beige bike, which I called “Rolls Royce”, after my car in Kuwait, near the café bathroom, and I drove inside to avoid the cold air that was blowing over the city from the north, which reminded me of our camps in Al-Subbiya desert, not far from the café.

I lit a large amount of charcoal for the hookah and I went outside to clean the bathroom. Despite the harsh work, I was happy with my situation, and much happier than other Kuwaitis, some of whom did not find work, despite the passage of more than five years since the “annexation of the branch to the origin”, after Kuwait became the nineteenth governorate of Iraq, which for centuries had been a neighbor to a brotherly country and then became ‘Saddam’s Iraq’, whose name shook America and we can remember what America did to the parts of his impure body.

I put pitchers of water on the geyser in preparation for making tea and coffee for the visitors. The Abu Hawatif café was distinguished by the many sizes of tea cups and the Mosul loaf with Qimar and many went to him for this purpose, including senior officers, especially from the intelligence service building which was adjacent to the café, which they frequented in the morning, tired of the night shift.

The other customers of the café were from the high class people of the region or the top brass, who often came to meet the intelligence officers either to find out the fate of their sons or daughters imprisoned in the cells of the intelligence building, or to bribe one of the young officers, so that one of them would accept to deliver a letter, a pack of cigarettes, or food to a beloved or a husband or daughter or son-in-law.

I was relatively happy in my work, and the income was good, especially from the good tips I received from the café-goers, who used to have compassion on my situation, and, like, the saying: “Do not kick a person when he is down”  or to encourage or bribe me to answer their questions about the officers whose cooperation can be trusted or who are most influential than others.

Abu Hawatif (owner of the café) arrived late, but a welcoming smile appeared on his face when he saw the café full, and everything in its place, and the service was distinguished and everyone was satisfied and busy eating, taking a drag of water pipe, making the sound of sipping tea, or exchanging conversations.

I was in the kitchen preparing sandwiches from the loaf and Qimar when I heard the voice of Abu Hawatif calling: “Sarraf”, bring a sandwich and a large cup of tea bowl for your uncle Uday. I froze where I was standing when I heard the name, and I did not feel the small dish I was washing from between my fingers, it fell into the stone basin, split in half.

I left my place and quietly approached the kitchen door that separated it from the rest of the café, which consisted of ropes filled with pieces of round beads that obscured something from inside, and I removed some of them with the tips of my fingers and saw the terrifying face of Uday that I could not forget, and his gun was resting on the wall next to him.

I went back to my place and threw the broken dish in the garbage bin and put three large cups of tea on a tray. I filled the first with tea without sugar, the second with tea and sugar, and the third with tea and sugar with milk and two sandwiches on a plate, I put my spit in the three cups of tea and carried the tray to present it to Uncle Uday, with a feeling of overwhelming happiness because my revenge was close to a bitter enemy.

As soon as I turned around, I was surprised by Abu Hawatif watching what I was doing, so I subconsciously dropped everything that I was carrying and I knew that my end had approached, and I saw the threatening looks of terror in the eyes of Abu Hawatif staring at me, and my whole body began to tremble, and almost fell on the ground after I felt my feet betraying me, and I did not calm down a bit until after hearing his whispers saying that he would have handed me over to Uday to make my body like a sieve with his machine gun fire, had he not worked as a driver for my father in Kuwait.

I stood up trembling with horror, unable to say a single word or do anything, and fell down on my knees, holding his hand, as is the custom in Iraq, trying to kiss it asking for his forgiveness but he pulled his hand, and understood what I mumbled about the crime of that human animal and his family and what they caused in my country, homelessness, loss and killing of innocent Kuwaitis after their torture, and the loss of my country, my family and my dignity.

This would have been the fate of hundreds of thousands of Kuwaiti citizens of my country if the forces of the free world, led by “Bush and Thatcher” had not come to liberate my dear country from the fiercest, worst and stupid occupation the world had ever known in the modern era. Then came those who persistently, without convincing reason, refused to perpetuate the memory of the invasion, occupation and liberation or someone who insults the West, that is credited for returning my homeland and restoring my freedom … and my dignity.

email: a.alsarraf@alqabas.com.kw

By Ahmad alsarraf

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