Friday, July 26, 2013

Leaders & followers: Memories of a 6 year old

In order for him to relate to the tortured girl Carrie White in his book Carrie, *Stephen King tells how he had to explore an area in his past so “distasteful” as he calls it, his exact words were “digging back to my memories of high school...remembering what I knew about the two loneliest, most reviled girls in my class—how they looked, how they acted, how they were treated (p.78)
Yes the stories of those girls were sad and both have died tragically in a young age before he even wrote the book, but this simple exercise –if I might call it one- was of tremendous help to him, he finally came to understand and sympathize with his troubled main character. We writers do this a lot, derive from our own memories and real life to enrich, relate and create believable characters and situations.
Now I developed my goldfish memory in my mid twenties, my health has been poor for years so eventually my brain had to pay. But some memories proved immune to deletion, like whenever the subject of leaders and followers comes to my radar I find my brain picking on an old memory of four girls I knew in first grade, two leaders and their two followers.
My first year in school was spent in a privet school apparently owned by Egyptians. And back then I easily made friends with everyone I met, all what little girls wanted at that age was to play and eat and play again! What’s so hard about that? Easy-peasy.
The first leader was an Egyptian girl named Lamis. Lamis was short, a little plump and she had the hair cut. O Yea, a nice, clean very short haircut that makes one's head look like a ball, popular at the time, she was bright and smart but most importantly, she had the “I don’t care what you think of me” air about her. She was nice, I loved her voice, and OMG! Now when I think about it she had the most adorable, overly cute little brother who at the beginning of the term used to come running from the kindergarten class and dashing to our class crying and refuses to stop unless he sits near his sister, Aw! he was such a sweetheart, and the teacher would be like “O you annoying little...” and then of course blame’s poor Lamis the inconvenience
Lamis had a follower, in our class too, a girl who I believe is her relative. But I tell you she was follower material, and to prove it I don’t even remember her name. Tall, her hair wasn’t all that nice and always gathered in a bun (in a very old-women style) even her voice and the way she speaks and even moves resembled an old women (she actually looked like a younger version of an old Egyptian actress who passed away but let’s not go there), she wasn’t considered beautiful by us other girls, and she was like Lamis’s shadow, you would just see them standing, walking, eating and doing everything together, she also was a nice girl, sometimes even interesting and I vaguely remember us playing together but all her world seemed to revolve around Lamis, and it made it frustrating to be her friend. I mean you will just end up listening to her calling “Ya Lamis” “Ya Lamis” “Ya Lamis” all day long.

Case two is about a girl named Hiba. Now I don’t remember what was her nationality, Syrian, Palestinian perhaps? but I remember one day another class was combined with us –I think their teacher was absent, that was the norm anyway- and Hiba surfaced like a pretty mermaid to our world, she was beautiful, her hair was black and long, her smile was a killer, and again she had that “I don’t care what you think of me” attitude about her.

Maybe she will be looking like Syrian actress Jumana Murad by now, just saying :)

Hiba became popular in a second, and everyone was pleased to talk to her, and I remember calling her my friend that very first day.
And when the day was over, I was sitting in a circle with my friends waiting for our buss when I saw her on a far circle, and I said to a good friend of mine; Wigdan, she was Saudi, “O Wigdan look” pointing to Hiba “this is my friend Hiba, she looks so much like you” and I tell you there were similarities, but I remember Wigdan turning her attention to where I pointed then looking back at me all confused shaking her head –she didn’t see her and I didn’t bring it up again. But remembering Wigdan’s little cute baffled face is so funny, she was talkative, and likes to put coloured things on her hair and she was in the phase of broken teeth and all in all she was very cute and lovely to be around.
Haneen, your straying away again
Oh sorry
Where were we?
Hiba too had a follower, this one I did not know, but I didn’t like her, and again I have no idea what her name was. She was Hiba’s shadow too, and Ugh! She couldn’t say one complete sentence without planting the word Hiba in it! and somehow she seemed proud and open about it, everything she did was screaming ‘O look I’m an Elian on a small planet and here we worship the Hiba star”
Hey! that was harsh
I know, sorry, got carried away, anyway
she would run around her, do everything for her, and I don’t know if they were related or anything but I guess so, and unlike Lamis I think Hiba gave the impression that she was a little embarrassed by her follower. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s what I collected back then.
She again wasn’t pretty. At least compared to Hiba, I remember she came late from the break that day and the teacher had changed the places of some girls in order to organize the crowded class better, she took Hiba from us –the row on the right near the door - and made her sit with the girls in the middle, anyway, miss follower came smiling and I think humming to herself and when she took one glance at the empty space and couldn’t find Hiba she was literary shocked, taken a back in a dramatic way, and tears came to her eyes as she gasped “Hiba!”
It was so sudden, and weird, and I remember thinking very low of her at that moment, and if I had any respect for her however little before the break, it was long gone by now. Yup, this was how I functioned (Funny considering that I was a crybaby most of my girlhood :P)
We all looked at Hiba who had a “I don’t know what to do” look on her face, the teacher started asking miss follower if she was supposed to be in our class, and she with her teary eyes nodded, “will don't just stand there?" the teacher ordered "Go get a chair and sit down” and whether she grabbed an empty chair, or went looking for one I really can’t recall, but eventually she sat down near the door, frightened and alone. And I wanted nothing to do with her.

A year, or two after that I remember seeing them again. I changed schools in my 2nd grade (too bad) and it was a local school. And in Jeddah primary school girls used to wear a blue uniform striped with white lines. I used to go with my neighbors’ driver, my little neighbor was with me in the same school and we were in the same age. I remember daily we drove by a lovely house in a lovely street that had old big trees protecting the street from the burning sun, I enjoyed looking at that house, it had two doors with a white ‘X’ shape on them.  That day the car stopped, for a reason, I think someone was a head of us, and as I was (as usual) admiring the beauty of the house, there they came from around the corner, Hiba and her follower, both were wearing my same uniform, (so they changed schools too!), and we saw each other, but said nothing, I was looking at Hiba from the car’s window, and she had a tired face, like all the weight in the world was on her shoulders, and her backpack looked so heavy, she only glanced at me then stared ahead of her again, and her follower was all around her, (STILL?) paying attention to her, and if my memory isn’t lying to me she actually asked her to wait and opened the door for her, Hiba went in then follower girl afterwards, then closing the door,  like in a drama movie or something.
I still didn’t like that girl.
(but imagine my shock finding out that someone I know lives in that particular house, the one house I liked so much, childhood, how confusing)
So that’s my memory of the subject, and whenever I want to write about children and leaders and followers I always go back to those four girls. It all sounds so amusing and sweet right now. I don’t know what have become of them, maybe the following girls turned the tables, shown their true colours and became leaders of their own and proofed to be more than a shadow of someone else, we were only six, big changes could have happened :)
However life treated my four heroes,  in this holy month of Ramadan I ask Allah to protect them and help them as much as they –unknowingly- helped me become a better writer. 
King, S. 2000. On Writing: a memoir of the craft. SCRIBNER: New York.


  1. Maybe you can search for Hiba on Facebook. Wow this post was so personal and thought provoking. I'm so glad I found your blog this week. King is a writing legend and yes writers do use experiences and observations to help bring out their stories.

    1. Sheena HaHa I couldn't even find some of my Intermediate school friends on facebook though I know their full name and a lot more. Thanks for your kind words, I finally did a post about a childhood memory, and I have plenty in store :)and as for David King, I will end this comment in his very own style;

      I'm Haneen and today my kid sister turns twenty, man I feel old!

  2. Wonderful post. Much can be taken from personal experience. In a way, a novel can be the window into the author's memories and their interpretation of the world as it interacts with them. :)

    1. Thanks David :) wow now I feel silly stealing your line and all but (again), anyway
      "In a way, a novel can be the window into the author's memories and their interpretation of the world as it interacts with them"
      well said I would have never explained it that good, thanks again.