CH A P T E R 3 Out of My Element T he days on the desert in the spring, beautiful with the rise of the green shoots of gras, and beloved by the rest of my family, because they told themselves they were returning to their nomadic roots, were an awful time for me. As was the custom, the tribes, which had formerly come from the desert, took the occasion to return in the early spring. The tem- perature was moderate, and the black tents were livable again for those who had resided in the city. But for me, the nights in the tent placed me too close to the rest of my family, and even to the herders employed by my fa- ther. I couldn’t conceal my distaste for the desert life, and I had no idea what to do with the animals. And there were the morning events I often experienced, easy to conceal in my own bedroom, but not so when sleeping near others. In the desert my place at night was next to Suhayb, who wasted no opportunity to vex me. Suhayb was in his element, and he pleased our father with his skill in camel riding, navigating the desert, and in reading the di- rections from the stars. Suhayb had even bothered to read a book on travel by celestial means. “Papa, I see the star that can guide us.” He pointed to the North Star. On the other hand, I saw the stars only as a lovely jumble, an object for questions and wonder, rather than a heavenly map.