I stood at the landing, my heart beating viciously in my chest. This was it. I knocked on his door. The door opened ghostly and a humid stench welcomed me before he appeared from behind the door, standing arrogantly, wearing sun glasses and lowering his head to look at me without tinting my image with the shades. Vanity
“She abides,” he says, as if talking to someone hidden inside the house.
“Does the dude abide?” I respond with a Lebowski reference which he does not recognize, but he laughs and that is all that matters. He’s not as much an asshole as he first appears to be.
It’s only midday, but in this time of the year, every second of the day counts as much as every second of the night counts for nocturnal vampires. He motions to me to follow him and I do so. I walk behind him into his room which flaunts a window revealing a view of the big wide sea. Music plays from two speakers, each at opposite ends of the room. A cloistering ambience of musical instruments traps me and I realize immediately that I’m already swept away, as people would phrase it.
I sit on his bed as he decides to change the music from the drum-dominant metal to the guitar oriented folk music. The atmosphere becomes much more soothing. He sits next to me and brings me closer to him. We spend half an hour on the bed, being lovey dovey, but we only do this so that what comes after it seems necessary and belonging to a continuous flow. We kiss and events follow: A tumultuous experience in which the sound of our bodies and the heaviness of our breaths become the ambience; after we’re done, it seems as though the sun shining on the bed, on us, didn’t exist prior to us. We face the dread of our existence in the moment of climax, and slowly the sun starts to set, and it’s time for me to head back home.
It is time. We sit around the dining table; Father, Mother, my two sisters and my brother. I’m the last one to sit down. We all drink a cup of water before having some soup. A family of six sitting around a dining table, eating together; serves as a pretty picture, a generic one nonetheless. A lie.
Almost three minutes after we sit down, the mosque’s amplified prayer ends, allowing the Islamic nasheed on the TV to stand out as the only coherent sound alongside the amusical clatter of the silver cutlery on porcelain plates. The best for the favourite month of Ramadan. I look out the window. Through the little crack between the cramped buildings I imagine that I can see the sea, extending as far as possible, and I travel with it, and I can almost join the setting sun, but my imagination hits a wall, engrossed in the deepest levels of the sea. This vision that fled through the window, through the crack between the closely knit buildings, and across kilometres of land and sea, hits a wall which cloisters imagination and traps me in a living room turned to a dining room.
I can still feel my cunt pulsate as I swallow each gulp of lentil soup.
A light bulb pops above the table, and that is all it takes. It’s dimmer now and suitable for what’s to follow. Father crashes his silver spoon on the porcelain plate, looks at all of us, disappointment on his face, silently blaming us for the current dim light. I keep on sipping lentil soup from the side of the spoon, looking at its brown hue and trying hard not to slurp. Father bangs the table with his two hands, a bit of soup drips from the small bowl onto the under-plate.
“What are you waiting for? Go get a bulb. Now!” Father shouts across the table at Shadi, my brother, who is sitting next to me. I keep on eating. I look at my two twin sisters, sitting across the table from me. They are both frightened, too young to understand what’s going on, why Father is angry. They look at him with eyes not knowing how to hide trepidation, waiting for their undue punishment. And I know that it will come. It will come for all of us.
Shadi comes back. He looks at Father, waiting for his next order.
“What are you looking at me for?” Father speaks, “Go on, climb on your chair and fix it.”
Shadi does as he’s told. He adjusts the chair and ascends. I look at his feet and I push my chair away from the table. This has happened before. The table cloth moves with an instant powerful pull from Father. The tureens, the plates, the forks, the spoons, the glass cups, the bowls and the pans all go sliding towards Father as if he’s a newly formed Sun. They crash on the floor, exploding with a high pitched bang, food spilling and glasses shattering. My sisters let out helpless cries as Father, indifferent to the mess he has done, shouts his way to Shadi, who’s standing on the chair now, not daring to move, trembling, fear running through his veins like a stupefying narcotic. I stand up, my back to Father and motion to Shadi, telling him to get down. Father gets by me and by the time Shadi’s left foot is on the ground, Father manages to grab him and drag him to the room. In the background, the anasheed are still being sung, the daff now giving it rhythm as it bangs bangs bangs.
I go to my sisters and lead them to the balcony, the farthest place possible. I hold them close and tight, both young and feeble, and I try to sing, tightening my whimpering voice as hard as I can. The sky gets darker by the second and the little girls between my arms cling tighter and tighter, as if afraid to fall. Their cries have faded but their hearts still beat very fast. I can hear the distant cry of my brother, his screeching nasal voice being forced to bellow in the room, behind a closed door.
My sisters calm down and I allow myself to go to the living room again. The door of the room is still closed, but no sounds emanate from behind it. I pick up the shards of porcelain on the ground, worrying about the stains later. Moments after, my sisters come and help me. I tell them to be careful as they pick broken glass and porcelain.
I am in the living room, picking up the last of the pans and tureens from the floor when the door opens. Father emerges like a rapist who knows no wrong nor right. He walks towards the living room, but doesn’t speak. I avoid his face and ignore his ginormous presence. He sits on the couch and I feel him watch me and form the tip of my eye I see red eyes that would crave nothing more than for me to falter. But I do not. I clean everything up, and when all is clean, when the table is back in its place and the living becomes a living room again, I go to Mother unawares and snatch the empty plate from her oblivious zombie-like hand, and as if that was its cue, the mosque begins the evening prayer.
I crash on the bed. The taste of the lentil still on my tongue; it dominates my mouth and makes me crave for more food. I stuff my head in the pillow to try to stop myself from crying, but there’s no use. I let go and submit to the tears in my eyes and my imminent fall.