A whole other kind of Inferno, by Nada Afa from Morocco

Burning, sinning, and purging the best we can.

The sun was too bright, the air was heavy, and it only took couple minutes for my toe to get dirtied by the dusty soil. Still I was alive.

I don’t like going to the bath, but when my aunt begged me to do so; I didn’t have the heart to say no. I was a bit drowsy due to the previous night’s lack of sleep and somehow dizzy since I didn’t have time to take my breakfast. Still, I was alive.

As soon as I entered the bath, I instantly remembered why I hated it in the first place. I quickly undressed, grabbed my toiletries, and walked into the first room. Two women were sitting in the corner. As I moved to the second room, I only found an old lady sitting by the entry. The third room, much warmer than the previous two to the delight of my body, was completely empty. Hazy memories of Ahmed Sefrioui’s chapter about the public bath, which figured in his autobiography “La Boîte à Merveilles”, seemed to take shape before my eyes.

The naked bodies slamming against each other, the smell of cleanliness that reeks of dirt somehow, and the heat that becomes suffocating with time, didn’t do any good to my initial feeling of dizziness. Another mental picture right out of Alighieri’s Divine comedy seemed to have come into life in that public bath.

The people scrubbing, cleansing, rinsing, soaping, sponging, and moistening every single inch of their body seemed quite poetic to me. It seemed as if we were part of one of those old Greek tragedies, which were said to have a cathartic purpose. There we were, each of us performing a part, creating an aura, a picture, and a display quite beautifully indescribable. But according to Dante, once done with inferno, one must move “purgatorio”, the place where the purging takes place. Alas, once out of the bath, no purging is done. We all get back to our ordinary ways. We gossip, we scream, we yell, we accuse him and her, talk ignorantly about this and that, and continue to sin while time goes by.

I wonder if that is just human nature. But I refuse to accept that we are all doomed to sin. Nevertheless in a world darkened by negativity, which is quite a comfortable place to be(the negativity makes it comfortable?- not quite sure what you mean here), I choose to shiver with an  uncomforting(uncomfortable?) freezing heart of optimism.

I went out of the bath, walked two steps, and noticed that my toe was dirtied again. Still, I am alive and others aren’t. But step by step, inhale after exhale; I’ll do my best so others will live as well. I don’t need magic; I just need more optimism, and more partisans who believe in the goodness of the world just like me. Still, are you also ready to help me do so?(“too” here implies too much)

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