The Angel of Mercy
Hamdy El Gazar combines the reality of Egypt with fictional elements in a doctor’s letter to her mother.
My Dear Beloved Mother,
I cannot bear any more than this.
My days and nights are long and heavy at The Square. I have given up on trying to keep track of them. Each day passes as though it were a year and tonight feels like many years. I see death approaching us with every minute I spend in the Tahrir Square emergency clinic. Every minute I see blood and deep wounds from knives and gunfire. In my arms young men and women utter their last words. I can hear them: “I believe that there is no God but God.”
- “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
- Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.
Can you imagine that, Mother?
Why me, specifically? Dear God, why do you place these people in my care?
You know that my heart is strong Mother; you used to wonder at my courage and fearlessness of blood.
Now my colleagues at the operating room dub me “Dead Heart.” I have seen death before, in the operating room, but never have I seen what I now encounter in The Square. Here is the true fight. A war. Demonstrators sequestered with nothing by way of self-defense, facing fire and bullets, and deception from every angle.
I know that my distance hurts you, Mother, and that you are worried sick about me. But what can I do except what it is that I do? I came to Tahrir Square on January 28 with a protest march of physicians from the local hospital. When I saw how the regime was preying upon demonstrators, I took a vow that I would not leave The Square—a vow to help people with what I know. We quickly established The Square Clinic and it is there that I work today.
You do not know the doctors and nurses here. They are the most beautiful people I’ve seen. They surpass love and respect, and they call me Dead Heart.
Perhaps they do not know that I am above 35 years of age and that I am unmarried. “Dead Heart” is better than “Hopeless Spinster” I guess.
But Dead Heart is telling you mother, that she is approaching the tenth death in her lap and can no longer bear all of this blood. After the death of Dr. Ahmed, I have come undone. I worked the whole time with my fingers and hands and feet. I have slept only three hours. I helped everyone and now I am injured and sick, so let humanity cure me.
Cure me, my beloved Mother.
I know that someday everyone will die. I know that I will also die. But who gave one person the right to kill another? Who designated some with the role of ending lives?
I am sick mother, so forgive me. A few minutes ago Dr. Ahmed died in my arms. He was a young, shy physician. The most beautiful of youth. He died with his head split open by a bullet. His face was beautiful. He had dimples. He was lonely, like I am, without family. He was not wearing a wedding band and he did not have any friends or kin in The Square. It appears that he came here alone and left alone, Mother.
I am sad. I am despondent. But I will stay here until God orders otherwise.
The night of February 3, 2011
Author’s Note: The march of doctors and nurses is still standing and their mission is ongoing. The demands they had at the birth of the revolution are the same demands they still call for today.