Cloak of Ma-Ya


This has happened many times before. Samir’s expressions are stoic and robotic. His face is blank, his body—a statue, but he knows full well that he’s in this bucolic state of mind yet again.

He peruses every detail around him: the four different-sized Qurans hung randomly on the wall; the realist painting of a cabin in the middle of the woods; the impoverished bookshelf, boasting only a modest pair of fantasy and magic novels; the yellow-mustard walls; the Persian carpet, spread across the width and length of the room. He classifies what he sees around him in this foreign room according to the taxonomy of the urbane and the mundane. His eyes search desperately for any sign of the urbane, but the room fails him.

A door opens and out comes a shabby middle-aged man. A peninsula of short spiky hair, still gelled from the previous night, shines under the florescent light of the room. A glistening well-trimmed light beard covers most of his face in rusty rough hair. Both men stand facing each other, awaiting a reaction. Samir repudiates the rusty beard and the peninsula of hair with wandering eyes: the platitude of his currently obvious dissembled interest. He sees medicine tablets on the table, flaunting their salubrious heroism. Under the table, a pair of flip-flops carelessly taken off. His opprobrium is now malevolent, so he closes his untenable eyes. The air he breaths is insipid, but the wind he blows is smoky and poisonous.

He reduces himself to four senses, hoping to escape the odious mundane room he finds himself in. But now he hears the rumbling of the refrigerator at the end of the room; the squeaking doors in an apartment nearby; the cacophony of school kids jostling around in a throng throughout the playground; the subtle beep of the elevator as it stops at select floors. He quarantines his ears with his palms, pressing them tightly to palliate and dampen any unwanted sounds.

With only three senses now, the pungency of the room invades his sense of smell. The bitter aroma of wine creeps up from empty wine glasses; the residue of burnt popcorn exudes from the garbage bin; the dusty surface of the Persian rug releases ancient debris of incense.

His three long-range senses are now tainted by the mundane. He releases his ears and opens his eyes and finds the peninsula of spiky hair standing directly in front of him. This foreign mundane room belongs to the person standing so close to him now. He can taste the Dionysian wine on his breath. Samir stands still, a Greek statue rid of its colour under the earthly sun. Hands form a goblet in front of him on which a breath of wine is given from mouth to mouth. He drinks the breath then accepts another, and slowly his vision is amended, his hearing is sharper and his smelling is reinvigorated.

The Qurans on the wall melt and smudge the yellow-mustard wall with an avant-garde mark; the Persian rug shrinks and is transformed to a mere decorative mat; the painting becomes post-impressionistic with obfuscated details. The pills become ecstasy tablets, and the flip-flops become leather sandals. The refrigerator’s rumbling and the squeaking doors are numbed out; the schoolchildren’s noise becomes traces of childhood memories rising from the abyss of time. The pungent smells become the odour of fresh rain and dry ground. The wine glasses are full and the symposium is underway. The breaths of wine transform him from a colourless Greek statue to an animated spirit; the world begins to spin the other way around.

He touches the sharp peninsula with his hand, extracting the urbane from its shape as if the head is a shrine where enlivened statues pay homage to the God of Dissimulation and Illumination. Intoxicated dancing ensues between the two. They rotate around the mahogany table, as light as alcohol evaporating slowly and delightfully. Each takes an ecstasy pill and the mundane world disappears fully.

Samir collapses on the ground, screaming, “Cooked or raw, all is burning under the sun. Death of me and death of you. Cover me with the cloak of Ma-Ya. ” The peninsula and the rusty-beard fall on him and the two bodies merge on the floor above the mat that was once a Persian rug.


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