A Gob Of Spit

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Origingally Published in Rusted Radishes as A Prolonged Insult

By Youssef Rached Doughan

By Youssef Rached Doughan

“No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty … what you will. I am  going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse…” Herny Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Jamal waited in a café and sucked on his nth cigarette. He didn’t usually smoke more than three cigarettes a day, always after a meal, always systematically. His face was tired and bloated from an excursion down the ruins of a bottle of wine.

In the building across the street, two sisters released a barrage of vitriol from behind closed curtains. The familial screams echoed throughout the café, and the cat waiting on the café door was alarmed. It only took a minute for the gazing eyes to stop searching, for ears to habituate, and for the horny traffic to dilute the shouts.

Jamal lit another cigarette and scanned the surrounding. He was supposed to meet a former student of his, but the little rascal, he thought, was late, as always. The cigarette neared its end and he silently muttered, “I need a death. I need to write.” A small cockroach crawled out of the newly dug sewer; a domestic disturbance.

Last night the lady he took home told him that she wouldn’t sleep with him unless he shaved his beard. “Shave your beard,” she demanded, without even a shred of seduction. As an unadorned man, who grew a beard out of laziness, he indifferently obliged. He now smiled at the event. He looked down and grazed the shiny red and black tie he had worn; any other man, he thought, would have hesitated and deprived himself of the most beautiful moment he could experience. The girl he took home, she was still in his apartment. He kept her there. “I need a death,” he thought, “I need to write.” The cockroach crawled up the table and quickly crept along its surface, settling on the Jamal’s white paper. The cockroach stood still, giving its side to Jamal.

The little rascal finally arrived. Jamal licked his lower lip and grazed the bottom of his teeth with his rough tobacco-tinged tongue. His lips were hued with wine. The little kid sat in front of him, the cockroach still between them on the paper. Jamal did not move. The little kid did not move. Eyeballs were transfixed in a moment of stillness authored by the exoskeleton of the cockroach. A sudden mood overhauled the invading decadence of the city; the universe was reduced to this deuce-ace scene. A teenager, an adult, and a cockroach.

No more cigarettes. Jamal found himself to have crawled to the lowest form of beggary, in search of nothingness. Deepest abjection manifested itself in a still cockroach and a youth he wanted to kill. This youth, a former student, had come to give him praise. Praise the Lord, the encomium encounter was interrupted by an insect.

“Hello,” Jamal said, not allowing his eyes to deviate from the sacred arthropod, making it seem as if he had begun a conversation with the would-be carcass of reason.

The youth too did not allow his eyes to drift. He did not answer. There was no need to. He felt a tinge of shame at the way this event had begun. His spine tingled because of the transfixed gaze; all the different scenarios he had imagined of this encounter ran through his head, echoed through his ears, but he couldn’t close his eyes.

Last night, as Jamal and the lady slept naked next to each other, she’d come near him as if to kiss him, but she would only smell his after-shave. Her inspiration started at his chin and went up to his ear. And he’d felt a need to write, preceded by a need to experience death.

Last night, words did not matter as much as the thoughts that blew like fierce winds between the streets of Hamra, blowing curtains, exposing damp rooms with wet whores and angry sisters. The thoughts blew through Jamal’s head like savage and ferocious winds without enunciation. Or to put it differently: a wave of thoughts trapped him in its undertow; he found himself unable to speak, unable to distinguish his necessity to write from his necessity to break free from the inspiration of the lady next to him. His ear trembled and cold shivers travelled down the side of his body. He lay in paralysis until the morning when the wind calmed; the bottle of wine beckoned in the absence of a rooster; he wore his tie like a tight noose and went out the door to meet his former student.

“Hello,” this time he said it in his mind. And he imagined his student’s reply.

“Hi,” his student would smile, “it’s been a very long time,” his student would say.

“Yes, six years to be exact,” Jamal would say, “You were younger, I was still fresh.” But no, too bleak. “You were younger, we were both younger.” Realism invades the imagination.

“I’m really glad I’m meeting with you today, I have amazing news to tell,” his student would say, and Jamal’s desire to kill him would grow strong with such a gleeful remark of the obvious.

“I figured so, I’ve heard rumours,” Jamal would say, ruining his student’s surprisal, ruining the crescendo his student had engineered, taking into account the random variables of human action.

“Oh,” the surprise would turn on his student, but the smile would not vanish, it would only lessen. “Then I guess you know, this will be my last summer here,” the student would say with sudden recalcitrance.

Jamal would nod and force a smile.

“I want to express my infinite debt to you,” the student would academically exclaim, but Jamal’s face would shrivel as if faced with a sublimely appalling nightmare. And Jamal would wonder, What happened to him? How did it ever come to this?

“Please don’t say this,” Jamal’s face would metamorphose into that of a therapist threatened with a knife by his patient. The student’s face would also turn rough, waiting for his mentor to continue speaking, perhaps another lesson? But when do we ever learn?

“Don’t look up to me,” fear into the eyes of the therapist. “Just do not. You did not reach where you are by looking up to me, but by doing the complete opposite.” A lesson would formulate: “The problem with our generation was that we looked up to people, and after the people left us or betrayed us, we still followed with still-born idealisms. Don’t be inspired by people. Be inspired by events, by happenings, by acts and performances. Do not follow, participate. Do not stand on the corner and wait. That’s all they do here. They stand still in anticipation, waiting to be given, never giving, never initiating, always following. They wait and then—

Bang.

A waiter smashed the arthropod on the page; its limbs squashed resembling a gob of spit. It became formless on the page and its potential now became multiple: a spider, a cockroach, a caterpillar, a worm, goo…the mixture of all creation from which the universe takes its shape.

Jamal looked at his former student looking at him, realizing just now that they have not yet said a word to each other. He had lost track of time only to realize that now there was no time to lose. He saw the defilement he needed; the waiter granted him his desired death. He grabbed the white paper on which the formless death-rattle held the potential of a new idea, the mark of a painful birth, and went to the see the lady he left sleeping.

With trembling fingers his student turned the page.

by Alia Al Wahab

by Alia Al Wahab

 

Slant

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He sits in his seat, the Indian food sitting wackily and heavily on the top of his stomach, the bladder inflated by the masala chai and the morning coffee still not out of his system. His anus is inflamed. This isn’t nervousness. This is hemorrhoids. This is the shit of past days catching up with him, this is the hours he spent ignoring his bowel movements and their discordance, preferring the stoned writing of books. He sits in his seat and he feels as if he shat himself, but it’s only the phantom limb feeling of a very real and present bruised anus. He closes his eyes. Bowel movements play the wonderful secrets of the body. In amazement he ponders the perplexing amount of time took human beings to dissect and find the wind instruments in our body. Latency of dissection as latent as a deferred shit.

The professor speaks. There is no causal relationship.

The professor speaks. His neck is red from the slim-fit shirt he has tied up to the last button, pressing on his neck which is inflated from a failing thyroid gland. The professor scans the room. There are no windows, only the eyes of the students staring back at him, or looking at coffee cups, open books and copybooks, only one pair of eyes is closed and they’re as good as a window. A professor who prefers to stare out of windows, or if he could, to close his own eyes.

In front of him, shoulder-length black hair adorning the forehead with bangs under which eyes flicker, not flirtatiously, but in a scanning blinking way. Outside, the night is spreading its sheets, but that doesn’t matter; a street light shines brightly. She thinks simultaneously of the before and after which encapsulate the class, and she doesn’t know if its guilt or excitement that is making her flicker.

Before: in bed with her lover whom she loves and loves to live with, and hold tight in chilly nights and share with him the heavy breath of night, fermenting in the air in the dark hours only to be brushed away at the sound of an alarm with a morning fuck and a dry-slowly-dampening kiss. And coffee. And tea. And morning breakfast and co-cooked dinners and films of the sleazy kind, the B-movie kind, the sci-fi, and the car crash-riddled action movies. And forgiveness and affection; and an identity dressing her body with the comfort of olive oil over water. But she blinks.

After: She’ll get on the subway, pretend to read as she ponders and imagines her the sound of her pointy knuckles on the door. Footsteps, soft slipper tapings respond to the knock, opening the door calmly, her hands flash out, extend not around the neck but around the hips, pushing the strangely familiar body back inside and unbuckling the high waist jeans, its color fading and resembling a blue-tinted snow-flaked TV screen. Her foot closes the door.

She blinks before her lover with which she tragically dramatizes her life and after the seasoned body with which she comically dramatizes her life. A tragicomic need for the legitimacy of intimacy by way of its very negation through an oedipal affair.

He doesn’t know shit. She sways to the serpentine song of infidelity. And neither is at fault.

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On Snowflakes

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Snowflake

“Occurrence itself – or origin – is ‘communication’, sperm and egg slide into each other in the heart of the sexual storm.” [Bataille. “Games of Chance” – Guilty]

Descartes, in 1635, sketched snowflakes. He observed the Amsterdam snowflakes, sketched them and took notes; to use a pun, he waxed, meditatively. He observes:

These were little plates of ice, very flat, very polished, very transparent, about the thickness of a sheet of rather thick paper…but so perfectly formed in hexagons, and of which the six sides were so straight, and the six angles so equal, that it is impossible for men to make anything so exact.
I only had difficulty to imagine what could have formed and made so exactly symmetrical these six teeth around each grain in the midst of free air and during the agitation of a very strong wind, until I finally considered that this wind had easily been able to carry some of these grains to the bottom or to the top of some cloud, and hold them there, because they were rather small; and that there they were obliged to arrange themselves in such a way that each was surrounded by six others in the same plane, following the ordinary order of nature.

Six years later, Descartes would go on a meditative journey through the inferno of scepticism, questioning that very same order of nature, the perfect form, and the obligation he perceived in the snowflakes. Descartes’ encounter with the snowflakes, however—most probably due to the limited knowledge of the time—, is a missed encounter. Perhaps (and I only say this to compel you to read on) his whole philosophy, his scepticism and his dualism would have been altered if he had noticed the disorder inherent in the formation of every snowflake, the aleotary pregnancy of clouds at freezing points. Perhaps if Descartes “saw” this, he would have renounced God as the soul mediator between him and his fellow man and never penned an ideology of radical doubt. And it is no secret that in secular terms radical doubt becomes hope.

No two snowflakes are alike—Descartes missed this. Humanity’s dire need for explanation often projects purpose on symmetry, an order to disorder, and identity to difference. No two snowflakes are alike, and not because there is a unique order to each one, but precisely the opposite, there is a unique disorder: the temperate disorder of that multiple Mother we call Nature.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden also evades this in Fight Club: “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” Palahniuk a la Durden is committed to an adolescent reading of Nietzsche (Nietzsche as the philosopher of angst and teenage nihilism), and his renouncing of the uniqueness of snowflakes-as-identity is only true as a fascist-breeding argument against consumerism (does not Tylder Durden typify the heterogeneous sovereign head of fascism par excellence, commanding a homogeneous army which, through David Fincher’s lens, is follow the neo-Nazi archetype?)

Both René and Chuck miss the point of the snowflake, the former in his assertion that it’s ordered (or intelligently designed), the latter in his belittling of its uniqueness—as if it’s ordered and programmed by the consumer apparatus of late capitalism. “You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else” (star dust?); yet there’s an aleotary element. A snowflake is only a snowflake due its chaotic journey between cold and colder temperatures, between different levels of pressure, between different wind speeds as it falls and between the different surfaces it lands on. Temperate mother, change me with a gust of wind.

…And how different Noor can be the next time, as I am, as you are…we journey from chance to necessity everyday. The condition of existence are contingent – coexistent.

***

The subway opens its doors.

Noor sits on my lap, he wears a pink wig. The artificial hair reaches his shoulders, his fingers are still stained with paint.

“How do you like my eccentricity, mother?” He laughs. I ignore him. “You wanted me to change didn’t you? Or does this change bother you, father?” He continues.

“How did you art exhibition in Beirut go?” I ask him.

“Well I’m in New York now, so Beirut loved it! They loved me!” He hangs like a monkey on the subways car’s ceiling railing.

“I’m glad to hear that, I’m proud of you.” I have never seen any of his paintings.

“Well of course you are, you created me,” he chuckles, “but Beirut, the people she loves and makes famous, she shits out. We’re the excrement of its society. All our poetry and paintings – we’re the world’s best sewage system. If you’re loved, you’re left. Right out to the Mediterranean…we are not the window, we are the anus and the mouth.”

“Tell me more,” I want to discover.

“About the anus and mouth? Or about my screaming and shitting?”

“About your painting Noor. Try to describe it to me.”

“You always ask for the impossible.”

“And that’s why you should answer!”

“All right then, here’s one I call “Embroiled in Fate””

We reached our destination, and out of the subway station, skidding icy streets, we went. Noor started to speak.

To be continued.
Coming Soon: Embroiled in Fate

“[…] that one necessarily ends up speaking of communication by grasping that communication pulls the rug out from under the object as well as from under the subject (this is what becomes clear at the summit of communication, when there is communication between subject and object of the same type, between two cells, between two individuals).”

“Communication still is, like anguish, to live and to know. The extreme limit of the ‘possible’ assumes laughter, ecstasy, terrified approach towards death; assumes error, nausea, unceasing agitation of the ‘possible’ and the impossible and, to conclude – broken, nevertheless, by degrees, slowly desired – the state of supplication, its absorption into despair. Nothing of what man can know, to this end, could be evaded without degradation, without sin (I think, by taking a more negative view of the situation, the stakes being ultimate, of the worst of disgraces, of desertion: for one who has felt himself to be called once, there is no further reason, further excuse; he can only remain where he is)” (Bataille – “The Torment” from Inner Experience]

800px-Sketch_of_snow_crystal_by_René_Descartes

Sketch of Snow Crystal by Rene Descartes

Le Temps de la Mère

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Christ…He thinks of the abortion he missed, lying wrapped in bloody rags on the floor of a cheap hostelry. He is excited by the thought of his mother in mortal sin, and of a harsher love than he ever knew. How was it possible for her to forgo the delight of hacking God’s fruit from her womb? (That was a chance for religion.) [Nick Land]

Outside. East coast coldness grazes my bare right hand. The sun is setting, switchboard of the night. Darkness begins to highlight 12th street. Key Food, trees, cars, Sweetwolf’s, Red Horse Cafe—all highlighted. I finish my cigarette and fling it over cars. These highlighted streets meet many flings. Inside.

Virtually. Wirelessly. A gust of wind heard from outside which calls. Switchboard of nature. Mother. Be there. Outside. Inside. The stanza, Italian for room. Pieza in Spanish. The piece which is for yourself. The room which is your voice. The womb which is your inner space. And the world of the mother outside. This I learned.

The incidence of lethargy demands a refraction of events, if only to highlight the processes of these events. So this is refraction, not reflection. Naturally, things are skewed. The several agents require some disappointment and some appeasement.

French press, pressing. Neo-liberal policies and the polities of lateness press on my shoulders, stressful pressure. French press, calling; a bit of half-&-half—the tawny tan of coffee, a first sip and the inevitable laxative feel. It is the late afternoon. The sun is setting. This is my first cup of coffee. First hour of my day. It is the last hour of the day. The sun is setting; switchboard a la pineal gland, or it may be a comfortable sinking mattress and my ever-drowning body.

Virtually. Wirelessly. A gust of wind heard outside calls; the voice which enters the stanza, the pieza, the “room of one’s own”. Should I answer and pick up the telephone? I hear and cannot be indifferent. I see and cannot be but subject. Be here. Now. But also, because it’s here now, was there before. Because it’s here now, will be there later. Before. Now. Later. This is chronological. But logically, perhaps cosmologically, it is Now. Before and Later. More coffee-laxative.

Pluck. The scenes of murder. Twitter feed mixed with the affects of loss and the twitter litter of the numerous luxurious dulled many. Pluck. Garbage finally found its recycled medium through binary codes. Swoosh. 140 characters of shit. I flush the toilet.

…And the need for communication with an absent other is already a radical affirmation of the loss of the other. The symptom of the telephone.

The room is also cold. The heaters are off. The floors miss the rug and the rug is not to be found or sought. My left knee shivers. I call it Parkinson.

I thought this virtual, wireless connection was a rebellion against patriarchal God; an affirmation of future motherhood. The voice from afar that disturbs the clergymen. But, the loss and the withdrawal of the maternal is something that the telephone maintains as connection. It erases and suspends the loss acting like a pacifier. The telephone as voice of the future mother of one or two children. And the telephone which performs the disconnection that makes this future impossible. It de-simulated the very loss that it marks. A monument to an irreducible disconnection. The telephonic communication doesn’t allow us to mourn the loss we feel by it.

I try to read. But perhaps I’m hungry. I read the twitter litter, the 140 characters of shit:
Dismal news stories of Israeli war crimes and criminals. Desolate news stories of Palestinians dead and the Frustrating Western propaganda [140 characters]. The masturbatory upheaval of the inner spirit of revolution & the pent-up rage followed by the post-coital feeling of complete helplessness [140 characters].

…and here the pressure of distance lies. The distance which highlights the aging of the potential mother. The potential mother which is made impossible by the distance amplified by the telephone. Sons and lovers kept apart from mothers and mothers-to-be. Mother as land, as Palestine and Homs and Beirut. Mother as woman. Mother as the caretaker of the womb, the tomb and the crypt of all hope and anticipation. Mother, the trigger of revolution. And mother, the Pink Floyd song.

Twins play outside this pieza-stanza-room. There are voices which permeate it, but none of which I heed. What kind of a drug is this virtual wireless telephone? How long can you live without the telephone and the voice at the other end of the line.

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani? [Mark XV:34]. There is no answer. Merely the blank violence of the sun.[Nick Land]

The father cannot answer the telephone. His duty is to cut the umbilical cord.

Lamentations:

“When reality does not coincide with deeply held beliefs, human beings tend to phrase interpretations that force reality within the scope of these beliefs. They devise formulas to repress the unthinkable and to bring it back within the realm of accepted discourse.” Michel-Rolph Trouillot.

Trouillot outlines succinctly what being a reactionary is: desperately clinging to your ideological beliefs to make them re-act to the ever-more estranged reality around you; dealing “with the impossible only after the impossible had become fact”. On the contrary, being active is allowing your ideologies to think themselves through your actions; to think of yourself politically and philosophically as you are ‘taking place’, without demarcating ideological limits on yourself. To act is to be in a continual state of revolution. Thinking the impossible and making it a fact.

Don’t most (aging) Arab Leftists, who flaunt their nostalgia on twitter and Facebook suffer from this gross reactionism, thus disabling themselves from seeing the reality around them, dare I say, as it is? Perhaps it’s an effect of age to submit to the impossibility of the impossible. “Pessimism of the mind (intellect), optimism of the will.” Even Gramsci rings through their ears in reactionary terms. Their mind is old and their will has metamorphosed to the guilt of their past. Their tactical and strategic bellowing is instrumental for their fundamental mode of stasis. Their names now ring the death sound of their crackling jaws. If even Adonis, the poet of the phoenix and eternal return of the new, receded to a reactionary position…they’ve effected the same fate for the Arabic language; controlled for centuries by reductive fanatic clerics and decadent Arabic departments, who choke it, keep it mute and restrained. Instead of striving for the impossible in and through our language (and its unremitting poetics), it has been made to be subordinate to the utilitarian economy of usefulness, homogeneity and positivism. Free our language from your theatre of superiority; it is no coincidence that the self-same aging ‘left’ are the same people who meditate on the dismal state of our language in trite manners. There is no greater abjection than to submit to their ball-ankle word-vomit they call critique, it swells up and reproduces itself like capital in an infinity coterminous with our own dis-solution. Language debates lead us away from the matters at hand, and toward the idea in the head. All is matter! Never Mind! Open up the Quran, it’s not enough to read it. The words on the page mean much more than the words in your mouth; but essentially they testify to the humanity of the words enclosed in the book. There is nothing divine about the Quran. I hope it is understood how this is not blasphemy but an opportunity to save meaning (and non-meaning!) even as it occurs in a wrong inflection. The fate of a revolution is always with its youthful in spirit. Be young in spirit. Become wild at heart.

Typical Brooklyn Night – Redux:

I listened to discordant jazz music as disconcerting thoughts ran through my head. The trumpets blew loudly and the drummer was guilt heard through the throbbing of the heart in the chest. How should I force the thoughts out of my head? And a Cello rolled through the room-stanza-pieza as fine as mahogany can be. Hands played on it with such style, the body and the neck were dancing, wobbling, roaring with a depth of an ocean-graveyard of de-shipped slaves. The subdued erotic voice of a woman reverberated from its hollow body. This was a woman subdued by age and in lament. Midgets wore bat wings and veiled the light, changing its color from a bright yellow to that of a darkened Brooklyn sky. My thoughts hid behind the deep voice of the double bass. I trembled. The disparate notes assaulted my cognition like Israeli warplanes over Gaza. Life on a global level was troubling, and so are the thoughts that accompany it.

Sirens rang outside the room, overpowering the voice of my mother. Sirens and their temptations, mermaids immobile on the street, trapped on the cement. I look at them, still-life like leaves, the beautiful Brooklyn autumn effaces me. I try to help them, but the winds blow down from the sky, complete verticality. It is the time of the sovereign abortion. Acid rain and hurricanes. A mother shall never thank you; she needs not to. Mother’s weather is always temperate. A mother is also always a mother-to-be, to the hope of her sons and through the anticipation of her daughters.

And I understand why mothers feel this way. The call of the umbilical cord is always an emergency call, and it has come. The call of motherhood by the potential mother is directed not to me, but to the one to-be-born. She aborted me to keep what’s sacred safe.

…And this is self-abortion, my kicking inside the room-tomb-womb; everyday is a chance for it. Everyday I await the subway train, underground—its voice comes howling from the dark tunnel. It comes fast and I’m on the edge, its washes over me like a temperamental wave, holding me prisoner in its undertow as I’m still surprised by its speed. An attractive speed that reminds me that I’m not in Beirut, I’m beneath the sea, sous la mer/mère, winded by the umbilical cord that strangles me; and the subway is the reminder of my daily missed encounter if I were to be in be in Beirut. This missed encounter is death, but also a rebirth. This was my future and for now: “The rest is silence.” Bataille

Postscript:

Everything is political. The above signifies the time and weather of the maternal mother. Le Temps de la Mère. The schism of today enacts this and it seems to be the only way: the mother-to-be’s freedom from patriarchy takes this decision to the heart, nobly, masterly, for not wanting or even risking to live as a disappointed slave. Revolution demands to let go of love and lovers, answering the call of future generations. Revolution is inherently maternal. The uprising of women in the Arab world is part and parcel of any uprising wishing for a radical change in the status quo of patriarchy.

“The radical abortion of tragedy and irredeemable waste is Socratically sublimated into the service of the Idea, becoming a police function of theistic sociality, within a political economy of managed sperm.”

“In Nietzsche’s text abortion—in the loose sense Schopenhauer has opened—is both the possible outcome of procreative anarchy and that which characterizes a eugenic regime.” [Nick Land]

“Heterology is restricted to taking up again, consciously and resolutely, this terminal process which up until now has been seen as the abortion and the shame of human thought.” [Georges Bataille]

“O mother
farewell
with a long black shoe
farewell
with Communist Party and a broken stocking. .
with your sagging belly
with your fear of Hitler
with your mouth of bad short stories. . . .
with your belly of strikes and smokestacks
with your chin of Trotsky and the Spanish War
with your voice singing for the decaying overbroken workers. .
with your eyes
with your eyes of Russia
with your eyes of no money. . . .
with your eyes of starving India. . . .
with your eyes of Czechoslovakia attacked by robots. .
with your eyes being led away by policemen to an ambulance
with your eyes with the pancreas removed
with your eyes of appendix operation
with your eyes of abortion
with your eyes of ovaries removed
with your eyes of shock
with your eyes of lobotomy
with your eyes of divorce…” [Allen Ginsberg, “Kaddish,” IV]

[post inspired by recent personal events, by the lectures of Avital Ronell at NYU, by the book The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Elissa Marder, and the ever-inspiring feminists of Lebanon and the Arab world]

Despair or A Secret in Between

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A rattle of candy folding disturbed me from the noise coming from the street. She ate a Kellogg’s Special K bar, the aroma of cherry replaced that of the smoke in the room.

There is no need for names. I am me and she is you.

Let’s burn ourselves to see. We need a vision, even if surreal. Call it a fire or the delusional feel of divinity up our anus. Salmon-flow of the body. Shit up the stream. An ego’s love for control.

Let’s burn ourselves to see. Let’s sing in units of vocal range. Let’s fight in units of weight. We will overcome the purposeful myopia with our burning skin…it’ll be easy…it’s all downhill from here towards the bottom. Let us be like Van Gogh’s sun(flowers).

I turned off my cigarette in the face of Marilyn Monroe, an ashtray of plastic. The red light made the room look like a whore house, a Hamra brothel for lonely leftists. Adorned orphan of Palestine; the wrinkle-free map of meek Lebanon engulfed by Syria. She passed by. Slender. Cleopatra’s snake. Poisonous release, ancient medicine. The echo of pharmakon…and the agony of separating one from another.

Only a few days are left before I leave. There will be no electricity. Beirut will be blacked-out as the plane ascends. Even if in daylight. Beirut will be blacked-out without memory or secrets.

I follow her past the orphan of Palestine and the map of Lebanon. My shadow borders off the red light on the wall.

Vicious city. Sitt Al Dunya. Old mother with varicose veins, immobile. Old mother smoking nargileh, watching same-old plots on the newest smart, HD, 3D LED TVs. Old mother resting comfortably inside the empty graves of sons and daughters, sucking the flaccid dick of an impotent father, with or without a beard, sagging bull testicles, sweating – the closest thing we’ll ever see to his tearing eye. Old mother…

The sun shines in its full blaze and the flowers bend down, the rightful surrender to summer – the use of a season comes with no metaphors – summer comes after spring; summer comes before autumn; summer dries us up. Beirut I am leaving you and leaving a lot behind, and this too is my rightful surrender.

Six months ago, in Amsterdam, I got the word. Sub-zero temperatures and lots of tea and herbs – organic natural stuff, as they say. Five friends toasted to New York all night long while laughing uncontrollably at the flickering lights and music videos playing overhead. All the while I kept on thinking, with magnificent detail – it was the only way, to keep on thinking.

Caramel and Chocolate syrup melt over a vanilla sundae. Plastic spoon-full of sugar and a smile sparks on her face and mine. This is not gratitude, but love.

…and I’ll leave – I like to think there is a plan, but…

I’ll leave nothing behind – If I could, I would. And if I could, she would. There should be a plan, but it’s a step into the darkness.

Beirut, you’re uncovered. Everyone can see you naked, without the excitement of adventure. You offer me nothing. Your Zionist Caterpillars have spent all your secrets to rubble, and you opened the gates gladly. This step is one I take into a darkness which asks for proof of life every passing second. Every moment necessitates a pulse. There shall be life away from home.

New York! Another toast in Amsterdam. My arms were heavy, my body was tired, and I was laughing; yet I was thinking – for the first time I was as young as I felt. I read the acceptance letter out loud on an iPhone, the people around me cheering and laughing. I kept on thinking, and I felt. For most, this would have been a retreat; for most, this would be a pseudo-religious calling. Yet the news rang like the final period of immersion in life. There was no retreat in this for me. I laughed, I thought and I felt my body soaking in the tawny colour of this new sun, rising on this new horizon.

I will bring life back with me, but not for you Beirut; but for this new stage of time, new sands in the hourglass and chocolate and caramel syrup on top of a vanilla sundae; for new-old mattresses and books, beautiful writing and morning smiles, coffee and cornflakes, music genealogy and storytelling; for the people I love who have showed me how to live fully, and for whom I’d be Prometheus, Van Gogh, stealing the fire from the sun and handing it in a sunflower.

I lied next to her on the bed. The AC blew cold air on our feet, locked together, gray-blue pants over a white dress. Together, we imagined how my new life would be. Imagination’s stage leaned towards the comic, conjuring up a You’ve Got Mail city life: an affection to the past of books while running along the freight train lights of high speed internet, social networks and cloud systems. And a dog. It is not complicated. Simple, straightforward and made in Hollywood – together we ideated a condition for a peaceful return and a happy ending.

We can’t shut the hour glass. Beirut, time is not a highway. Your burning tires will not light you up, and it is not enough for us to tell you that we love you; it is not enough to be disappointed; it is not enough to be observant. The burden is upon us as much as it is upon you.

She left me in the room and sat alone, hiding in the swoon of red light. Perhaps she does this to tend to my heart, preparing it for the days to come. I followed her and we watched a film in our swoon.

This is definitely not a retreat in which I hide to retrieve what I think I had lost, but a new way of gaining from a profound yet mandatory loss. This is a new path forward in which I experience judgement, heaven and hell without dying. This is not a path paved by a kinetic emotion, such as desire – the need to possess – or loathing – the need to abandon; this is a path paved by despair, and for this I am assured, for I go with no desire – thus I cannot be satisfied – and with no loathing – thus I cannot abandon. My only worry is the consummation of my despair.

…And Beirut, you’ll still have her and many others. They are youthful and many and diverse. They can teach you as they have taught me. They can love you as they have loved me. And they will cry for you, Sit Al Dunya, when you bow down on your knees, close your eyes and surrender. Love them well and correctly. Make of them your secrets, upon which you will shine explosively like a star light-years away; a marvelous glow on the Mediterranean.  Love what I’m losing and you’ll be on my mind. Love what I’m losing and I’ll return as Prometheus, a Van Gogh sun, a perverted dance of sunflowers in the stillness of life; and beautiful Nero, a stirrer of culture and fire.

Before the credits rolled, I headed home, and on that ride, separately, we knew how my new life will be. Imagination’s stage leaned towards the existential-dramatic, conjuring up a No Exit hell of grim gridded-streets and Egyptian hot dog vendors, hearts held in hands and thumbs that forget to grasp; The fog covers the limewater in which she had baptized me. And the heart sinks invisibly into secrecy.

And that will be my secret. My secret held from New York and Beirut, from the living and the dead. Between the poison and the medicine, between two echoes, it sleeps comfortably impossibly.

Beirut,     Now is the winter of [y]our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of [New] York  

[Opening lines of Richard III, obviously modified]

‘My reason to write is to reach B./

‘That which would consummate despair [Le plus désespérant]: that B. loses in the end the thread of Ariadne which is—in the maze of her life—my love for her’ [Bataille Oeuvres Completes III 13-14]

Despair cannot be defined as a claim, hesitation, denial, or uncertainty. It is an abandonment, and a plea without conceivable destination; a desertification resulting from the catastrophic disappearance of the value of being. Despair is not humble, but hubristic, and it is not pious in the least, but tragic. [Nick Land. The Thirst for Annihilation.58]

وداعًا، وداعًا اخوتي الصغار
أنا راحلٌ وقلبي راجع مع دخان القطار [محمد الماغوط – “القتل”]

Thank you.

Isaac Israels “Woman before ‘Sunflowers’ by van Gogh” 1917

From The Crack

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If Hegel contends that only that which is simple constitutes a beginning, then I’m already doomed to be starting with a conditional followed by the proper noun: Hegel.

Hegel has never made it simple to face anything; but  he’s made death simpler.

It has been seven years since I immersed myself in the sea. And now, for lack of a suitable animal, I kill time beneath the storm, swimming.

Mammoth waves wash over me before hitting the shore sucking in and displacing smack needles. “A year’s end”; a phrase marks the self-reflexiveness of a text as it consciously probes its temporal mortal immortal letters. Hang me up as you hung up poems on the black stone, immortalize me with the spoken violence of lacerating lips.

It has been seven years since I swam. And tonight amidst the storm, I couldn’t have wished for a better moment to reunite with the Mediterranean.

From a distance, the vast shoreline appears like a spectrum of edifying monuments, a lit up architectonic system organizing all the movement under and within it. But even from a distance, a vile hue strikes—club lightning or an explosion—cracking the sky and shattering the architectural structures which give this country in front of me an illusion of cohesion.

I feel like a stranger in my boyfriend’s parent’s bedroom, sneaking through a crack in their closet door, coolly observing their secrets, trying to avoid their eyes. I’m not ready for the guilt. They watch a warm coloured Lebanese film, shot like a long video clip.

Religious allusion is spewed like mercury as the film starts, and constantly throughout, the mercurial allusion jumps around, leaps, resisting fixity and stasis, until the final scenes, in which the allusion is aborted. A group of women trod the arid earth clad in black; they are mourning and do so with charming, choreographed movement, almost distancing the sorrow from the event through an aesthetic appeal, and confirming Nietzsche, “As aesthetic phenomenon existence is still bearable for us.”

The theatre-of-a-room is silent. My boyfriend sneaks a hand across my crotch and I almost let out a sigh ending my dissatisfaction, but then someone dies.

I longed to swim tonight because it had been becoming more and more apparent to me that I am immanently part of a world, and what is a better way of celebration than to be like water among water.

I am a monkey eating a banana while looking you in the face and laughing.

The film is set in a village trying to be isolated from the world. If isolation eclipses the socio-historical and political “real” of the war, it nevertheless allows for a greater representation of the social (and gendered) dynamics of the society depicted. On the forefront of this village-society is the league of women; the village is comprised of wives/mothers, men, and teenage boys. Ergo, the women’s alliance is an imperative if they are to successfully guard against the dangers of the war.

Strict academic writing bores me. I have no patience for convoluted arguments. Why race away from the abyss? From vertigo? The vertiginous abyss is the finish line.

I think back on the dry ambivalence which tints me. This ambivalence made me tacitly answer antithetically to the same question, without synthesis.

Something nibbles at my feet. I’m being swayed by these moments under heavy rain and the joy of being stung and eaten.

My boyfriend has his hands inside my pants; he is watching the film with his parents through the crack in the closet. At the same time, I’m looking at the city, at the village, at the whole country. It doesn’t matter. There is no beauty in the dissonance of the metropolis or in the arid rural landscape. And to our surprise, chaos and disorder are furthered by Maldoror making “a pact with prostitution in order to sow disorder among families”. Even the world’s mythical oldest profession, however, fails to disorient. His parents laugh but then gasp in horror.

The ambivalence of love between sexuality and neurotic behaviour; between the desire for terror and the desire to defile beauty. What speechless wonderment washes away the ambivalence as I release myself in the closeted sea, amongst dirty clothes and waste, my boyfriend rubbing himself on my back, passion serving as a prelude to physical union; or who knows, physical fusion serving as a prelude to passion, the fervour of love, the violence of a storm, of lips moving apart and closing in, tightening in on each other to prevent the slaughtering laughter which would expose us—pause—silence—contemplation—and so what if we’re exposed? Beware of the (s)laughter.

Mahmoud Darwish starts a poem by saying, “I want from love only the beginning.” I never could understand his masochistic desire. As I stepped in the water after taking my clothes off, rekindling my love for the sea, the yellow road lights reflected on my legs, the hairs like those of a cat in alerting fright. Although the road to love is a path to blissful happiness, before I can enjoy happiness, I walk towards the water, my toes touching its chilled surface, and I suffer from its frigid agitation.

My boyfriend’s mother vocalizes sounds of disapproval at the film’s abrupt change from comedy to tragedy. The world’s oldest profession fails to distract, and the terror of War pays a nonchalant visit in the form of a bullet in the back of a mother’s son. She decides to hide her son’s death like an abortion long in the making. The mother becomes the reciprocal of the Virgin Mary. The aborted body is invisibly put in a room, protected from the world, as if in a womb. The room, however, is empty, cloistered from the world; the windows are shut, the door is locked: The room is an empty womb, figuring abortion. And I reach climax.

The sky becomes calm. I swim now below a huge, pure sky and I laugh, water enters my mouth and chokes me with saline reality. Something stings me next to the knee and I feel frail. We stumble out of the wooden doors of the closet, welcomed by shock and gaping dry mouths. My boyfriend’s parents are so startled by my (s)laughter, they disregard my gaiety and look straight at their poor helpless son, his hand covered with my semen.

And is it worth an abortion? To come out of the closet? To swim back to the shore? Nothing is more religious than abortion: the wastage of ultimate excess in a formless formation. Freedom from form, from the prison-tomb of architectonic systems, from the police function of sperm management, from the cosmo-illogical shoddy bunk-hole of binary patriarchy.

The metropolis will crumble if we feel a gist of freedom. It is no wonder that parks are few: “The workers must stay away from these too clean groves…they could easily become seriously angry and question why they earn so little when these rascals steal so much”. The words of Emilé Zola ring true.

I am not in the tradition of giving out answers, not even to the questions that I ask. But there is a force which propels me to be without ambivalence, compels me to utter a scant revelation: given the space of a shoreline and the sea, I see nothing stopping us from aborting on behalf of mothers the progenies of phallic architectonic monuments. The crack can be seen from a distance, widened through the (s)laughter of beautiful, violent Medusa.

“Learn to swim…” [Ænema.Tool]

“Every animal is in the world like water in water.” [Georges Bataille]

“And why don’t you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven’t written…Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great –that is for ‘great men’; and it’s ‘silly’. Besides, you’ve written a little, but in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way, or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty –so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time….” [Hélène Cixous.The Laugh of the Medusa]

“Humanism (capitalist patriarchy) is the same thing as our imprisonment. Trapped in the maze, treading the same weary round. Round and round in the garbage. Round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round (God is a scratched record), even when we think we are progressing, knowing more. Round and round, missing the sacred, until it drives you completely into your mind. But at least we die. Personalism is a trap because to believe that some of what one was holding onto will be taken care of by another being is irreligion. It is not our devotion that matters, but surrender. There is no end to the loss that lies down river. If only we can give up. ‘Life will dissolve itself in death, rivers in the sea, and the known in the unknown’ [V 119].” [Nick Land]

[P.S. A subtle interpretation of Where Do We Go Now is passed on here. My own.But you can share it.]

Kanz

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“Is not hospitality an interruption of the self?” Jacques Derrida, Adieu, p. 51.

ruben ireland sleep

April 5, 2009 – Beirut

The dreamy eyes had widened with ferocious excitement at the news of being accepted as a future student in the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. The family enjoyed a frenzy of jubilation. The daughter of a handicapped father and struggling mother had carved her way to one of the most prestigious universities in Europe.

“Derrida; Balibar; Foucault; Sartre; Bourdieu; Weil.” Kanz, the star daughter, screamed, her family around her in a wobbly circle, the unity of a promise fulfilled and a new promise being made bringing them together. Her mother cried; the news too strong for her to process with the same re-stricted attitude of her normal days.

“You’ll go there, you’ll be free. You be who you want to be and make us proud.”

There was no mention of what she wanted to major in. Nothing mattered except the departure with a promise; the commitment to a decision of being greater than her predecessors, of being as great as her potential allowed her to be.

April 11, 2011 – Beirut.

Kanz’s brother woke up and immediately called his sister in France. But no one answered. He woke his mother, who grudgingly told him to leave her alone. But he insisted that she should wake, so he bellowed.

“Mama! You have to wake up. It’s April 11! Mama. Kanz is in France and today is April 11.”

His mother’s eyes widened as if an ocular nerve had been pricked. Panicking, she got out of bed, at a loss and tried to call Kanz. But to no avail. No one answered.

“What do you want me to do now? Just worry? What do you want me to do?” she screamed at her young son who responded with a blank face and a shrug.

She turned on the television. There was no mention of anything happening in France, but a hysterical maternal hunch was laid heavy on her heart; Kanz is going to be in trouble. Kanz needs her. Kanz wants to be held tight.

April 11, 2011 – Paris

Dusk. Kanz, twenty-two, locked herself in the bathroom and sat in the water-full bathtub. She sat there, on her naked bottom, her feet close to her chest and hugging her knees with her thin white arms. The water submerged half her body, her breasts half floating atop the still water. This stillness permeated throughout the whole apartment. She made herself an enactment of a still-born foetus because she knew that the day would mark her as a stranger, born anew, demanding her, forcing her to obtain a new identity.

Three years ago, she had left Beirut with a baggage full of promises. The promise of a glorious and strong return.

She opened her legs and let her hair sink in the shallow depth of the bathtub. It started spreading, hair by hair, widening, opening up like a mushroom explosion under slow motion. She passed her fingers through it to see if it’s still strong, still thick, still solid enough to hide her if she needed it to do so.

The sun rose and the smell of bread emanated from the many bakeries surrounding her apartment. She gazed haplessly on the covers of the bed. The French sound of civilization slowly entered the room. The passing cars, the rapid French ranting, the high heels, the clatter of shopping carts, the music from street performers; and then the phone rang. She stared at the red light going on and off rapidly as the ringing echoed throughout the still room: another French sound which she did not want to respond to. She stared at the ceiling and imagined the course of her day: people staring at her, people thinking that she’s a criminal by birth, by indoctrination, by force, by root and stem. On the arm-chair next to the phone, she saw how the world outside finally found its way to the core of her private life.

The phone rang. Again, she did not answer.

The hour of departure had neared and she knew that she had to get dressed. Facing it will only make it go away, that monster of reality. She saw pictures which contained her now lost object of safety. A flux of memories rushed confusingly in her head, mixing with each other, all of them containing this object which she thought would be with her until the end.

The first days in university; the night-time walking and stares; the fear of losing it all. And fear made flesh. She lost her source of confidence.

April 5, 2009 – Beirut

After a lengthy time of celebration, cake eaten and pastries served, the father called his daughter from his room. He lay in bed like an old sage. Kanz sat on the tip of his bed, still smiling, and he looked at her, her big black eyes glaring at him.

“I’ve raised you the best way I could,” he began talking, his voice struggling to articulate his thoughts. “And I’ve never forced you to do anything.”

She nodded.

“And I do not want to start forcing you to do anything now. But I want you to know that if the time comes when you have to part with what you think constitutes you, you feel free to do it.”

She nodded.

“Open up and experience everything. Never hold back. The phoenix burns itself so that it’s born anew. And we should do the same. You’re going there to shine. And no doubt you’ll say a lot of goodbyes along the way, to people with lovely faces and strangers with curious gazes.”

She nodded again. He coughed.

“But the seasonal road ahead is only lit by our sight, and even though at some moments we might be blind, there’s always insight to find. The best thing I can tell you to do is to never look back. Be young and willing. Burn every bridge and don’t write back. Freedom is having nothing to lose. Don’t get attached to something that can be easily taken away from you.”

She got up and went outside.

Four months later, she packed her bags and travelled to Paris with everything to lose, the burden of a promise and the weight of a decision pushing her down to earth in a humility felt only by a slave in front of a master. But her father’s words echoed in the back of her head. Somehow, she felt safe.

And she could not, would not fail them.

April 11, 2011 – Paris

The phone rang for a third time, and this time she got up. Her dry body trotted heavily to the phone.

“Hello.”

“Hi Kanz. Are you alright?” Her mom breathed heavily.

“Yes. I’m alright. I haven’t went outside anymore.”

“How does it feel?”

“It feels like freedom.”

“Freedom?” a strong tone of confusion with a spice of betrayal marked her mother’s surprised question. “You feel free?”

“I have nothing to lose anymore.”

“What? Don’t say that. You still have everything to live for. Don’t forget what you want to do.”

“But. I can’t do it anymore.”

“It’s not the end of the world. You can do it. You can cope it.”

“I have no one here, not anymore. As of today I’m alone.” A pause, a silence fuelling an ominous feeling of suspension. “I have to go.”

“Just do what you have to do Kanz. Remain calm.”

“Ok. Bye.”

She hung up. Three years ago, it was an easy decision to go out, full of the confidence to be what she wanted to be. Now, the life outside made it impossible to do so. It has been explained to her as the price of independence.

And she looked at her burqa and found all the independence she wanted ghostly written on it.

It had been explained to her as the price of equality.

And she looked at her burqa and found all the equality she wanted emanating from it.

It had been explained to her as the price of freedom.

And she looked deep inside and knew that the freedom the world outside promised her is one that conditions her to be unaware of her origins. And she rejected freedom if it asked to be unaware of her origins, like being born from an egg thrown in the woods.

So she got up, wore the burqa and stepped out of the house. She walked down the street knowing that rapid French words are going to target her; that police whistles are going to sound at her sight. And she walked until that which was meant to happen occurred, the noose of French hospitality tightened on her neck, suffocating the spirit that had promised a family that she’ll do well; that she’ll do her best.

French words, and police whistles. Eyes glaring. She didn’t like the noose that she was hanging from. She went back to her apartment with a fine for wearing what she wanted to wear. She could not, would not accept the way she was accepted. She called her mother and told her that she’s coming back home.

Sergei Bizyaev defects

Homunculus

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Taking advantage of a rare opportunity, I drive like a maniac to Najeeb Haqd’s house from my workplace, the headquarters of the only English newspaper in the country. I speed past cars on my 2002 Suzuki Volty. This is the first time he agrees for an interview, the J.D. Salinger of this country, the isolated writer with the critical eye; he’s given me a one hour window. I whiz past cars driving slowly now that the new traffic control cameras have been ghostly installed.

The wet ground makes me hesitant to break, so I just twist my fist and speed up; there is no time to lose. In the inner city of Beirut, where the cramped and tight streets force me to drive agonizingly slow, I manoeuvre in dark alleys and side roads like an experiment rat trying to find the way to my reward through a labyrinth made to make me suffer in my search.

But I find it; an old, lopsided building, ominously standing like an aged man fighting gravity. It lives up to its reputation; the only reason it has not been touched by excavators and bulldozers is the promise of it being a national landmark in the future, The Home of Haqd. I park the motorcycle next to the entrance of the building and press the button next to the “Mr. Haqd” label. I hear someone lifting the handle, a presence at the other end of the interphone line, but no sound, just a buzz which opens the door. I feel like a tomb raider as I enter the building, the smell of dust permeating through the entrance, and the elevator too old to function. I climb the stairs two steps at a time although there’s no light to guide my way. Three stories up, I knock on the wooden door which can be easily broken.

I think of the questions I want to ask him: How do you create your characters? The supernatural is essential for you in your writings, what do you think it adds to your work? What is your favourite environment to write in?

The door opens quickly and a bit of light seeps from the inside, but then it’s gone. A gaunt figure wearing a hoody comes out and tells me to follow him in a solemn voice, not commanding, and not subservient, simply menacing, like the scratching sound of a quill on a parchment; the clicking of the keyboard.

“Mr. Haqd?” I ask, but of course it’s him. Even in the darkness as we descend the stairs, I know it’s him, I can strangely feel his eerie ambience taking control of our night-time meeting. Taking control of my movement, of my words, of my being.

“Come, just follow me,” he says again, a slight irritation in his voice.

I don’t ask questions, I just do what I’m told for fear of wasting the opportunity. I mentally record every little detail of every step he takes, the way his right foot slightly curves inward as he steps on it; how his right arm doesn’t move, but how his left arm keeps his balance as he pounces with every step. Every minute or two, he looks back at me, checking if I’m there, and occasionally, he utters a warning, “keep up, I won’t wait or come back for you!”

Ten minutes into our walk, a gloomy solitary promenade, met with the eerie blowing of the night wind, we arrive at what seems to be like a metal fence, withered and rusted. Najeeb Haqd starts climbing and hesitation strikes my head like a scythe as I realize that we’re breaking into a cemetery.

“Are you coming? Don’t be afraid, there’s no one inside,” he says and quickly jumps to the other side of the fence.

I start climbing and images of men with sheep’s feet, of little dwarfs with wrinkly skin, overlapping over itself like sandy dunes, of mutilated bodies and limbs walking around haunt my mind. The darkness of imagination and the darkness of the night mingle, and the result is fear, as I wobble behind the mouth of critical words like a dull tail, not knowing how to progress in the darkened depths of night.

Inside the bounds of the dead, the gravestones, dull and convenient, burst like hidden stars as I make my way behind a contemptible thin body, barely existing if it weren’t for his sporadic and random manuscripts.

We stop at a grave and he brings out a small gas lighter which has a lead bulb on the bottom side. He lights the gravestone and reads out the name. Wafiq Ghanem. He writes it down on a small notepad he also digs up from his pocket. He turns around and lights another headstone. Bilal Hijazi.

“What’s on your mind?” he asks, his voice not rising above the sound of the wind’s playful dance around the channels of marble headstones.

“Nothing. I’m just waiting.”

“Waiting for what?”

“For you to tell me what to make of this.”

He doesn’t reply. He simply sits on one of the stones, the wind becomes fiercer and wet with the residue of rain hanging on the trees surrounding the cemetery. I keep my gaze at the place from where the infamous author spoke, waiting for him to utter and tell me what to do next. An unnerving sound echoes in the pitch black surrounding and breaks the silence.

“Mr. Haqd?” Sheep’s legs, small dwarfs, limbs are projected on the screen of darkness. “Mr. Haqd?”

“Do you remember anything before I called you?”

I try to. I try to remember events that happened at work, but I draw blanks.

“Don’t be scared, this is what we’re here for.” He says, still very calm as the noise around us heightens, definitely not the wind. “Okay, get ready,” he tells me. I sense him move.

“Get ready for what?” His gas lighter is on. He is standing up, his arms aloft.

“Do not run away,” he shouts, as if preaching.

“Are you talking to me?” I ask, but he does not acknowledge me.

“I have come to watch you play.” He looks at me and says, “You have to know that I only write about the dead because it’s convenient to give them a voice. I need to find out how old you are.”

“I’m—”

And the light is gone. A pull. A shove. I’m on the ground and I’m mentally recording every little detail, the sound of breaking stones, the intricate fizzing of the worms in the damp soil, the movement of snails on the moist tombstones. I am mentally recording everything. The trotting of sheep legs and the voices of males with rough voices above me. Little djinns laugh like babies full of malice, their mouths full of crooked teeth; their skin rough and rugged like canvas. I mentally record everything my imagination gives away. Everything is recorded, written down. Mr. Haqd is absent.

A flame runs through me, and light hits my eyes, the light of the sun. I wake up, still in the cemetery. My eyelids burn when I blink, as if my eye fluid has turned into an acidic compound. But everything is clear. The tombstones, the trees, the fence. I look around, I see the names, Wafiq Ghanem; Bilal Hijazi. And next to them, I see a familiar name, my own, and next to it, the inscribed years, 1976 – 2004.

I run. I run away. I jump over the fence and make my way to the old withered building with amazing speed. I see my Suzuki Volty. I climb three floors and knock on the door fiercely. The wooden door opens and I see Mr. Haqd sitting in one of the rooms, writing. He turns to me and says, “I’m glad to see you once again.”

He chuckles as I look down and see my sheep legs shiver.

Musing on The Wall and Beyond–Part Two

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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.

The_Walls_og_tears_by_Stefano83

Musing on The Wall and Beyond–Part One

Standard

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.

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