I turned off my cellphone and left it in a corner. Then, I turned off the light and went to bed early to wake up earlier in the morning. My laptop was playing a calm music. I lay in my bed and closed my eyes. As soon as I close my eyes, my mind gets flooded with dream in the twinkling of an eye. I don’t get the people who complain about sleeplessness. For me, two large piles of sleep always rest under my eyelids, always ready to slide. As I close my eyes, they flood my eyes, like two silent roaring rivers. Then I start to dream, very ordinary dreams like ordinary people: dreaming about my childhood, a loved one I lost, forgetting stuff, snakes, getting lost, being chased by a monster, losing my teeth or my hair and being naked in front of people. Most of us dream about these kinds of things.
That night, like every other night, as I lay in bed, my eyes were flooded with sleep, and I drowned in dreams. I dreamed about my childhood. An ordinary dream, like everyone else in this city. In my dream, I was playing outside. My brother called me from the window and asked me to get back to have my dinner, but I wanted to play more. My brother kept calling. I was hesitant. Should I go, or should I keep playing? Still in the limbo, someone knocked at the door and I woke up.
“Damn it! I was asleep. Who could it be at this time? Perhaps it’s our neighbor again. She must have forgotten her keys again,” I said. As I was muttering to myself, someone was perpetually knocking. Thank god, Tara Jaff was playing tenbur in the hall. Her music was slightly diluting the unbearable knocking sound. If it wasn’t for her music, that continuous knocking could have driven everyone crazy. I looked through the peephole. No one was there. I opened the door; couldn’t find anyone. Whoever it was knocking, has probably gone because I got to the door late. It was cold. The cold was about to strangle me. After taking another look, I saw a few storks standing on the snow across the street. I looked again carefully; no one was there except them. I couldn’t resist the cold and went back inside. I shut the door while thinking of those white storks wandering on the white snow. I’ve never seen storks on the snow before. I came back, opened the door, stared at them for a while and closed the door again.
After I closed the door, the cold and the howling wind were gone. Now, there was only Tara Jaff’s music filling the passages of my ears. Tara was plucking at the strings back and forth hoping to return the winter to the other side of the globe. But, winter was just getting underway. The snow wasn’t hearing any of those notes. Walking back to my bed, once again I thought of the storks and the fact that I’ve never seen storks in the winter. Maybe I have, but I haven’t noticed them. As they’re white just like the snow. No! Storks used to leave Kurdistan in winter. They used to migrate to warmer regions. People used to say that these birds go to Macca, hence, they used to call them haji, haji laq-laq.Or maybe they don’t go to Haj, and they’re called haji just because they’re born in the month of Haj like Haji Qadir Koyi.
Hold on a second! Forget about all of these for a moment. I think there is no stork in Toronto at all. How’s that possible that I just saw a bunch? I checked Wikipedia to get the answer. It said white storks don’t live in Toronto. For a moment, I thought I might be seeing things. “Perhaps I need some rest,” I thought. Even Wikipedia said that there is no white stork in Toronto. But, we all know that Wikipedia is an open encyclopedia. Who knows? Maybe a black-necked stork wrote that on Wikipedia. I heard from an old woman that black-necked storks don’t like white storks. But, I didn’t personally believe her. After all, they’re all storks. I searched online more. It was written that white storks don’t live in this city. I wasn’t sure if I could trust the internet. I sighed deeply and told myself “Alas, that Wisdom is so large —And Truth — so manifold!” That’s why I gave up looking for truth as I grew older and spent (wasted) my time on other things. But, now, after so many years, suddenly, this question was taking over my mind. The question of “is there or is there not a stork in this city?”
An idea came to my mind: I would call CoxNews and ask them if there are any white storks in this city. Later, I’ll call the FNN and ask them the same question. The truth should be somewhere in between what they say! The sound of Tara’s tenbur was still resonating in my ears. I could hear her from my room. I was calling CoxNews that someone knocked at the door again. “Tara! Dear! Could you please open the door?” I called.
Her answer was “no” as usual. “No! dear, I can’t. Sorry! You know that I’m playing tenbur. I can’t stop, otherwise the cold will kill us all. Why don’t you open the door yourself?” We started to that someone responded to my call.
Hi! CoxNews. The opposite of fake news! Do you have a story for us?
Hi! No, a question.
Yes, please ask your question.
I was wondering if there are any white storks in this city?
Where are you from?
That was a tough question! I was looking for the answer to a question, and now I’ve gotten another question. Where am I from? I got nervous and didn’t know what to say. I even forgot where I’m living. I remember it was a large city. I always can feel the spirit of a large city around myself. But, I forgot the name momentarily. I was embarrassed to say I don’t remember where I live. “Sorry! I can’t hear you,” I said instead. I turned my cellphone on. The screen was saying: “Toronto, –10 0C” The person on the line repeated:
Where are you from?
Now I hear you. I live at Toronto.
What was the question again?
I was wondering if there are any white storks in Toronto.
Well, I don’t know much about the ecology of Canada. But, Canada has been an indigenously white and Christian country. So, it makes a lot of sense that white storks have been there for a long time. Yes, they exist in Toronto. And they must be white and Christian.
Could it be because of climate change? Is it possible that they migrate here because of climate change?
No, climate change is a lie. It doesn’t exist.
I said goodbye and hanged up. Someone was still knocking. I thought I’d give a call to the FNN quickly and then open the door. I called. Someone picked up. I wanted to ask the same question. But, I forgot the English word stork for a moment and asked: “Is there any haji laq-laq in Toronto?”
Hmmm! Haji Asdaq?! That sounds like a Muslim name. Our previous president had a Muslim name and was born in the US. Some people tried to prove the opposite. But those claims turned out to be groundless. Therefore, this Haji Asdaq thing must be indigenous to Canada and US too.
I said thank you and assured him that his answer must be correct because CoxNews told me the same in a different language. The person over the line shouted as soon as he heard CoxNews: “What? What did they say?”
They said haji laq-laqs are indigenous to Canada.
No, no. That’s not true. That thing doesn’t exist in North America.
That creature you just mentioned.
But, you said they do. You just mentioned an example about your previous president.
No, That’s not true sir. Have a good night.
He hanged up, and I couldn’t say goodbye.
The FNN, like Wikipedia, also said there’s no stork in Canada. I don’t know. Maybe they just said that to make the black-necked storks happy. Someone was still knocking at my door. I asked Tara if she opened the door yet. “No! I told you I’m playing tenbur,” she replied. “You know if I don’t play the cold will kill us all,” she continued. She’s right. She had told me that. So many times! She says if she stops playing tenbur the winter will never end, and the spring will never come. So, the cold will kill all trees, squirrels and geese. Tara is a fantastic musician. She’s also a great roommate. Since we have become roommates, she has been busy with her music. She lives in her own world and doesn’t bother anyone. Not everyone could be such a great roommate. Before her, Emily Dickinson was my roommate. Emily was a fantastic poet, not a great roommate though. Once she folded a flood and left it in our kitchen cabinet. Having no clue, I opened it, and the water washed me away to the next block! Another time a drop of fire fell from her pen on the floor and burned our furniture. She used to say that it’s not her fault. She used to say that before moving in she had told me that she’s a poet. She was right. She had told me about it, but what she didn’t tell me was that her words were made of flood and fire! Moreover, she was always carrying a loaded gun! She used to keep it in her room. She used to say: “My life is a loaded gun.” I used to tell her that we aren’t living in the US, and she could get arrested for carrying a gun. I used to beg her to unload it. But, she was always answering “everyone lives their life as they wish, and this is my life.” But, Tara wasn’t that terrifying, she was often busy with her charming music. Did I forget to say that, before Emily, Will Durant was my roommate? He had aged terribly. Once he sent me somewhere to pick up several copies of his book. I accepted and went. There, I faced a few cartons full of books! I figured he was talking about his eleven-volume Story of Civilization! He left my place long time ago. I haven’t heard of him for a while. After him, Emily and after her Tara moved in. I don’t know which year. I look it up in Wikipedia. It’s written that Emily Dickinson passed away in 1886. So, Tara probably must have moved in at that time. I don’t remember why she came to this city, probably because of Brexit. And myself, I’ve been here since Anno Domini. Anyway, I was saying that my current roommate is amazing and always minds her own business. The only thing about her is that she’s always busy playing music and doesn’t help with cleaning or other chores at home. Even if I ask her to get the door, she’d refuse. “My job is to play music,” she says. Oh! Speaking of getting the door, I remembered someone is still knocking. Whoever that was, he/she must be frozen by now. Poor thing! “God of Canada help him,” I murmured to myself and went to open the door.
I opened the door and found a stork standing at the door. I stared at him. He looked old, distressed and pale. He was exhausted and overwhelmed by the cold. “I apologize if I knocked too loud or too much. I wanted to know if you…” he inquired with an exotic accent. His way of speaking caught my attention. I thought perhaps this is stork-ish accent. Then I thought CoxNews was right. Storks do exist in Toronto. I interrupted him. “Are you a stork?” I asked.
So, what do you do here? There was no stork in here as far as I remember. And I have references for what I just said.
That’s true. And we aren’t from here. We’re pilgrims.
So, where are you from?
That’s a big question.
So, where were you before? Where are you heading?
He stared at me for a second, sighed and said:
We were in Syria before.
So why did you end up being here?
Because of the war in Syria.
The Syrian war is still going on?
For how long Syria has been in war?
No one remembers anymore.
So, where are you from? How did you get here?
He started, “for ages, we have been going to Syria in winter, sometimes to Anatolia and Europe. It’s warmer in there in comparison to Zrebar. We used to return in spring. A few years ago, as usual, we were in Syria that the flames of war grew. Jets took over the sky, and we couldn’t go back. We flew to Europe with the wave of refugees. After two years, we got on a ship to go to the US. People said Florida has swarms that are suitable for storks. And I left everything behind and came here, to North America because of my kids.”I felt I have sympathy for him, especially after knowing that he’s from the storks of Zrebar. I remembered that this poor thing has been knocking for a while, and I blamed myself for a moment for not getting the door earlier. Then I said very respectfully in Kurdish:
Haji! Why do you want to go to Florida? They might take your kids! Plus, Florida is far from here. Please don’t get me wrong. But, storks can’t survive in this harsh weather. It’s so cold in here.
After hearing the word Haji, he started to laugh like a hyena. I was surprised that his frostbitten sad face still remembers laughing. He said in Kurdish:
What the heck is Haji? Are you Kurdish?
What is so funny about that?
Sorry! I laughed too much. I wasn’t laughing at you.
He couldn’t stop his laughter, and I felt awkward. I’ve never seen a stork laughing at me before. He kept laughing so intense that I was going to shut the door and get in. He held the door and said:
Sorry! I wasn’t laughing at you. Muslims unilaterally call us Haji! To be honest, we don’t go to Haj. Haji laq-laq can’t survive the heat of Arabian Peninsula. I’m not Muslim! I’m a Yazidi. I don’t know, but, for some reason, both MiddleEasterns and Europeans like us. Muslim believe we go to haj, and others believe that we bring babies to new parents. Once a Turkish crow told me “you fuck people’s wives and they still like you and call you Haji!” I remembered that, and that’s why I was laughing.
He kept talking… I was distracted by his long beak. I was wondering how those words come out of that rigid mouth. As far as I could remember, storks couldn’t talk. But, here Kurdish words were flowing out of that long beak. Ever since I was a child, I had this dream of touching a stork’s beak and learn how It’s different from the shoots and canes of a grapevine. In my childhood, I was a philosopher (like every other kid). But, since philosophy doesn’t pay the bills, I (like Al-Ghazali) broke my spindle and forgot about it. I nodded to show that I’m still paying attention to what He’s saying. Then I asked:
So, how did come here?
I just explained sir! We were about to enter Florida that the police stopped us and asked for our passports. I told them we have no passport. We’re storks. My ancestors have been traveling for thousands of years, and no one has ever bothered them, and they haven’t troubled anyone either. When the police asked about our origin, I explained that we flew from Zrebar to Syria and Europe and from there to the US. They said because we’re coming from Syria we can’t enter. They said they have a new king that has forbidden the people of certain countries entering their land. I tried to explain that we aren’t Syrian, and we lay eggs near Zrebar. But, they said we can’t enter until we show our passports.
That sucks. So, now what?
I was wondering if I can borrow a passport from you?
From the moment that he said the ‘new king of the US’ I was holding back my laugh. But, when he asked if he can borrow a passport, I no longer could hold it. I laughed for a few seconds and said:
No! Haji. You can’t borrow my passport. And you can’t get your hands on any passport so easily. You must be the citizen of a country to get its passport.
What does citizen mean? What is a passport anyway?
XaloHaji! Man has divided the world into different countries. Each state has its own passport.
What about the storks? We don’t have passports. What should we do then?
You mean storks have no country of their own?
How’s that possible? Every nation has their own state.
I wanted to look it up online. But, I wasn’t sure what to look for: the republic of storks? Or Laq-laqistan? Or people’s republic of storks or united states of storks? For a moment, I thought maybe he’s teasing me or I’m dreaming. Again, I wanted to touch his long neck and peak to make sure everything is real. But, I stopped myself and asked:
So, why did you come to my house? How can I help?
We heard a Tenbur. The kids said it sounds like Tara Jaff’s. Once we went to her concert in Sur. I thought she might be able to help us with this passport thing.
I called Tara:
Tara! A bunch of storks are at the door. I can’t really understand what they want. But, they say they know you.
Tara was still playing tenbur. Her voice was mixing with the notes of tenbur and syllable after syllable and measure after measure was pouring into my ears.
They must be right. Storks are lovely creatures. They never lie. Please let them in. You know I can’t join you. I’m playing.
I looked at the stork and said:
Please come in Haji. Your kids are probably cold.
No! Thanks. We don’t want to bother you anymore. If possible, give us our passports, and we’ll leave. The less we stay in this city the better. My kids can’t put up with the cold.
Apparently, I wasn’t very successful in explaining the concept of state-nation to the stork! I insisted that they come in. But, they didn’t accept to come in. I came back inside to talk to Tara about the situation. While I was shaking my head in disappointment and walking back calmly, suddenly, I heard a shooting. The shooting startled me awake. I felt cold in my entire body. Suddenly, I felt an even more intense cold, from my heart to my belly. I looked around and checked every corner. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was sleeping all this time and suddenly jerked awake. “Where did that shooting sound come from?” I asked myself. In my dream, we didn’t have a gun. Perhaps, it was the loaded gun of a poetess’ life. Or maybe Emily left the loaded gun of her life here, and somehow it was fired. Whatever it was, It’s over now. I think it was just a dream. Thinking about the past is stupid. Thinking about a past nightmare is the stupidest. Therefore, I tried to avoid this stupidity by not thinking of my dream. But, dear reader! you may agree that sometimes human wants to be stupid. That’s why I kept searching every corner and passage of my mind for a clue. I remembered that Tara was my roommate and was playing tenbur in my dream. That’s why I could be certain that it was just a dream. Tara was playing harp in front of me on YouTube. Apparently, I forgot to turn off my laptop, and it was still playing music. I checked her Facebook page. She had a concert in Europe yesterday. So, she couldn’t possibly be here! I checked Wikipedia too. It was written that Tara plays harp not tenbur. Just to make sure, I googled the following question:
“When did Emily Dickinson die?”
The answer popped up: May 15, 1886. It’s a long time ago. Now I was certain it was just a dream and none of those people were my roommate. I know that you might have had similar dreams that even after waking up you can’t tell if you’re awake. I stretched my hand to drink some water from the bottle on the table. I couldn’t reach the bottle. Therefore, I raised my head and upper body to be able to get it. However, I saw something strange. My entire bed was full of white and red things. Oh my god! What was that? I wiped my eyes, stood up and looked carefully. They were stork feathers and a bunch of stork legs. They were bloody. The blood on them was still fresh and warm. I was astonished, and a bit frightened. It was actually a bit more than a bit. Yes, I was scared. When we don’t understand something, we get scared. When I looked more accurately I completely made sure that they were feathers and legs of storks with blood on them. I touched the legs very cautiously. They were rough and real. The blood was still warm. It wasn’t a dream!
“What are these?” I muttered. Is it possible what I remember from last night wasn’t actually a dream? What if I killed the storks? Oh my god! What if I ate them? Oh god! I might get sick. Am I losing my senses? Maybe the shooting that woke me up was a real shooting. Maybe I’m a sleepwalker, and I shot those poor storks last night by the loaded gun of Emily Dickinson’s life. If the police know that I shot a bunch of storks with an unlicensed gun and ate them, I might end up in jail. I’ll die in prison before I could explain that it wasn’t my gun, and it was just Emily’s life. I’m pretty sure that prison guards don’t read Emily Dickinson and won’t understand or believe my stories. Then, once again I thought that Canada has no storks. I won’t go on trial for something that doesn’t exist. That thought gave me some courage. I searched Wikipedia again. It was explicitly and clearly written that white storks have no habitat in Canada. That wasn’t enough for me though. I ran to the kitchen and checked my utensils to see if there is any meat or blood on them. I couldn’t find any evidence. My stomach churned, and I felt that I’m starving. That churning, rumbling and feeling of hunger was a proof that I haven’t had anything since last night. So, where did all those feathers come from? What do they do in my bed? Maybe my roommates did that on purpose to scare me for Halloween. But, it’s not Halloween time. I’ve gone nuts. I have no roommate at all. I’ve been living alone for ages. I thought a bit more and decided that, whatever these things are, I would put them in a plastic bag and throw them away in garbage before people wake up. I did so. I put all feathers and legs and blood in a large bag and took them outside. There, I saw someone searching our garbage bins. I panicked for a second. I didn’t know him. I imagined perhaps he was a homeless person looking for something in our trash. He raised his head, saw me and got surprised. He looked at me and checked the bag in my hand. Then he looked at my face that was looted by fear and nothing was left from it except for a hole for talking. Then he moved his look down to those blood stains on my white nightshirt. While staring at the blood he asked:
Did you dream last night?
Pardon me! What did you say?
What did you dream about brother? What do you have in that big bag? Only a dream could fill that.
Yes, I dreamed. Everyone dreams. So, what? Why are you asking this?
I stayed quiet, pondering whether this guy is aware of what happened last night. How does he know about my dream? And why is he asking about it? I wanted to go back inside that he called me:
Hey! Don’t mind me. Please don’t be shy or afraid. Just throw the leftovers of your dream in the garbage. I’m curious what you’ve dreamed about. What are those feathers? Did you dream about geese? Or ducks?
“No! Storks. There were storks in my dream,”I answered, with a mixed feeling of shame and fear.
There is no stork in here. Are you an immigrant?
I didn’t respond. I just asked how he knows about my dream. He said:
In this city, people dream about different things. But, most of them slaughter their dreams at night in their beds. Waking up in the morning, they find the waste of their dreams in their beds… That Asian lady, for example, she must be your neighbor, dreams of giraffes very often. Every morning she throws away a bunch of bags full of broken and chopped giraffe necks. Everyone knows that humans are the executioners of their dreams…
How’s that possible?
That’s how It’s. Haven’t you read Freud and Jung?
Freud, yes. But, not Jung. Once Tara talked about him.
No! She’s my roommate. She plays tenbur. Uuuhu…mm. Sorry! Actually, she plays harp. Last night in my dream, she was my roommate and was playing tenbur.
No! She doesn’t play harp. She plays daf. I know her.
I felt dizzy and hungry. My stomach kept churning and rumbling, but I continued:
Okay! Okay! Go back to Freud and Jung.
Well, they both talk about how humans slaughter their dreams at night and find their leftovers in their beds and throw them in garbage in the morning.
I was going to say something that my neighbor just brought three big plastic bags and dumped them in the garbage casually. She didn’t notice us first. Then she did. She smiled and said good morning to us very casually. When she left, I checked the bags. They were full of giraffe necks, broken and skillfully finely chopped! I was astonished. It was unbelievable. I asked the homeless guy:
So! Everyone finds these kinds of strange things in their bed and get rid of them in the morning?
But, not everyone’s dream-garbage is so scary. For example, there is this guy who lives two blocks from here. He dreams about cellphones! His bed is full of broken phones in the morning. Once I found a sound phone in his garbage.
He smiled and showed his cellphone to me. I complained:
So, how come I’ve never knew about any of these. You’re lying. This isn’t written in any books.
Well, there are many things we’re blissfully ignorant of, and many books we have no chance to read them.
If what you say is true, why people never talk about it?
People don’t talk about their dreams. Some of them are shy. Some don’t find it pleasant. It’s a sin, according to some people. Others argue that what is the point of talking about dreams if you can’t reach them. They just destroy them and hide them. I don’t know man! Why don’t you ask themselves?
What do you find in your own bed? What do you dream about? What have you been dreaming of?
He frowned as he heard my question and responded with a less passionate voice:
Me? Nothing. I don’t have dreams. I survive on other people’s dreams. You can see how I’m going door to door in the early morning and check people’s garbage.
I don’t know man! I’ve never seen or heard such weird things. I used to dream about normal stuff. Before today, I had never found giraffe’s neck, elephant’s ear, stork’s feather and phones in my bed.
I don’t know. You can read Freud and Jung. This is science, you know. I think it’s Freud that explains that sometimes you dream about your wishes. Maybe you have been fulfilling your dreams before today, and you just started butchering them last night. Congratulations! Welcome to paradise! I’ve heard that Freud himself once found a whole human brain in his bed. Allegedly, another time he found his mom’s bracelet years after her death. I don’t know! After all, I’m a dreamless homeless person. I’ve heard most of these from people and have read some of it in Wikipedia. I won’t be surprised if you don’t believe me and call me crazy.
I was listening to this dreamless homeless guy that I noticed a string of tenbur inside my garbage bag. I didn’t dare to look anymore. Therefore, I stared at him instead of looking at my bag. He continued talking:
Humans are strange! They dream a lot. Sometimes they jump from a dream to another. Some people live their entire life inside a dream and never wake up unless someone would tell them about it, like that prince in one of Calderon’s plays.
La vida es sueño.
Life is a dream, in English.
What? Life is a dream in English?
No! The name of that play in English is Life Is a Dream.
Oh! Now I remember what He’s talking about. I thought this homeless guy knows quite a lot of stuff. While thinking about this matter, I also thought that I’m really hungry again. I stretched my hand towards the sky and picked a star and crunched on it as one does on a crumb. There was but two-three stars left in the sky. While I was crunching noisily on my star, the guy continued:
Who knows! Perhaps even this conversation is a part of a dream, your dream or someone else’s. What does that star taste like?
The star was quite hard and crunchy, but it was melting in my mouth and had an extraordinary sweet taste. It was washing away the unpleasant taste of my mouth. I responded:
It’s sweet, like a cookie.
The guy scratched his head and said:
Yes, this is a dream. We’re inside a dream. The stars aren’t sweet in real life. They sometimes have a sharp taste like a sour pomegranate. Some of them are bitter like the truth, and some are tasteless but deadly like hemlock. They’re not sweet at all. We’re inside someone’s dream, a naïve person who likes sweetness too much. The moment you said Tara plays harp, I suspected that something doesn’t seem real.
Then he showed me a video of Tara playing daf on his cellphone.
I remember the time was past seven thirty. We have been talking for more than half an hour. I told myself I better go to work. Therefore, I told the guy that I would have talked to him until noon, if I met him twenty years ago. But, now I’m a grown up, and I’m not really eager to know about the truth anymore. I explained to him that I can’t afford the luxury of philosophy, and I must take a train and get to work. I closed my eyes and threw the leftovers of my dreams in the garbage. I said goodbye and went to work with my bloody nightshirt.
I would like to thank Aras Azimi for proofreading the translation.