The Quran, Al-Taubah 9:25
Al-Mina St. Tartous, Syria (circa 1958)
The Threshing Floor is visible in the background, off to the left (behind the single white building)
June 11th, 1967 (the day after)
Men with stooped shoulders walked the streets on their way to make a living. Women ventured out on balconies to dry their laundry on flaccid clotheslines. On the Threshing Floor, kids, out of school for the summer, regrouped and played football again.
Around midday, an army ZIL truck dissected the improvised football pitch and stopped at the center spot. The driver, a brawny sergeant with a walrus mustache, emerged from the cabin and was soon followed by a sad-looking officer with sunken eyes. A whole platoon disembarked from the back with shovels and picks and started digging.
I watched from behind the painted windowpanes deep into the night, as the silhouettes, illuminated by the truck's headlights, burrowed and disappeared into the ground. They were gone the next morning, leaving behind a long scar on the face of the Threshing Floor, dividing it in two, reducing the pitch to a quarter of its original size. The kids abandoned football and rode their bicycles, bridging the six-foot-wide trench with planks of discarded lumber.
August 2nd , 1969 (783 days after)
I locked the rear wheel and came to a sweeping stop. Eight or nine boys, squatting or leaning on their bikes, squinted in the glare and waited for me to reappear from behind a cloud of dust. Jumping the trench was the redemption sought after the Threshing Floor was defiled. Except for the buzz of flies and the loud weight of the heat, the space was silent. On the other side of the trench, the shimmering reflections of a million suns danced on the surface of the sea.
Beads of perspiration broke through my eyebrows and coursed around my nose, washing the gound at the corners of my eyes and burning my cracked lips. I wiped my face with the back of my hand before I kicked the pedal on a down-stroke. The bicycle swaggered left and right until it gathered enough momentum to shoot straight. It hit the makeshift setup mound at the exact right spot. As metal and flesh became airborne, I pulled back on the handlebars but the angle of attack was a tad shallow. The front wheel touched down on the other bank a couple of inches too short. The bicycle bucked underneath me like a horse shot dead and catapulted me clear. I landed hard, face first, on a protruding rock on the western side. Blood gushed from a nasty cut in the chin, as painful as the trench.
January 4th, 1978 (3,860 days after)
I took one last, fleeting look out of the taxi's rear window but couldn't see a thing. The Threshing Floor was encased by a high wall. Inside, the trench was filled and the entire ground resurfaced with concrete. Only my scar remained.