Ahmed Omar’s “River of Honey, Lake of Milk,” translated for the Short Story Project by Nasser al-Sayyid al-Nour, is about the hell of longing:

Omar is a Syrian-Kurdish writer who has published eight books, including Charles bin Dickins, In Auntie Merkel’s House, and Imru’ al-Qa’id al-Kurdi.

The story opens:

Hadiya would visit us with her mother. On sunny days, we did our homework together under the grapevine; in winter, we did it by the stove. Her books were often torn: she didn’t like books or school. I held back my anger and reasoned it didn’t mean there was anything wrong with her. She was such a beauty, white as milk, her eyes pools of honey. Her beautiful plaits were fit for a man to hang himself with, or be led to the gardens of eternity by. Beautiful girls have no need for school; they themselves are knowledge, culture, and poetry. They are the prize.

I reproached her for being careless with her books. Unlike me with my tiny pot of glue that dried out as soon as I opened it, her father had a bucket full of glue always exposed to the air. Ever since I discovered the miracle of white glue, I was drawn to her damaged books, repairing and binding them to heal their wounds. While I repaired her textbooks and notebooks, I reveled in the clean smell of the glue and the film it formed as it dried on my forefinger. I would peel it off happily, as day peeled off the skin of night.

Keep reading “River of Honey, Lake of Milk” at the Short Story Project.