Divagations and Ravings

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I understand the temptation of rotting at home.

***

Narcissus and Echo – their story can be summed up in the two words of their name. Narcissus can do nothing but fold on himself, in a primacy which nevertheless attracts; Echo can do nothing but repeat this folding, inflected in the end of every utterance by Narcissus. A double folding. A double bind. It collapses them both, and so the story goes because they’re condemned to their name.

To the same extent, as much as “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” then God can only function sovereignly as Narcissus and Echo. In other words, this only shows His anthropocentrism.

***

Compromise is merely a word to disguise gross utilitarianism.

***

Rien, cette écume, vierge vers
A ne désigner que la coupe;
Telle loin se noie une troupe
De sirènes mainte à l’envers.

(Nothing, this foam, this virgin verse
designating the cup, no more;
so plunges far away a corps
of sirens, many in reverse.) [Mallarme.Salut]

***

Our quest for knowledge is curiously insatiable. Our quest for self-knowledge is insane.

***

In cities by the water, the humidity of strangeness glaze your skin. Beirut and New York share this affinity to strangeness. The difference lies in how the former city forbids you from shedding your skin and how the latter makes of it an obligation. Beirut is a city of stagnation and paralysis. New York allows for the willful return of the new. Beirut is an echo of its own strangeness. New York’s echo is only heard outside of it.

***

Longing and ambition promise nothing. Neither do beginnings. If any location is witness to that, it is Beirut, where beginnings are only a means to an end.

Longing and ambition promise nothing. Neither do beginnings. If any location is witness to that it is New York, yet in New York, beginnings are an end in themselves.

***

De-lirium is praiseworthy.

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Memory & Forgetfulness

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Departure:

I have my bag packed. I can hear the shower water pouring, accumulating in the bath tub. I look at the empty apartment. The vacant couch, the piles of books towering half way to the ceiling, the temple of CDs and DVDs. These objects don’t make me want to remember the past week. These objects are not laden with the traffic of memories. They hold nothing. They are just a bundle without a substance.

The sound of pouring water stops. I know I cannot leave without saying goodbye to the only person I’ve seen for a week. I wait for her to come out but she never does, as if she paused time when she closed the faucet. As I stand outside the bathroom door, for the first time in a week I feel like a stranger in this apartment, in her home. It is not a place I belong to. I entered this place so full of hope. I thought that the road had finally gotten me home after prolonged seasons of winter in which nature was painted with different shades of the dullest grey. But it was a spark of euphoria; now time has halted for me to make the decision, to choose if I want to step back onto that ragged stale road of constant wandering; that road of loss and confusion; that road without identity which I loathe.

The silence in the bathroom becomes the silence of still-time, and I become afraid of her stillness; deathlike silence reigns. The knob does not screech as I turn it. The door does not squeak as I open it.

Vapour. Haze.  Steam rises from the hot water in the bathtub and sheathes the mirrors and the walls with blurry droplets. I do not enter, but I can see her lying, floating on the surface of the water in the bathtub. Her body is still and her breasts emerge like waves caught in a photograph. Her hair sticks to her body like leeches sucking off the rotten blood flowing in her veins. But she’d have to be drained completely if she hopes of being toxin-free, to be saved. Her eyes are closed, giving her the solemn image of a statue, battling time and winning eternity.

The still thought-image which she projects forces me to put down my bag and go to her. I walk into the sauna-like bathroom. Time is still paused; my moving body collides with the droplets. It seems as though I have dug my way with perseverance to get to her sober statue. I raise her head with my hand and I remove the leeches off of her body. She opens her eyes and I remember one week ago, the abominations we committed to fuel the fiery desire we shared for each other. I see the beginning through her eyes, and I sense no regret. Her wide black eyes give me comfort in their serene depths. I feel like a key that has found its door, a narrator that has found his voice. It’s all in the depth of her eyes in which I drown, and while drowning in her eyes she speaks to me; she tells me all I need to know, and I see all I need to see: moments not intended for me.

I stand up and leave her still body. I leave her as a still-image imprinted in my mind. A memory seeking continuity, an image seeking movement.

***

Return

Returning from a long absence, this alien world feels like a museum. I walk with fearful eyes through its halls and I stare at the portraits which look very familiar. It is the familiarity which frightens me. I left a vibrant city and have now returned to an unchanged city, a city of the dead, and I search for her, the one who I intentionally left as a still-image. I return to give her continuity and movement.

I make my way through the proverbial streets. People dress the same; people act the same, as if they had no tomorrow. The daunting reality of sameness wraps itself around me. My wandering is transformed into a fall. A heaviness pushes me down, but I persevere and channel my way through the immutable roads of this city. This is no labyrinth. I know where she is.

I revisit the image in my mind. I see her in the bathtub, her hair like leeches. I remove the leeches and graze my fingers on her flesh as if my fingers were magic limbs which close lacerations. Her breasts stand like still waves splashing on a shore. I let my hands surf on the waves and they reach the shore, the rough rug of sand which was my home.

I find myself at the door of her apartment.

I knock and the door opens. It does not screech. I step inside, the water is pouring down. Steam comes out of the bathroom and my desire is indelible. Relaxed, I step in the bathroom. I see her through the semi-transparent wall of steam, sitting in the bathtub, her head between her legs, and her arms trying to wrap themselves around her; she is in front of me now as she was when I left.

The water stops flowing; a bell tolls and time stops. Nothing moves anymore. The past is fixed and I find myself trapped in what my memory wants me to see. I find myself trapped in the past.

I left her as an image so that she could persist in my memory. When I left, I killed her. I froze her in time and did not allow her to move on, and now I’m faced with the conundrum of memory and forgetfulness. If I allow forgetfulness to creep through, I will seize to know her; she would become someone different; she would become a stranger. If I allow memory to persist, she’ll be unreal and as dead as a monument, as dead as the city which I have passed through.

I try to step forward. I cannot.

I try to back away. I cannot.

A decision has to be made. To forget and lose all, or to remember and wallow in decayed grave.

The distance between me and her hurts me, but I cannot stop staring. I have no idea how she’ll feel if I allow myself a tinge of forgetfulness. I have no idea how this still-image would move. Will she laugh and break the heaviness of my absence? Or will she move around in circles like a prey around its predator, examining and waiting to strike with guilt.

The answer is within reach and it’s a choice I’ve made a long time ago, before I left, when she whispered in my ear. She told me about a moment not intended for me, a moment not in my memory, a moment I am promised to witness upon my return.

The still image changes. She changes; her eyes brighten up; she shines and she looks at me. These eyes, they utter the truth in silence; art knows more than the mind can ever know for truth is found in the hidden places which art draws. The silent moving-image speaks: It is not okay to remember the way you did. I am alive. You left me with emptiness which did not allow me to laugh. The theatre of absence leaves us all wondering about our failing existence. You isolated me like a single frame of a long film. Your froze me in time and did not allow me to grow. And you thought you knew me. You left me without laughter and melancholy camped over me, and this city drained me with its stillness which you incurred.

I blush. I’m out of words.  She frightens me with her sudden strength, her sudden life, her sudden sublime beauty. Such beauty can only be reciprocated by a miracle which I cannot give. That moment which was not intended for me; her movement after stillness was that of a strike of guilt. I have returned to a city of the dead, but I do not know her anymore. She has changed. I never knew her. I have changed.

I turn my back on her and on the distance, hoping that the other end is closer.

My travelling lost me my only home.

An Untimely Remembrance of a Timeless Memory

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She sat on the balcony late at night, puffing coolly on her cigarette; a nightly routine which she has been doing for the past ten years. She’d sit cross-legged and look downward at the changing quick-paced world while her husband and her children slept inside. Trails of cigarette smoke disappeared in the darkened space like forgotten memories dissipating inside the dark caverns of the mind. But a sudden breeze blew and the air-born memories came blowing in her face, seeping into her veins again. It was the smell of meat and blood which took her back thirty-four years into the past.

She was in her uncle’s car, the same car he used to transport the meat he sold. The smell penetrated her every pore like the sweat of a rapist dripping on her skin, but there was no room for complaint or second-thoughts. They were fleeing a country in flames. Syria, for the first time, seemed to be very far away. Her uncle was driving at lightning speed, but the more he drove, the closer the heart was to home, and the further Syria seemed to be. Just sixteen back then, she thought what every teenager facing, or more accurately, fleeing the threat of war would feel: this life is not the life I deserve; that phrase, to which she now responded cynically, this undeserved life has taught me who I am.

She smiled at the ridiculous memory as she puffed more off of her cigarette. The jab of nicotine gave her full remembrance of her time in the Comoros islands where she spent four years, trying to enjoy herself, but always feeling like a refugee hiding from the terrors of home. A small fire joined what was left of the family together at dinner: the uncle, the brother, the aunt. The parents were absent. Perhaps, she thought, if her parents were near, home wouldn’t be so far away.

Her brother talked about the well-known strife of their grandmother; a story always told in times of trouble to garner strength and perseverance. That supernatural quality made the story more fictitious with each retold, slightly re-shaped account of it. Her grandmother, born in America and returning to Lebanon, found herself, somehow—the details scurry off and are not important—as the only Muslim child in a Christian family. The story goes on: how she was trapped in chicken dens for countless days; how she was forced to go to church; how she was forced to take part in rites not of her own; how she was beat up when she would not obey; and eventually, the apogee of the tale, how she fled the pseudo-home, and luckily enough, found a goodhearted Muslim family to take her in. So feathered a story, told around the lightly burning fire, constantly inspired anyone looking for any sort of cause. Her brother would always conclude, “We should take our grandmother as an example.”

We? An example? A metaphor of the strife of a country; an example of fleeing, and they had done just that. A sad solidarity. She exhaled the accumulating smoke in her mouth and exuded the trickle of sweat on her forehead. Her parents were in Paris while she was in the Comoros. Family, dubbing itself as protector, once again failed to protect, but somehow, family always takes the indomitable form of something religious, or, for that matter, something irrationally believed in.

Where were her parents now? Her father, dead for sixteen years. Her mother, dead for one day. The formidable thought of death could not escape her. In the distance, she can hear her brother recounting the story of her grandmother once more, to his children, to his grandchildren, or even sometimes, to them, pretending they’re all sitting around a small shy fire, which the lit cigarette can be compared to. And that is all that is left: the story of her grandmother (soon to become the grandmother); the Muslim child persevering against the throes of Christian perdition; A prototype of reality in the minds of children sleeping inside; a timeless memory taking the form of a lesson to be learned. And what would be left in the heart of the woman smoking her cigarette: the saddest thing: the truth that we were meant to be together from the start, but a story of perseverance entrenched and bolstered the immutable order of the home which will always have someone flee it.