Once Again…For Hatred

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No. 9 Ola Hejazi
In the idle situation of smoking a cigarette in the summer sun, memories surface like scenes seen from a scratched and scarred wooden windowpane. The heat radiates from the cement buildings, and from the windowpane the memory of the mountain breeze amplifies my fiery stillness on the flared sidewalk. An army convoy creeps its way across the street, its wheels are steady, a soldier mounts the gun on top of the truck, his eyes scan the panorama in front of the convoy, people indifferent to his presence, beggars following fast maneuvering shoes, cars honking at them from all sides, and in front of him a secret line he knows the convoy must follow stringently even though the gun he rides offers neither solace nor threat.

…But to go back to the mountain where my aunt would take me for indefinite weeks away from the blaze of Beirut; I take another drag from the cigarette and through the mind’s windowpane I see a cloud of dust in the distance approaching me, the pebbled road beneath me shaking. I am strange on this road, my aunt’s house is still unfamiliar to me and it’s just across the street, yet the cloud of dust entraps me within it from far away, and soon it is as if I am the one who is approaching it, even though its inevitable danger, this ominous taupe billow, freezes me in place. In the moment of immanent peril my legs respond again, but it’s too late, already midway on the road, I’m cloaked in a rough taupe mist…

They call me inside to the sound check. It’s midday, the chairs are still neatly arranged, ashtrays are clean and the smell of the detergent still fills the air with its thin sharpness. I pick up my violin as Hazem starts playing, waiting for my queue to start. Hazem’s oud picking syncopates between western rock and eastern melodies, my violin keeps to the eastern, alternating between different maqams depending on Hazem’s use of scale.

I started my violin playing as a child with a private teacher, a friend of my mother. She was a hoarder who lived alone; her house smelled like mold, and dust particles would mushroom after every step. My mother thought of it as a perfect arrangement: I’d learn the violin, and her friend would have someone to talk to, but I came to hate her after I joined the conservatoire. Her left hand had a nervous disorder forcing her to perch up the wrist  of her fretting hand more than usual, a condition I needlessly emulated because it was the only way I was taught to play. As long as my left hand fretted awkwardly, the teachers at the conservatoire separated me from the rest of the students.

“The person who looks at you playing will think this is a circus show,” Hazem says sternly, still giving me shit about my perched up left hand.

“If you were born after me and I before you, it would be you on the violin now”

“Me, unlike you, would have adapted.”

“What can I say, see what only one year of learning can do? Less, eight months. But no matter, I play as if I can’t wave my hand to saw hello in real life, I play for myself. You’d play with your hand extended, for others.”

“So existentially deep, as always. Next thing you’ll tell me is that some people pray with their hands on their sides, other with the right hand over the left.”

“Well, yes, they do. And they play the same game equally as good. The difference is I don’t play God and judge who is better. You do.”

Hazem, my older brother; he is playing football behind the house in the mountains. A stampede of bicycles, young kids, thinking whatever lay in their way on the road is a necessary victim; an unmerciful army sparing no reserves seeing no defeat in site marches to a steady rhythm. They ride together and form the taupe cloud; metal bodies collide with mine, one after the other they trip over me, scrubbing my body on the mountainous pebbles. But I feel nothing, floating, as if this moment is eternity, painless. I’m motionless on the ground, lying like a lie waiting to be found out, the blue sky slowly recovering from the taupe invasion. Then the discovery, hands over me, carrying me frantically, my body almost slipping from their hands, my blood spilling on the ground, and the bolts of pain…I think, the only way out of this is death.

I go back home after a long night of noise, music and smoke. I open the door of the garden full of mint roots that spread as other roots died of neglect. Brown and yellow roots rest wilted on the ground, begging for a modicum of water to remain motionless, but I decide to uproot them all. Mint roots spread crazily wherever you plant them, and uprooting them is as hard as forcibly forgetting what binds you. What’s left of them reforms them, as embers are promises of fire.

I dig in with my hands, insects crawl on me and I feel the tingle of necessary human transgression. Every root is a memory that I pluck for a momentary period of clarity.

rhizome

My aunt sits me on the porch, my elbows patched and a faint red slowly seeping through the most elemental form of a patch. She tells me to show the bikers what they have done to me, as if my lacerations are to be a source of my pride and a wellspring of their shame. I tell her to bring my violin, but my request is refused. This is not a time to flaunt my talent, but my soon-to-be scars. Don’t read. Don’t play. Simply be as if in the hoped-for state of perfect. A charade that I’ve been adopting ever since, even when in play.

One of the basest feelings you can ever feel is hatred for someone or something unknown to you. But to hate them exactly because you don’t know them, because you want to know them, that is to love them, these phantom foes and their phantasmal plans.

A wreath of paranoia adorned my mother’s head ever since, one that translated itself into a mortal hatred of my absence. She’d threaten and curse whenever I gave myself to the umbra of her sight. “Be late once again, and I’m never letting you back in,” she’d say, “I’ll never speak to you again,” she’d say, “I’ll close the door on you and forget you,” she’d say. But she’d never uphold them. Late and negligent, I always found the door open. Her threats functioned more as promises of endless acceptance and forgiveness. And I adopted them. I can no longer uphold a threat, neither as a promise to myself nor as a method of negotiation.

I pluck as much mint roots as I can in a performance of forgetting, even if only momentarily in the drunken rage of soiled fingers and bonds. But any act of uprooting is also a commemoration of a tragic event, so that one can always sense the last gasp approaching again and again…

…I know, something must happen now, someone must appear, or at least recognized, so that I can cease to hate and continue again in the state of play…

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Some Thoughts on Remembering the Lebanese Civil War, Literature, and History

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  • The Civil War 

Fifteen years ravaged Lebanon under the unwitting clouds of a mindless civil war fueled by sectarian violence and geopolitical struggles which found their perfect battleground in the small patch of land on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. From 1975 to 1990, “144,000 killed; 184,000 injured; 130,000 kidnapped; and at least 17,000 missing…175 towns were partially or completely destroyed” (Ghosen & Khoury 382). Fifteen years and it ended in a hasty reconciliatory settlement named after the Saudi city in which it was agreed upon: the Ta’if accord. The consequences, however, of the Ta’if accord would include an amnesty law forgiving all (war) crimes committed before its date; and consequently, all the war lords, with large powers and larger egos now in their grip—they did not “lose” the war after all— constituted the political spectrum after the war, controlling the tripartite division of power. All will be well, it was thought. In other words, all shall be forgotten. This aim to forget shall not be read in any way other than an attempt to erase debt in an economy of guilt. If Nietzsche taught us anything, it is precisely that the interplay between debt and guilt are preserved through a strict mnemonic strategy for remembering.

The attempt to wipe out the restricted economy of debt failed. Residues—waste matter—were discarded and only came to sting back in the inevitable recoil of a general economy that subsumes exactly that which we wish to exclude. The assassinations and killings have since come back sporadically, like spasms of a revisiting trauma; simultaneously, a waste-garbage problem grew in the city in the form of large mountains of garbage along its seacoasts; if the nation could be read psychoanalytically, then calling-cards would’ve been an apt description of this phenomenon. In all cases, something was owed; something was forgotten, or better yet, repressed. (Is this not also the excessive charge which returns with Nada Sehnaoui‘s 2008 installation: “Haven’t 15 Years of Hiding in the Toilets Been Enough?)

Nada Sahnaoui

However, while politicians favored the suppression of the civil war, a budding civil society including artists and writers were challenging the forceful impression of collective amnesia supported by the unchanging political landscape. Experimental media and writing have emerged to challenge the status quo and present the subject of the civil war in strategic ways so as recuperate and fill the gap in Lebanon’s recent history: “This body of experimental media provides a critical historiography of Lebanon’s recent past, particularly in regards to the country’s fifteen-year civil war” (Westmoreland 176). These new ways battle the general status quo of Lebanon’s history as a land based on erasure and reconstruction:

Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk notes, the mythology of Lebanon’s history is premised on a recurrent destiny of destruction and revival. North of Beirut at Nahr al-Kelb (“Dog River”), “inscriptions, steles, cuniform reliefs and plaques” commemorate 2500 years of conquesting armies, from Nebuchadnezzar II to the British army in 1941 (53). The Lebanese spirit of rejuvenation that is quick to say “Beirut will rise again” fails to mention that by the same premise it will likely fall again, too. (Westmoreland 177)

This new trend of art readjusts the switchboard so as to disable an erasure and enable a re-memberance of the events of the civil war, a remembrance which disallows another famous dictum in Lebanon from happening: “history repeats itself.”

  • Architecture, Writing and Memory

“Both the novelist and the architect,” says Khoury in “The Memory of the City”, “sculpt the relationship between a space and its living memory” (142). This relationship is based on the Arabic literary tradition which etymologically links the word bayt—Arabic for house—with the verse of a poem. Accordingly, the rebuilding of the city is linked directly to writing. In other words, writing after the war in itself becomes a bildungsroman. However, the direction of architecture and that of the writer do not necessarily parallel each other, for as Khoury remarks, the reconstruction of Beirut involved an erasure of the past and a look to the future which forsake the present. Consequently, architecture effects a kind of cultural amnesia. On the other hand, writing emerges after the war as the only viable way of survival during as well as after the war. Therefore, even though there’s a relationship between architecture and writing in Arabic literary tradition, this relationship is an antagonistic one:

Where an architect works to establish differences, organize relationships, and define limits, a writer works to tear down these limits, to transcend definitions, to open spaces onto one another. As literature tries to carve doorways between the declared and the undeclared, architecture seeks to hang the doors which come between them. (Khoury, “The Memory” 139).

If architecture needs to destroy the ruins of the past in order to rebuild a future and/or a simulacrum of the past, writing, in a mythic sense, becomes the harbor for the memory of the past: “In this city systematically ravaged by civil war, the only space left for memory is literature” (Khoury, “The Memory” 139). In this distinction between architecture as the space for the future-to-be or the past-that-never-was and literature as the space for memory, Khoury is presenting his own critique of the reconstruction project of the post-war years: Given the polemics of reconstruction and deconstruction that the city’s architects and urban designers have introduced, Beirut may return, not as a city, but as a jail” (Khoury, “The Memory” 140). Architectural re-building becomes associated with a prison system to which writing stands in opposition. His argument is pivoted on this difference which subtly argues that the re-building of the city regenerates a myth which disregards the present and the recent past, namely the civil war and its remembrance. Faced with such an effacement of a traumatic period, the writer emerges as a survivor of and for memory. In other words, whereas architecture re-builds, literature re-members.  The very act of writing, however, should be done in a mythic discourse in order to allow the “civil war and its remembrance” to play a “role in the regenerated myth” (Khoury, “The Memory” 142).

  • Survival and Memory

In Politics of Friendship, Derrida posits: “Surviving – that is the other name of mourning whose possibility is never to be awaited. Nor does one survive without mourning” (Derrida 13). Perhaps, one can better understand this sentence if we refer to another book of Derrida, Demeure, in which he explains that “Death is not impossible but necessary, nor is death impossible and necessary, no, the impossible and the necessary are neither connected by an ‘and’ nor disconnected by a “but.” Death is, in a single stroke, the ‘impossible necessary’” (Derrida 47). Speaking on Blanchot, Derrida goes on to connect this impossible necessary death to Blanchot’s “unexperienced experience”. Connecting these two passages from Derrida, surviving, as living on after the possibility of death (and in its triggering of the possibility of mourning) becomes implicated in a temporal order which fuses past and future. Surviving, then, becomes exactly the living-on after the unexperienced experience in both cases: the survival of the experience of the unexperienced as well as the survival of the unexperienced in the experience. In other words, survival emerges as a co-lapsing of the immediate experienced past with the possibility of the unexperienced future: the co-lapsing of mourning with the possibility of your own death. As such, survival is distancing and keeping away from death while at the same time keeping it in sight. Freud writes on this relationship between survival and death in “Thoughts For Times On War and Death”:

“Man could no longer keep death at a distance, for he had tasted it in his pain about the dead; but he was nevertheless unwilling to acknowledge it, for he could not conceive of himself as dead. So he devised a compromise: he conceded the fact of his own death as well, but denied it the significance of annihilation…His persisting memory of the dead became the basis for assuming other forms of existence and gave him the conception of a life continuing after apparent death.” (Freud)

Through this Freudian intervention, we notice that death and its survival (or mourning) traverse both directions of the temporal arrow: the dead and the re-membering of the dead forces a future projection of one’s own survival after one’s inevitable unpexerienced experience of death. In Blanchotian terms, it can be said that this unexperienced experience occurs in the space between the living and the dead. The witnesses of the war, the fighters and the citizens don’t merely become post-war survivors, but wanderers between the living and the dead: undead people with broken subjectivities.

  • The Subjective Break and Fictional Histories

The subject is dialectically fluctuating between the symbolic that forces him to repress—not accept—and the Real—the events of History which the subject cannot grasp. However, the dialectical produces the subjective break that Deleuze and Guattari describe: “Like all other breaks, the subjective break is not at all an indication of a lack or need (manque), but on the contrary a share that falls to the subject as a part of the whole, income that comes its way as something left over…That is because breaks or interruptions are not the result of an analysis; rather, in and of themselves, they are syntheses. Syntheses produce divisions” (Deleuze and Guattari 44).  The syntheses of the dialectical relationship which constitute the subject, produces a disjointed subject, an inevitable multiplicity. Moreover, this multiplicity is indicative of a residue, of “something left over”; in other words, the unaccounted for waste of memory, history—the waste of the city. However, if “In this city systematically ravaged by civil war,” as Elias Khoury claims, “the only space left for memory is literature” (Khoury, “The Memory 139), then this literature is a schizophrenic one (in which syntheses are Deleuzian divisions) and traumatic (in which the memories are those of a Blanchotian unexperienced experience). A literature as a result of the dialectic between the Real and the Symbolic—History and the Law. The only way to historicize becomes through the writing of fiction. A history that is no longer straightly referential also requires a novel which is not straightforwardly referential—the historical novel becomes replaced by the traumatic novels such as Yalo. The only way to historicize and re-member is to do so immanently: in a time of lost referentiality, it is the return of the unexperienced, the repressed which indexes history, however fictional this representation of history may be.

Lebanese criminals order Dan Mcullun to leave or die when he saw the body of a young Palestinian Girl.

  • Sources:
  1. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 1st ed. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. Print.
  2. Derrida, Jacques, and Elizabeth Rottenberg. Demeure: Fiction and Testimony. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2000. Print.
  3. ————. The Politics of Friendship. 1st ed. London: Verso, 2005. Print.
  4. Freud, Sigmund, and James Strachey. The Standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud . 1st ed. 14. London: Hogarth Press, 1966. Print.
  5. Ghosn, Faten, and Amal Khoury. “Lebanon after the Civil War: Peace or the Illusion of Peace?” Middle East Journal. 65.3 (2011): 381-397. Print.
  6. Khoury, Elias. “The Memory of the City.” Grand Street. 54.Autumn (1995): 137-142. Web. 25 Dec. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25007930&gt;.
  7. Westmoreland, Mark. “Catastrophic Subjectivity: Representing Lebanon’s Undead.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics. 30 (2010): 176-2010. Print.

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Victims of the Immutable Order: A Testimony

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I wonder what she’s doing right now. I wonder where she is.

In that home which trenches itself in the ground facing wide and long fields of wheat, bordered with cypress trees, lilies, but…

I’ve been counting the years and the months and the days. It’s an obsession. Three years, one month and fourteen days. I dream of myself walking up an arid hill, walking towards a door seen at the top of the hill. Every day makes it steeper.

She hates me.

…I told them everything, but they couldn’t understand anything. I faltered when I shouldn’t have. I gave in to reason. But there wasn’t any time for me to make things right. The absence of any kind of certainty made me a basket case of doubt. But that was in the past. Now she’s gone.

She went before. She’s gone again. Indefinitely. It was an immutable order which she found a way out of, only to be dragged back in, slamming her head on the crux of its foundation: family. She took a bad hit. Fatally, she bled.

Faint by precision, but strong by imagination. The memory of the best first night ever. The memory which I always add to by use of imagination. Sometimes I wonder if anything we remember is not just a simple fantasy. Every time I reach the same conclusion: we are the plaything of memory.

The worst last night ever. She looked at me with eyes beyond the threshold of despair; beyond patience and perseverance. She looked at me with eyes too shocked to be disappointed. Her lower lip wibbled as it did many times before, but this time she could not restrain the storm of incessant wailing. She was taken.

I know why she doesn’t call. I know why she no longer talks to me. She definitely hates me.

If only I could: squeeze her hand; whisper in her ear; look into her crystal blue eye; look at her; count the freckles on her face; feel the pulse on her wrist; hold her close; relish the mundane with her.

If only I could take back a mere hour of my life to give years for hers.

The best first night ever. After weeks of wanting to be a stranger, she was my opportunity. After years of being trampled over, I was her opportunity. We immediately exchanged hearts and permitted the other to dance and sleep with it. Purge me and read me. And so we did. And my heart read aloud, I am. Her heart screamed, thank you for not stomping over me.

We cleansed each other, naked, beneath the shower head, inside the bath. We were like leeches stuck on each other, forming a closed circuit; she sucked so I could feed. The water was hot and the humid air cooled our hearts down as we sucked each other dry.

Nostalgia gives birth to regret and remorse.

She hates me. I sold her out because I thought I would be helping her. I listened to all the others who had failed her before. The evil sly roué who told me to open my eyes and then forced me to see things through his eye; the pernicious viper who silenced me and spoke and told me to listen to her voice. I listened and I saw, but it was trickery. And I failed her. I let them take me away.

I cannot be sorry. Everything has bled into this; the borders of blame are all mixed up. But she is the angel that fell.

The best first night ever. We walked through darkened streets and alleys until the early hours of the morning. We drank energy drinks mixed with vodka. We sat on long winding stairs and watched couples trying to be intimate under the eye of the public cats and bats. And we tried it too. We were not afraid. We did not care. Intimacy empties a crowded room when it’s real. No one matters. We believed in love. I don’t anymore because I don’t believe in myself, but for a period of time, love was the answer. We readily tried to understand each other. We shared Frankfurtian views and loved our music. We enjoyed charades and paraded our skills on the street. We loved each other the way we like to be loved.

The street is the home for youths in love, where lovers grow, become sick and die. The rare public benches act as couches. The people eating inside restaurants act as pay-per-view TV programs. The stray cats as pets. The shitting pigeons, the church bells, the propagated prayer as annoying reminders of what awaits when we go back in.

But to survive on the streets, you have to make a promise of loyalty, a vow of devotion. And the promise you take until the end of you; a promise which I broke; a promise which she kept.

…and the skies turned grey.

The door at the top of the hill will never be open. What lies on the other side is imagination. My climb up the hill is an inevitably destructive fantasy. We’re still the same, inventing myths to feed our limited humanity: I can’t bring her back.

I wish I can wonder what she’s doing; I wish I can wonder where she is. But I can’t because she’s not here. She is not. I am, but it is not my heart which proclaims it. I have become defined by her absence.

Hanging on the Threshold of a Swoon

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He walks; head to the ground, trying to avoid the inevitable sun which feels like a veil tinting the world with a hot harlequin hue. He walks; there is no escape from the irrationality of the universe except through death, and what a though that must be, completely conforming to the belief in an irrational doomsday: the day the universe will seize to be; as if the universe continues to be after each individual death. Everyone will have their special day to die; the universe dies with them.

Give him death as he walks, and the thought which strikes him would be that of sex. He walks under the glaring veiled rays of the sun which feel like hot spears trying to hold him down and perform a vivisection on his sweating body.

Remember, this is not his description of himself; it is only the narrator’s. The only thing in common between him and me is the deathlike sun.

He walks, and as he jumps from shade to shade, he feels a light breath-of-ice Zephyr blown by chance and probability from the window just above him. And he hears a voice, a voice of a woman, and the thought reaches full fruition: The deathlike sun, and the erotic breath of ice coming from the woman. Imagination takes hold of that orgasmic moment, which the character and the narrator share, and we rejoice with our ability to imagine.

The orgasm, be it that of eroticism or that of the written word taken as the tumult of thought, is seen by many as the end. But the orgasm, as a peak, is only a beginning, for with it consciousness stands in the gallery of dreams which is the absolute and the infinite.

The woman holds our man on the threshold of a swoon. He stops beneath the window and listens to her voice. An anonymous she; could be anyone; could be you. Imagination, caressed with the light breath of ice, forces her to our consciousness. The woman in the workplace, wearing black high heel shoes, a V-neck black dress that skims her knees, which are now on top of each other as she crosses her legs. A silver bracelet wraps around her left wrist and two stud pearl earrings hang steadily from her ears like crucified gems.

…and beneath her chic clothes, the little golden hairs of her body play with the Zephyr which travels on her skin, through the hills of her breasts and her small grape-like nipples, across her navel which tastes like seasoned wine, down to her lily bearing seeds atop her white-marble legs.

He becomes the Zephyr—as she once was—travelling across her body, trying to possess it as he surrounds it with his cool touch. She looks at him with eyes that see desire without a leash, open up to its infinite boundaries of excessive passion. But her body does not give in to the terror in her eyes; she submits helplessly to his call for tragedy which will only stop at death. He pounces on her like a predator on a prey, but I cannot describe anymore, I have to stop at this penultimate point, for if I continue, the universe of words and letters and literature and poetry and language will die; they will die because eroticism does not have a language. We cannot aptly describe eroticism, no matter how grandiloquent our language is. To transgress the limits of language is to make language as strong a taboo as the themes we use it for, and silence is all that would be left. I am forced to withhold ejaculation and stop my verbal masturbation; I do not want my language to be announced dead.

But let me hope that the violence of love will turn into tenderness which only makes the prey yearning for the predator as much as the predator hungers for the body of the prey, but still, none of them would want to lose the other. The truth be told: love is the desire to live in fear of possible loss, with the beloved holding the lover on the very threshold of a swoon.

In Memoriam

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We are the plaything of memory.

My memory is a masquerade of historicism; A façade which designs events with superfluous lavish words and a timeline as intermitted as loving relationships. A simple subject-verb-object would do most of the times, but with ignorant use I sprinkle adjectives and adverbs to make my memory seem as unrealistic as a teenager’s wet dream.

I am the truth.

A voice, rough and screechy.

I am the truth.

I am emptied. I am darkness. In Memoriam and any sense of Self is gone.

Ahlan. The voice, from a past, a memory. Ahlan. The voice, the orator of departure. I am the Truth. The truth is in the past. The past is in the darkness. The darkness reduces me to oneness, and I am timeless and formless. I am nameless.

In one sweet moment you’ll be home. Just come give me a kiss.

That voice, from my past, my memory. Mammon.

Precious.

My old way. The low way. It is the only truth I have known. Should I cross the line?

Cross! Transgress! Break the Limit!

I am as good as dead. The orator of departure lures me. Why has he come?

I am the Truth, the only Truth in darkness.

My voice, in the present. An event. And I depart.

But I go round and round and Mammon laughs. My old ways are circular. And he speaks as he gives me a lecherous kiss.

I am the orator of departure, and I speak only of departure. So excuse my sudden departure, but it comes at a right time. Listen to the world shouting. A cacophony of angry voices, driven by a demonic will-to-power. Each culture, each nation, each country, each city, each individual is trying to give meaning to the world, and these meanings fight each other, producing that ever defining, albeit negative, factor: difference. But is there meaning? Is there purpose?

Forgive me for always surprising you. I just did not feel obliged to work according to your structured meta-narrative of how I should be, and in the case of surprises, of how I shouldn’t be. Your knowledge of me does not create me. I am my own creator. I jump off the peak instead of trotting miserably down the mountainside. I bend my knees and embrace freefall. In mid-air you never miss the ground. I surprised you while tried to wake you up. The awakening needs violence because you are stubborn, and you stubbornly stood in front of me whenever you felt lacking. You handcuffed your own hands and boiled your mind so that nothing could have touched it without experiencing your hotheadedness. You met me with ready-made attitudes. I stood like a riddle already cracked before I spoke. Ever since, you have filtered my words according to the algorithm which you think can decipher me; as you did so, you only saw the pre-conceived image you had of me, the dead portrait hung in your museum, without a voice. You felt superior as you stared at me, as if my existence was contingent with your pleased eye; as if I was only for you and because of you. So excuse me for suddenly departing. I had to before I became cemented as the prototype you think I am and make me to be.

The world was once a curious little thing. At some odd point, the questions of curiosity became a quest of passion, and the world personified stood in front of me as a silent person, yet telling me, confirming that it was a person I desired. On this quest I realized that the world personified (for clarity, a she) is a shore never to be known, an abyss never to end. But at the same time I felt Vertigo, a fear of falling coupled with a strange desire. I could never tell if I’d fall away from me.

But let her forgive my departure. She gave me no truth and I could not trust her as she suddenly proclaimed interest then took it away. I loved her. Let her forgive my departure. She wanted me only because I hated to let her down; but I needed someone to fight for me, to bolster my existence and respect my mind. She saw what she wanted to see, she loved what she wanted to love, but she never really saw or loved the rest of me. I love the world, but the hurt turned to hatred and when she took a wrong turn around the sun, I had to depart.

You have to depart. I only talk from your memory. I am part of you.

Texts have connections to the physical realm; Maybe forgetfulness should be an adaptive measure for preventing pain. But who said that evolution is something other than mere useless mutation.

We are the plaything of memory. Without memory there would be no guilt. Any act arising out of guilt becomes a duty. A deontological presence lacks passion. Mammon gives me a lecherous kiss again and holds me dearly. The gates of my hellish past open and welcome me with their bright orange light. But I see Nyx. She is terror made flesh: sublime and ethereal. She stands like a mother standing above her child’s cradle and looks at me with ostensible love.

I am the plaything of memory. And I am the architect which builds on it and designs it. But for now let me go to Nyx who can give me a dream independent of my reality, a dream of her own words, a fantasy of her own mind, a trace of darkness from her memories. A dream which permits me to be without being in the world.

Mammon departs. the truth is that there is no Truth, but there is a way forward; I am not stuck in the same circle.

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.

Transcendental Eroticism

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At first it was just us two, the girl and the boy, not exactly your typical fairytale, more like your typical porno. Memory has it that the first meeting was full of insecurity and uncertainty, but how things are now will never give that kind of impression. Memory also has it that all of what is happening was sparked by a spontaneous arbitrariness of a sudden courage to speak in a forthcoming way, without inhibitions and without moral restrictions. Every word had a surface level and nothing beneath it. No hidden truths, no secret intentions, just plain bodily, physical adoration.

At first it was just us two, but now the number always exceeds four. One thing remains constant: he is always the only boy. Memory has it that it was a hot day when I was bold and spontaneous enough to follow him into the one bedroom apartment. Memory also has it that it was all very natural: the way he led me, the way he let me enter, the way he seduced me, the way he elegantly made me feel different from him, like a stranger awaiting an identity, and finally, the way I let him in. Every act neared perfection and nothing happened that did not give a tingle of pleasure, a curve for a smile, or a gasp accounting for ethereality and substantial lightness. It was the first time I enjoyed such transcendental pleasure. At day break, I sliced his index finger and he cut my fourth toe.

Now we’re five in a room and we all charge on each other. A girl and I kiss, I close my eyes and feel her tongue grazing mine; I feel her lips becoming moister. I can’t remember her hair colour, her eye colour, her contour, her body. I do not care. I keep my eyes closed and start touching her body, her breasts, each lobe the size of an apple. As I go down on her breasts, I feel someone touch my waist, trying to pull me, and I let go. I know that touch.

I open my eyes and see three girls forming a human circle and as they eat each other, they look like genocide victims. He whispers in my ear and we laugh, but our laughter is oblivious to them. We watch them like they’re our very own private show, and he touches me with his now-wet fingers and we stick to each other, physically feeling each other’s enjoyment, and we become one Body in front of the act, and this Body masturbates as it watches. This Body twitches in instability. The Body is no longer male or female. The body does not experience time; the body does not experience space, or life, or death: the body opposes opposition. The body is an absolute one. The boy and I each sacrifice our individual self-consciousness to achieve an equality which occurs unprecedented. Our love does not become the love shared between master and slave, between sadist and masochist; our love is not dependant.

As the body climaxes and we retain our self-consciousness we break the closed female circle on the ground. Again, the five of us mash ourselves together, closing in on each other. Wordless acts of sensual pleasure occur until the sun rises again and the three girls dress up and go. The boy comes to me and I approach the boy. Each one of us has a knife, and each one of us slices a small piece of the other’s body.

On every morning after the transcendental act of eroticism, the boy and I slow slice our bodies, extending the transcendental bliss. We take off fingers or toes or ear lobes, eventually slicing nipples, slicing pieces of skin, and finally slicing sex organs. I cry the tears of Eros and I weep, and when we finish, we lie on each other, bleeding, waiting for the time when our earthly bodies fail and we transgress materialism to achieve transcendental eroticism.

Prologue

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I see soil and diamonds and blood and pale corpses, and it all calls to me so I can take note of it. Desolation will persist until I can colour those memories with one persistent colour, nay one persistent shade (for a colour can vary) which explains them beyond any doubt. There is a tablecloth on my memory (my dusty jagged memory); the tablecloth changes colours every so often, and through the multicoloured taffeta I interpret one thing in many ways.

Glowsticks and diamonds and vegetation and genitals and a departure and a return. The backdrop of a sun illumines, majestically, the white crystals that fall from the sky, and a snake-shaped rainbow colours the horizon, taunts the mourners as I am now taunting you, readers faithful yet uncompromising.

In great humility I stand silent, not uttering a word although my lips move and my tongue shivers as the white crystals hit my head and drench my cheek, camouflaging my cold heart with their wetness so I can be one with the mourning crowd that moves in circles in the mud, around a grave, uttering paeans to a God immortal and lamentations to a body no longer seen beneath the heavy damp soil.

I am so eagerly awaiting the night time and its deceptively liberating darkness, and from this moment, I suffer from a split and my shadow changes form, dispatches from the body, and the sun stands amazed at my power. I become a character.

The character blinks and between momentary instantaneous blinks dreams of a glorious night—as he has been doing for three days now, while he woke up, while he slept and dreamt, while he ate his breakfast and talked to the people that are around him often: his cousin, his dark-haired friend Y— who has only recently decided to open up fully in front of him, informing him of the dark crevices which inflamed her soul with sorrow like a gapping ulcer, his fair-haired tall friend R— who has long been secretly hinting at a possible relationship with him, talking to him sensually about her sexual adventures, letting her imagination have complete control over her tongue, narrating stories of imaginary love fests with boys closely resembling him, who, as he matter-of-factly  watches the mourners as an outsider camouflaged as an insider, bites his tongue accidentally and a small droplet forms in his eye, like the morning dew, and aptly so, it awakens him from his daydream of a fanciful night and brings him back to mournful setting of the graveyard; tough big men crying, family members holding each other in pathetic solidarity.

The tear finally begins to cascade down Dani’s cheek, making him feel proud to have the ability to muster a mask of sympathetic sorrow. And this day, as I have its narrator, will have to be postponed, as everything else will be. When responsibility calls, we should act.

But I can say that this is going to be a journey in an empty vessel which, as I narrate, shall slowly be filled up by a dialectic conversation between Apollo and Dionysus. Life is ruled by the dialectics to which the senses so lovingly and beautifully respond with a positive stimulus of excitement. Such big words love and beauty are, and surely not to be separated by two figures as Abstract as Apollo and Dionysus. But these two abstract figures carry with them such a tale of a long day and an even longer night. A day of sobriety and a night of intoxication (the dialectic has already begun!) seen through the eyes of Dani, a staunch advocate of Dionysus, and society shall be his opponent: his Apollo.

But reader, do not dare forget that, I, the narrator, am Dani as well, and I shall be as biased as love is biased towards madness. Give me no quarter as you read on, dissect me at will. Show more colours to the multicoloured taffeta tablecloth that adjusts and fixes my memory.

As a final note I must profess: Dani, as he leaves the cemetery, pours wine over the marble grave of some poor forgotten skeleton underground; the skeleton of an ancient storyteller. Wine droplets merge with diamonds and crystals and form a blood stained rebirth; the rebirth of the ancient storyteller, with traditions no more dead than him, his morals and values come to contend mine. Dionysus plays with fire and I must be gone for an undefined period of time. I leave like a person leaving his cherished pain, full of sorrow.

Abruption

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“He was no longer mastered by his experience; his experience was mastered by what he had written.” Milan Kundera

I began as just a pupil and now I consider myself an ignoramus in relation to anything that has to do with matters of the soul, of the heart, of emotions,of the human condition, of relationships, of love. I have experienced an abruption that made me wish I was an aborted child that never was, and worst of all, I knew all along that the abruption was bound to happen, and yet it came as abrupt as ever.

There is some weird uncanny feeling that is always attached to the inexorable incidents that happen to us. It is as if they have been prophesized by someone playing a lyre, enchanting us with a voice so sweet it lulls our reason, yet awakens our mind to some future event, which we know about, and yet only perceive as part of reality when it happens. Like the knowledge of death. Such feeling of abrupt loss does not go unparalleled with a feeling of missing or yearning or nostalgia. Even now as I write this I can still remember and force myself to smell the fuming smoke of cigarettes, the sour sliced lemon peels; I can force myself to taste sour red wine, the stale nuts, the dryness of the air; I can force myself to hear the clangour of glasses, the background muzak (was it a lyre that was playing?), the gossip from the table next to me, the laughter from the table in front of me; I can force myself to visualize tequila glasses with salt icing on their tips, drunken people all around, some of them looking happy, others looking sad, the bartender washing shot glasses in a hurry and pouring more tequila into them, and in the middle of the pub, a girl in white who just came in, looking around with a lost look on her face, trying to radar any friends of hers; In that moment of bedazzlement, I can still feel the bottomless pit I created for her to fill.

But what good is nostalgia for me now? It does not help at all. It makes me remember what happened and what did not happen. It makes me a slave to my past memories which stand entrenched inside every cavern of my brain like a strong unmoving boulder. So I want to embellish my memories with fantasies and dreams. I want to confuse reality with desire. I wear my knight’s armour, arm myself with my pen and ink, and quixotically begin to alter my reality. I stride the many hills of my memory and intoxicatingly begin to draw colours upon the now-jaded memories. Will the alteration of the past, albeit just in my mind, change my present? Or my future?

Could she love me again? Will she hate me? Did she call me my name?

Yes, I remember now. She called my name and I turned my head. She wasn’t calling for me, of course, but it was my name, so I turned, I waved, she smiled awkwardly, but she approached me. Her friend did not come, but I was there, I had a seat next to me, she sat with me on the table. It was a long night of wine and intoxication and it passed so quickly. Ah, how I loved her.

What happens now? Where does my quixotic journey of love take me after a night of intoxication which I cannot remember? Where does Dionysus promise to take me as I follow him, drink after drink, gulp after gulp. What happens next after I’m drunk on his red wine? Did I kiss her lips, divine? I know.

He takes me to orderly Apollo, his arch enemy, his nemesis. Apollo drains the wine out of me while playing on his golden gay lyre, prophesising my orderly death. My wine flows and the thunder in my mind rages, neither in hatred nor in grief; a rage of a more profound spectre upon the soul. The rage of abruption. Abruption leaves you silent with no clues, no knowledge of what happened or what went wrong. Abruption is someone slitting your throat, abruption is a cyanide pill. Dionysus ruined my Apollonian memories and I am left with nothing but fake embellishments which leave me castrated, stoned and rotted with yellow mould like an ancient, forgotten, originally-white marble statue. I am a petrified statue aiming at a confessional mime which I shall never be able to utter or communicate.

…all this while, I thought I was describing the hell of a writer.