In between silent, pillow-subdued sobs, my phone vibrates on the table next to the bed, forcing my incessant mute moans and uncontrollable tears to end. I rub my eyes as if the speaker would see them as I answered the phone.
“Hello?” I answer, letting out an unintentional residual whimper.
“Hi, what’s wrong?” Straight to the point, as he always is, Jihad says with his all-caring, warm, and mellow voice.
“Nothing. Did you eat?” I reply.
“Yes. Did you fast?” The usual question.
“I had to. Can’t risk not to, and too hard to pretend. I might as well do it.” The usual answer.
I can hear music coming from his side, a toney guitar over a soft org.
“Do you want come over? Can you?” He asks, overdubbing the music.
I stay silent, listening to the music, dreaming of a different life, a different world. I look around, the phone still on my ear. I see four barren walls. I look outside the window; I see blasted buildings adorned with bullet holes.
“Yes I’ll be there soon.” I say, letting out a sigh.
“Alright,” Jihad says. I can sense his happiness, which comforts me. “I’ll see you soon, Bye”
I hang up; put the phone in my left pocket, my keys in my right and money in the back pocket. Without saying a word to anyone, I leave the dreadful place I’m forced to call a home, and as I leave, I wipe my feet on the doormat.
Jihad opens the door. I enter and I know that there is no one there except us. His roommate won’t allow him to burn incense sticks whose smoke now permeates through the apartment like a transgressive spirit, breaking every limit and boundary. It is a cosy little apartment, a perfect hideaway, and it serves its purpose well. The toney guitar is still playing and its volume increases as I approach Jihad’s room.
“Whisky.” I order and Jihad obeys gladly, a smile on his face.
I release myself on the bed, breathing in the strong scent of incense. Jihad comes with two tumblers, one in each hand. He has a smirk on his face as he hands me mine.
“To Ramadan,” we idiotically toast away and I take a burning sip, fire travelling through my whole body like a sin, releasing my mouth from the knots of lentil soup, and slowly, I let the music release my ears from the surmounting amplified prayers and anasheed.
Jihad places the tumbler on his mahogany desk, and cuddles himself behind me, clasping me and enfolding me with his arms, smelling my hair, and making me feel self-conscious as his fingers travel my body like lone pilgrims. He draws my body nigh and holds me tighter. I feel his heartbeat pounding on my back, steady and calm.
“Rough day?” he asks, with a low voice, barely heard over the music, even though his mouth is right behind my ear. I barely nod and he understands. “Another fit?” he asks, his left arms now brushing my stomach. I nod again. “You? Or Shadi?” I stay silent, neither nodding nor speaking, trying to stop a tear from cascading. “The twin girls?” he asks, his heart now pounding slightly stronger on my back, which causes me to let go, again. He holds me tighter and tries to comfort me, whispering inaudibly in my ear.
I turn around and hold him weakly, and I close my eyes as my sobs soften and disappear, feeling his breath on my face. I think of myself, lying here with him, being comforted by him, and the top to bottom view of my imagination paints a ludicrous scene which serves as a bathos and I let out a laugh. The tears turn to laughter and it reverberates throughout the room, confusing Jihad, making him smile. A redeeming laughter, conflating tragedy and comedy.
I open my eyes, finish the whisky in the tumbler and pull Jihad towards me. We bath our hair with incense. I lead Jihad through clumsy dancing, and as I do so, I drag him with me to the kitchen, grabbing the bottle of whisky, unstoppering it and pouring myself another glass. I dim the lights and gulp down the smoky whisky.
“Come on Bacchus,” I entice him, drawing him near me, pressing him on my body. And it works, I can feel his mutinous spirit coming alive. I give him a kiss on the neck and he unleashes himself on me. His room, a sepulchre, his bed, a tomb.
He marks my body with kisses and warm breath. As he goes down on me, I latch on to his shirt, undressing him. Shameless, I feel pants drop down to my ankles. I enjoy it and relish it; nothing to admonish me, no one to stop me. Lone pilgrims find their site. He eats a mouthful of me and comes back up, giving me a saline taste. He weighs me down, keeping my body nailed to the bed as he moves above me. The sound of the music slowly fades. I only hear his breath and mine, his body brushing on mine. Blood boils inside me and I burn with feverish warmth, my cheeks redden and my skin sweats. I unbound my arms from the bed and clasp his body to force myself upwards. I force him deeper inside.
An abeyance; a transcendence. Everything becomes still, we’re clasped together, him still inside me, his head resting on my shoulder. Time is lost in this mutinous act. I look out the window. All I see is emptiness, a blank TV screen, no one there, no one outside, nothing to see, nothing to gaze upon; no horizon to aspire to. Just emptiness, purposeless emptiness abiding the worst. And I celebrate it.
The event of abeyance ends, and I can hear the music again. He slows down and our panting becomes normal breathing. This would kill Father, I smile.
All is silent in the house the morning after. I’m in bed; it’s time to wake up to another day of feigned abstinence. But perhaps I will be thankful.
My brother is in his room, sitting upright on the edge of the bed. He looks confused and jaded. His hair is unkempt, strands protruding in every direction, his eyeglasses are skewed as if held together by a loose screw.
I sit next to him on the bed. We both look at the blank white wall. On the white wall we project a similar situation. An escape. We’re young and we’re willing. We’d go away; we won’t look back; we’d burn every bridge. We won’t write back. We will not find time for nostalgia. We will not find time for remembering. Forgetfulness is freedom. We won’t even talk to each other. We’d be alone, free and new; spotless.