Footnotes

Footnotes

1

 

She sits on the windowsill of her apartment, a half smoked joint in her hand, staring out to the adjoined back courtyards of the surrounding buildings, from her view, in Grammercy on 23rd, six hundred neatly stacked shelves, rows of apartments, cube after cube after cube, each one like a prism with which to observe the projection of a single life, in contrasting tones and hues of appearance and disappearance, lightness and darkness, omitted from the prism of the single shell.

She hadn’t gone to work that day. Knowing she would call in sick, she woke up earlier than usual and sent an email to her boss, explaining that she had been awake all night with food poisoning, and that it would probably pass by the end of the day, that she had no fever, but it would be best to stay home. Of course, she was perfectly fine. The only case she could make to feeling afflicted was a strange sense of melancholy drawing over her.

She didn’t mind the job, she just didn’t feel like going. Besides, in an office of six, excluding the chai Wallah who drove his cart around the different apartments turned offices in the refurbished Lower East Side building, employing the elevator as his most reliable colleague, she sometimes needed to get away, to think outside of the office doors, a two bedroom apartment with a wide living room, fitted with a kitchenette, that had once served as the apartment owner’s parent’s house, who also happened to be her boss. But a few years ago, as her boss, a thirty three year old Cornell graduate with distinction, double major in American Studies and Communications, moved back to the city to be closer to his family, he came home one day to find his father’s corpse dangling from the ceiling. His mother, who had by then already hated her husband, a retired corrections officer turned doorman, who resented him for his mediocre aspirations, holding it against him that the apartment had been bought for them by her own parents, who also owned a house in Long Island, was in Florida at the time, courting a young plastic surgeon who had operated on her breasts, nose and ass. As it happened, she put the apartment in his name and fled New York, expecting him to sell when the time was right. But after sleeping around as many couches as he could find for the first year, he realized, unemployed, broke, and increasingly nihilistic, the only thing he felt like doing was reading, writing occasionally, and smoking weed with his friends. So he moved back in to the apartment, cleaned out the remaining mess, the only things left behind being the sports section from old newspapers and several rounds of dirty laundry. He spent several weekends cleaning out the rooms, painting the walls, destroying the old furniture and building new, simpler tables and stacks out of all the wood, glass and metal peels he could find. Within a year, he had rented out one of the rooms to a graphic design collective of three friends, and he and two others used the remaining space for their review. She worked in the design room, who also happened to design the review.

She looks back at her belongings, the strewn about discord of her private space. What is the private space, she asks herself, returning her watchful eyes out the window, lifting one of her heels so as to land backwards on the frame of the windowsill, point her toes upwards in the air, and sigh.

 

 

2

 

 

In the story, the pilgrim arrives at the checkpoint in the afternoon. The entry platform is empty, and so he doesn’t have to stand in line, which is good for him, because that usually entails a three or four hour delay, depending on the numbers. But the borders have been quiet lately. A still populace.

Two soldiers ask for his papers. One of the two, the lazier looking of the two, leans against his post, a cigarette in his mouth that he hasn’t lit yet, his gun slung over his shoulder without his strict control. He speaks roughly, aggressively, spitting through his words, before quieting, and gesturing with his eyebrows and nose.

The other soldier is quiet, refined and simple in his ways. He doesn’t move too fast or too slow. He isn’t too skinny or carry a pouch. The venom in his eyes is absent. He remains quiet, seated on a concrete roadblock that acts as his throne, studying the passing man.

The rougher of the two walks the papers over to the man on his throne, handing them over while slighting the pilgrim with his eyes. The man drops his eyes to the papers. Quite suddenly, he returns his gaze. The man passes.

Behind him is the sanctuary. Before him, two miles ahead, is exile.

 

 

3

 

Still, it was so difficult for him to organize the variable thoughts into a single construct. And after the display of others, who had been brought into the room, studied, returned to their homes without a mark or trace, the authorities had no real plan to abandon the project, it hadn’t received the negative attention they had expected, and from the attention it did receive, it was pretty good.

Still, officials were weary of public displays of desperation.

 

 

4

 

In the establishment center, right out of the gates, there is a man they call the keeper. He wears a crown of lice, and carries a bag of snails around his waist. He lives in the wild, between the two walls. Two miles of grass grown to the height of the wind.

 

To pass into his sight, one must first endure a night in the passage. On this night, the dreams of the willing guest will be analyzed by the keeper.

Over his shoulder, he hears the taunting words of the soldiers.

 

 

5

 

“I’m slowly watching the games again.”

 

 

 

6

 

He took a seat on the train, riding from Lindau back to the capital. The little German island on the Lake of Constance, guarded by the regal lion. He laughed at the irony.

Twenty minutes drive away from his wife’s hometown, but he didn’t budge. He had chosen not to take the train from Ravensburg to Ulm, and from there the seven hour direct to Berlin, instead, riding from Lindau to Augsburg, where he would again board the train to Gottingen, and from Gottingen switch to the Berlin circle. A few more switches than usual, but a pleasant ride.

He felt his fingers to his throat, and he found himself doing this repeatedly throughout the morning.

He retraced his steps.

He had taken breakfast early, at the brewery down the street from his in-law’s house. From there he borrowed a friend’s bike to ride into the market, from where he bought himself two small items of food- a plastic container of olives, no more than seventeen in the bunch, all of them Kalamata, all of them black, and a plastic container of stuffed grapeleaves, cold, with hardened rice, but a soft texture that dissolves in the mouth, unlike the majority of portions served in Germany, by Lebanese, Palestinians, Turks, and even Germans, where the rice tastes like it has been glued together, and the texture is like rock, so for the Turks it is like a Turkish delight, and for the Arabs it is like the biscuits served on Festival.

These portions he ate on a brief hike in the late morning, after he and his wife went for a meditation in the woods. After that, he returned the bike to the friend, and walked to the station.

He remembered, he had first noticed his hand at his throat on his walk from the plateau where the hike with his wife ended, and from then on recognized that he had applied his fingers to his throat in a gesture of annoyance or concern on the occasion of once every five minutes, from that point forward, without stop, so that now, seated where he was, on the first minutes of the forthcoming journey, on the train from Lindau to Berlin, he realized what the gesture had meant, and what it means, that he’s feeling himself coming down with a cold, that the next several days might be intense. They might not, it all might come out okay, but that he’ll take these few hours of peace on the train to balance his energy, to read, to meditate, to be quiet.

He was already trying to deceive himself. How pathetic! He coughed in frustration, starting to feel himself drip sweat down his back, a sign of impending fury.

But he relaxed.

In a few hours, regardless of how foul was the smell and the air in the train cabin, he would arrive in Berlin.

He felt okay.

If he could design the moment to his pleasures, he would have played jonsi and alex’s happiness through a slightly muffled, old time radio speaker, somewhere a cabin behind, so the song could dance in and out of his thoughts, his presence, moments of passivity, moments of dull pain.

The unfolding scenery, of washed hills, ranger roofs, miniature logged chapels and Medieval cathedrals. He felt an intruder on a hospitable world.

Recently, he had spent an afternoon reveling upon the open fields of the lower Algaeur, the horizon blanketed by a distant towering range, the morning Alpine trail. He saw her hand discovering a band of wild horses, stroking hides. The quiet compelled by an eternal sameness. A constant beating of cowbells. The occasional song of a falcon, or a hawk. There are families who have remained preciously still for thousands of years, he thought. The idea struck him as odd. They must have acquired a zealous patience for things sacred. Those who survived.

And yet, in the presence of that equitable silence, he felt the urge to die.

 

He thought of a dream he had the evening before. It started with a feeling of needing to piss, and as he entered room after room after room, in that wormhole labyrinth of dreams, he pissed in just about every length of space. But after a while he found that he was no longer peeing, and he was standing in the library of his grade school. And then a strange girl, who walked with the aura of someone who works in the area, led him into an industrial zone, several steps away, and she brought him over hills of decimated urban territory, toward a pier, and finally, to the water. She opened her hands, and offered him pills. He accepted them, and then he ran.

A calm that finds you is stillness you have known. He wrote those words down in his notepad.

He hoped to work for the remainder of the ride. He would finish an essay he was writing, on the emergence of prophetic characters in the work of Bataille and other contemporaries of his in the years preceding World War Two. He used Blue of Noon as an example, where the characters are suspended in a world of moral decay, characterized by a hedonistic worship of the desire principle. As they run out of steam, the fascist armies are descending on the capitals of Europe.

But he didn’t work that well on trains.

He preferred to read a novel, in one go, or a longer essay, anything that took up a lot of his time, but didn’t necessarily fuel the fire, only tended to the construction of foundational strength. He could read, for instance, Alejandro Zambra’s My Documents, or Henry Corbin’s Alone with the Alone, entirely different reads but identical in their relation to his soul.

On one of the rides he made on the train, he sat comfortably in the silent cabin rooms. He had reserved the room for the promise of silence, but within minutes was joined by a family of four young boys and their mother. They seemed to be from the Caribbean, or Suriname, but with a Turkish father living in Hannover. The only thing he knew of Hannover was of a goalkeeper who committed suicide.

He read through Cesar Aira’s The Literary Conference. He didn’t like it. What he found captivating in most strains of Latin American literature was the realissimo that pervades so much of the continent. Not so much the machismo, which he always found revolting. He preferred those revolutionaries who risked everything against the regime. But he had fled the regime, and so he felt discounted, almost like a fraud reading their texts. He lvied in quiet shame.

Ofcourse, he would be the first to admit, the magical realists were his chief inspirers. The content of Silvina Ocampo, Juan Rulfo, and the magician Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What Lorca named the duende, and what Bloom defined the daemon. Fascination with the elements, with survival, with esoteric love. Characters in his revered mystical texts are sensitive, vulnerable, and more often than not, alone. They’re aliens to the world, and through no easy task forge safe passage through the spiraling contraption of the soul.

He felt his body quieting to the medicine. He had been hurting. But it didn’t surprise him. He hated it, but he spoiled his body, out of fear. He ate little tablets of Echinacea, four or five a day. Magnesium supplements, zinc supplements, omega supplements. Vitamin supplements, smoothies, and cut fruits. He lived in fear of his body. More precisely, he lived in fear of its eventual decay.

 

Secretly, he had wanted to write his own novel. The mistake he eventually made was making no secret of his wish, and he spoke of his impending novel like it had already been written, he had only to chuff it out.

 

 

 

7

 

The poet wakes up from the impressive sleep. He imagines the pilgrim remaining there, as it were, in his suppressed spiritual state, and relates it to an idol parallel of himself, of a man who spends an entire season in a paralyzed state, surveying the paralysis- and authenticity- of others. He finds the figure of a man he had spent an entire season watching paralyzed in a remote state, dissolve from his physical paralysis and take form on the ground, approaching him with ever weightier steps. The figure looms over him, and in the moment preceding their touching he finds it is his own shadow looming over the stranger’s.

Tortured by his own transgressions, he returns to an infantile state in the narrative, the looming figure of a jester lurking on the periphery of a muse’s sight.

 

 

8

 

That was the sort of feeling he had wanted, to tell it like the story of a man who wakes up and goes for a walk, and finds himself, after a short while, to be alone in the park, and afterwards, to have entered a labyrinth. It could also have been the story of someone who wakes up with the urge to go for a walk, full stop. He would have been a director, perhaps, having just left the theater of his opus, calling a curtain on his career. Leaving the theater for the last time, he would recall the figure of a man, much like himself, who had stood on his grounds, and felt, just as he was feeling now, the entire room conspire to destroy him, the smell of uric acid.

The clouds of dim October, black shrouds carry the majestic color of rainfall. The figure, staring aimlessly at the open sky, in the position of a pilgrim, possessed by strange belief.

He had woken up that morning, with the urge to go for a walk, to tune before the others would rise.

Obsessed with beginnings. A woman whose voice is playing over some sort of archive footage, personal, voice over, abstract of course….He would say, I remember, inscribing myself in the word, using tablature in language, he would repeat, over and over, congested, trapped, to the delusion of the senses.

He examined the memory of joy, subtracting from the equation the memory of hunger and thirst, the memory of freshly baked bread, incarceration. He accepted his being embedded in the cortex domain of his thoughts, where he expected to embed himself in order to achieve perpetuity in violence.

Then there would appear, like a total darkness over the screen. A calm place, immersed in darkness. What he called, the clouds of dim October, black shrouds carrying the majestic color of rainfall. The protagonist frozen, staring aimlessly at the open sky, in the position of a pilgrim, possessed by strange belief.

These would be Droctulft’s words, and his own. And his confession, that he had woken up that morning with the sole purpose to take his dog for a walk, to tune into the environment, and after a short while, to be alone in the park, and afterwards, to have entered a labyrinth. He could have been capable, but he refused, to meet some friends at a café, to plan something for the coming nights. But he prefers to tell the story of a man possessed by his quest to deliver silence. To tell it like the story of a man, who wakes up with the urge to go for a walk, and in place of himself, imagines the arrival of a gnostic pilgrim into the decaying confines of a port.

Droctulft spoke of, the need to see it through the eyes of a director, perhaps, having just left the theater of his opus, calling a curtain on his career. Leaving the theater for the last time, he would recall the figure of a man, much like himself, who had stood on his grounds, and felt, just as he was feeling now, the entire room conspire to destroy him, possessed by the smell of uric acid.

To the protagonist time is insufficient in balancing the oppositional elements of his character. He cannot be at more place than one, and in that place, his time is limited. But in his meanderings must return to a place, signifying of course his place of coming and of going, to understand then that the protagonist is at once in no place and in all others, being a subject of subjective time- time that does not correlate to his being anywhere at once but in all directions is emerging, wings open to the world, the cosmic Christ.

The character remains the birth of a primordial figure- in so far as literature is the adaptive transformation of one archetype to another, imprints mutating over objective time- he was taken by his sect to have used the camera to desensitize his complexity to the audience, and from the vantage point of general camaraderie- as the idea of his being that which they had always feared and not, substantially, a saving pilgrim, had not yet surfaced.

Paths taken along the exterior of the rail line tracks, hunting the afternoons on the street for food. Lost somewhere in a promise to his Dionysian obsession, where others might have pictured him salient in his room, obedient, but at play, the locals, in their own tradition, speak of the pilgrim as transmutated in the woods, emerging gracefully from the surface of the waterbed, before disappearing from sight.

These nightly visits could extend through an entire summer, and deep into the coming fall.

Such was the idea of the duende.

 

But he passed those first mornings smoking immigrant weed and reading translations of Thomas Bernhard, Pierre Reverdy, George Bataille. Working on an adaptation he could sell to a well connected producer, the son of a divorced tycoon from southern Anatolia, himself with ambitions to first, be seen as a director, and later, to qualify as a writer.

On the occasion of their last meeting, his translating the few Arabic lines of a script for a younger filmmaker, rehearsing with the actors their lines in Arabic, and then French, he had spoken to him of his enduring quest to write the novel. The novel that had broken his ties with Istanbul, and with the general movement of players. The producer, listening to his friend with earnest consideration, picks several tangerines from the expansive grove that surrounds his plot of land, subdued by the carelessness of a production inherently over budget.

“I keep having these dreams,” he tells his friend. “I find myself on the top of a large, monumental structure and I can’t make my way down, even when I try traversing the edge. The process requires a certain patience, and my feet are moving faster than the rest of my body, so I can’t manage to take slow steps. I call for help, people look at me but nobody listens. Have you ever had that dream?”

His friend shakes his head, and he continues.

“And then, I find that it’s only the start of a journey, and I cascade the entire canopy of a decimated urban sprawl, and I end up at some sort of station, with a lot of foreigners, dressed in white shirts and khaki pants, and sunglasses, waving their ID’s in the air, like it’s a matter of survival, and I see a young boy almost get crushed by the train. I meet a few of the people. They know where they’re headed, and they ask if I’m headed into the river’s edge, and at that point I think of a snake. I search in my pockets for a book, but I suddenly think that I’ve lost it, and as they start to drift away, not knowing where I’m going, I follow them. I like some of them, and one of them is guided on a leash like a dog.”

His friend, who is by now returning the curious stares of his crew, wondering what the two friends have diverted from camp to discuss, says robotically, like it had been scripted for him anyways to say, and he had no real choice in the matter.

“What book were you carrying?”

“What,” Droctulft answers?

“In the dream. The one you lost.”

And his face is then moved to terror.

“I don’t remember.”

 

He had written the first portion to coincide with the story of a prisoner, captured during the recess of a long and drawn out war, of no real use to the authorities but for the enjoyment of their time. They subject the man to heinous abuse, dismembering his body into unequal parts by the enforced breaking of his bones. This becomes the reflective synonym of his dream, the two parallels of his losing the book, whilst dreaming, in the tangerine groves of his friend, and his revelation that a prisoner had been kept in the hull of a ship, a ship that had been removed from its position at harbor, cradled into the long river they call the river of the dog. Himself the prisoner, and the ship being pulled from the port of ports.

On a higher spectrum of being, the two stories are the refraction of another story, milder, that begins with the protagonist sitting in the library at the university, running his eyes along the bookshelves, clearing his throat. The stale air of a confined space. He wonders then about the architecture of the library, shaped like a brain, shaped like it served the air a little better, but it doesn’t, and in the midst of his realizing he is in the moment the student at the library doors, he loses the strength to breathe.

The novel grows. It expands and he loses his sense of control. He wants to admit to his friend, who is still listening, if only to remind himself of the origins, that it had always been about a writer, a writer like himself, with the same ambition, refuge of the same undeserving mold, who owns a restaurant in a city like Beirut, but not Beirut, somewhere that shares the same possible landscape as Beirut but is more refined, possibly a Nice, or Montpellier, and when he wants his characters to disappear into this nest like it were their paradise, he fashions the image as thought it were a Greek island, steeped in mythical construct and physical details- for instance, the mountains of the Algauer- but he comes to the island from the perspective of a crane, towering over the horizon like a series of fighter jets, played against the recurring echo of tribal horns.

He emerges on the apex of a mountain, like a raindrop that sits on the surface of a leaf, weighing just enough to rest there without being pushed to the ground, like it sprouted from the interior of the leaf, and when it inevitably falls, like a balloon, dispersing into its finite self.

 

 

 

9

 

Tortured by his own art.

And then it would happen, on such a night of enduring darkness, where it seemed the canopy of the surrounding buildings, including his own, would have disappeared from sight.

 

 

10

 

She dropped me off at Alexanderplatz. I took the m10 to Eberswalderstrasse, to meet the young dealer in the park. He wasn’t there, I asked some of the kids sitting around where I met his last time. I met him last itme, this time I meet the four kids. Then I clal him again, he finally answers. He says, he’ll be there in half an hour. Go see my brother, he says. I look for his brother. I don’t really look. I sit down and read. I try to read, but I don’t really read. I pass the time watching the people interact. Stoned adolescents. Newlyweds with their newly kids. Immigrants and their children. The differences. I watcht th epoeple intersect. I think about tomorrow, the aicd trip. It’s going ot be an adventure. I finally realize I should look for his brother. I find him. He’s funny. Way too young. He has a football team around him. My wife is always on the phone. I buy the weed. I go home. We see each other on the tramline. We make up. Afterwards we want ot have sex, but for some reason we decide not to, to masturbate instead. I masturbate on her chest. But I come all over the place. Into the gifted blanket. I go back out to buy dinner. She’s always on the phone. but she helping people. Shes a healer. She had aksed me if I was sad she’s not an artist. She’s a healer. She can save the world with her little fingers. I can ruin it with my stare. Together we are beatitufl. So the story goes. I smoke a joint, write the day’s headings. Tomorrow we will go on the acid trip. And after, the world begins.

Everything in my life, is leading to this point. I went from the Eldorado pages of Istanbul, to Manhattan of NYC, to Port of Ports of Beirut, to BARA of Berlin. Now we are in the sacred garden. We experience the world of O. O is the omega and the ultimate. But if you spell ultimate with an O, you have DO. Do is then the penultimate. These are the sayings of doo gooding.

 

 

 

11

 

He tried to read Schulz in the park.

 

 

 

12

 

“Which film is that?”

“Sans Soleil.”

“Have we seen it together?”

“We have. But right now there’s a scene from Vertigo in there, but the film itself is Sans Soleil. We’ve seen Vertigo. You feel asleep.”

“The one with the cowboy?”

“No, that’s Midnight Cowboy.”

 

 

13

 

The difference between men and women is that men drink for the sake of not being themselves. For the sake of forgetting. Answering. Reviving.

 

 

 

14

 

“I think she’s mad at me.”

“She wants your attention. She’s just looking for your love.”

“Yeah. Just, since it happened, I’ve been so busy.”

“After your exam, go see her.”

 

 

 

15

 

I use to have the strength to deal with my problems. They weren’t as big. Paranoia. I smoke too much weed. Depression. I drank too much since the age of twelve. Exhaustion. I exerted my body over drugs, performance enhancing drugs for sports, sports itself, life, Adderall, university, love, depression, break ups. I want the whips. The whips. Gender dysphoria. Why do I want to submit?

I haven’t been able to concentrate. It’s rained all week. Isn’t it July? Is something terrible going to happen? To me? To us?

Friendly weather patterns. When do we become victims of the environment? I’m full of shame and regret.

My brother sends me articles all the time. Emails, over the phone, when we’re together. usually about football, creativity, or dogs. I like the dog ones, and the football ones. They remind me of who I was before I tasted the darkness. I am the darkness now. She owns me.

 

 

16

 

At the stage of my life where there are only three possibilities. Suicide, fame, alienation. I won’t live a normal life. Something terrible or magical will happen to me.

 

 

 

 

17

 

I remember sitting on the balcony during the days of the reservation, listening to José Gonzalez, before he came to town.

Maybe I’m not drinking enough.

We were happier then.

I do the laundry three times a week. I fold the clothes, separating them by their physical function. Skirts, dresses, socks, slip ons, tights. Bras I fold neatly as well but I carry them with the slip ons. Most of the socks are small. They can’t really be folded, they’re meant to cover the contour of the foot, the slightest stretch of cotton.

Boxers, t shirts, shirts, jeans. Shorts and all kinds of socks. I’m bored of these. I hate myself.

I masturbated twice today, waiting for my wife to get home, pretending that I’m working, I’m not. I don’t have a job. I’ve never been employed. I take money from whoever gives it to me. Usually my parents. I’ve taken it from friends.

 

 

18

 

We take the train south. An early morning. I had wanted to sleep by ten the night prior. After some willful distractions Iw as in bed and asleep by three, with a wake up call at five. You know that dreadful rising feeling, when the sun isn’t up yet, you’ve had barely enough sleep, and someone wakes you up to take a flight somewhere. Good thing it was only the train.

There isn’t enough room for my legs. If I were home…My back hurts. My wife, it turns out, packs as much as she can into the most inconvenient bags. That’s her way.

The men in front of us aren’t so bad. We reserved two window seats but we’d rather sit next to each other. Its nicer for sleep, and sharing food. We probably have the healthiest and tastiest food on the train. Quinoa with lemon avocado and broccoli. A lettuce salad with tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers, olive oil and lemon dressing with chilli flakes on top. A selection of sliced mango, watermelon and plum. Pistachios from California. Handbaked potato chips. The only thing missing is a kale salad. But a creative dark chocolate bar helps. A small bag of cranberries (dried, I thought they were raisins), cashews, and walnuts. Two blended smoothies. A coffee with rice milk and agave syrup. All organic and supposedly fair trade. And of course, eaten with real silver cutlery, from the owner of our house.

I try reading from my kindle but that enthusiasm I once had for the device is gone. I have some books with me, though. Zizek’s The Puppet and the Dwarf. John Gray’s The Soul of the Marionette. Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, a collection of riveting short stories, most telling the exhaustive story of his father dying and resurrecting into a crab, a cockroach, a shoe.

My friend keeps sending me emails about the end of the world as we know it. Big data, data mining. Surveillance. That whole thing. I want to respond, somehow, with my own set of fears that strangle me every day, when I wake up, that bring me to my most pathetic, unreliable self.

Why should I fear big data? Why does it matter when the supermarket chain I always go to knows what I buy from them and sends me advertisements to buy those products? Isn’t it my fault that I’m so easily swayed so as to go out of my way and buy something I don’t need? Why should I care that when I watch pornography from my laptop the different surveillance communities tracking my digital fingerprints collect data on my disgusting behavior? Isn’t it my fault that I’m obsessed with fucking and ejaculating and would rather do that all day than work?

My fears are tangible. They sit in front of me. They steal from my hands. They cut me in the eye. They feast on my eyelashes.

Cockroaches are everything I fear, and the world is full of them.

In any case, the human being is a parasite himself, and could use some guidance. Not everyone is worth their own freedom.

Free people choose to eat disgusting food. They don’t wash their hands after wiping their shit. Or after riding in the subway. Or clawing into a meal. Free, they eat until their arteries clog, until they lose function of a kidney due to cholesterol and diabetes. They wear clothes produced in sweatshops in people they subconsciously accept are lesser than themselves. This is the mark of freedom. Not intellect, or an impassioned vibrancy of free will.

We want people to be free to die of heart disease, depression, alcoholism.

The free never die of thirst.

 

 

19

 

I live my life for others.

 

I live life for myself.

 

I missed Jan’s birthday because I was sick. But also because I’m exhausted. What Jan doesn’t know, won’t know, is that I was exhausted. What he doesn’t deserve is that a friend miss his birthday because the friend is tired of obligations, because the firend is exhausted, not only sick, fatigued. What he doesn’t deserve but what is true is that friendship is exhausting. In so much as friendship is empowering, it is also exhausting. In so much as love is empowering, it is exhausting. In so much as I am empowered, I am easily exhausted.

What so many people are doing is delaying this existential emancipation. If they are in their twenties, then in their thirties they will realize they want to do something they love. If they are in their thirties, they are more tired, and so will by their forties break form the fold and push for something else.

 

 

20

 

I’m back in Berlin. It’s quiet. Youthful. Reformed. A visiting shaman administering ayahuasca to some fortunate Berliners spoke of the terrorizing spirits haunting the outskirts, the periphery, of the capital. He said the influx of positive energy, of foreigners, the emergence of a loving population active in social dynamics hoping to preserve comfortable and secure living conditions for all, had reformed the energies of the city, but the ghosts of the war, of the great division, of civil and social dismemberment, of massacre and genocide, haunt the territories around the place. Berlin is surrounded by forests and lakes, and some empty plains. That is where, he said, the spirits hide and feed on the memory of desolation, and where they search for souls to carry their cause. Trauma, the shaman says, lives between the folds.

Berlin gives me hope for Beirut. A city so destroyed it makes a friend of destruction. I remember Brando’s improvised words. “Make a friend of evil.” Rumi says to welcome all emotions like they are a guest in your house. “When…”, he says, “….”

Evil is the honored guest in our homes, and idle suffering her shadow. I am in bed with evil.

 

 

 

21

 

But if you ask me to trade violence for peace, I have to know what form it will take.

In Orson Welles’ The Third Man, Welles himself reflects on the nature of peace, asking, after being found by his friend, who until that point had thought he was dead, and was investigating his supposed murder, “…”

 

 

22

 

I wake up later than usual. Returning to Berlin, I want to be up at five in the morning, but the sun sets after ten, and I need a few hours to relinquish the day, then to sleep, and already its one or two, leaving me to sleep very little.

 

I’m reading and writing enough, but the writing is bullshit. I keep to myself, seeing nobody outside the grounds. It’s difficult to do all at once. I don’t have a job. But I want one. I would give up seeing others to work and write at night. All we do when we hang out is smoke weed and drink, and on the weekends they want to dance and I’m not able to use my body the way I like, so I conform to this depressive melancholy eating away at my core. To fascinate ourselves with each other because we’re so fucking bored.

 

I’ve taken to writing a hypertext with parts of it in a Latin reallissimo fold. But my life is not that exciting, at least not in the component linear parts. I’ve been reading Zambra again, the –still?- youthful realist in a post-Pinochet Chile, who sometimes writes like a literary nineteen year old, smoking guns, clawing at the patriarch’s face with a pair of fragile, painter’s hands, and sometimes writes like an old timer smoking his pipe on the front porch, recounting old times and the times best left forgotten, who’s lost the eyes of amazement with which to experience the world.

 

Together a few of us went ot the movies to see Victoria. The film runs in one single take, over 120 minutes. The camera work is impressive. A Berliner heist movie. The story makes me think of you. Not the story per se, but the experience of watching it, watching the lead actress, Victoria, falling deeper and deeper into a hole. Your legs were lying on my lap, a bag of homemade, organic popcorn cracking under the weight of your knees. I wonder if you will be made so vulnerable as Victoria, who needs, by the end, to be rescued. She’s not made of your brass, but she has a nurturing need to help, to solve others’ problems, to heal, otherwise she would have refused to go on the job, and refused the heist once it was known, the crowd of automatic rifles bearing ominous witness in the basement.

 

I worry about you. You are so fragile, and pure, in the way I would use the word to describe a field of sunflowers, who want nothing more than to pay respect to the sun, for gifting it in life. I am the seed of darkness that repels the light, and I’m afraid I will destroy yours.

 

I worry about her. When I raise my voice, she quivers. If something falls and makes a noise, or a door slams by the wind, she shakes uncontrollably. My little seahorse. She knows I will take care of her, like she takes care of me. I must. But reality has more to it. The reality is dark and sour. When I am liberated, will she be able to love the becoming of my come?

 

 

 

 

I woke up later than usual. Coming back to Berlin I wanted to be up at six in the morning, but the sun sets at ten in the evening, and I need a few hours to relinquish the day, then to sleep, and already its eight or nine.

I’m reading and writing enough, but the writing is bullshit. I’m not seeing enough of others. It’s difficult to do all of it. At least I don’t have a job. But I want a job. I would give up seeing others. All we do when we hang out is smoke weed, drink, maybe on the weekends some harder drugs. To fascinate ourselves with each other because we’re so fucking bored. But I can take the drugs while reading. I already take them while writing.

Maybe I can start seeing people in the morning. But only after my first coffee. I have to have the first one alone. Although I no longer really need it to digest and take a good shit. Since I’m broke now and don’t really have dinner. I used to need at least two espressos- or more, since with the percolator I can’t really tell how many I’m making- to take a proper shit and then start my day. But I’ve also discovered these morning shots, breaking my day’s virginity, can be useful to the craft. I prefer ot shit before the coffee and start reading or writing with the first. Although I’ve taken to wiritng a hyper realissimo. I’ve been reading Zambra again. The –still?- youthful realist out of Chile, who sometimes writes like a literary nineteen year old, smoking guns, and sometimes like an aged man smoking his pipe on his porch, recounting old times, who no longer fees he belongs to the world, or never has and is just coming to terms with it. I haven’t been seeing enough cinema. Although we all went to see the newest hit. The film runs in one single take, over 120 minutes. The camera work is impressive. A Berliner heist movie. The story made me think of my girlfriend, whose legs were lying on my lap, a bag of homemade, organic popcorn cracking under the weight of her knees. I wondered if she would ever be so vulnerable as the Spanish girl in the film, who needed, at some point, to be rescued. She has a similar nurturing need to help, to solve others’ problems, to heal. That’s probably why she is a healer. I worry about her sometimes. She’s so fragile. When I raise my voice, she quivers. If something falls and makes a noise, or a door slams by the wind, she shakes uncontrollably. My little angel. She knows I will take care of her- like she does me. I must. But the reality has more to it. The reality is sour and dark. When I am liberated, will she be able to love the becoming of my come?

 

 

23

 

You advised me on a diary, so these are my trials.

 

Yesterday we took a boat out on the spree. A beautiful raft, built by three friends who crowd funded the materials and a few years worth of parking. I never had a boat but I’ve always thought it’d be nice. I guess since I’ve been old enough to own one- or build one- I haven’t had the two most important details in the pursuit of procuring a boat. I haven’t stayed put, and I guess I’m not looking to sail from one town to the next- though that would be nice. And I haven’t made any money myself. I guess these could work as motivating factors. Am I finally staying put?

 

But I am building a boat, and a boat that sails. Like Nelson’s use of the Argo.

The difference being that I’ve never seen the boat, and when she transforms into a ship I wonder as well as you if she sails, if she’s left anchored at the bay of Pigeon Rock, or if the story goes, on and on, like what Barthes’ says of the sentence, It storms across deserts of the world like a water phoenix.

 

To build a ship, do we need to access the names of her hunting ports? I know the Captain, but not so well, not well enough that I’m invited into the cabin where he sleeps, or even to know if he sleeps at all, what faces he makes when he wakes up, if he is a man, if he is neither.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I learned something yesterday, pausing between heights on the water. It’s been a while since I listened to others tell their stories. I’ve thought so obsessively about ours, about this, about mine. One of the girls on the boat lost her boyfriend seven years ago, prompting her to leave Vienna and move to Berlin. He was stabbed in the beck after an argument over a football match. She told me, the last time she saw him they had gotten into a fight. He slept on the floor. Tomorrow, she’s moving back. Why did I meet her?

I don’t know. You know when its rained all day, it’s after lunch, but lunch was your breakfast even though you’ve been awake since dawn? You want to find a café, a place to enjoy the sequence of drinks that fit into your thoughts. There’s a lot of work to do. I’m ready. Did I tell you I’m working on a story about the abandoned hotel we squatted in the mountains, where I built and lost my film. I’m trying to remember what took us there. I want to tell the story of a man on his own. You know? The quiet type. Who rides into town ominously. Maybe I don’t know enough of the town. Then I wonder if I’m just setting it here. But I don’t leave my room.

My neighbors are a mixed bunch. The man upstairs, an Irishman, is a retired Barrister. But he seems a little young for the role, especially to have retired. His name is Barra, a Gaelic version of my book.

He lives next to an Israeli. I’m glad I haven’t met him yet. He’ll just want to be friends. Like us becoming friends absolves him of guilt, and proves that I’m civilized. Do I still want civility?

Next door, on my right, there’s a couple, two blondes, one of them English, the other, maybe American. One of them plays a trombone, the other, clarinet. Once, when we threw a party at mine, I went over to invite them, and to warn them. There was a third guy with them, an Indian guy with an English accent. A boxer, he told me. But I’ve never seen him again, so either he’s left, or he’s always remained inside.

On my left there’s a guy living with a dog and cat, both very charming. He’s always alone, always in a trenchcoat, shaves his head regularly, and looks incredibly like an ill Kafka. My girlfriend helped him carry a fresh printing press up a few stairs. I think he’s secretly inciting a revolution. The vanguard of something we thought destroyed. Sometimes I wonder if I want him to die so I can take his space, use it as an office to write. I guess he could just move out.

Somewhere upstairs there’s a ballet dancer. Below me there’s a young American Jew with a strong accent. He’s shorter than suits him and he looks like a sleaze, but maybe he’s a good guy. Not all Americans are the enemy, and I’m starting to release he reminds me of a sleaze, but he isn’t one himself. I once saw him walking home with a pizza. That’s pretty much all I know of the man.

In the next week there’s a building owner’s meeting. I’m a renting tenant so I only heard of it because of Barra, who came downstairs to introduce himself after we both opened our doors in confusion to a stranger ringing all the buzzers to get in. People do it all the time. It was probably the postman.

I don’t know why I like living here. Maybe it’s the consistency. The quiet. The beautiful mundane. No spectacle. In Beirut, the neighbor spies on you and knows the adequacies and unfortunate qualities of your family. The neighbor is a wise genealogist. Here, the neighbor expects never to have to ask to be left alone. In New York the neighbor runs their mouth complaining about the state of things. The neighbor congregates in the halls to complain. When you shut you door the neighbor complains about you. I don’t know who I ‘d prefer to live with in a war. I don’t think about these things here. Not anymore.

 

 

24

 

We are all wild children in the wild garden of god

Seeking humbly our beginnings as in life we seek the end

by breathing in the eternal breath

we step softly into asylum

 

 

25

 

It’s been a few days since I write you. The cloud is over my being.

We take the train from Lindau. The little German island on the Lake of Constance. It’s twenty minutes away from Ravensburg, my wife’s hometown. Usually we take the train from Ravensburg to Ulm, an hour by train, and from there the full seven hours to Berlin. This time the trip took us from Lindau to Augsburg, where we boarded the train to Gottingen. From Gottingen we switch to the Berlin circle. A few more switches than usual, but a pleasant view. Although, I can tell I have a cold. In a few days I will be useless, depressed. You know how I get when I’m sick. I measure my distances in time by those stages afflicted by the flu. A bout every three to six months.

But I feel good. I’m listening to Jonsi and Alex. The record we played over and over again on those sacred winter nights your twilight in Beirut. I was rediscovering the city walls, my future self, independence. The journey I am on now is very much the remnants of that itme, also a sort of repercussion, and in many ways a culmination.

I started writing then, breaking the bones. Those first characters- voices, images, scenes- to emerge were the result of my destruction, my implosion into a thousand planetary selves. I wore out my heart with the drugs, and you lifted me to a heightened self perceiving view.

Why do we begin these journeys? Recently, I spent an afternoon gazing upon the open fields of the Algauer, blanketed in the distance by the towering ranges. Her hand discovering a platoon of cows, succumbing to the quiet of their absent bells, chewing at the grass. There are families who have remained preciously still for thousands of years, acquiring a zealous patience for the sacred. And yet, I’ve come from all corners of the globe, and in the presence of this equitable silence, I’ve dropped my wings to the side, and cried.

A calm that finds you, finally, is a stillness you have known.

I dreamt last night that I had to piss, and I as entered room after room after room, in that wormhole labyrinth of dreams, I pissed in just about every length of space. But I found myself in the library of our high school. And then a strange girl, in some other industrial zone- not the decimated Beirut I often picture- told me she could get her hands on Adderall. Do I really need them? Is it a sign?

When I first read Bataille’s Blue of Noon, I realized the importance of prophecy. How much we, at least in the Western reading of literature- and I am, though conflicted, a Western reader, much like Kafka, wanting to be expelled from the paternal sphere, as an exile- empower the text that tells of a future decay, that draws a portrait of those days just before the fateful act. When we look back at Bataille’s text, we understand that his characters, in their moral and spiritual decay, are living out the final days of the European naivete that decimated Western civilization. The last page of the text is the very eruption of the fascist overthrow of society. These cowards who run around the novel’s text like schoolchildren with too much money in their pockets, drinking and fucking and finding reasons to be loathsome, are the imprint caricature of an individual within a society that is on the path to total destruction.

But that is the European case.

On one of the rides I’ve made on this train, I sat comfortably in the silent cabin rooms. I reserved in the rooms for the promise of silence, but within minutes I was joined by a family of four young boys and their mother. They seemed to be from the Caribbean, or Suriname, but with a Turkish father living in Hannover. The only thing I know of Hannover is the goalkeeper who committed suicide. I read through Cesar Aira’s The Literary Conference. I didn’t like it. What I find captivating in most straings – or epochs- of Latin American literature is the reallissimo that pervades so much of the work. Not machismo, which I find revolting. That’s why I cherish Zambra, who romanticizes the most specific moments in our social being. But also the aggressive bravado of the revolutionaries, who risk everything against the regime. And then there’s the magical realism, the content of Silvina Ocampo, Juan Rulfo, and of course Gabriel Garcia Marquez. What Lorca says of the duende, and what Bloom calls the daemon. Fascination with the elements, with survival, with esoteric love. Characters in these mystical texts are also extremely sensitive, vulnerable and more often than not, lonely. They’re aliens to the world, and must forge safe passage for the resurrection of the soul.

I’m afraid for my body. I eat little tablets of Echinacea, four or five a day. I take magnesium supplements, zinc supplements, omega supplements. I take vitamins, and I eat three to four different fruits a day. I’m afraid for my body.

 

 

26

 

In New York I was vulnerable. Emblems, signs, held me in their midst. Your face painted on the cellar of an adjacent building, reflected by two pillars made of steel. Something I prefer in coastal cities, and especially cities of the south. People spend their summers on rooftops, while those who are landlocked have no reason to search far ahead, to seek the excesses of a horizon, promising the wilting day. If I could do something for myself, at some point in my life, I would design a widow walk on the top floor of my house, and on the roof, if weather conditions permit, I would flatten the batter and make it into a field, so that we can gaze at the surrounding urban wilderness without turning our necks stiff.

Even in war, I prefer to observe from the roof than from an apartment hole. Darwish makes common reference, in Memory for Forgetfulness, to the legend approaching from the south, who he watches slowly drive in from the sea. In 2006, I watched as Hassan Nasrallah led our attention to the shores of Beirut where he destroyed an Israeli vessel before our eyes. Heroism for the West is common. It is manufactured and disseminated in droves. For the Arabs, heroism is a conflict of morality.

Bataille writes of the Communist leadership’s burning of Kafka’s books, that, “they are books doomed to the flames: they are there, but they are there in order to disappear, as though they have already been annihilated.” Can the same be said of us? Can the same be said of Man?

 

 

 

27

 

He came upon a valley. Overhead, they heard the tribes gathering their vehicles and convoys together, to ride down toward the valley, where the festival procession would begin. At dawn, large quantities of herbal amphetamines would be distributed amongst the people. They would slowly and causally come into a rhythmic dance cycle together. Once every individual in the valley has joined the rhythm does the procession begin. This ritual is very important to the tribe, and they will honor the rite of every one of their contemporaries. In this way, it could take a few hours to summon all into the dance, but there is no alternative to waiting.

 

 

28

 

He sat, among the other pilgrims, who one by one rose to their feet, walked up to her upraised position, knelt before her, bowing their heads. He placed a gold coin at her feet, which he kissed, repeatedly, each foot three times. She commenced her dance, and when she finished, he crawled away.

 

 

29

 

When they turned the corner, and found the group of boys huddled in the alleyway, burning something between them on the curved end of a pipe, that smelled of chemicals. The few of them he recognized were by now out of their senses, having sniffed too much glue.

 

 

30

 

 

But I’ve paid my expenses, he thought, I’ve paid more than I owed, but I did it. Because I wasn’t false, he thought to himself, because I was smarter than to think with my balls. These kids, he thought to himself, the sons of faggots like Habib and Alistair Hair. They think they have to prove themselves, he thought to himself, occupying the ottoman of the chair. They’re in the hunter’s grip now.

 

But the old man had paid those expenses, and when the war ended, buried his wife, and left.

With the construction of several loghouses, he sought to create a colony of refuge for passing travelers, those fleeing the wars especially. He had met a social worker on the border between Nepal and Tibet, who offered a similar service to Tibetans fleeing persecution. They had told him of their colony, that started with the building of sixteen loghouses, and eventually transformed into a colony accounting for well over a hundred thousand people. No refugee camp anymore.

 

He appeared out of the tent in military fatigues and a faded Panamanian hat. Binoculars hung from his neck, and a pair of sailing gloves were tied to his belt. He looked like a hybrid of Jonah Yards and Abraham Walls.

“Do you hunt,” he asked him?

After serving the small crowd from the same piece of cake, one by one they scattered from the scene, leaving him to the teardrops of rain battering against an outside panel, and the mirage of books stacked atop one another like ruins of Boradino’s tomb.

 

He was in the old hunter’s grip now, and he needed him to take him over.

The man appeared out of his tent in military fatigues and a faded Panamanian hat. In a way, with his binoculars hanging from his neck and a pair of sailing gloves tied to his belt, he looked like a hybrid Safari explorer and rebel militia leader.

After serving the small crowd from his flask, the men and women scattered from the scene, leaving just the old hunter and his guest.

“You have something against hunting?”

“No. I don’t.”

“I heard you saying something earlier, to one of the girls, about never having to kill for your food.”

“I might’ve. I don’t remember.”

“Just make sure you understand, you’re in kill country. Anything that moves out there in the bush is murder. What you don’t eat will chew through you alive.”

“I understand.”

“You can wash up inside. Have something to eat. You look pale.”

The pilgrim knew it would be a late night, so he ventured indoors through the long tunnel hall, outfitted with thick wooden spires in the form of a circular tube, leading into a large square like room hall made of stone, where in the front, across from where the tunnel ends, the important altar sits.

Along the outlines of the large hall, thin slabs of wall give way, when pushed slightly, to adjoining rooms, stretching out from the hall like tentacles. But there were many of them, and he hadn’t figured out, seeking to take a nap, which one he required.

Some of the residents he had seen eating earlier passed through the room. He walked into their path, and stopped altogether when the foremost of them stopped. The group bowed.

“Is there something we can help you with?”

“Is there somewhere I can sleep?”

“Anywhere you want, but the spirits prefer you sleep in the dark. If you follow our steps into the following rooms, you’ll find somewhere dark enough to house you.”

“Something else.”

“Please.”

“Is there somewhere to eat as well?”

“Weren’t you in the dining hall earlier?”

“I was, but I was pulled away, I didn’t have time to eat anything.”

“Meals are served twice daily. If you are hungry, go to the prayer room, they will feed you.”

 

 

 

 

 

Ihab Salloum, a glowing Rania Nassar, and Randa Chatila all passed through the kitchen, on their way to the small balcony that juts from the master bedroom’s naked wall, an opening that overlooks the merry go round and Easter pond, Semester petals lying languidly on the surface.

He had been preparing a selection of shots to pass on to the crowd. A mix of straight shots and mixes. Tequila Bland with a slice of cranberry pear. Emerald whiskey on a mountain of beet roasted fudge.

The waiter, Sabra, emerged from the balcony planks, a bucket of water in his hands. “Weren’t you in the dining room earlier,” one of the women said, and they all laughed. Sabra bowed eloquently and left the room. A voice stepped out from behind him.

“Where are you staying,” the voice asked.

He nodded in surprise.

“Are you still at your parents?”

He affirmed his words, but it was false.

“Were you in the dining room earlier? I didn’t have time to eat anything.”

“I was pulled away.”

 

 

Some of the residents he had seen eating earlier passed through the room. He walked into their path, and stopped altogether when the foremost of them stopped. The group bowed.

“Is there something we can help you with?”

“Is there somewhere I can sleep?”

“Anywhere you want, but the spirits prefer you sleep in the dark. If you follow our steps into the following rooms, you’ll find somewhere dark enough to house you.”

“Something else.”

“Please.”

“Is there somewhere to eat as well?”

“Weren’t you in the dining hall earlier?”

“I was, but I was pulled away, I didn’t have time to eat anything.”

“Meals are served twice daily. If you are hungry, go to the prayer room, they will feed you.”

 

 

 

31

 

The man that had been asleep finally awoke. He shook his head like a dog drying his mop. He entered the conversation easily, falling against his friend’s shoulder, his plump round face a perfect ball emerging the top of his friend’s shoulder.

His friend, Ihab Salloum, had just asked permission from his father to spend the next summer abroad, at a school in District 12, studying photography and fine arts. His father, bored because of the delay in eating, eased the pressure on his son’s ambitions.

“I wouldn’t,” he shouted. “Do it on the side for now. Focus your energy elsewhere.”

It wounded Junior. He had expected his father’s attention to be kinder to his will.

 

“I’ll see you at the party? I have to be off.”

“Yeah. Sure. So what do you think?”

“I think, it’s a lead, but you’re going to have to dig deeper. Nobody wants these pieces on their portfolio, unless they go right.”

“What would you do? Would you give it up?”

“No. I wouldn’t. There’s no need for you to do that. But you have to control it. Even if that means delaying when you need to, taking you time with this. Do it on the side, for now. Focus your energy elsewhere.”

Later, at the dinner, he was annoyed by the way…

 

 

32

 

Several of the women at the meeting had a distinct look on their faces, like they were all sex therapists, and they applied considerable force in therapy.

 

 

 

33

 

As a woman, I think of only myself. As a man, I think of everyone else.

 

 

34

 

“People don’t realize how sexual I always was. Because they were never in my head, and they didn’t sit behind a lock door with me, ever. they don’t know the shit I got up to in there.”

“Isn’t it flattering?”

“Not anymore. But yeah. Sort of. Bit by bit, it’s gotten better.”

 

 

35

 

“I’m content when I’m there. I don’t feel like we need to travel.”

She was walking at a pace that made it seem she was walking ahead of him, but it was only the long drift of her arms into his stride as she swung them from side to side.

“Like this afternoon. I could walk in circles. It’s such a quiet day. Why ruin it with music?”

“You’re hating on music again.”

She laughed.

They had come upon the boardwalk.

“So where have you been? It’s been forever. I haven’t heard from you.”…

Later,

“It’s cold. I’m going inside to change.”

He nodded without looking at her.

 

“I’m content when I’m there,” she said. “I don’t feel like traveling.”

It was hard for him to imagine anyone enjoying District ( ), let alone choosing it over the comfort of a home filled with luxury amenities and an entire staff waiting at her beck and call.

“Like this afternoon,” she said, “I walked in circles around (   ). It was such a quiet day. I couldn’t imagine it prettier. It felt so secure to me. But I can’t imagine doing it forever. Not anymore.”

He nodded without looking at her. They had come upon the boardwalk that reverted the pathway back toward the house.

He wanted to tell her that he had been writing, but the words didn’t equal the motive. He stared at his drink, hoping for her to say something, but she didn’t.

“Mostly I’m working in cafes these days, but it’s a nice place to think and write. The coffee we have is good. It’s stimulating. Are you still writing poems?”

She said poems in a way that made them seem small and fragile, like birds abandoned by their mother before they’re ready to flee the nest. It made him think of poems, all poems, as this single body force, an infant unit of a whole that’s stranded from the nest, crying for home.

“No,” he said. “I live in a room with no windows. But the street is iconic.”

The street and the year are irrelevant, he thought. You wanted to write a book of poems, he thought, and call it Tangerine. First, you wanted to write a book of poems for her, he thought to himself, judging by the time elapsed since his last sip of wine, having another go.

 

 

36

 

I hadn’t seen him in such a long time. Just the thought of it, all day, kept me hard. I had always pictured him over one night. We would be smoking joints and drinking and listening to the doors, like we always did. I would be inside at some point, doing something at the desk. Maybe cutting up a line, or something. He would come up from behind me. Slowly. I would hear his breathing, feel his warm breath on my neck, all of a sudden. He would bite into my skin, and pull away, leaving his tongue on the nape of my neck.

 

He hadn’t seen the boy in years. The thought of it, all day, distracted him. A man who prided himself on diligence to routine. His discipline suspended, he allowed himself the pleasure of fantasy.

37

 

“It’s strange. It’s a strange situation. Because of you I had the confidence to accept this. But because of you it’s not complete.”

 

 

 

38

 

He had seen one of the girls in his class. He liked her style. She was young, like him, younger than the others. Long, curly red hair, that accentuated the freckles on her face. Big lips, but she was subtle with her neck, so she never stuck her face out so far for long enough for the lips to assume their downright cast. Her writing had improved over time. His hadn’t. He recognized that. She seemed mature.

 

 

39

 

He had seen one of the girls in his class. He liked her style. She was young, like him, younger than the others. Long, curly red hair, that accentuated the freckles on her face. Big lips, but she was subtle with her neck, so she never stuck her face out so far for long enough for the lips to assume their downright cast. Her writing had improved over time. His hadn’t. He recognized that. She seemed mature.

“My brother was also arrested for something like that.”

“Did he ever see a doctor? Or a therapist?”

“No. Never.”

“How is he doing?”

“He’s fine, now. But he’s not the same person. And you know, he went back to being who he was. Quiet, obedient, straight. I think he hates himself for it.”

He felt comfortable talking to her. Like they had grown up together, and could speak from a comfortable place. He didn’t have to think too hard about what to say, or where to put his hands while she was talking, where to rest his eyes. He spoke confidently.

“I’m thinking of doing something similar to that. I want us to find the space, and to tell its story, and then to occupy as many spaces as we can, and do something similar.”

“It’s going to be tough. It’s not easy right now. People are scared. You’re going to have trouble getting a landlord to support you, and you need a lot of money.”

“I know. I think I have a case for the space itself. Nobody owned it for seventeen or more years, and then it was basically propositioned to a certain few businessmen with the promise of refurbishing it, and not one of them had any intent to do it but they figured they could just sit on it. And so it went to the highest bidder, and he got it for like an eighth of the price, just enough pocket money for the town representative who took ownership over it.”

“And the original owners?”

“Most of the family fled in the early days of the war, and have made no claim for it, and honestly  I haven’t put in the effort to find any of these people. The few of the family who remained, most importantly, the man himself, they didn’t make it long into the war. It was a political group of people. They were heavily aligned. I’d say they all died in the war.”

 

 

 

40

 

“Why not spend the night here?”

“We’ll be overrun, without noticing.”

“It’s quiet.”

“I don’t want us to be vulnerable.”

 

 

41

 

These may be his words, but they were not his virtues.

 

 

42

 

There was a large well of water between them. She leant forward, pulled a cloud of smoke towards her, and breathed in. She raised her hands to above the clouds, and let out a cry.

 

 

43

 

“I don’t know what literature really is, but it’s a form of sculpture, at its root.”

She gave him a hard look.

“I think I want you to go there.”

“Yeah?”

 

 

44

 

“If you take the medicine, parts of you will change, over time.”

“Change how?”

“There are the obvious physical changes. It depends on your reaction to the elements. Cholesterol, testosterone, estrogen. Dopamine. You’ll have shifts and spikes.”

“And the other changes?”

“What other?”

“You said these are the obvious physical changes. Like there were other changes as well.”

“Well, naturally, you’ll change. Your behavior will change. Your expectations, for yourself, and for others. And you’ll start to feel like a different person.”

 

 

45

 

He had remained several hours in the dilapidated establishment before venturing out for some wine, but when he did, he brought back more than a handful of bottles. He knew he had a long wait ahead of him. He watched the afternoon pass before him. In the distance, he heard a phone ring. The voice could be heard, far away, but the language, which he assumed to be Arabic, was inaudible. He heard the voice of oncoming footsteps, and he heard them pass from beneath the window. He watched the shadows of cars begin to form themselves at early dusk. The shadows of figures across the street, poking through the walls, or passing. He continued cutting into the wooden piece he was sculpting with the knife.

 

 

46

 

Back in Berlin, he feels the quiet. A youthful quiet, reformed. Peruvian shamans administering auahuasca to fortunate Berliners spoke of the terrorizing spirits haunting forests surrounding the capital. The influx of foreign energy, the emergence of a new Berlin, had reformed the energies within the city, but ghosts of the great division haunt the periphery.

Berlin is surrounded by forests and lakes, and some empty plains. Trauma, the shaman says, lives between the folds.

Berlin gives him hope for Beirut. A city so destroyed it makes a friend of destruction. He remembered Brando’s improvised words, that evil has a face and a name, to, make a friend of evil.

But if you ask me to trade violence for peace, I have to know what form it will take.

In Orson Welles’ The Third Man, Welles himself reflects on the nature of peace, asking, after being found by his friend, who until that point had thought he was dead, and was investigating his supposed murder, “…”

 

 

47

 

I remember writing the first play for oyu, for you to love it. Sittign on my balcony through the night, burning my way through cigarettes, counting on that last joint to pull me through.

One night you were sleeping in the other room, hidden under the blankets, and I searched and searched…

He’s standing at the door.

I didn’t want you to become a subject.

Maybe that’s what I wanted.

They’re just vignettes, and they’re going to stay that way. They’re ghosts in a hollow chamber, claimed away from a sleepless pod.

Is the narrative able to end? Or is it infinitely wider than my willing.

I have no obligations. I have no needs.

If I could point her picture, even poorly, I would. You want to paint her picture. Even poorly, you think , it’s important you try. Not in words but the abuse of language.

Johnathan Galassi’s Muse was, as whole, reflective of a wider reality in fiction, that of the elitist pig nature of the world, symptomatic really of a wider reality in Western society. A Marxist reading of Galassi’s ovel would suggest that the characters were stunted by their ridiculous caricature and archaic antics, but that is really an aesthetic reading. Are we supposed to be aestheticists- like specialized surgeons- or more like nurses tending to the literary- artistic?- wounds of a failed, consumer sick generation, writing for the age of loss?

Or are we revivalists?

Remember when we tried to write the Impulsivist manifesto?

You had just come back from eight seasons hell-

six and a half months because you spent the last month in love-

I was overlooking the valley of ghosts

in my suit of lethargy

dispensing the salts of death

like harlequin trickster scabs

replenishing the fountain of life

 

 

 

48

 

Those who enter the rooms from a fixed door, assuming they have been given the keys, and in their entry have surpassed all obstacles, must remain cautious. The passage, as it appears to the initiate, is clear. But in truth, passage into the garden is fierce. Depending, of course, on the initiate, the road can be littered in perils specific to the guest, and the passage of this nature is harassed, uncomplimentary to…The mystery of such passage is not in knowing, nor in deceiving the keys to be disclosed.

There are guards to the gates, and their authority is unquestionable. Auxiliaries who have been picked, salvaged from a nihilistic exhaustion and received into the honors of society. The keepers retain the knowledge of all those who have passed their witness and are privy of those still to come, though in the annals of their guardianship the movement from stasis to ekstasis- the process by which one enters the garden- is not conceived of as occurring with linear qualifications. This, it is said, this quality of perception that allows for the experience of relative time as designated by subjects and onto a subjective self, is the very quality that distinguishes the keepers from their inferiors. To refuse the approaches of a keeper is an act of suicide.

 

 

49

 

the most moral army in the world!

settlers, hostile to the natives

An inhabitant crosses the security team’s blanket

in the year of linearity 2015,

it is permissible to speak of Zionism

as a terrorist movement

in conspiracy forums

 

but pictures of armored bulldozers

and the fumes of war

are forgotten

 

“How many homes were destroyed?”

“Enough of them.”

 

entering the barracks of pilgrims

resting in hammocks with their kin

he uprooted one of the eyes from the canal

like he had heard in the legend

snipping at the optic nerve

nurses, attending to their wounds, could do nothing to halt the bleeding

better them than you, he thought,

they have done the same

raised in a colony of wolves

and vultures

the pious pay debt with reprisal

so its been since Babylon

 

characters that belong

do not play in the garden

 

the indigenous tribe descends from an upraised theater

the theater of his dreams

 

He decided,

speaking in his bravest tone,

it would be best if they were discarded

thrown into the sea, as the narrative goes,

How many liberals were offended,

Suffering the words of his wounds.

 

“Suffering,” he later said, “Comes naturally.”

“I suffer by the day.”

 

 

50

 

He thought of his mother as the earth goddess. She inhabits the world. In that sense, she is also the death goddess, as any figure that is brought to life is fated to be removed from it, as she is the figure who opens the gates to his life experience.

As he aged, he began to question her authority, and considered her the goddess of forgetfulness. She was, of course, entirely mortal. The daughter of a mortal man, who in some other tales would have been crowned a king, but in this story fails to make an appearance.

 

 

51

 

The journey begins with his showing up. This is a book about the protagonist returning to himself, Man returning to the sacred garden. It is a book concerning the transformation of the celestial I into the terrestrial I, and his subsequent return to the celestial valley, the void, the abyss, vis a vis his return into himself, his gazing upon his soul.

 

 

52

 

Sleighted around his neck was an amulet that he always wore, given to him by the healer before his journey came to pass.

 

 

53

 

Today marks a typical day. My girlfriend and her friends have gone off to a festival in the woods, to drop acid and revel in the surviving treasures of dance. It is a ritual for them, but I haven’t joined, I haven’t joined in the ritual. I haven’t found a ritual for myself, not here, not yet. I remember promising you I would, and I failed. The four of them have done this before, sometimes with two others. My girlfriend and her closest friend, who she also happened to date for seven years, and who she left to be with me, and their two best friends. Sometimes they go to the forest and take mushrooms. Sometimes they do MDMA in the clubs. This time they’re dropping acid at a festival. It’s surreal that they’re away, that she’s away, and that I’m still in the room. Why is it so hard to leave? I know it’s cheap to reference your own unpublished work, but the second time I was in Manhattan, I wrote something for you, all of it, for us, for the diaspora, wasted, ignored. I thought you might want to hear it, but I never gave it to you, and now that we’re so apart, I know I never will. I also remember taking the essay I wrote you, and dedicated to you and handed over to you in its original typewritten pages of a yellowish sort of beige. I remember taking it away one morning, while you weren’t looking. Was it the morning I found a condom on the floor, while I was picking something up from your house and you were away, and I realized that, even though you hadn’t told me yet, you were fucking someone else. We never fucked- the readers should know- but every man you fucked was a fuck you didn’t give me. Today I watched porn for several hours, every time getting locked in somehow by the boredom of my wanting to put a book in the hearse that carries you away, away form my heart and mind. It should be so easy for me to sit down and do it, to write and write and write but whenever I want to write, whenever I sit down and give myself the time, I watch porn instead, and stare into the swollen fearful eyes cradling death in their gaze. It’s a disease. This life. We all have our distractions. Pornography enlivens the spirit. Television numbs. I will finish my book to you. The war will end. We will build our temple. We will come home.

 

 

54

 

I went shopping for vegetables today. You know, I don’t eat meat that much anymore, not since I moved to Berlin. Maybe because its so quiet, maybe because I’m alone. I’m not physically alone, or actually, or emotionally most of the time, but she doesn’t hear the suffering bells that ring their hourly charms, the news that pecks into my eyes like the vengeful talons of a hawk. She didn’t know when that little boy died today, because of an air strike from the marauding whores, that I had kissed him no the hand, that we all had, and fed him, and cuddled him, and walked him home and paid off his wages so he could sleep well that night. But we couldn’t do enough. Do we ever? I don’t blame her, or them, for moving on. Europe had her war. Two thousand years of splitting the atom of the Caucasian into hundreds of fragments, each with their own unique song, dance, literary giant and football team. And the indigenous? Well, you can’t commission a festival of hanging heads, splitting limbs and boiling them in a volcanic cauldron. At the market, I realized I had worn my girlfriend’s clothes, and her lipstick, and was carrying her bag. At the market, I realized I was thirsty, and I knelt down to grab a bottle of water, when I noted the bottles of coconut water store in the side of the open freezer, and reaching out for one, my hand slipping from its place, and fell onto another hand, also reaching into the freezer, and the two hands, mine and the stranger’s, lay there ominously for a minute, both of us hesitant to pull back, to withdraw, presumably for his fear of offending me and I, for the sweet embrace of another’s palm, for the pleasure that emerges from a moment’s chance encounter, after having spent the day alone, in quiet suffering, in harness. When I pulled back, he caved away, and the man I thought upon turning my gaze toward him was six and a half feet tall, suddenly shrunk before my eyes, so that he seemed to wilt in the moment, and he passed under my towering arm, disappearing behind the border shelves that separate one aisle from the next. I tried finding him, but I couldn’t. I tried to go on shopping but I had no will to buy. Here, where so many exchanges are made without the exchange of eyes, I had touched another’s hands. It surprised me. I couldn’t remember what I wanted to buy, so I left. Leaving I saw some children eating cheap meat sandwiches that were probably pulled from a pool of sick cats. The meat clung to the edges of the paper wrapping, and the sauce dripped along the creases, where the wrap met their tiny little hands, too small and frail for the swallowing of a beast. Why do we eat meat, I wondered? Is it because of time, because we try to expunge from our hearts the truth of our inferior position to life that posits itself in living and not in the solitary quest for meaning? Or, and I felt this in America, because with a mouthful the sounds of the urban machine rotating her securing belt are filtered into a monotonous drone, the set of metropolitan life raging with shrunken fury against the backdrop of a chewing jaw. Chew away, we told them, chew until you’ve swallowed the lives. All the lives you could have taken. Are we the whales, or the endless snake? The snake who coils her head into her tail and reflects herself to life. Are we the whores? Blonde, cheap children who lumber their excusing lives. What are we? What am I?

 

 

55

 

It’s cold. I’m cold. I’m taking the pills again. Do you remember the pills? Blue ones. Yellow ones. There are bigger ones now, slimmer but longer. But they’re more like capsules, and they carry the dirt inside of them, like a vessel. Like our art! Do I still make you laugh? I realize again there is only emptiness here. Emptiness in a sacred bath. Vacuous roads. Where are we going?

I applied to some of the universities to pick up my life, to kick start the good habits and throw out the bad. How many resolutions have we made that didn’t hold up for a night? I’m learning the language, but its slow. The schools said no, immediate rejections. I didn’t do enough in my undergrad, it seems. Do we ever do enough?

I was reading over some pages I pulled form an old pile, a pile of typewritten pages I picked up from my sister in New York, the last time I was there. All of it was written there, in its infinite form, and never finished, because I left when the summer ended and the clouds of Autumn were gathering force. that was when I visited the witch for a second time. Remember her? I never told you about this one, but she was sweet, and kind. She pulled the usual lines but so did I. She told me you killed our child. Is it true?

I found a story of Chimea, the Persian poet I met on the street that one afternoon, when we hadn’t spoken in several days, since I vacated my apartment because of the infestation and you told me to take a break, to breathe, and I bought a bottle of Jameson but I didn’t drink it, and I thought for three days while storming the streets signing like a blind wingless bird of how I kissed you, after so many years, how we kissed and fell silent for a minute and you ran indoors and that was it, and I lost you, and the next morning I was alone on a bench and the infestation had devoured my home and I slept on the stairs of a temple. Did I tell you Chimea’s story? She ran away from Iran because of the regime, saving up money her mother helped her save, as they were both having difficulties at work. She wanted to pull her mother out too, but they couldn’t work it, and so her mother promised that she would leave, when the time was time.

We spent the afternoon together, she divulging her secrets and stories and I listening, cradling a novel in my hands that was breaking me and making me want to cry, rocking back and forth and listening to her tell me what she’d heard, felt.

56

 

“Can I get you anything to drink?”

“Just water. Thanks.”

He lifts one of the cereal boxes, stares at it, puts it down.

“I haven’t had enough today. I try to drink as much as I can.”

“What is it, two liters, we’re supposed to have? A day?”

“Something like that.”

“I’m the same. I try as well. But you have to really remind yourself.”

 

 

 

 

57

 

“There’s a need for writers to be liked these days. I don’t think you should be liked. But I like you, so there’s a problem.”

 

 

58

 

“This is just one of your stories.”

“Don’t say that.”

 

 

59

 

“In the end, you’ll carry nothing with you. Trust me. Shed the weight along the way. There’s no point going into the void with the burden.”

 

 

60

 

“All these things you thought mattered suddenly won’t. Your issues of pride. Moments you felt you weren’t man enough, in public. Or when you didn’t do good by your father’s name, and when it stings, after he’s gone. The fact that every promise you ever made was broken, by you or somebody else. It is the liberation.”

 

 

61

 

A man of that age and that social class goes to that part of town.

 

 

62

 

“I don’t want to lose any more time. I’m going through with this.”

 

 

63

 

“This isn’t even a relationship.”

“Then what is it then?”

She hung up the phone.

 

 

64

 

Who she had pointed out, she liked, but he had mentioned shit three times in the conversation, before even the aperitifs were shared. That wasn’t right.

 

 

65

 

But did he really have such a slow metabolism, because he rarely ate in front of others, and to be so grotesquely immense, a large, looming concierge in the halls, for someone of whom not one tenant could identify had been seen eating, much to the displeasure of his children, lanky, malnourished, sick of eye, required of him to eat generously in private, aiding in the consumption of weight. And what did a concierge at a lowly highway hotel eat, anyway?  He watched the cockroach recede into the darkness offered beneath the frame of the door, removed from its weight in stillness. He pictured the door creeping unhinged, and the weight of the door destroying the insect. But it hadn’t happened. The cockroach, in her sweeping confidence, crept slowly under the frame, leg after leg, moving with the studied patience of a drunk hobbling his footsteps home.

 

 

 

66

 

It was a beautiful idea. If it were only his.

 

 

 

67

 

He was surprised to find that when he let him into the house, he immediately…It told of a man aware of his social class, his standing, punctual so as not to be seen as otherwise, so as to be viewed as a man from whom no inconvenience occurred.

 

 

 

68

 

He finished scrubbing the toilets, focusing the remainder of his efforts on the particle shit stains welded into the bowl.

 

 

69

 

She remembered thinking, that’s such a humiliating position to be in, why would he ever want that for himself.

 

 

70

 

“When did you realize you were going back?”

“When I started to think about the worst things that could happen to me, and not give a shit.”

 

 

71

 

But once her clothes had come off, the vitality of her voice suffered, she quieted, her movements became more subtle, her touches withdrawn. She hadn’t looked so old before, underneath the strange bonnet, and the burgundy top, with a red flare jeans. She looked young, attractive, alive. But once her clothes had come off, her age was obvious. He touched slowly the flabbiness of her triceps, the excess of her baggage waist. Even though her skin clung tightly to her body, it seemed to slip away at every cliff and drop. Her hair, dry, like she had destroyed it without noticing, ironing it to a cold, brim touch, and the widening of her lips, sour with the taste of stale cigarettes, the remains of cocktail mixers, and several dabs of coke.

 

 

 

72

 

“I’m not sure.”

“I want to transfer the Super 8 films, some of the frames into prints, maybe use them for a show, sell some of them.”

“I don’t know. What are you asking?”

“What’s the process gonna be like?”

“You just can’t replicate that kind of detail on a larger print. Not with super 8.”

“What if I went and transferred it to video?”

“Video is worse. You’re better off scanning it on a regular 35mm scanner. Video has noise, gamut, fidelity. A lot harder to get something scraped off the top like that without losing too much detail. You’re just not going to see the same picture.”

 

 

 

73

 

He thought about him and realized, he must have an idea of who he is, a different idea, of where he belongs. But when he looks around himself, and recognizes the crowd he keeps, he’s wrong. How is it that we keep a certain crowd?

 

 

74

 

I like the sound of the night.

 

 

75

 

“We hate the unexpected. It’s why we hate cockroaches. Trauma we can’t prepare for. It drives our fears.”

 

 

76

 

He could tell she was masking her hunger by smoking another cigarette.

 

 

 

77

 

“If you knew what you were throwing away, would it make the decision easier?”

 

 

78

 

Architecture, of the chorus. The room is for those who examine the difference between the living voice and the dead.

 

The voice that remains illuminated is.

 

I don’t bribe my enemies, I destroy them.

 

 

79

 

I can’t get myself to sleep. It helps being with her.

Lately, I’ve taken to writing at night. Smoking a joint or two. Writing. In the dark, the quiet. The later evenings and greater sunlight give me a natural balance of energy, but the early morning gives me guilt. I like to be up early.

Most mornings I get up around six. I wash my face. I wash my feet. I piss. At night, I can escape, with Stuart Dempster- trumpets, drones, horns.

I think of the pilgrim, passing over the quarter.

The marionette, under the bridge.

I know I should be outside, embracing the blazing grimacing of the trees. But outside, for me, is fruitless.

The garden is a quagmire.

I stand by the wayside in a tomb of swans.

 

 

80

 

But then I gave up the novel. I moved on.

 

 

81

 

“Where in the garden do you think he belongs?”

“In the quagmire.”

“And where for in the garden does he long?”

“He begins in the forest.”

 

 

82

 

The poet protagonist, who behaved like a drunk whore in public, and lived the remainder of his life in the toxic conditions of a rooftop apartment, right by the towering clock in the center square.

 

 

83

 

My little prince

I am the song of your

but I wobble where you stand fast (in your steadfastness)

constantly appropriating the lows of rites and archaic illusions

I dwindle before the myths

suckle in the face of the succubus

whose presence is my gift.

 

Raised within the scent’s distance of the behemoth corpse

would you rather stand among the indigenous

in their poverty?

or the outrageous

in their house of stone?

 

you may find

before the barrels sound their fury

that you stand among the brave

but we are really

a coalition of the blind.

 

 

 

84

 

Remember when you wrote, that absolute subjectivity is tied to the will, and our will was banished from the womb? The aromas, the plain feast that occurs without knowing. These are the songs that save the wounded heart.

There was a time, before we met last, I wanted to put on a production of Borges’ Captive Maiden and the Warrior, presumably to find, within myself, for myself, the means to an opinion’s alteration. Could I look over the rolling hills of Rome and look upon the celestial gates? Could I then destroy it?

I am also akin to barbarism.

You cherished Borges. Reading in your steel iron sheath, naked to the lions in advance of your performance. Or the night we drove back from refuge, having drunkenly escaped a war we almost failed to notice. Tell me, of that Borges who reins in your wild rice, like a prince declines the sitting throne. Does he tell you of forgiveness?

Standing square to the prison guards at our circle. Solemnly bathing in a sober peace, in reconstructed Berlin. I think of Marker’s final portrait of Paris in his beautiful quest. With so many of our angels put in prisons, who dream of doors that lock on either side. Can there yet be redemption? Are we who walk freely truly free, with others rotting in our parallel places?

The conditions for absolution are consistent.

First, ablution, and following, the cleansing of our guts.

I submitted at dusk, and laid down my belongings, to rest.

On that apex I thought of your salvageable interpretations, of Borges’ spiritual embodiment, the magician who “wanted to dream a man.” The intention a shamanic invention. But what drives this fiction to its climax is the creator’s hoping “to conceal from the man, whom the magician thinks of as his son, the fact that he is only a man.” – 44

 

 

 

85

 

Arriving late to the dinner, where he was evidently asked, by another writer, a journalist, if he regarded himself as a national writer, to which he replied he wasn’t sure, he hadn’t given it much thought, but that yes, when he considered it, he thought of his work as a dedicated mural to his people, and to his nation, and so yes, he most probably was a national writer, if only for sentiment, and not for political pragmatic means. Later, after he had left, one of the other journalists, drunk and hogging the remaining embers of a joint, ridiculed the writer, saying that he had adopted a foreign language, and had abandoned the language of his roots, of his nation, raising his fingers in quotations. These dinners were the source of great pleasure for most of the affiliate writers in Beirut. Somehow, season after season, the foreign legion swam onto the wasted shores of the port, with the urgency of frontline medics. Soon they fell into the habits of their local peers, who assured them that the mission of goodliness fell on deaf ears, and their presence alone did great amount of service. But the writer had not been able to assimilate the encroaching tribes into his circle, and whenever he found himself in the presence of the legion, he accepted that he had to drink to assuage the uncomfortable feeling that accompanies spending an evening in the presence of hungry writers, journalists and aimless poets who colonize a district of the world that isn’t theirs in the hopes of discovering it, claiming it as part of their story. One of the many vultures, a filmmaker who made his money producing music videos in London and Paris, living out the unfulfilled remainder of his time in his temporary home in East Beirut, had even tried to develop a screenplay through the eyes of Beirut, as he described it. But the legion brings with her the wounds of another world. The city acts as a mirror to her guests. What they think they are staring into they are really prying deeply into themselves. They are not observers of another world, another culture, but explorers into the soul. The enchanted rise every morning and engage with the world. The disenchanted follow the habits of their commanding impulses, spiraling into a vacuum of lithesome despair. The writer was certain that the purity of his work necessitated his ignoring the vacuous army. But they drank as well as him, and they never refused to smoke joints into the early morning. For them, every taste of hash was like a footstep into the mystique of Arabia. For him, it was his way of laying down his guard and accepting his fears, accepting his triumphs, accepting his home. Together the two fuelled addiction. On another such occasion, where his future wife, herself distilled in the migrating patterns of Western Europe, had invited over some of his old friends, who she thought he had spent too much time without, withdrawing into a lonesome bunker to devour his artistic aspirations. Dinner had been outrageously tasty, a burning oven roast of lamb and potatoes garnished with rosemary and dried thyme, served alongside a seasonal salad and two bottles of wine, with a mix of appetizers to freshen the palette, an olive bread bruschetta, a quinoa avocado salad, and a strip of freshly caught tuna sashimi- a beautiful feast, deserving of the accolades. After the meal, with the table only partly cleared, a mix of oil stains and the collected cps of coffee, white tea, espressos piled atop one another, he turned to one of his friends, who he hadn’t spoken to in a while, and who he thought, with great assertiveness, was the most honorable man he knew, by far, a man who had never done a thing wrong, and he asked him, with less assertiveness, with his own distinctive confusion, what could they have done differently, had they been given the plans for the path?

 

 

 

86

 

But he was more like the philosopher- or so he imagined himself- who doesn’t have a wife or so many friends- at least not friends he cares to see regularly- who goes to his lake house cabin to contemplate, and who finds himself content with the knowledge that he is going insane. He realizes in his growing age that he reveres the father, he is indebted to him. He realizes in that moment, he recalls, that he has seen that moment, as though it were reversed.

 

 

87

 

But he was more like the philosopher- or so he imagined himself- who doesn’t have a wife or so many friends- at least not friends he cares to see regularly- who goes to his lake house cabin to contemplate, and who finds himself content with the knowledge that he is going insane. He realizes in his growing age that he reveres the father, he is indebted to him. He realizes in that moment, he recalls, that he has seen that moment, as though it were reversed. One of the more salient accusations made against him was that he patronized his only audience by purposely forming an ambiguous structure, that in so doing, by design, he deserved the malice of the public. One of his contemporaries, who knew him rather well but always through the introduction of another, sat down to write a letter explaining his position. He had recently published an article declaring the writer a stylistic bigot, and though there had been a few murmurs in the crowd, there wasn’t any real backlash to his attack. But he had felt misunderstood by his friends, who took offense to his provocative gesture, considering that in any case, they didn’t have so many writers to boast of, and so why disrespect one of the few. In the letter, he explained that, “There could be read something uncanny about him,” and that, “He approaches as though some errant guarding face were revealing him, and his work.” With regards to his moral character, he claimed, “That he often showed cowardice in places of virtue,” citing a few occasions where, when others stood their ground, in the face of riot police descending on their demonstration, or in a bar fight with several disorderly refugees.  And with regards to his integrity, he suggested that the writer often misappropriated other people’s work, claiming it as his own. The accusations were met with relative indifference among his friends and colleagues, most of whom refused to respond – either by forgetfulness or benevolent indifference. Still, the relatively irrelevant event in the literary universe of the small capital had felt like a cosmic adventure on the part of the critic, the contemporary, in much the same way that all minor events allude to some foundation of cosmic importance, in reality, when properly investigated, doing nothing more than reaffirming the complete irrelevance of the industry, the craft and its peoples, in the greater scheme of things. A scheme that pulls its children from their roots and paints their eyes with disfigured signs. That culls the wings of expiring birds and mourns the animal in a statue.

 

 

88

 

I’m slowly watching football again.

 

 

 

89

 

I remain, waiting on the passing pilgrim. To answer my question and its uncanny accomplice. I would have asked you, or an expert, but none of you seem to care. Something to do with an aggregate sublime, something that is ours. So many of us are locked in a dual conflict of becoming and tradition. Sunsets away from the port give me a sense of things missing.

 

 

90

 

He was, of course, of a different camp. One who believed that they had come to the affirming wall of a plateau, standing underneath her quarried gates. That, after having naturally approached questions of discontent, of ailing national unity, of an errant constitution, the cause was now for something simpler, but also greater, micro economical, but with the technical detail of a macro lens. He posed the question, Has there been an adequate investigation of culpable motherhood? The traditions of the natives had given way to this thought. Could mothers of a populace be held accountable for deliberately delivering their vulnerable fawns into a feast of violent injury?

Of course, several of the attending officers and dignitaries discounted his thinking as fascist, radical, reactionary. Words that do not mean what they intend to employ, or sculpt, in society, but that have come to mean what they inherently do not mean but oppose, so that fascism, for the natives, means another’s democracy that is unlike ours, and reactionary, irreconcilable with pragmatic democracy, had come to mean, those aspects of revolution that linger after the revolution has transformed into the status quo, while for those to whom the revolution had not really taken place of the outstanding bureaucracy, they regarded themselves, naturally, as revolutionaries.

 

 

91

 

He was kneeling, as though in prayer, but he had no arms, and his legs were stripped of their flesh, two stick figure bones extending from his blanketed waist.

 

 

92

 

It seems inconceivable to stage a film on memory and loss, absence and the cosmic Carmel ascent, without pictures of violent rupture reverberating through the piece. If I disguise them with love, they’ll suffuse into the bane of this film’s existence.

 

 

93

 

Further on, when he regressed so as to speak frequently of the cockroach… Searching mornings, dropping my gaze to the valiant corpses outdone by hunger, by heat, by the swollen stampede of a shoe. Why is it they die so clumsily in the morning?

 

 

 

94

 

And he turned to his colleague and spoke frankly, honestly, like someone who has just recognized a flaw in the design, but who realizes, instantaneously, how little he cares.

“Sometimes I wake up motivated purely by the forthcoming taste of my coffee.”

The others stood around without the nerve to respond, until finally one of the interns pulled his coffee mug from his face and held it between his hands, and spoke with a familiar voice, sounding warm and confident, like he had initiated the conversation to bring it in his direction, into the trajectory of his words.

“Wasn’t it Darwish, the Palestinian poet, who used coffee to memorialize the loss of selfhood in the Israeli aggression?”

And then it all felt like a dream. Him standing there with his arms folded, and the others, their arms protected by coffee, by little paper pyramid cups of water, the all giving force, and the fattest of them all with his arms resting on the plateau of his stomach.

Finally, another one said, “I always spill my coffee.

To which someone else replied, “I never spill my coffee, but I drench everything I own in olive oil.”

He thought reluctantly of the trailing morning, of his having chosen to read rather than sleep with his wife. He had become so boring!

“Olive oil,” one of them said, “reminds me of the Greek and Roman Gods, for some reason.”

No one dared to speak another word, and after a moment, the entire crew shuffled away in their moccasin boots, to their corners of glory in the office cage. He stared a moment at his fingers, the lines that intersect on the palm of his hand. He felt the edges of his knuckles, feeling them coarse, rough, like they had been wounded over the years. He remembered playing bloody knuckles in the cafeteria of his school, probably the last time he showed any reasonable amount of blind courage. He rolled back the arm of his shirt, unveiling a large stain of olive oil. He was fascinated with the stain, and with the earlier conversation, but he hadn’t managed to say a word. He spoke so eloquently to himself, and so little to others. He wondered then, had he given himself the chance, what would he have wanted to say? Something on the nature of olive oil, and olive trees, and olives. Something on the nature of Dionysus. Some sculpted phrase on the relationship of the two. He wrote it down, to remember it, in case the conversation erupted again, he would unleash a monument of a phrase.

 

Olive oil holds the spirit of Dionysus in her sutured flask, urging the           escape.

 

He smiled, pleased with himself. Later, he told himself, later they would know, and acknowledge his genius.

 

 

 

95

 

You know, everywhere I go I am confronted by the same details. The raucous of a construction, nostalgia for a bygone age. Where sentiment ruled, navigating our souls to sketch between madness and sorrow. I was mad in Beirut, and now, madness has the port circled, like an impending storm casting her shadow warning. Is anyone exempt? Last time I was there, it seemed as if the banality had finally settled in. Jungians and their mystic counterparts believe one should build a temple to their shadow figures, to their fears. A temple for Dionysus. In his essays, The Lively Image, Hughes writes of Dionysus, that he….

Who is the great Dionysian figure impressed in our consciousness? The cockroach?

 

 

96

 

Inside the bedroom, They lie in the bed, sprawled out in the heat. He strokes her body, she’s looking off.

 

 

97

 

A matter of captured subjectivity- at least- to maintain within the act of writing- a noble act, where once it was beneficial, and then, the great delusion. What does Foucault say of our madness? What do you say of mine?

You’re back and I’m gone. Does it matter? It hurts. This could’ve been our dance together. But I’m not the sort who broods over time. Only my mornings, sacred grounds where I pull my staff. Remember the man in Karakoy, who committed his own heinous crime, hanging himself and granting his children the burden of his debt. And the woman we saw burn herself alive, the unknowing crowd standing in wonder, thinking her great emancipating act to be the evolving painting of a dream, but it was more than that, a fragile attempt to step away from the darkness. She suffered incredible burns, and later it was said, she had wanted to do it cradling her infant in her arms. On what grounds? The great delusion. We move, swiftly, forcefully, towards the open, all gazing arms of death. Some of us walk with our backs to the eye, and others crawl forward on our knees.

 

 

98

 

He had seen one of the girls in his class.

He liked her style. She was young, like him, younger than the others. Long, curly red hair, that accentuated the freckles on her face. Big lips, but she was subtle with her neck, so she never stuck her face out so far for long enough for the lips to assume their downright cast.

Her writing had improved over time. His hadn’t. He recognized that. She seemed mature.

 

 

99

 

In a cold September room

On a warm December day

The old man pulls the spoon from his mouth

Feeding his feet to the crows

 

 

 

100

 

“You know what they say of me back home?”

 

 

 

101

 

As he returned to camp, he could smell the fumes of a roasting fire, and knew instantly they had caught meat for a spit. Finding a seat on one of the longer logs just outside the circle of the fire, he offered his flask to the juggler who appeared at his side.

“How does information come in to the port?”

The man attending to his words takes a strong drag of a joint and passes it over. After a brief silence, gathering his thoughts, he answers, continuing with a degree of calm.

“What exactly are you looking for?”

He turns to him, lays a toothpick in his mouth, continues.

“Do you know how many days some go without eating?”

“I know.”

“Do you?”

“I haven’t been there, but.”

“Nobody knows.”

Winds of fire cracked over the habitual calm.

“You plan on going, and I think it’s crazy. If you go, you’re not coming back the man you are, or any better than you ever were. You’ll feel a certain way at first, like you had already been there, in that exact place, like in some other life you were among them and present there. This feeling will transform and you will think you are one of them. You will raise your fist with their madness, drop your head in their gloom.”

He moved closer.

“Look at me. You look like a guy who’s played with the vials, I know you smoke, you like to have a good time. Everything you put in your head ends in a sweat of sadness.”

He moved away, speaking now with a smirk on his face, wanting to get a reaction out of his friend.

“What do you think gives you the right?”

“What other rights do I have? Besides, everyone I know keeps telling me the place calls you, you don’t ask for the place.”

In a slightly drunken, celebratory voice.

“Well then push on brother, push on,” waving his arm in the air, his palm holding steadily at the height of his eyes, an arm’s length away, so that when the moment came together and held herself in his eyes, he sensed that he was in the midst of a Dervish preparing himself the dance.

He found himself ascending a small hill, a sand dune covered in bush. Taking long, deliberate steps, feeling his toes against the earth.

After a while he had gotten a little drunk, wandering off. He could hear a rising chorus of howls and cries emerge from the camp, intervals of sneers and mounting silence played at simultaneous rounds. He thought of the earlier conversation, of his having come so close to gaze over a few hills from the port town of his home, and yet the reception being one of cowardice, of the men who had sold out their cause, their purpose, for an injunction, nightly, disappearing into the jungle during the day for a catch, and at night, populating the grounds with their filth. But he had put a face on the evil he wanted to abandon, and that is the most important point. You have to put a face on the evil to remember it, and the feeling when it comes will be covered in that face, so that at any moment it won’t tempt even the most fragile of souls.

But sometimes, and this also is true, the keys to the exit are in the entrance, but the passage is exit itself, and the return through the entrance into the void.

 

 

 

102

 

When he walked into the room, passing the security, they asked him to take off his clothes. He considered, obliging. They asked him to hand in everything he owned. He didn’t understand, because they made no sign of helping carry physical items from his bag into a storing bag. One of the younger of the apparatus, who himself had never crossed the very line he was guarding, finally broke the confusion.

“Give me everything you have,” he said to him. “You don’t take anything with you.”

The young man pulled at the amulet on his chest. He grabbed his hand immediately, pressing down with the center of his palm, so the others could not tell what was happening, and stared immensely into the young man’s disappearing eyes, who was beginning to wince in pain. He let go of him, and the man walked away, collecting only what he had already gathered. But as he reached his desk, he chose to have another word.

“It will disappear in any case. You don’t take anything with you.”

Another man intervenes his thoughts.

“Someone will mistake it for gold, or hash, or the keys to a house. They will eat it off your chest.”

And another man intervenes.

“They’ll dig their fingers and the length of their arm right into your heart, and they’ll tear it out and they’ll eat it raw.”

Something changes in the room, and what was once a dark, avoidable room with patches of water running and broken pipes shooting out of the walls, became now more decorated, more flavorful, the hues of light streaming into the room and spread out along the concrete floor, banishing some of the men now emerging into forgivable darkness, and others emerging to the light.

The light in the room is sparse. He takes a few steps forward, ignoring the ensuing calls, fearing he had caused too much of a raucous to be granted the safest passage. The sunlight breaking in through the glossy windows and the thin, white, mesh curtains lining the length of the wall, glazed with some indistinct pattern, caused him to look, or to feel, older all of a sudden, tired, and aged.

“Does the port have wings,” someone asks the emerging audience.

 

 

103

 

She worked in a bookstore, collecting used books herself to sell at flea markets on the side. She even attended workshops teaching how to refurbish old books. The entrance to her apartment was effectively the back door of the shop.

Her buyers are mainly tourists.

Her trademark is to make little notes in the margins as gifts.

She had always planned to leave, but she got lost within the confines of the port.

She’s wanted to leave more than anything else, but she feels responsible for her parents, and her younger brother.

At the bookstore, they sometimes host events. There is a reading this evening. Everyone in the room is carefully studying the scene onstage while paying attention to the scene of onlookers unfold offstage. Onstage, a reader is naked, curled over his hips, conjoined elbows and knees. There is another person onstage, reading out loud, repeating from the same book the words the naked reader, conjoined at the elbows and knees, is reading. From a distance, it appears the people are under some sort of spell.

She goes to the bathroom, to take a piss. There is an old, sad looking man masturbating in the corner. He draws intermittent breaths that cause him to sound like he’s choking. To one side of him is a urinal, and to the other, a bucket holding a long standing broom.

Onstage, they are singing.

“Is the port an infant, or a giant roving coach?”

“Does she plant her harvest under fog?”

 

 

104

 

The two are in bed. Midday. The room is surprisingly quiet, so is the rest of the house, and the corridors leading to the streets. But the streets are not quiet.

Thin, white blinds. A small room. Just a bed against the wall and a closet in the hallway.

She is in her underwear. He is naked. They’ve been together all night. They’re flirting, playing around.

He gets behind her and holds onto her, bringing her closer to his body so he can feel her back tense and unwind. He kisses her neck.

“What were you doing out there?”

He kisses her again. A confident kiss, a refined kiss, allowing his lips to settle gently against her skin, pulling away with a tickle of particles that resist to part.

She’s soft, gentle, falling into his hands.

He speaks again.

“What were you looking for?”

“I wasn’t looking for anything.”

“I know. But what did you want to see?”

She teases him, moving around his body, shifting within his hold. He speaks.

“What do you do?”

“I dance.”

He laughs.

“I should have known.”

“Known what?”

“Nothing,” he says, “I’m playing.”

She laughs, rests her palms against his chest. She is now on top of him. Her turn to pry.

“Were you gone long?”

He nods.

 

 

105

 

He arrived early to the appointment. A guard had given him a cigarette to smoke at his discretion, escorting him to an enormous garden. Noticing intermittent gusts of wind, carried over the hills from the Mediterranean, where he sat watching, separated between a long water stream that floods into a little pond, surrounded by cypresses and vanilla orchids, roses, lemon trees and a statue of an unknown figure kneeling in prayer, he bided time before lighting his smoke, worrying it would turn off in the gust, leaving him with only the memory of what he had held in his bare hands. He waited. The garden was recently renovated, to accommodate the exchange of ownership that follows a sudden death. Her father had wanted it to be sweet in its simplicity, dispatching a set of olive trees along the stone wall, with a little pond for ducks and neighborhood dogs to wet their fur in. He ignored the ideas she had to plant lemons and figs, apples and grapes, to instill a new drip irrigation system to save on water. He ignored his daughter’s requests to surface the patio with artificial grass, because the stones she said were too hot for the children to play, and too rugged, so that she lived in fear one of them would hurt their hands, or their face. When he threw functions on the patio, he laid it out with plastic chairs and plastic tables, all white in that conventional instrument of things that go unnoticed in youth, but seem to symbolize entire epochs in the twilight of life. He picked the same chairs from his family’s mountainhouse, the same plastic chairs with broken arms and worn out feet. He even had a system to arrange each of the chairs according to their displacement, so that everyone, according to size, was hinging on the same leg, so to say. But upon his sudden death, a seizure while fishing in the middle of nowhere, that after a week of miserable consultations spelled the worst, first giving up a kidney, and within two weeks, his life, the garden, and of course the entire estate, fell into his daughter’s hands, the only remaining relative to the man. In the distance from where he sat, the shadows of a small man put away in a cage, clasping his fingers around the steel bars confining him to his sentence. He watched the little figure, darting back and forth in his cage.

 

 

 

106

 

 

In the morning he was dragged from his cell on all fours, dragged from the heels like roadkill moved from the scene. He had tried to imagine the miracle that would save him but his imagination ran dry. He waited in the center of the square, surrounded by the stray absence of sunlight cast overhead. He felt the concrete with his fists, with his fingers, digging his nails into the solid pitch of death. The smell of rubber, of burning metal, pulsed into his veins. Within moments of his placing his palms on the ground he felt the armory of a boot crash against his back. The following moments were a blur, his face crashing against the floor, his nose shattering with the weight of militant blows and impact. He tasted blood on his lips, dust in his teeth, the fragrance of soot plastered on his gums. Was he lucid? Was he alive? It wasn’t the longest procedure. Within minutes he was pulled back to his knees, pulled by the hair, his neck straining as far back as it would allow. He felt the cold touch of the muzzle, digging into the back of his head, urging itself into his skull. Some voices, images relapsed in his sight, he tried to drop his neck but a hand gripped him by the hair and pulled his head back. What came next, what was said in that moment, what the others surrounding him had said, if any of them had spoken, if even the faint glow of light emerging onto the square was noticed, was comprehended, nobody would ever know. It takes less than a moment and you’re gone, before the echoes of the shot are lost, greased from the annals of time, it’s over.

 

 

107

 

…watching suitor after suitor- in the guise of pupil, pen pal, advisor- storm into their lives with the pathetic hope to win the graces- apologetically but without hesitation- of his love…But maybe because he had been raised by wolves, raised alone, he let her bide the time, watching her from afar, from beside her, watching to see how their proposals might challenge her devotion to him, watching to see if if it was all really so fragile, if it could have been a dream, if it was a dream, if she had wanted to stick it out, if she would have left him for something fresh…he watched her carefully, when one of the suitors, applying for the French legion’s force in the southern hemisphere rainforest, invited her attention, he watched, wondering all the while, with his patient, fragile mind, if he was watching the dream he had collapse, or watching a woman devoted prove it. He knew he was good for her. He knew he had been good to her. Maybe that’s why.

 

 

 

108

 

And while he didn’t particularly love her- in that Kantian way…- he realised it would be practical and convenient, preferable, to marry a woman whose father was dead. never having to stand in his shadows. The shadow of a ghost can be easily shed. He would take care of her, protect her. And so, only a few months after meeting again, they were engaged, to the great excitement of their parent- the two mothers feeling themselves successful in the operation of a lifetime- and only a few months after that, they were married, wed in a ceremony fit for royals, attended by guests of social calibre, ritualised in the discretion guests took in suggesting how little time it took her to replace her father’s nurturing hand.

 

 

109

 

The house where they go to sleep is covered in moths, and the beds are made of sulphur. Each morning the servants clean the grounds with their hands and teeth.

 

 

110

 

“We have been expelled from the garden.”

“For how long?”

 

 

111

 

 

The man reads from his book, bound in a brown classic binding that holds the pages open when it folds. He reads out loud, testing his words against the grueling wind, the thunder of the heavy air passing through the weeds, scattering the surviving weeds.

“He had no family name, and when he arrived, he asked the survivors to take his name. The port had been destroyed, and they remembered only the few figment passages noted down by scholars who would not survive the flood. Few of the settlers remained, and the natives were lost within the wind, their spirits said to have scattered in the crystalline gaze of the sun. Those who fled went North, to where it was cold, and would not be heard from again.”

He sits against the structure of the rock, leaning against the granite, gazing stoically upon the surrounding landscape, pine trees that stand on an expanse of untamed weeds, a tangerine grove in the distance, and further, ruins of another time. In the familiar distance, a large, concrete slab of a home, his own home, sits solidly, absorbing the autumn wind.

Over his shoulder, he hears the humming sound of his friend approaching. His friend, a large, bulky fellow three times his size, with the strength to lift the rear end of a truck with his two hands, sings to himself as he nears.

When he sees his friend, sitting atop the stone like a child claiming his throne, he approaches him with a searching smile. Quiet, pointing in the distance, to the approaching sea of clouds lunging over the horizon, forming a fiery storm atop the distant house.

“You know,” the big man says, “we built that home together. It ain’t made of clay, steel, wood or bricks. No concrete, no straw, no stone. And she still stands, and weathers the environment, year after year, storm after storm.”

He turns back to his friend.

“The gales come in two kinds, the Spaniards always say. One from the Pyrenees, and the other from the sea, carrying a world of snow. Good thing we’re not in Spain.”

“Sure,” says the man, sitting atop his throne, pulling a sack of seeds from his pocket, offering them up to his friend, who is by now standing at his side, wearing a distinctly solemn gaze on his face. He sits with his arms crossed over his legs, knees up, holding him in a slow, steady rocking motion. He has a slight tremble in his arms, a circumstance of the cold. He hums softly, and his friend follows suit, finding a seat somewhere around him, joining in the hum.

Finally the big man speaks, clasping his voice to be heard.

“How come I always find you telling that same story, brother?”

The little man pinches his lips, shrugs his shoulders, speaking quietly, forgetting that he may not be heard.

“I enjoy hearing it.”

The big man turns his shoulder to the approaching dark, tossing his seeds to the way.

“You think anybody’ll hear it?”

“I don’t know.”

The two men sit there a while watching the grasses part under the force of wind, feeling the turbulence stretch across the face. Hollow coos of an owl braving the storm. The passing song of cranes torched along the evening sky.

The big man speaks again.

“I got a rush of something cold today. Brushed past my neck and made my hairs stand up.”

A little while later the two men walk over to the house, crossing the path of weeds climbing up their necks. The sound of their feet against the earth, crushing the weeds that rustle against their weight, fills the quiet between them. As they pass into the open yard of the house, several men are seen moving about, filling mud into overflowing buckets. They look feverishly, somewhat angrily, at the two men walking past them. Each of their lips are moving, trembling over the recital of a poem, but their voices can’t be heard by the passing men, nor by one another. They pile enough mud in their hands and walk lazily over to a man holding out an empty bucket, and they place it in the emerging pile and he drowsily walks over to the mixing barrel and adds the mud to the mix. The men stand in line and watch him until he returns, transfixed, at which point they remove themselves from the trance and start the process again.

There is a woman sitting on the stoop of a backside porch door to the house, singing in near falsetto, soprano that raises the hair on their necks. Beside her a group of seed collectors manage their provisions and share a smoke, watching the two men return from their walk. When the men arrive beside the woman, she winks at them both. They ignore her. She spits on the ground, turns, and walks indoors.

The little man turns to his friend.

“You set out to work today?”

“I have me a couple things.”

“I’ll be out by the bricks, catching crabs at the lake. If anyone asks.”

“They won’t.”

He nods and walks away. The big man walks over past the seed collectors and up the steps, kicking in the door with his boots. He disappears into the arches of the house, and over in the distance, passing away into the thicket of forest that lines the grounds, his friend vanishes from sight.

 

 

 

112

 

The woman rushes through a corridor of stone and turns quickly into a room. The room is cramped with metallic sheets draping from the ceiling, the entrance to the room burning with the effigy of a man. In the distance, at the end of the corridor, an immense crater lies agape, memory of the antiquated past. A crowd surrounds a wailing woman in the center of the room, the immense crater to her immediate back. The woman is giving birth. As she wails, the crowd erupts in roars of fear and approval, before relenting, falling silent.

The cries of a newborn baby can be heard.

Suddenly there is a sharp cry, a bloodcurdling shriek.

The crowd disperses from the center.

The child is removed from the woman’s sight, and wrapped in a shroud.

A collection of the crowd walk away with the baby nestled in their arms, ignoring the cries of the mother.

The woman lets out a horrible cry.

The child is gone from her sight.

 

 

113

 

In his visit to the camp, he reported the evolution of primitive trophy heads that circled the ruins. It wasn’t clear if the heads had been dispelled of corpses, or if they were acquired for the express purpose of decapitation from a living body. The horror of his visit continued with the revelation that a prisoner had been kept in the hull of a ship, a ship that had been removed from its position at harbor, cradled into the long river they call the river of the dog. His treatment has been documented and it remains one of the most horrific incidences of captivity we have witnessed. In order to permeate his mind with the feeling that he was cast outward at sea indefinitely, the room was pulled from its downcast position and suspended by two impressive pillars, in a sort of manmade pool that ran through the river. But the river had long dried, so the pool was encircled by a wall of bricks, to ensure the room would not drift away from the hold. The horror is really in the treatment of the prisoner’s body. He was suspended, for the duration of his captivity, held horizontally by a metallic pipe. His legs had been broken, and after several years in this horrid position his body morphed to accommodate the spectacle. His feet were drawn over his head, crisscrossed at the heels, like a spider of sorts, whose legs crawl over the head and fasten to the neck when slapped by the wrist of a watchman. And his arms, wrapped around the waist, held at the lower back, where his wrists, eventually broken, mended so as to conjoin the two hands. His eyes, washed with acid so he could only tell seeing with his nose. And he had been spared a nose. It was all that remained useful to him. His ears, bound by boiling wax. Of course, his nose had not been spared out of mercy, but out of even greater malice. The trench where he lay became the nest of his gloom, and it morphed into the size and shape of his reconstructed body. He could not move an earth’s inch. He could not descend or rise, even if he had the strength, which he obviously did not, he had been fastened to the enormous pipes. His neck, situated so a long metallic tube, a hollow shaft could run through his mouth. He had been kept alive, and to maintain his life, veering on the cusp of death every single day, he had to be fed from the captor’s provisions. Several times a week, when it was most needed to keep the poor man alive, at the hour of his meal, a sentient guard was sent to his staple trench in the wild darkness. He would proceed to drop his pants, turn around, and squat, delivering a cloud of feces into the metallic shaft. The shaft would suction the feces into the prisoner’s mouth. For this benefit he had been spared a nose, to recognize the difference between his meals and his imagination. The claims made against any captive are various, and usually, to elicit the complicity of guards, who require a certain amount of time to embody the virility of the upper echelons of the militancy, claims are made against the prisoner’s honor, that he may have raped a pregnant woman, that he may be a sodomite, a deviant homosexual and subjected to incessant amounts of torture at the hands of a crowd of hot blooded men. Coincidentally, it is those men who are imprisoned and tortured for their being deviants who are the recipients of various forms of vehement rape. There is one story of a man who had been captured by a different set of militants, who claim a large swathe of territory stretching from the Jordan River to the Galilee. They have erected hundreds of settlements, some of them operating under a modern interpretation of utopian socialism, but most of them operating well within the dogmatic doctrine of orthodox monotheists, most of them Jews. They lose a large portion of their population to revolt, but those who revolt often disappear, either by their own will, fleeing to some other nation, or finding themselves detained, arbitrarily arrested and vanishing from the conduits of society. This man was said to have suffered a total psychosis, meaning he was completely unable to maintain cognitive awareness at any point in time. Cases such as these are usually bound by titanium bolts in the wall, and their escape is virtually impossible. The bolts cannot be unfastened by any one man, requiring at least five different signatures, or fingerprints in the case of an emergency, to release the captive. It is often feared that such individuals are susceptible, for mere foolishness, to radicalism, militancy, or the contraction of diseases sprouting in the region, undetected by the authorities for their occurrence on the margins of society. But this one man, who has come to be known among the militant classes as the fool of God, committed irrefutably heinous crimes. Under their watch, every local was a suspect. Incidentally, they considered themselves the most moral army in the world. But they were foreigners, and they were hostile to the natives. The acts of one man don’t, and shouldn’t, represent the beliefs of an entire people, but they have taken his cause readily. On the evening before the celebration of festival, he crossed the security team’s blanket, with celebratory fumes rampant in the air, he passed from under their sight. According to his testimony, a two inch drawing signifying the exact details of his erroneous incisions, miniscule except to the microscopic eye, he felt an obligation to the settler’s children he could not neglect, hurrying a et of pliers into his hands, pliers he attained from a kettle of tools that lay inside the room of newborns. For every child, whose wailing in the darkness he mistook for fear, for being stationed in the dark, for lasting, he cut deep slabs into their eyes, digging a canal from one of the eyes to the other, channeling above the nose and through the eyebrow. To this day, the drawing serves as a blueprint for the mirrored line of candles the locals wish to stretch across the city on festival. But the fool of God did not stop there. From the canal, he uprooted one of the eyes, snipping at the optic nerve, loosening by way of assault and manual suction the other eye into a central position. Of the thirty four newborns in the room, only five survived. Nurses and doctors, attending to the wounds, could do nothing to repair the damage. Actually, he would not have been caught had he not surrendered himself. They entered the complex and found him hurrying the babies into duffel bags, one by one, their face rapidly devolving into unidentifiable masses of flesh. When pressed as to what he had planned for the children, he is said to have claimed that the ones who survived the operation were to be freed, returned to their homes, and the ones who did not would be thrown into the sea, all at once. His reputation has taken hold of the population, and his name is chanted in demonstrations and mass rallies. As the situation in the camps gets worse, men like the fool of God only grow in reputation and popularity. Those of a lost generation, and we are witnessing the loss of three or four generations, will seek to emulate his actions. The divide between the inhabitants who remain and those who have fled is startling. And the divide between the settlers, the natives and the refugees is growing more and more violent by the day. It is expected that the next few public demonstrations will see more violent outbursts from disillusioned youth who feel they have nothing to lose. This tends to be the case, that among young males ranging between fifteen and thirty five years of age, the tendency to violence is much greater. However, as we have seen in the surrounding provinces, violence can erupt at any minute, and is not exclusive to males of a certain age. In fact, brutal killings and suicide bombings have been performed by the hand of older women in their late forties, a troubling emergence. The coming of Festival will prove to be a difficult period. Festival is the gravest and most politically inciteful day in the calendar year. On this very special day, a tomb that has been erected in the central square of the city is lit by fireworks and candles and plastic pigeons and doves and other birds. The evolution of the conflict has returned a certain religious fervor to the people, who show up en masse to any ritualistic rite. Historically, this day was marred by violence between two opposing camps, whose views on the future of their fragmented society diverge. The situation has deteriorated of late, as a return to more dogmatic and fundamentalist practices has evoked harsh memories of conflict between the tribes, and as a result rituals are turning more and more grotesque, retreating into the shadows of antiquity. Around dawn, on the day of Festival, children offered up by their parents, or preferably, stolen from neighboring villages, are raised to the mantel in a long and strenuous procession. One by one, with the reading of certain passages, they are dropped from the head of the tomb as a sacrifice. Some regard the sacrifice as a warning to the diaspora, while others believe it is a sacrifice to themselves, a message they inhabit and swallow whole. It is said, on this day, the people of the port town are sacrificing their progeny to prevent the diaspora from ever returning, but it is also said the people are eulogizing the inevitable loss of the town, to the diaspora. It is unclear. Some suggest it is not a celebration of their impending arrival, but a reenactment of the day, the fictitious day in the future of the colony, where the diaspora has returned and reclaims their lost heritage. As a compromise, the citizens sacrifice their young, hoping to evade the diaspora’s intervention for another year. Some notable sacrifices of late included four young boys whose last known location before being abducted was on a beach, where they were playing football, passing their time like schoolboys in less tenuous environments would. But the town, on this day, is generally vibrant and in good spirit. The most orthodox believers will tell you that the children do not suffer at all, accepted into the arms of their creator. Only a few months old, mostly, but as the children mentioned above, some have been pulled from their ranks at the ages of eight or nine, even fourteen.  Once, as a result of some dispute, a full grown woman ascended the mantel, hurled herself to the ground. Her defiance of the ritual being exclusively administered with the use of younger boys caused panic among some and outrage among others. Since then, more children have been hurled, out of fear that her defiance of the ritual may have upset the cosmic order. As a gesture of support for the festival, two tribal elders of warring factions came together and ascended the tomb, each with a fiery rod which they proceeded, with the help of several aids, to puncture the first chosen infants, and before long, the children were hurled as far as the two men could power. There were some, watching from atop a hill the scene unfold, who had brought binoculars and camping equipment to enjoy the afternoon, a wild haze descending on the lower city. From their birdseye view, the scene is quite stunning, an entire population driven into frenzy, religious fervor at its most accessible. Many of the individuals in the pack speak of a trickster power overcoming them, archetypal forces inhabiting their forms, blindly keeping tempo to the procession with the stomping of their naked feet. The stomping, of course, cannot be heard from a distance, but with an ear pressed to the ground, a flat slap can be envisaged. It would seem, from their view, a day of calm, but for the children being hurled in all directions. Remarkably, throughout the entire festival, there are no sounds but the screeching, echoing cries of the babies falling to their death. There is, as well, the reality that the corpses of the infants, however sparsely scattered, can be used, if collected in time, for other means. But it is left to the vultures, a dying breed of birds, to safeguard against disease and devour the infant prey. However, as with any intervention of such natural awkwardness, there are rumors circulating of the babies being raised, to some extent, by these scavenger birds, and similar species. When once, a woman in one of the camps that takes part in the festival delivered a child with wings instead of arms, the rumor circulated like rapid fire, and within days a procession a committee had been formed to combat the rumor with more positive propaganda, one of the few complimentary causes of cooperation among the establishment. But these sacrifices, brutal and grotesque as they are, are not outstanding in the region. In other camps, it is reported, people make amends with their gods by lighting themselves on fire, only to be put out at the nearest point of death, accepting to live with their wounds. And even more striking is the story of one other camp, where it is said the people eat out of the carcass of their loved one, traditionally the eldest male, celebrated with the honor upon his death. When another male dies, the new male replaces the old male, and after excavating his organs, the degrading body is placed at the heart of the village and day after day the people take their meals from his eroding vessel. There have been stories of an elderly male not passing for over three or four years.

 

 

 

114

 

He studied the bites carefully. Three on his leg. One under his arm.

She removed the ticks from his body. Nine in total.

While removing the tick with a pair of tweezers, she applied a soft gel to the various spots, as a disinfectant. When she reached the tick around his crotch, she pushed his briefs aside, holding the cotton against his skin with two fingers pushing downward, and applying the gel with the other hand, before pulling the tick out with the tweezers. He liked having her head there, so close.

 

 

115

 

He stood naked in her room. His body felt cold rocking against the evening chill. It surprised him that he wanted to smell her daughter’s perfume. But it surprised him more that he found it. He wasn’t surprised she kept the bottle herself. That was the sort of thing a mother would do, could do. He was surprised she let him find it, that she left it out, without first protecting it from his eyes. Did she not realize how much power lay in that scent of hers?

 

 

 

116

 

The cockroach crawled onto his keyboard. The office was small. It frightened him. He moved away from his desk. The light in the room seemed to change. He seemed different. He looked back the figure across from his desk. He had come to him just recently, uninvited. He showed up at his office. He’d been running the magazine at his office ever since he first started it. So he started running the piece there. This guy comes to him uninvited. He brings trouble. He says, listen man, you have to take this story out of next month’s piece. What story? The story you’re about to write. What do you mean? You haven’t written it yet. It’s being written. You have to withdraw it from the piece. Tell me why.

 

 

117

 

That was the moment he realized the woman had transformed, solidified, into a stone statue. As he realized the mutation her body made, glimpses of the astonishing movement raced into his mind. He remembered seeing her figure, captured under a muted ray of light, the sun’s rays scattered along the concrete floors by the diamond shaped holes along the steel fence, flow subtly into a sheet of white, like it had frozen over, glistening under a reflecting carpet. Slowly the color, as it polited in form, despaired into eroding greys, and the thick smut typical of stone emerged from the outgrowth.

A while later he was in the open expanse of the park, sheltered in the overgrowth of the grass, when he heard the nearing footsteps of a stranger. He could tell by the sound of the steps that the man was barefoot, his feet burying into the mud as he walked forth, briskly, strength in his heels and calves. He imagined the man, before finding him, and when his face emerged from a thicket of sagebrush, long blond hair curled down to his knees, a smirk on his baby face that sung from the weight of his thick, beady eyes, and a long, emerging torso that disappeared into the grass, he welcomed the sight of him, quieting down the rapid beating of his heart, a fever he only just noticed as he asked for it to sustain. The man’s hands emerged alternately, between the waving of his arms, oscillating back and forth to the rhythm of his steps, and in one of his hands he noticed a small item, that seemed from afar to be a book, and in the other hand what seemed to be a pouch, for money, or tobacco, or both. The man held a knife against the side of his waist, a dagger that looked like it had been stolen from a ship off the coast of Aden. The knife, the man’s eyes, and the roof of his head, all shone under the midday sun. I know the time and the hour we make the walk, he thought to himself, some things I choose to know.

As the man came forth he fell upon the ground, cowered before him. The two held eyes and with a wasteful minute said nothing, until finally a sound tore into their tension, birds cawing somewhere in the distance.

“Did you see anything today,” the stranger asked, plotting his face into his palms, held above the ground by his elbows.

“What I always see.”

The stranger crawled forward, speaking in a strange dialect, that told of his being raised in the woods.

“In the garden, the way is long.”

He dropped his face, pulling his arms from under him, letting his head bounce against the cushioned grass for some time, recoiling in the myth he had begun, laughing.

“Do you live around here?”

He spoke away from his sight, speaking in turn to the sky.

“I should be asking you. You’re here, all alone.”

“And you?”

He answered sharply, over the taunting chorus of the wind, streaking through punctures of the grass.

“I have everything. The silence here, the trees. All you have is a dream in some pages.”

“How do you know?”

“I’ve been watching you.”

Moments later the two were walking away from the expanse, the stranger guiding the passenger from several steps away, close enough so he could smell the stench of his breath as he followed in his steps. He held his eyes to the knife, but it seemed to emit no harm. His senses were tightening, he could feel himself growing deeper and deeper in the abyss.

Before his mind entered a womb of silence, he heard the stranger’s friendly voice, a voice he had come to covet, question him on the songs.

“Are they still hazy to you,” he asked him. “Do you hear them? Horns.”

 

Coming to, he found himself beside a pond, his hand strangely outstretched so that the whole of his palm lay clutching a stone in the water, while the remainder of his body, though wet, was not submerged.

Surrounded by the particular quiet he had expected. Still, it gave him a sense of unease. The song of migratory birds, the usual herd of insects, that’s all. He expected to be hunted by a bear, or turn a corner and find himself holding his eyes to a wolf. But so far, animals remained outside of his vision, save for the song of the birds flying overhead, the condors turning in their work, hawks who dropped in midair like airplanes hitting a wave of steam, rising again and pushing forth, something he hoped to acquire. Cranes, storks, sparrows, and hummingbirds, all setting sail on their adventure.

He rose from his place and dusted off his knees, his pants soaked in water, he stared amiably at the mud smeared onto his hands, tiny sticks pulled from the ashes of flowering vegetation. Without thinking too much on the matter, he rose from his place, and stretched his body, arching backwards as far as he could, holding the position before performing a spiral with his waist. He cracked his neck, running his hands through his hair and rubbing his face with his palms.

Staring into his reflection in the water, he heard a man’s voice, and turning to acknowledge him, recognized the voice as the man from the day before, the stranger in the woods. He was staring at him through a blanket of wet moss, that hung from two giant trees, like it had been piled there for protection, to be hidden from his sight.

“Do you hear them?”

The stranger stared at the man, curious, searching the outlines of the air trying to form his figure in his mind, he stared through him like he was invisible.

“Hear what?”

“The horns.”

“I just woke up. I must have fallen asleep.”

At his words the stranger was gone, walking away with a machete flung over his shoulders.

 

 

 

118

 

Immobility is serving me well. Doses of boredom, hunger, satisfaction, sex. I looked up some whores that would fit my taste, and called them, just to ask. But I don’t have the money. When I did, I committed the unalterable. But I don’t have the means just now.

 

 

119

 

She learned to refurbish the books herself, to adopt the work of the older man, who hadn’t been able to do it himself for some time. In exchange, he offered her housing in the back of the store, with a separate entrance and fully supplied bathroom as well. The room itself was modestly sized, enough for a small bed, a desk and a beside table. If she wanted to sit on the desk, the beside table would have to be removed.

The store sold mostly to strange tourists, drifters who got lost and never returned. Drunks and entrepreneurs who stayed after everything changed. Some of them making a fortune at the expense of others, but most of them sticking around and falling deeper and deeper into an idle dump.

She had never left the town, having always dreamed of leaving but never able to pull the muscles of her legs. But moving out had soothed her, for a while, as she had grown bitter toward her parents, an innocent and normal couple who tried their hardest to show her a good life.

 

 

 

 

120

 

She hung up the phone. She stared at the device in her hands, like it was some foreign object suddenly dropped into her palms. How could he be such an asshole, she thought. So thoughtless! She put the phone in her jacket pocket as the revolving kitchen door swung open and a washer passed by. They exchanged smiles, and she walked on.

She walked to the bathroom. She wanted ot use one of the stalls but the doors were all locked. There was an old, sad looking man masturbating in the corner by the long urinal. The image of the man depressed her. He met her eyes, but he didn’t budge. He kept at his handiwork. He took to himself with fury, tugging harder and harder at his cock. He stared into her eyes. She didn’t move. He had the look of waste in his eyes. The look of someone at work on something for so long he would think of nothing else again.

She watched spit trickle the sides of his mouth. She heard him groan in pleasure. As one of the stalls opened she turned inside, leaving the man to his condition.

 

She hangs up the phone. She stares at the device in her hands, like it is a foreign object suddenly dropped into her palms, something that can stir up a storm and suddenly disappear. She puts the phone in her jacket pocket just as the revolving kitchen door swings open and a washer passes by. They exchange smiles, and she walks on.

She goes to the bathroom. She wants to use one of the stalls but the doors are all locked. There is an old, sad looking man masturbating in the corner by the long urinal. The image of the man depresses her. He meets her eyes, but he doesn’t budge. He keeps at his handiwork. He goes at himself in a fit of fury. He tugs harder and harder at his own cock. He stares into her eyes. She doesn’t move. He has the look of waste in his eyes. The look of someone at work on something for so long he doesn’t have the frame of time in his mind. He drools from the side of his mouth. She hears him groan in agony. As one of the stalls open, she turns inside, leaving the man in his condition.

 

 

 

121

 

“He told me of a writer he had known. In Paris in the early nineties, when he was just graduated from Cambridge and was tired of his privileged life, as he put it. He said that the guy wrote seven novels while living on the streets, all of them dealing with the exhaustion and ecstasy of living. None of them garnered any interest, not a single agent or publisher, if he ever attracted any, were interested.”

“Were they in French?”

“What difference does it make?”

“If they’re in French, it’s easier, as a local writing in your environment.”

“It makes no difference. Why hadn’t this messianic writer gotten any of the attention he deserved? The stories must’ve been spectacular. He had all the elements of life in his hands, living on the elements, needing them to survive. Basic instinct. Why hadn’t he attracted literary attention?”

“You tell me.”

“You know man.”

“Yeah, I have an idea. But it makes no difference to me why these things happen. They do. And you’re trying to convince me to do something else with my time.”

“You’re fighting in a field of crows, my friend. Look around you. You’re standing in a field of blood.”

He rose from his place, pushing the chair out with his legs, stepping forward and away from the desk. He took a few steps toward the door. The agent called out to him, annoyed that he had to keep pulling people by the strings. All he wanted was to go a full day without having to coerce people to life. When did everyone become so sentimental? These things happen. Writers live and then they die. Poets live and they too die. Poetry lives on in the few who survive the trade. And those few we call Kings, and the others are just garbage.

“Hey. Don’t be so emotional now. Not now.”

“When, then? I’ve worked in this office for twenty years. We had a goal.”

“We have a goal.”

He wanted to say, We have a goal, and if you want to be part of it then so be it, if not, go fuck yourself, but he withheld his real feelings and tried his way with kindness.

“The people are out on the streets. There’s barely any water left. There’s barely any food. They’re willing to starve, to bring down this whole system. They know the troops are coming in. It’s only a matter of time. So when, old friend, do we start seeing through the fucking walls? You think you’re some grandmaster publisher on Union Square. You’re not. This is a different world. This is a different time. The chains are coming loose. The street is revolting. You let more writers starve to death than you’ve published in your life.”

“We can’t take

 

 

122

 

She arrives for the interview. She looks great. Stunning. It’s been a rough year. But she looks great. For her age.

 

I love these afternoons. These sort of afternoons. They come once in a while. When you’re young, when I was young, I didn’t notice, I just flew right through it. How do you judge a year? The time just flies. It’s these quiet afternoons, I love. When you sit back and smell the first summer rain and realise it’s your first off routine appointment in a while, or your first foray into the sun after the winter. When people seem to be on their heels. Crowds running by without noticing you. You feel like you could butcher your cat right there on the street, no one would notice. Special, special afternoons.

Not that anyone ever notices. Not that anyone notices me.

 

 

 

123

 

What is peculiar is the incessant degradation of young life. As though it were an idea to keep the kids from experiencing the horrors that await them. It was a feeling one of them had, or two of them had or three of them had, that the screenings they were being shown, the reports that were being heard, were…In the report, the abuses cited are staggering.

 

 

 

 

124

 

I haven’t been able to concentrate. It’s rained all week. Isn’t it July? Friendly weather. When do we become victims of the environment? I’m full of shame and regret.

I bought a lightbulb today. I have to buy another one tomorrow. I wish I knew about the other one today, I would have bought two at the same time. Now I have to buy it again. Do I have anything to buy tomorrow, other than the lights? I went to the grocery store yesterday.

I smoked a joint with a friend today. I know I have a friend when I can smoke weed with them. When it doesn’t get too awkward. I miss the way we smoked our weed. Everyone had their own style of rolling. The lizard with the big thumb. The frog and the ears. The Elvis. The meter pipe. We took the arms off a foosball table and used it as a pipe. I was wheezing for three weeks.

 

 

125

 

He struggles with the memory of that night, sleeping in the arms of the streetside whore, dragging her to the bones. A night he remembers as having lost to the whim of traveling the vortex cave of an island. He found himself alone in a room with the escort. He had brought her to the room with the intention of courting her, but in the end he felt it was he, himself, who was being courted. He had one wish, to understand something welled deep within her psyche, that arose and took hold of her life.

 

In the corridor of the brothel. The elderly host leads him to the room without saying a word. As he entered, he gave him a look to suggest he knew exactly what the man needed. We have one of that type, he said to him. The scene unfolded in his hands, and without his knowing, but waking up later to the sound of furious pipes banging at the walls, he stroked the smooth skin of her back.

 

He watched her handle the sheets. She spoke without looking over at him standing over the bed. She went about her business mindfully, like she had done it a thousand times, a hundred times that day. She probably had.

After clearing the bed and the sheets and replacing them with new ones, recognizing the confusion, or the interest, in his native stare, she spoke calmly. I never trust these rooms.

He stepped forward. The sound of a bed creaking next door. Hollow banging on the ceiling. He looked to the side of the room and found a mouse trap lying in the corner. He found another trap just like it beside his legs, and another on the other side of the room. He looked dover and through the open window, barricaded with steel bars, but a breeze breaking through the slits in the tiling. A cactus hung in the balance, resting on the windowsill.

“You can sit down,” she said, taking a seat at the edge of the bed.

 

He realized he hadn’t taken off any of his clothes, including his jacket. He laid the jacket at the foot of the bed, folding it in two. He circled the room for a moment, sitting on the ground by the door, keeping his eyes from her eyes.

“Is everything alright,” she asked.

She stood from her place, turning around and walking toward a cabinet by the window, where she pulled a bottle of scotch from the top drawer. She moved her hips from side to side, to resuscitate his interest. He didn’t budge. She spoke without turning back around.

“The night is ours. We have time.”

He must have stayed there, in his position, a few hours. He must have dozed off, because when he awoke, he noticed he had been sleeping in an infantile position, still at the foot of the door. She had remained by the bed, had shaken off most of her clothes, had drunk more than a few sips of the bottle. The room smelled of fresh smoke. She obviously hadn’t been sleeping long.

He turned his attention to a bedside table, where Poems by Chaucer lay under a few ruffled up bound books. Above the table, a portrait of an elderly tribesmen brandishing his sword stared back at him from a diamond frame. Fake diamonds.

He thought he could hear her snoring. He craved the taste of a cigarette. Interrupting his mind’s wandering, her voice rose to startle the room.

“Do you want to start with a foot massage?”

She had risen from the bed. He hadn’t noticed her moving, nor had he noticed himself rising from his position by the door. He stood directly facing the portrait, and she directly behind him.

“Is everything alright,” she asked.

He didn’t answer.

“Don’t waste my fucking time.”

“I was hoping for something to happen,” he said, in a quiet voice.

“Well,” she said, “it helps to try.”

He turned around to look her in the eyes. She stood naked before him, half her body drenched in shadow, the other half illuminated by a glowing red light dangling from the ceiling of the room. A strong, reddish hue slipped curtains over her eyes and deep shadows under her breasts. Her right hand, pulsating large, rose from behind her back and slowly stroked the head of her erecting cock. She stroked slowly, staring at him from behind a shield of darkness.

“Do you want to know something,” she says, her voice suddenly low and coarse. “You won’t always be this way.”

She knew that he liked her, that he wanted to stay the night. she knew he had chosen her room because she had something the others didn’t. Something he craved, partly because he wanted it for himself. If he could climb in through the window, shielding himself form the curiosity of the others involved, he would have spent every night in her arms.

She liked him too, because he was soft. She liked him, because he was a little ashamed, embarrassed, and he stood away from her in awe and silence. He watched her stroke her erect cock, colluding between reverie and hesitation. Finally, he spoke.

“Did they assign you a name,” he asked.

“They tried,” she said, “returning to her female voice. “I’m not very obedient, as you can tell.”

“Tell me something,” he said. “Have you seen me here before?”

The feeling of tension lifted from the room. He noticed it then, like there had been a strong current pulling them to the ground, and suddenly they felt light, suddenly everything felt a little more light.

“What do you mean, before?”

He wanted to say, I have the vague sensation of having been here, but he didn’t. Instead, he pulled off his shirt, and unbuttoned his pants. He stepped out of his boots, and removed his briefs. She continued to stroke her pulsating cock.

“Where do you want me,” she asked. She spoke in a vibrating pitch. She sounded different. Like she had submitted to his game, like she had pulled him into her song and submitted to his game.

“On the bed,” he said.

He felt in that moment that he had been there before, he had been there for sure. He watched her turn slowly onto the bed and dig her face into the sheets, raising her ass so that it stood at the high peak of a slope stretching from her exposed anus to her nose. He walked over to her ass and stroked it with his thumb. He bent over and kissed the anus, protruding and receding in anticipation.

“Are you going to fuck me,” she asked, in a dry and vibrating tone.

He slapped one of her cheeks, and then the other. He pulled her from the hips toward his body. He bent over again, sticking his tongue as deep into the ass as he could. He licked her, up and down the length of her back, cradling her hard cock in his hands.

She moaned. “I would remember if you had been here.”

He spit into his hands, rubbing the tip of his rising cock. He teased the outline of her ass, rubbing it with his erect self.

“Fuck me baby,” he heard her say.

He knew she wasn’t putting it on, that she really wanted to be fucked. He could tell by the blood pumping into her restless cock, the protruding and receding of her wet anus. He stroked her gently.

He reached into his mouth and pulled a blade from behind one of the molars. A small blade, that fit between two teeth and his gums. He pulled the blade down to her body. He wanted to stroke her with the blade but then she would know. He resisted, with difficulty. Finally, after she fell into a fit of pleading, begging to get pounded in the ass, he meticulously brought the blade down to her cock, pulled her penis backward with his left hand and cut a straight line along the edge of the skin that connected the thickening cock with the balls. For the briefest moment, she hadn’t made a sound, her body reacting slowly to the reality of her wound. But with the eruption of her nightmarish scream, he had no choice but to pull her neck toward him, and slit open her throat. Returning his attention to the flooding wound of her cock, he sliced it open further, pulling out both of the testicles from their gloves. Her body, stuttering in its final living breaths, flopped into a lump on the floor, a vibrating bang churning at the sound of her head banging against the wooden surface. He walked over to his pants, where he pulled a small bag from one of the pockets, and put the two testes inside.

 

 

126

 

He told her the story of a girl, one of the delicacies he found caged between velvet curtains and a street shop window. He had been stoned, slightly drunk. He searched in her eyes for a model to take care of him, a mother figure, to console him, to cradle him in her arms. He didn’t enter that evening, but the following evening he knocked on her door and she wasn’t there. It upset him. He waited all night, curled up and asleep on the stiars, pushed aside by one of the few officers who noticed his body drenched in the sweat of a dry summer night. He had held a camera, and had waited for the passers to vanish from sight when he pulled out a film and started taking shots. He struggled with the light, but he found his way into the apartment and found her lying on the bed in a pool of blood. He swam over her body and stated taking pictures. He couldn’t help himself. He tired to stop. He wanted to stop because he felt bad. He worried someone might find him. He wondered if he had done it himself, if he had cycled in and out without knowing. He shot an entire roll, and left. A few nights later, police came by his apartment, asking for the photographs he had taken. Naturally, they suspected he was involved, but they were still pushing for a warrant. They spoke to him like grown men who know they’re in cahoots. Like soldiers of opposing armies stuck in some mud storm in the middle of the jungle, only themselves to blame, with only themselves to save. He offered them the roll of film, but when they took a look at the negatives, they realized nothing was there. Incensed, one of the officers struck him above the eye with his gun. The other held him back, but really he was only playing the part, acting out one of his roles. They destroyed most of his belongings, tore the place apart, and left. He left that morning before dawn, crawling out the way he came. He passed some of the early risers in his neighborhood, but for some reason they didn’t recognize it was him. He didn’t look as beat up as he usually did, save for a large bruise on his face. He bought a few fruits off a cart seller, and moved on past the quarter, toward the central square, where he was going to board a coastal train. He didn’t know where he was going, but he was certain he had to flee.

 

 

127

 

But he wasn’t the man to write of his own possession. Recording the stoires of others, he largely ignored his own. Only in drafts, fragments never to see the light of day, is there evidence of his experience with a rapture he himself describes. That was how they had spoken of him, and how he had come to spend his final days, locked in what seemed to him a mausoleum of his imaginative instruction. He had hoped for realism, all those years, defending the virtues of a playwright’s honest choices, but he fled so far form reality, he couldn’t harbor his own thoghts. A soft light illuminated the center of the room. He sat curled in the corner entangled in his own arms. He ehard voices that were not his own. He felt a presence upon his shoulders. He feared a ghostly presence behind him. He feared that any moment there may be a confrontation. He could hear the muffled tissue of heavy breathing closing in. The sound of choking over one’s spit, the sound of plotting, whispering, a shadow employed in the impenetrable rings. Soon the others will arrive, he thought. If they don’t know the sotry, he decided, he would keep them there until they did, imprisoned in his own confession. They would not be allowed ot leave, like him. Those who tried to leave he would have to hurt. He did not like to think such things, of hurt and cruelty and necessity, but he knew there had to be sacrifice. They must know the prophecy that rises in the lungs, he thought, in its entirety. They will be saved if they now, he thought. Otherwise they will go mad. He tried to open his eyes but he wasn’t able. He knew he would see them, but he did not want to. Sometimes it was enough to hear them, to know that they were there. At an unsuspecting turn of the head he would catch sight of one, it would freeze, stare back at him. He would shiver, his neck would curl, his fingers clench. Sometimes they looked tender, like they were inviting his caresses. Other times they appeared in their definite form, terrible. they were terrible because they were becoming need, incessant, appearing at all junctures without the warning of an evening’s shroud. They would stutter into the room when he was only beginning to think they had gone away.  They prevented his sleep. They prevented him from enjoying his meals. He knew that they came most in the room, but because of it, he couldn’t leave, he was paralyzed to remain in his place. He had become the mirror of his fear’s reflection. He banged his head against the wall, beginning with a rhythmic nudge, keeping time, arriving at substantial blows against the concrete surface. Blood dripped from his head in a romantic stream of kisses. He refused to open his eyes. Scurrying footsteps sounded around him. The chorus of an open door praying wind to the room.

 

 

 

 

They had found him in a torn and inappropriate condition. His mental state had declined, without any of his neighbors or rare but common companions noticing. Weight was given to the fact that he had always sought spiritual fulfillment through the mystical incarnation of his work, and as he failed to attain such mesmerizing heights, they were not surprised to have found him in such a decrepit state. Rising to the aspirations of Augustine of Hippo, whose manuscript he carried religiously in his arms. But he had nothing of the virtues of Augustine. He was barely the stone to cement the footsteps of a saint. But he had sought empowerment, and for this he paid the penalty of a heretic. Colluding with neighboring tribes, the authorities put him in the custody of a priest. The priest was of ill health, and had really accepted the idea for no reason other than his own enjoyment. Even a character locked up in a cage, who he could watch from the corner of his failing eye, seemed a decent enough companion. The priest was himself the foremost healer of the port, and for this reason had understood the claims to heresy made against the man. But he knew, by no means, did the man measure to the claims. He had no knowledge of the elements or the texts. He had no money for the appropriation of drugs and liquors. In his gait he walked with the confidence of a rat exiled from the nest. In his posture he sat like a man paralyzed in his place, his lower back pulled into his backside loins, so his shoulders rose above his head, his neck stiffened to the side. To challenge such a man to imprisonment was to cut the tongue of an infant recently born, hungry and crying for food. What had been his greatest crime, to deserve the weight of his condition? Even when removed from the weight of conviction, a quality he hadn’t possessed his entire life, he had managed to sculpt a habitual obsession with connection to things sacred. So it wasn’t really the weight of his work but the virtue of his intentions. the process by which he assumed his poetics. What is most true of ecstasy, of that divine intervention that captures the imagination of a child and paralyzes him to its force, is that it comes pregnant with superstition. But where does it come from?

 

 

129

 

She wants to posses the man, the shadow of a man that pervades the golden showers. A divination constructed from several component parts. His mystery grown so prevalent in her thoughts, in the structure of her being. Hadn’t he taught her, years before, the imaginary self in ascension, or the imaginary ascension of self? The drifter hermit who travels the unexplored, mastering the world thereby. She had him in her grip and then he dissolved. A figment of her past, a solitary man who does not expense for food, shelter, guarded travel, granted free passage, accompanied by a host of guides, artisans and healers, nurturing the ascetic. What of these intellectuals and their habits, who come of their own free will to sit in the presence of a master? The ascetic does not respond to their presence, offering only his gracious bow. So how to determine his thinking?

She craves for leadership, craving in turn to be a disciple. She tears at her clothes, ripping her blouse from her chest, in exchange for naked glances. The night has finally fallen, the day has come to pass. She moves without the weight of an overbearing sun, who claims her physique like an overbearing mother. She stands still in her spot, awaiting the freshness of the evening to recoil and rejoice. Finally, the ghost in giant garbs waltzes into her sight.

He lacks the speed she expected, expecting him, even in his age- also a surprise- to race through the port like a jaguar on the hunt, but levitating above ground like a saint. Still, in his suspended stride, she renews her feelings of devotion. He passes without the locals noticing, under a line of side street lights, and disappears onto a another street.

She follows him around the corner, into the alley of the locust tribe. Darkness envelops her sight. She feels the furry insects clawing onto her feet. The hissing sound that permeated her dreams returns to her. She passes through the alley in a state of terror and resolve. Her body strung together in defensive shock, like a cat that’s been cornered to a wall. But she moves forward, passing the uneven eyes of the natives, watching her with suspicion.

She loses the trail but keeps going. Turning another corner, the hissing of the locusts is blinding. She thinks for a second to the pier, to the old man with a bag of crows flung over his shoulder, to the body of the young port worker hanging from the harbor fence. She returns to the image of the old man, the contents of his face vague in her memory. It is as if the two figures, the old man at the pier, and the ascetic racing through the infested streets, are bred from the same root. The terror is uplifting, she feels the result of ecstasy crowning in her veins. Having thought too recklessly, without holding a watchful eye to the movement of the figure, she loses track of his movements. Suddenly, she feels the urge to return to a brighter home, a day that begins like any other day, but without the intrusion of a drifting prophet, who heralds the onset of a novel.

 

 

130

 

He walks up a hill, digging his feet into the earth, taking long, deliberate steps, feeling his toes against the earth. He wants to experience the colors of the breaking day but he feels nothing.

 

 

131

 

She carries the glass over the paintings, searching for the archetypes. There is the obvious, the ferryman who escorts the protagonist in the first installment of the story, tasked with delivering those passing to the other side, past chapters of the unknown. Installations that rise and fall at the beckoning passage will, that deteriorate like a volcano swallowed them whole, amid landscapes of enduring majesty. Such is the cyclical void.

She walks along the wall of the room, studying each painting carefully. Signs she recognizes, signs she doesn’t.

In the center of the room lies the painter’s body. Deep excavations are illuminated by light, markings signifying some symbolic sequence of messages, or poems. She imagines a camera trailing her walk, encroaching and resisting at the speed of her curated thoughts. Scripted, she should say. She knows the script is aware. Thus, she accepts she is the voyeur to a dream, the determined collaborator in an artist’s task, unraveling the mystery as it willingly unfolds, scrap by scrap to the eye.

 

 

 

132

 

She pulls her phone from her pocket. She calls —-. After three rings, he answers.

“Hello.”

“Hey.”

Her voice softens, and in turn, his voice complies.

“Hey.”

She breathes into the phone, sighs.

“Well, I’m here.”

“And?”

“I’m not sure yet. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.”

“Do you recognize any of the paintings?”

“Not perfectly.”

“And the body?”

She turns to direct her gaze at the body.

“It’s here.”

“How long ago do you think he was killed?”

“The room doesn’t smell. It’s fresh.”

His turn to breathe into the phone, to sigh.

The two are quiet for a moment.

“What do you think so far? Is there anything you understand?”

“The paintings are repetitive, like drawings you find in caves. Almost like there are a few depictions he’s returning to, again and again.”

“He’s telling you about time.”

“He’s distancing himself from it. It’s distant.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s nothing really there. When you look at something, it disappears.”

Quiet. She finds herself standing over the body, examining it like a coroner would. Indifferent to the remarks on the face still visible, that speak of certain violent death. Her focus remains on the body, stitched onto the monument of stone, and the intense excavations that color the body.

“I have to go,” she says. Without waiting for his answer, she hangs up the phone.

 

 

 

133

 

Watching the body, she imagines what it would be like to sleep with the man. She finds that her hands have dug into the man’s chest, that she’s holding onto him, leaning against his body from the side, one leg curled over the other, her head resting on his chest. Disrupting the evidence. A sad relief.

 

 

134

 

He stood before the man they called the keeper, his keeper, at the final accord. He had inked names onto his chest, letters of the alphabet realigned to managing the housing situation. Names begun, names forgotten. Memories lost in the trail. Crowds of people, desperate, divorced from their minds, wandered like hungry fiends across the central square. The keeper wore the deeds around his waist, buckled to his body like a belt, strung six thousand times to accompany the names.

He turned at the labyrinth hole shaped like a brain. The crowd was growing restless. From their revolving windows he could see their faces pleading surrender. Deeds fall like a paper plane winding through a roaring stadium, roasting under a scorching sun. Chance happens on the brave alone.

The keeper unwrapped his belt, undressing. Suddenly the crowd dropped to their knees, bowing their heads. He bowed his head, in unison. He lost sight of those freed from their cells, rushing to expand their sight, wandering at a loss, blind. The informed of the crowd pulled tubes of paste from their pockets, applying the paste to their lips and hands. The keeper’s cheeks were glistening rosy.

When it came to his turn, he rubbed the shaft with two fingers, putting the keeper’s erect cock into his mouth. With a sordid tooth he lynched one of his balls, cutting a mudslide open. He swallowed the sack whole. The man writhed in his mouth, he jittered, shaking his shoulders, goose bumps overwhelming their bodies. He was grinding his cock on the back of his throat. He wanted to yell but instead, when he opened his mouth, the little pocket of air belched into a squeal. The crowd laughed in mockery and enjoyment. He opened his mouth, dropping his tooth into the keeper’s hands. The sack, he could feel, was finally in his stomach.

 

 

135

 

As he continued into the room he heard the hungry echoes of moans, the rising agony of elderly men. Turning the corner where it was most dark, finding his way through the outlined shadow of two adjacent curves, he stomped his feet to announce his arrival. The sound of the men grew, and he began to hear more of them, voices grown pale and murmuring their woes.

Finally, he came upon a long chain railing, that, when stepping up to its armored face, he realized covered the entirety of the wall that was itself the entirety of the building’s monumental façade, a landmark to his penitent eyes. Chained onto the corner of each circular chain composing the whole were imprisoned men and women, whose faces ran deep into the armored wall, away from his sight, and the only vision he had of them was their protruding ass. Long metallic tubes ran alongside the asses, and every so often, at an indiscriminate pace, singular tubes detached from the main system, puling away from the wall, moving slightly to the side, and forcing themselves into the prisoner’s anus. From the ass the tube returned, propelling itself outward with less force than was used to enter the crevice, carrying with it a fistful of shit. The shit was then compressed into a ball and dropped out of sight, down the length of the wall toward the invisible surface floor.

He had heard of this instrument, the mechanism that had been launched, funded by the ruling regime and enforced upon the people, as a means of eliminating postwar poverty. A staple of the old system, the machinery of human horticulture remained prevalent, and he witnessed it with his eyes. It didn’t matter who was subjected to imprisonment, so long as others were fed. Fed from the wasteful remains of a giant mob, enslaved.

 

 

 

136

 

He felt his fingers to the air and from his deed acknowledge it was the smell of curling feces being hurled into a well. But he could not make out a pipeline in the vicinity, though he heard the groans and urges of an ailing fecal mob. He heard the large anus blossom, and from it a sea of fecal waste strove onto the courtyard. There had been a leak in the system. Entire planting fields, thong long beaded chains standing like towered walls, were sinking, thinning due to some corrosive material. The weight of all the shit was pulling the land apart.

Those figures who rose to his imagination were among the noblest wailers of a fallen dream.

“What’s happening,” he heard himself ask, to no one in particular, following the moving mob away from the threshold. The air was drying out, the oxygen transitioning to its sister form. Every few minutes, the large mass they called the anus would recede her muscles and pull several dozen into the void, returning a moment later with a giant explosion. He felt heavy, weak at the knees, the humidity rising in the air, he could barely breathe.

 

 

137

 

In the contexts of closed borders, loss of mobility, praise for the mobile, the sea emerges as an imaginary access to freedom, mobility, empowerment, change. Change, then, is a sign of liberty. The ability to change, to transform, to evolve. But in captivity, the word emerges as a tool, a means, to freedom, the only passage he can afford.

 

 

138

 

 

“Where are you going?”

He passes by a checkpoint. It would be simple to imagine the silence foreboding, but he was used to silence, and preferred it to the noise. Nightfall, early. There was war, too late. Tragedies played in amphitheaters. A quagmire of verses read firmly. He loses imagination fumbling for his papers.

“Is this necessary?”

“It’s for your own good.”

“Is it?”

He hands him back his papers, asks him to leave, kindly, noting that he is young and apathetic and not really a threat to anything. If he were a threat to himself, he would be more threatening, yet less threatening to others, but more enticing to those who know him, but not those who come a long way, seeking asylum as refugees. If he could muster up the abstractions necessary to propagate ideas amongst the masses, he would be a threat, but his relation to the masses carries the weight of an eyesore, nothing more. He refuses weapons of material or ideology. He’s never held pamphlets decrying the modern malaise. He sees the invisible in his mind, but reflects the visible in his dreams, somehow coming to life orthodox when he is pained for being free, and can’t afford his tokes. How he moves from this place to that is still a mystery. He does not watch the sun rise or set with any interest, but always seems to be there, watching others meditate, noting their enchantment to the real. What is natural he obsesses, what is unnatural he defends. Somehow, this is his poetry, blurring the lines of a bigot and a louse. A sense of deserving liberty, a deep reserve of love, compounds the blinker’s mischief. At least, that is what he thinks, splurging on a run of fantasies.

“Stop!”

He turns around. Apparatus uniforms manning a checkpoint.

“You cannot go this way.”

“But this way leads nowhere.”

“Still…”

“There is nothing there.”

“I understand. But it is for your own good.”

He turns. Where to now?

 

 

139

 

He had become extremely cynical. He felt his writing, and his passion, to be both a blessing and a curse. To be both alone with the universe in his hands, yet confined to the emptiness of a solitary room, whereby, for a time being, he wondered if he truly did exist, or if he was only the reflection of another’s existence. Having forgiven the solitude of anomie to the pleasures of society, having discovered love, companionship, the eternal embrace, he would often wonder how to return to that dreadful place, from where the songbird sings. He would marvel, charting for both the soul and the imagination, the convex mirror dance, in quatrains and refrains, held in all his tightening breaths, passing from old territory into the impenetrable passage, the only night of nights that he prays. My delicate little port town, he would think, a flower amongst redwoods.

 

 

 

140

 

He bore it because the shadow was, by all means, all measures of the fact, beautiful. He strode upon the image he presented with immeasurable grace. When all were summoned to the field of Ritual he emanated only love and all in witness adored him, loved him, worshipped him, so that none felt horror but only truth, love, and grace.

His eyes beamed with porcelain like softness, almond colored eyes, shaped like those of a baby camels. His legs seemed like they carried the weight of a boulder as they strode along, each time they lifted, landing again on the ground by the heel that would part the sand beneath his feet. His arms moved like the wings of an eagle, outstretched they seemed to protrude into the sky. When he sat and watched in amazement this figure, he felt the whispers of his worshippers, straddling through the cavity of his lungs and resting in the back of his throat. This figure, who embodied darkness and light, together, in union.

He had not chosen the shadow, he knew that. He had only named him, which seemed honor enough. So it was, no matter how much the shadow tormented him, forcing him to masturbate to a photograph of his parents, for instance, he, too, loved him, cherished him, and worshipped him, so that he promised, vowing only to himself because nobody else could hear him, that he would bring the shadow to life. This he did.

He promised the shadow a kingdom, fingers intertwined at his face and eyes lit up staring into darkness, which was not void, but the presence of nothingness, an emptiness he admired.

 

 

141

 

I had the Tao in my hand. I had never read it. Twice before I held it in my hands and read parts of it and realized I’d retained nothing; seen nothing with my eyes but words that did not flow in their intended way but sat there stagnant on the page unable to leap out at me and I knew it was my fault and blamed myself for it. This time I held it and something felt different; I could see; I could hear what the translator described as witty and sarcastic and spiritual. In my possession, I could feel.

 

 

142

 

I was listening, but I held the Tao in my hand and for the first time I could hear what I was reading. I wanted to hear him but he needed only to say these things because he was lost, he was angry, he didn’t know how to survive in the world without being his own vulnerable self, and he didn’t want to commit to the destruction of his soul.

 

 

143

 

Having endured the flight from home, the initiation into a new world, the decapitation of his moral code, and his various conflicts with the monsters, the beasts who prey on the passing hero, in this case, a woman whose addictions drag him to the depths, a play that is spiraling out of control- another case of his losing sight of the method, of his losing the practice a theater director requires, namely, control- and a return to his ancestral home prompting deep visions and experiences of interior investigation, nostalgia, serene depictions of loss and abandonment, and his nearing the inevitable flight from home into the new world, having begotten or not- answering the hero’s question- the elixir, the keys.

 

 

144

 

I held my past in one hand, my future in the other. I closed my hands. I opened them. I did this several times. I was not focused on anything but breathing and doing this. I did it to remember in that moment that I, too, have hands, like any being capable. I did it to remember I held what I wanted or thought needed at all times and the past was always there to grapple with because I required of it to remain there to remind me I had come from somewhere meaningful, and the future held such anticipation it culminated in only dear and hesitation and destruction of earthly being which is connected to a higher and lesser power of nothingness which is not nothingness of nothing and null and void but of everything; everything that surrounds and resonates and fades and returns again, winter and spring and the hitchhiker on the highway and the old mother slowly dying at home; the child infant newborn, the adolescent struck by awareness of living, consciousness, that fatal moment – of coming to life.

When I ceased, there was nothing left but the faint distant sounds of my breathing. I did not know if my eyes were open or closed. My vision was obstructed by light. The darkness. Then light. And darkness again.

I was not saved. I was saved. There was no longer any need to partition the two…

 

 

145

 

What would be made of his efforts, in the town, “…whose name I hardly remember, but…all ports are quietly the same…”, he asks, hoping to engender himself in the discourse of his countrymen, whilst remaining on the periphery as an outside voyeur, standing alien on his watchtower, alone, away from the drudgery, and malice, of their condition.

 

 

146

 

The protagonist, as most of the writer’s protagonists, is a writer, and the novel takes the form of two faces, part novel and part play. In the novel, the writer returns to his hometown, having lived abroad for some years- and we discover quite early that in his years abroad he has manifested a nihilistic record for himself, a truth to which he and others continuously allude- and in his return seeks to produce a play, a production to share with the people. At this point in the story, he has hit a dead end, in both faces of the story, having lost the motivation to produce a play, and in the play aspect of the story, having lost the motivation to write the novel, which the character on the stage is doing at all times, composing the various chapters that comprise of the writer’s lived experience. As a totem structure for their related existence, when one strikes hard rock the other suffers simultaneously. At this juncture, the writer realizes that there is, “…a void, an element missing…” He is reminded by his mirror self to inspect the interior of his journey, to withdraw from the material superstition of his perceptions, and to return to the interiority of the living soul, in order to, as he shares, “…lead the words through a timeless source…to be read by a critical mind…who passes the poetry as living truth…” As an important function in his method, the writer is forced to reconcile with automatic writing, a writing that derives its form and function from mystical initiation, rather than practical and theoretical exhaustion. Thus, the very words which the writer compiles into sequences and scenes, memories and abstractions, compose, “…the narrative in and of itself…detailing through subtraction…” In this way, the writer is forced to come to grips with the subjective outpouring of his perceived subconscious, having exhausted the relevance of indifference that a living being masters over the course of their life. The following scene is an important turning point for the character, which leads to this very crucial moment in the text. In this passage, we come to learn the real, underlying truth that governs the writer’s motivational task, the very root of his subconscious journey towards liberation.

 

 

147

 

At the climax of the story, we find that the character, after having accumulated a certain number of physical injuries, sentimental and spiritual catastrophes, finds himself, finally, in the presence of this very woman, “…the catalyst to his conclusion…” He has either to ascend to her pedestal, or be driven to the depths. In his acceptance, in seeing her again, he is forced to reconcile with a reality outside of her. Meaning, to observe with love what can only be accepted with virtue. After having suffered the result of her disappearance, of his alienation from his love, we hear him say

“…I don’t believe in the soul…I believe in this moment right now…” A few months later, this very protagonist would, “…appeal to your soul if you do not understand. Somewhere, her heart races, and she thinks of me. To that, I say nothing else, except I would be a fool not to hear her sing.” And in the very same text he would, “…remember the eyes of a woman who knew me, from surface to soul, I’ll never know love again.”

He reveals the history of his having left in the first place, the archetypal story of a love lost never to be united again. The narrative always moves, from onset toward the final word, to the resolution of this very breath. Possessing the impetus to carry his own life forward, the narrative carries itself in a unidirectional way. All the abstractions that seem to drift away from a central, driving force of narrative actually possess the character to return to the heart and soul of his journey. When he is distracted, he is brought back to the matter at hand, grounded again, either by his own admission, or by his mirror self. He cannot escape, “…because you are still there…”

Having lost, at the culmination, the impetus to a mission, his journey combusts into a million fragments of what he had been, a revelatory expansion into the deep unknown. His is the last living tale of a protagonist who is ushered into a journey, with the expectation of returning at the end with the elixir in his hand. From then on, the protagonist’s mission diffuses, he enters into a flight of chaos, chasing the fleeting gift of past. As in Marker’s La Jetée, where, “The man finally realizes that there is no escape from Time, and that the image that had haunted him since childhood was that of the moment of his own death,”[1] the hero is forced to reconcile with the ultimate truth that governs his entire being, that, “There is no way to escape Time and return to the past as if it could be lived over again; there is no way for the hero to escape the implacable, preordained drive of the story…”[2] It is no surprise, then, that at the end, we come to realize that the story has been told in reverse, that the very first words,

 

He waited at the pier.

 

Are exactly where we find him at the conclusion of the story. It can thus be ascertained, from the complex multitude of returns and images the protagonist experiences, that the entire novel is a replication of his journey, a stake chapter out of the annals of his own life. Memory, thus, is the driving figure, and not the protagonist himself.

Where the protagonist is cannot exactly be know, until we are in possession of these documents, through the conscious breathing eyes of our hero, the flight into the subconscious gallery etched in the past, the narrator having subsided from the podium of words, silenced by an everlasting clarity that resonates when a character finds themselves sin the presence of resolution. The underlying motivations, the great ungovernable task that drives us forward is the writing of the story itself, which, when fused with the knowledge of it being bred of an escape into the archive of memory, suggests the great ungovernable task that drives us forward is memory itself, impressing a disproportionate linearity of time into the story. The only balancing enigma to silence the shutter of his mobile imagination is the figure of the woman he distinctly remembers, whom he watches from a distance, observing in her beauty the silence of the night. As with Marker’s  La Jetée,

 

The remembered image of the woman focuses the ambiguities of   memory’s nature and the role that memory plays in creating the    identity of the hero (and by implication other human subjects). La   Jetée recognizes that memories become memories ‘on account of            their scars’; their intensity is directly related to the proximity of       trauma and loss, and to expose them to its presence. In Marker’s           film the founding memory poses the enigma of the hero’s selfhood,             which turns out to be his own annihilation.[3]

 

In his flight towards the woman, “He recognizes a guard who has followed him from the camp and who shoots him in the end.”[4] His flight brings the resolution to the narrative, and in his seeing her face one last time, our hero is governed by an implacable silence. While the hero in Marker’s tragedy is caught in the moment of reunion and ultimately killed, our protagonist is able to return, actually, to his instigating place, a state of calm overcoming him. The flight he makes from the officers who burn his house, who chase him away and lead him into her presence are catalyst to his reunion with the image.

The stages begin with the emergence of a foreign force. “Suddenly,” the protagonist says, “I was overcome by the strangest sensation.”[1] At the moment of his declaration, he is physically bound in the family home of his hosts. The lady of the household, duly named, was to play in his production, and her daughter, to assist him in the process. Their relationship, as everything in this stage of the drama, collapses, when the patriarchal figure returns to the scene, the man of the house. In a dramatic turn of events, the two women confess their enduring love for him, the man is angered, and their son, an indifferent character, declares his intention to transform himself into a woman, in order to love the man. This character evolves into a eunuch figure in the following chapters of the text, but who is no longer referred to by name. He returns time and again, usually at a time of great uncertainty or turmoil. In the final hours of a destructive path, he opens his wings to the world. This figure comes to embody the mystical form of the writer, and in the multidimensional world inhabited by his visions- notably, the extend path into darkness that leads into the wall of human scales, the hall of strung violins, and the stadium of imprisoned souls, he is the servant of the ruling force. Due to his overt desire to serve the ruling entity, he can be persuaded into acts of any kind, taking up roles most others would deny.

As a servant of the inhabiting world and not the protagonist himself, the figure is a result of perception, a figment in a painting, a character in a sketch. He is not real to the degree that nothing perceived in the narrative tense is real until it reappears again, in its replicate, celestial, primordial, or fated form. The only reality that can be grasped with full confidence is the presence itself of the written word.

In meeting the figure, he had forgotten that he had taken those very steps, several times in his journey, repeating himself over and over again. The repetition still opened his eyes, and he could finally hear where the strings from earlier had originated, so teasing while he had been embedded in the forest, now sung in staccato form, paralyzing to the passing ear, like the whispers of a siren. A band of women, stitched onto the walls, much like the prisoners strung onto the industrial ring of the façade. Women, whose legs were held over their necks, whose clitoris had been sliced and vaginas deformed, ripped to shreds and stitched together into four delicate strings. Each woman was held up by the ankles onto a long metallic pole that stretched the continuity of the corridor. At the side of each one of these women, his own image stood, in the gowns of a eunuch, whose sole task was to perform ritualistic chords played in perfect fifths on the vaginas of the captive women, whose genitilia had transformed into violins.

 

 

148

 

In this way the two novels, the first and last of the writer’s inconsequential oeuvre, incline steadily towards one another, advancing to a meeting point that comprises the whole. The mystical illumination that occurred during the writing of the text transformed the original fragmented verse

into a living, breathing ornamental structure of praise, a gift to the voices. At the expense of the writer’s intention the words laid bare, naked, stung with no weight.

The writer, whose journey began with his writing the initiatory words, who then found himself so entombed in the case of solving his own fragmented mystery, losing the perceptible measure of sight, memory and initiation, moving from port to port in an hysterical plot to scavenge the elixir from its ogre maid, finds himself, finally, like the poor drifter who surrenders to the elements in a heap of ash or a pool of his own waste, standing at the very moment where his journey had begun.

If one novel comprises the sum of its elemental parts, the other is the skeleton, the origin, a world where names still existed.

 

 

 

 

149

 

He lay there, immersed in the earth. Beside his body, a fire refused to light. It had been lit sometime before. Someone had been there. Something. He departed his body, viewing it as an extraordinary vessel distant from his arms. The surrounding wilderness, and the fire. As he departed his solitary form, rising in alternate conception, he enjoyed hovering over the vessel, seeing from above the matter he had consumed. He          remembered, I drifted further and further away from the subject. He continued to rise, seeing with great precision, an expansion manifest around his departed form. His figment on the expanding zenith. A call echoes for the stranger. He turned to me on his way, and then he was gone. The clouds are gathering. Unmoved, gathering his footprints. The feeling had passed. He did not turn towards the pier, well and away at sea.

 

 

 

150

 

It is no surprise, then, that the writer was silenced in that moment. That the mirror voice he took to be his own had been silenced as well. Asked to what conclusion he may have come, the writer only laughs, offering an enchanted smile, a courteous gesture. Having passed the threshold of his enduring tasks, the writer is ready to submit to the inevitable, and in so doing, accepting there is an end.

 

 

 

151

 

He felt the apology of his heart, and he was laughing. How it came, he remembers, I’ll never know. But in that moment, suffocating under his noose, he laughed. He broke hold of their arms, elbowing his ay to the edges of the floor that had succumbed to total darkness, piling his feet into the running stream surrounding the bodily baths, he toweled his body in its warmth.

Hiding, awaring himself to the voices, he crawled when he felt their feet moving, remaining perfectly still when they were not. He laughed, somewhere in his dying heart, and he felt alive. But he restrained the antics from the audience.

Using the accrued powers of his being, he could only channel the laughs in a certain way, so they appeared in the audience like gulps of warm beer, or hiccups that come every so often, two or three seconds apart. He recounted the images he had seen before the room took to darkness, before his eyes clotted with guilt and his senses depressed to their infantile form. He crawled with urgency toward the emblem of an ending room, the promise of an open door that he had never seen swung open.

Somewhere in the distance, he heard the festival’s child cry a chorus of laughter thrown over the reigns. Somehow, he was amused, mocking in his captive voice the betrodden fiefdom. Still, he sought the fleeing temper of a wide open hearse. He wilted, pushing his head into the plexus of a muse’s statue and a door, to his surprise, flung open, when he had only hoped for fresh air, or a sip from the muse’s fountain. He flew into the marked abyss.

His clothes had changed, his vision transformed from a depleted state to full awareness. His neck was striving from his shoulders, his back hunched like a hawk. By some force foreign to his nature, he pushed himself forward, finding that he pushed through a set of velvet curtains. He couldn’t make sense of the scene before him. In the distance, a forceful light grew, drawing his form. He was alone, in that he did not recognize he could be seen clearly with both of his eyes. He must have been struck by esoteric sensation, overcome, because his face blurred like the portrait of a man whose paint is melting. He spoke his first and final words. To those types who believe the inconsistency of truth, the words are what they are. When he turned his attention to the empty audience, he spoke, knowing the world were not his own.

 

 

152

 

Letting go of the forms, he experiences a state of acceptance, of benediction, a state of giving and whilst giving in, a gift to the blessing of the outer world. This sort of acceptance, a revelatory act, by which the mind diffuses associations and possessions, diffusing the importance of such attachments that maintain a strong and powerful egocentric force, begins within the body, as he points out, several times in several of his stories, a state of revelation emerging from the hands, breathing its way into the mind.

 

 

153

 

His emancipating act is both an escape and an entry. An entry into the unknown, an escape into the wilderness. He pushes through to the other side, and one cannot help but feel the other side is not only indicative of the physical space he embodies but the other side of consciousness, or the other side of being. The doors of perception are opened, the floodgates of his persona released, one can either ascend to the palace of enlightenment or descend into the fiery quagmire, where the defragmented soul remains, to suffer the parallel chains between two worlds.

As a rule, once a door is opened it can never be closed without memory of what waits on the other side. The pushing through is a Plutonic passage, a dive through the birth canal, great force launching irrespective of the unknown. The courageous act of the hero surrendering to the elements their strength, their wisdom, their wits, is an archetypal source of triumph that begins with Homer’s Odysseus and has no end. We can establish from the final words of the passage, “…and he spoke, knowing the words could not have been his own…”, that the protagonist is now in the protective company of the divine. His passage is clear, though yet unknown, and his being protected. He will be gifted to safety, bridging the fragmented parts that comprise his soul, recovering from the interior insurrection that precedes this fateful, dramatic act.

 

 

 

154

 

I followed her home. She led me there by her own fair will. She wanted me to see her one last time. In my mind, I held her in my hand. I wanted her to be mine, but she never was. Her refusal drove me to the edge of the ruins and back, to her doorstep, begging for her kiss. A kiss that doesn’t bend to my name.

 

 

155

 

His surrendering to the elements entails his losing. His writing disappears into ash. He returns home, closes the blinds, loses himself into an ecstatic state of deprivation and distress. He drinks, consumes what drugs he has left, burns the image of his face in the mirror, setting the house alight. He hears commotion downstairs, and he, “…knew who it was…”, he was, “…happy they came.” The voices, the obstructing agents, the delusions. Their arrival represents the emptiness that expands into a freight of boundless forms and illusions when the hero surrenders to the elements. There can be no safeguarding measures taken against the forms. He suffers the loss of innocence, reeling in the vision of an extended soul.

 

 

156

 

I walk across the water barefoot.

The imprints plastered on the walls.

An erotic gesture by the painter, the piling of needles masking the illusion of form.

I bite the shell of a snail, pulse into her skin, for you.

The natives, chanting verses of the cans, cyphers in abnormal robes.

“Have you met the mystics?”

“I’ve been watching you.”

 

 

157

 

So you have an idea who this Shakespeare is.

I use the drugs nonviolently. They give me my doses and I take them. When they give me more I take more. It reminds me of the old caffeine rush we used to honor, so frequently, without thinking twice, except for fear of having to take a shit in public, which is something most people don’t fear, just some of us who’ve been raised with shame. But the drugs are useful. I take them every day, the single doses, and if I haven’t slept, and the nurses notice, they give me a few doses more, an extract in the morning and an extract at night, to top me off. They don’t know that I’m writing. They think I don’t have the capacity to write. They think because I can’t speak, because I never say a word to anybody else, that I wouldn’t have a thing to say. You and I know it’s not true. Even if I’m been away from the curse for too long. I used to have other drugs, and I never had a problem taking them to aid in our insurrection of the mind. I do it because I believe in raw talent, and genius, that its compressed into our genetic code, that success is predetermined, written without disguise. The threat to conquer is the aid of habit. I had bad habits, that’s why I never won. But I’m winning now, even though I’m alone.

Why did I begin writing this piece, in the first place? I’ve had to reflect on that, since I’ve failed to ever write it, trying a dozen times, every three months putting it to bed, losing myself to desperation, finding it necessary to pull open the chords and chase my demons into the box. But I lock myself in the box, and then I’m lost. I’m either here, or there. I can’t be both places at once, and it frightens me, because otherwise I could be a producer, an agent, a conduit of change. Instead I’m alone. I spend my time with my loathsome habits. When I win, I have only myself to celebrate.

I failed in language. I failed in style. Stealing the vernacular of others, and then chastising it, cleaning it of its scorn, its dread, pulling all my punches. Writing clean literature. Wanting to impress. Why make something beautiful in this disgusting world?

For you, I guess. For the little Swabian princess, afloat in her cosmic spin, enduring the lightness and the abruptness, and the cruelty and the vagaries and the vague, with such verve of calm and humble surrender. Ruthlessly enchanted with the world. Effortlessly denied depression. Redemptive. Inspired.

If I give up my dancing you, what do I become? Without the water well of my reality, the echo of my heart. I give up to life, but I do not submit, gracefully, mystifying cruel nature with jarring slurs, I surrender, quietly, alone in a room. At least it is my room.

I won’t leave my room. This room, this vessel, this crouching serpent street. This analogy on all fours. This wisdom. If I have to endure a sniper’s winter, boarded between four crumbling walls, immersed in the ice pit, warming myself with a kerosene kettle of dried human will, I will endure.

But these are not my conditions. Painfully. Don’t writers need the choral agony of dilapidated space? I should be telling you about the lice I picked from my armpit, or the scabies that emerged next door. But the scabies is in my imagination. And the lice were just ticks I collected on a farmer’s field, dozing off on acid. That’s why I call myself a fraud. A fraud who lives in the imagination, and who disappears in light. When two tribes are warring for a final settlement, I have quieter needs. I want the coffee brewing atop my stove. It really is all I have and want.

Having reached a state of absolute subjectivity, finally. I see myself in my own reflection, so really I am at once being and reflected, at once being and witnessing, bearing, my dual reality, that coils her enigmatic snake, do you know the snake I’m naming?

I’ve forgotten all names. I am removed from the code. You are the only voice I am hearing.

 

 

158

 

I need descriptions of places that matter. That matter to you, that mattered, at some point, to me. Because at some point these things mattered. I could have spoken to you on the romance of standing between two giant cliffs, armored buildings towering over the colonial houses of our charming little urban quarter, smoking a giant spliff with faces I trusted with my life. But then these faces deformed. These towering structures enlarged and encased their steel chambers onto the provincial playground of nature’s demolition. I lost everything to these giant tombs.

 

 

 

159

 

Let me tell you who I am reading, and if you know them, be my guest.

Can reading be substantiated by its content, or the form? And so, the act of writing, the act of revision over experiences undone, changed, done again, mediating through the experience of the inform/reform model of experience, seeing the inward and reflecting outward, the well into the barrel of light, the end of the vast tunnel signifying the polarizing sun, who in his absence gives darkness, the well into the void, and back.

I have often looked in wonder at the experience attributed to ecstatic writing, that profound return from the cosmic self into the material whole, to tell the story of one’s outward/inward journey through the various channels.

Willis Barnstone, in his book The Poetics of Ecstasy, writes,

 

The mystical text of the experience of ecstasy…records an unverifiable area where conviction depends on the verbal genius of the mystic…a reader’s belief in the authenticity of the author’s         mystical experience depends on the reader’s preparation, on his or     her creative ability, in the act of reading, to complete the mystical    text.

 

The mystical reader then reads within the channels of ecstasy, experiencing a state of acceptance, benediction, a state of giving whilst giving in. To relieve the reader, the experiential differentiator, the one who distributes her prognosis on the totality of the literary attempt, to delineate a bias based solely on the one piece of lieratuere at hand, the device by which one, as intended by the mystic writer, delivers the soul to a state of ecstasy, ekstasis, begins in the root chakra of the two cognitive forms, sharing an egalitarian convergence of energy. As Barnstone points out,

 

The mystical text of the experience of ecstasy…records an unverifiable area where conviction depends on the verbal genius of the mystic…a reader’s belief in the authenticity of the author’s        mystical experience depends on the reader’s preparation, on his or     her creative ability, in the act of reading, to complete the mystical    text.[5]

 

So when I say, we are in this together, I mean, without your harness colored eyes and my wandering jest, we cannot escape into the endless void.

 

 

 

160

 

The taste of coffee I dedicate to Darwish. But I’ve only read him in English, so I’m a fraud. Partially because I wanted to speak on behalf of you, and partially because I am speaking. (On behalf of a self I still don’t know) The reflexive life, paradox.

But I also share the basest qualities, with ‘foundational’ men. I am an instrument to my sex and sexless self, but I’ve been forgotten, and when I fantasize to pray in a pool of hormonal scat, I wilt in the armor of morality, persevering to include the ageless serpent. Pleasure is the undying principle. It is what gives life.

Bataille writes of William Blake,

 

In Blake’s life the joy of the senses was a touchstone. Sensuality set him against the primacy of reason. He condemned the moral law in       the name of sensuality. ‘As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to          lay her eggs on,’ he wrote, ‘so the priest lays his curse on the fairest       joys.’ He resolutely called for sensual happiness, for the exuberance        of the body. ‘The lust of the goat is the bounty of God,’ he said, and           ‘The nakedness of woman is the work of God.’[6]

 

Life itself yields to the pleasure principle. The universe, as an act of total and definite creation, cannot have founded itself without its finding in some way a manifest equation of lust and lore. Lust that heeds the urgent call to creation, and lore that sculpts the manifestation into an entity of great design. The magicianship mystics speak of, when they return to the home front.

Where perception and inspiration converge is in the unifying emergence of lust. But this does not acquire a high moral sense, for which we still retain some sort of fundamental need, in order not to be guided into delusion. Deluding the senses into acquiring me into a principle of I in order to advance the eroticism of planet earth. The erotic is the plane where fear and habit swing on the pendulum, alongside misogyny and gore. But in its fruitful form, the erotic dances not to one’s own rhythmic adherence to energetic rupture, but to an incandescent core. The luminous character of our surroundings. Desire is the pattern that will amend and tend kindly the wounds we have built totem structures of conditioned existence upon, by which we have imprisoned the ornate human soul.

 

Nudism will free the Arabs from their captors.

Release the captive hordes to their animal spirit.

Watch the monarchy fall to Dionysian children.

 

Sex is not only a means of liberation, but a source of prepation, a ritual to enter into the arms of the source, the union of solar and lunar energies, expressing the explosive force of duality reunited. And in this way, returning to a primordial celebration of the cosmogonic act of creation, as in Eliade’s assertion that, “Where heaven and earth meet…situated at the center of the world…Every temple or palace- and, by extension, every sacred city or royal residence- is a Sacred Mountain, thus becoming a Center.”

In The Lively Images, Richard E. Hughes suggests that the inward journey, using the oft cited exampled of Marlowe in Heart of Darkness, symbolizes the confrontation with the personal and universal Dionysian archetypal spriti, the unconscious, and such a journey is, “…spatial (into the African interior), temporal (back to the origins of man) and psychic (to the roots of his own unconscious).” Hughes dedicates one of the four chapters to his study on Dionysus, “…the enigmatic god, the spirit of a dual nature and of paradox.” He writes, of Dionysus, that, “He came abruptly, and is opposed by the guardians of order.” His unexpected emergence, wildly opposed, is similar in a sense to the rebel duende, Lorca’s upheaval force. He continues,

 

He is frequently disguised so that he cannot be prepared for, his disguises varying form the terrible (panther,   tiger, bull) to the seductive (he appeared at first to the daughters of Minyas as a young girl). Pandemonium,            frequently music, trances and loss of self-identity characterize his revelries. He is associated with intoxication     (the invention of wine) and with the underground (some legends emphasize this is naming Demeter or        Persephone his mother, both of them subterranean dwellers; he is also allied to vegetation and the seasonal           rhythm of the earth. There is an insistent connection with water (to escape Lycurgus he flees to the protection           of the sea-goddess, and the sea becomes his ally in the episode with the pirates), and with women (he is       tutored by nymphs, frequently disguised as a woman, and the maenads, crazed women, are his most frequent     companions). Most important, and binding all the episodes, is the theme of madness: he is the crazed god, his        followers are frenzied, he destroys his enemies with madness. An envelope of fury surrounds his story.[7]

Furthermore, Dionysus “is the unconscious itself. Narcissus is myth, the inviter to the unconscious; and Dionysus is what we meet if we accept Narcissus’ beckoning.”[8]

As, “the psyche is a complex, self-regulating organism, striving continually for a realization of its whole self,” and, “should any part be excluded, denied, ignored, then the primal drive to wholeness will assert itself. Should the conscious mind, for its own interests, attempt to regulate the instinctual forces to the dark chambers of forgetfulness, those instinctual forces will assert themselves, to redress the upset balance,” so we can visibly see how that our own striving for a new political order, an evolution of our abilities within our personal work and the resulting emergence of spiritually inclined work, coupled with the reaches of addressing our own instinctual forces, our own duende, we can visibly understand how all is a matter of redressing the upset balance, striving then not only for a new political order for the system, local, national, universal, but for a new political order in the mastering and understanding of oneself. Whereas in the origins of our journey, we speak of walking unknowingly, aimlessly, without end, without conception of purpose, by the end of our work we are assured of this purpose, we are aware, having confronted in the deep underground and atmospheric manifestations the convex projection of our soul. Though our work is never done, we reach certain height of achievement, that serves to propel us forward with renewed belief, and a viable appreciation of the self.

 

 

161

 

He spoke of wastefulness, destitution. Of great human loss and plunder, that was entirely ignored. Like it wasn’t happening. What was worse, he said, was the feeling he himself had begun to have, that there was nothing one could do about it, that it had become a function of the norm.

He had no way to directly speak of the carnage. Neither employed nor putting himself to good use with his writing, he drafted letter after letter, none of them sent, to his friends and contemporaries, scattered over the world. Most letters guarded by a deep sense of optimism and reserve, in some he ventured far enough to the truth that he could not avoid speaking with disgust.

 

 

162

 

The character who begins to understand the duality in living things, the duality that composes the great symphony of life, and sees within this duality the virtue of nothingness, the impossibility of life. He prepares himself for one of several principle states of ecstasy, acute and familiar to the mystical eye, but to the uninitiated resembling a physical altercation, an endangered sense of self, with the onset of perceived physical harm a common description of ecstatic upheaval. Many, in their loss of foundational principles, in the disassociation of the ego self, report the strange hand of a trickster overcoming them. This, followed by tremors of the joints. The sensation of sudden pricks in the vertebrae. Yellow filament clouding of the retina. Tension in the hands and feet, barely noticeable but first but soon unbearable. Restricted breathing. Hot flashes. But the entire journey lasts no more than five or six minutes. Motor functions recover after a short while. The main character is seated in the room of an old friend, who describes to him the various ways in which, somewhere along the lines, we messed up. The friend continues, and it is unclear in the text whether the tone is one of tenderness, humor, or seriousness- what is obvious is a sense of betrayal, of everything having been misunderstood. To his initial surprise, the revelation did not come at a time of full immersion in his subjectivity, but rather, when he had escaped his own journey to accomplish the task of a companion.  Before continuing on the path to ascertain a destiny, the character’s revelation comes in a state of passivity, actually. The notion that in his adhering to the principles of compassion, abandoning his own spiraling mind for a while, the keys to his passage are handed down to him, through the manifestation of a moment and its idealized reflection. He was merely content to hear the words of his friend who continued in his own special way of saying things with a smile but deep down his soul was weeping.

 

 

164

 

I loathe the museum, except in the mornings when it clears out. I should have signed up for membership, but I’ve been too lazy. When it’s empty, I can stare at my thoughts through the images on the walls. Somehow, my thoughts become the images, in that my thoughts are really a manifest reflection of what I am seeing.

 

 

165

 

Speaking of a mentor, a pupil who “watches from the fields as the sage gives his lesson, afraid to disturb, careful not to be seen.” Speaking of invisibility, apologizing for his presence, in an identity full context, a non free world. There is no free passage, always the presence of a gatekeeper.

 

 

166

 

But how would his characters gain access to the room? In  society ruled by corruption, the only way to accomplish the simplest task involves bribery of some kind, a formal exchange. But he had declared, already, that he would not bribe his enemies, he would destroy them.

 

 

167

 

He had to convince the visitors that they were in the midst of consumption, for their own sake. But how to conceal form them that it was their very being that was most highly consumed? The entire structure relies, for its energy consumption, on the harvesting of energy through the captivity of their souls. And they came to their captivity willingly.

 

 

168

 

He went on, nervously, to tell the story of a collector who comes to the house, at first, to study what the citizen has, what sort of provisions he may have stolen, but then proceeds to take a shit. Upon doing so, the monologue reveals that the port town is so dismembered from its own survival that the government has forced citizens to collect their shit and bag it for collection by collectors, presumably to be used as a resource.

 

 

169

 

Give them poetry, give them life.

The elect professor John Gray writes, “For the early Gnostics, the creator of the world was at best a blunderer, negligent or forgetful of the world it had fashioned, and possibly senile, mad or long dead; it was a minor, insubordinate, and malevolent demiurge that ruled the world. Trapped in a dark cosmos, human beings were kept in submission by a trance-like ignorance of their true situation.”

That’s pretty much how I feel. But am I purposeful?

Rumi says, “Someone who makes a habit of eating clay, gets mad when you try to keep him from it.”

I’ve never held work. I do a lot of drugs. I am a pervert, a convert to hedonism, a trapped creature in the sorrowful mess, spurned for the day like atoms in a collecting maze, ultimately purposeful but unaware, caught within the haze of illusion and form. Who, or what, am I?

So here, like the mourning, unwanted child who repels an inconceivable sadness by addressing the void that dwells within his heart, I am sharing my counsel. That which is a guide to the mind ought also to be a spear to the heart. And that which stirs the heart to life is a stillness of the mind.

Are you still?

 

 

 

170

 

I go in the mornings to the café to write. With my first coffee, it’s the best. Stimulants appetize the sword.

I write in an apartment.

The apartment has three rooms, one of them a kitchen. The other two serve as living space, one of them a workspace, the other the bedroom. Finally, there is the walk in closet, inside the bathroom. All four rooms are connected by one small entrée.

The room I am in has large windows that reach from the ceiling to the surface floor, overlooking StalinAllee. The year is irrelevant. I am in irrelevant. But the street we are on is iconic. The housing built by the GDR between 1949 and 1961.

Lately, I’ve been blessed by the weather. I check the weathercast repeatedly. It doesn’t change, because I never leave the room. What difference would the weather make?

First, I wanted to write a book of poems, and call it couplets. The lines were ripped from the last nine edits of my novel.

But then I abandoned the novel. I moved on.

 

 

 

171

 

The Tarot- the Universe

 

“It looks like a circus of characters.”

“It’s the universe.”

 

the universe

the world is lying at your feet

ready for you to enter

 

it will be good ending for a lot of your effort that you have put in

into finishing something

now is the right time for it to be in harmony with the universe

it will be a good finish

you are living your destiny

 

you should be humble

and you have tremendous help

by loved ones

never think that something you accomplished was only yours

but also the work of the universe

(the shadow side of the card)

 

chance

you were given free will as a gift

and many other gifts

there’s no mistakes to be made

guilt and mistakes are experiences

in reality there is only experience and learning

 

if your soul is yearning for an experience to be made

in life there is no higher calling than the calling for you to be full of joy and at the same time happiness and a state of realizing you are true to your true nature

only then are you the closest to your divinity

open the doors to meditation, prayer

solve all your boundaries and touch everything around you.

 

 

172

 

The cockroach is there every night. You can’t run from the cockroach.

 

 

 

173

 

For the past two years, whenever I write, it’s Stuart Dempster’s whales guiding the way. I perceive what the songs paint with their calls. In my mind I write, with my eyes I deliver. With these hands I try to swim into your soul.

 

 

174

 

Her photograph was up for a while, one in color and the other in black and white. It went down after a while.

 

 

 

175

 

It took me a lifetime to be myself. In that moment, he thought that, it had taken him a lifetime to become himself.

 

 

176

 

I wonder if I have any characters left.

 

 

177

 

My parents ask how I am doing. I’m happy they ask.

It has been difficult to integrate.

I don’t see the future happily.

I have only loss at my side.

 

 

178

 

In the desert, every outward gaze is like a meditation, on an expansive canvas, on the limits of sight. The feeling is of momentary isolation, opposed to the sentiment of living among a mob. I fixed my lens on the only living creature I found swallowed in the distance.

 

 

179

 

He noted, the importance of her doorstep for the entire frame. A scene he returned to, over the course of ten edits. He knew she had been important, but the important is only valid in the beginning, and then, everything is thrown out, especially a muse.

And then, the feeling would transform to something hostile, but it never felt foreign, like it was benign, in my already being, was only now demonstrating her effect. The whipping of her sanctuary bells, in the heavy morning.

 

 

 

180

 

The news ripens with the urgency of a fleeing caravan. Some of us call them tribes, for others, they’re dormant terrorist cells. And the settlers, they soak in noon’s anise, standing at the encampment on a cliff.

When occupying a treasure, watch it from afar.

He was heard whispering, when the cordoned willows commence in weeping, I will kneel and wash your feet. Will you accept me, he asks? Society will descend.

 

 

 

181

 

He watched her, standing at the widow walk of her home.

 

 

182

 

In the desert, seasonal drought is common. The natives employ camel milk as an aphrodisiac. I was told, two dates and a shot of milk is enough to alter a reputation.

 

 

 

183

 

I hear all the characters ask me, most of them in my sleep, is the story subject to change?

They’re asking, because I could kill them.

Abandon the elements.

You can never go back to the place you were before, without having been changed. Change is inevitable, but changed in a way that pulls you from the thread of their lives, the voices left behind.

We become waste bins of attraction ourselves as we age.

 

 

184

 

I called my brother, asking him about a moment in school I happened to remember. We were young, I was in middle school, but we played football with the older boys, and some of the staff, whoever was fit enough to play. The school was like an American outpost, military families and oil and gas men. Most of the parents played basketball or softball, if they ever got involved. But football was dominated by Europeans and Arabs, and their parents had nothing to do with school. It was a place for the Arab kids to entrust themselves with a feeling of privilege, and ownership over the place. But most of the kids didn’t speak Arabic.

My social studies teacher, an American, an Achillian figure in the halls, his temper the fatal flaw in his condition, was fouled arrogantly and cynically by a student, a local, who often cited his father’s reputation in defense of his own character. The moment it happened, everyone froze. He was ready to tear at the kid with his teeth, but something stopped him.

My brother had no memory of the incident. He was sleeping when I called.

 

 

 

185

 

I’ve wanted to do better by my brother. When he was sick, I ignored it, was never there. When he was in the hospital I visited him only once, or twice, never staying too long. We were so close before it happened.

Since then, I wonder if I have empathy for others. Or if all the people I love are only manifestations of my fear that I will lose everything before I die and not the other way around. I would have been better to him. Then, and when I watched him get jumped, kicked and stomped, right in front of me, and I did nothing.

It never made sense. I was always getting into fights, and winning. And I never feared getting beat. Why couldn’t I, why didn’t I, protect my brother?

My friend, we can call him the uprooted prince, got in between my brother and the others, and ended the fight by throwing his weight around my brother’s body. Grown up, the uprooted prince amounted to nothing. He’s never managed to finish something he started. A long journey with addiction. He’s ended up alone.

I remember, one time, he called me in the middle of the night. We were fourteen, and he begged me to come down to the beach, on the shore, where he was quivering in the evening cold, and dawn was almost rising, and I could see the spit curls on the ends of his mouth, and the wavering solidity of his eyes. Two of our friends were there, and he asked one of them to go away, so the three of us could talk. I had become estranged from them, he told me, openly, it had hurt my friend.

My friend was worried everyone would know he was gay, if people realized he couldn’t love. I didn’t realize what he meant, but I was fucking his best friend. We weren’t actually fucking. I was totally in love. But I was impressed in her shadow. I could never stand in line.

In the morning, I asked the prince, why his mouth had been quivering, why his shoulders were hunched and he was shaking, but his voice was crisp and clear. We took naps together, after school, on the weekends, sometimes three or four of us at a time, swollen into a room in the dark. He told me he was high, he’d taken some e, but that it all meant what it did then.

Years later he would visit me in Beirut, and I would take care of him. I would drive him up to the highest point I found, and we would watch over from the heights of the mountain cliff, over the coastal towns and ruins that descend in a colorful spiral toward Beirut, housed on the other side by the open sea. I would introduce him to my friends, and when he would fall asleep standing up, on account of his mixing too many uppers and downers in one go, early in the afternoon, we would sit him down in a chair and give him music to listen to, something nice, something beautiful. When he was hungry, we fed him. When he was tired, I led him to bed.

When he found himself slipping, later in life, he clung onto a girl from our school days, and they got engaged. Everyone knew he was violent, and he beat her all the time. After an overdose in the arms of a friend, for too many synthetic opiates, in a country where the offense is punishable by death or deportation, he was ostracized from the remaining crowd- the ones who got away but came back, and those who never left.

When I found the body of our principal, he was the first person I told, afterward, he was. The principal had a heart attack, they later told us, and my brother and I had been walking by to play basketball with his son. When we called the principal’s son, to tell him, he refused to believe what was happening.

Later, when my friend’s father died in a plane crash, I thought I was the curse.

 

 

 

186

 

Writing requires incestuous training. In the beginning, the writer hopes to express an image that springs from the heart, but in the orthodox means of genius, the writer relays the exact or abstract objectification of an impression. An impression on the inner workings of the human soul. Something that fills the vacuous monotony of inspiration’s fragile bridge, calls her cunning.

When I took LSD for the last time, all I could think about was my brother. It was midnight, and I lay on the swing on our terrace, tuning in to the rhythm of passing bats, overhead, and the crickets chirping. When I looked over the pages I had written the following morning, I found only the sentence, Do good by your brother, do good by your family, do good by your friends.

For a time, I wanted triumph, decoration. But I found myself in a state of spiritual insolvency, and I felt like a fraud. After mistaking a stranger’s speed infused joint for something natural, I smoked it, and soon whole parallel complexities unraveled, the matrix of our suppression, our suffering at the hands of a negligent demiurge, sped into the frame of my thoughts. I detached from a basic self, and lost control of my roots. I thought of you, and then you disappeared. I thought of her, but she was gone. I considered ending my life, like she did.

Life is temporal, but alinear.

I did not.

 

 

187

 

The cabin stands alone in the desert. A sandstorm fires her intensity. Voices grow from inside the cabin. The boy is unmoved.

The cabin doors fly open, along with the windows, kicked in, and the entirety of the crowd inside the cabin rushes outside in hysteria. They rush past the boy, mad in hysterics, pushing past one another violently, sending children, men, women, injured and handicapped to the ground.

The boy approaches the cabin, slowly. The crowd rushes and pushes past him.

The people have all now disappeared behind the boy. They can be seen wailing in the distance.

The cabin goes up in flames. The boy stops in his position. He turns around and watches the crowd who, once reached a certain point, halt all manner of hysteria and watch like curious passerby’s at an accident, or any scene of carnage, voyeurs of destruction.

The boy turns his focus back to the cabin. The fire is thick and black smoke fills the sky above it, sending a thick cloud of smoke over his head. The roof collapses, the fire intensifies, the smoke corrodes the air. The boy is now unseen by the watchers, having disappeared into the smoke.

 

 

188

 

But the characters are older than the protagonist. They appear wiser, even when they are not. Characters who have remained still and forged an intellectual capacity to which he aspires, and characters who have traveled extensively, choosing poetry over prose.

One of the characters, living in tenement housing on the Lower East Side, fell to his knees in the mud, a precious figure stolen from his eyes, succumbing to the sweat of disease claiming his pores. He was ill for a while.

From his tendencies as a writer he learned these truths of himself.

A tendency to reflect on lives lived rather than living. Characters whose adventure or journey had yet to begin, who remain in a state of preparation. Characters who have already passed through the channel of destiny, and survive to tell the story. Or that they are ghosts, fleeing their shadow in the sight of warmth.

 

 

 

189

 

He had seen her before, met her before. Upon her seeing him, upon his sitting down, she asked him, carefully noting the changes in his mood, in his temperature, that he had seen someone else, another healer, who had told him to come back. Why didn’t you, she asked. To which he could only respond that he had left. But his being there in that moment signified to him that he had been there before, that he was in the company of someone he already kenw, and if she was not the one who asked him to come back, she was someone who he had been moving steadily toward, who had him in her sights, completing the motion of a circle.

 

 

 

190

 

The idea is that he began the journey sometime during an autumn shower. It was written somewhere in the numbers. He lived his life, but finding himself there years later he realized he had gone full circle. The spawn of an immaculate sunset would raise the charity of his name. It never happened.

He met her first, spending the following years moving steadily towards her. How long could that be?

She put him in her care. You never went back. Why didn’t you? He left. Of course he did not realize he had begun the cycle until he came full circle, finding in his being there the juice of premonition.                                    A circle follows a certain lead, and a lead a certain spell, and so it was that he was found there, but where were they, if they were just involved. It was one night, then another. The shading under her eyes, naked in the bathroom, under a settled moon. A sign of things changing. The crooked out skirt of a tooth. She occupies her body. There are others, left in the dark, spurned from his vision. When I look at you, I see her face.

The merging of two spirits.

Disquiet, in his soul.

 

 

191

 

The idea is that he began the journey in her chair. The crooked tooth, the baby breast feeding in the morning, the autumn showers raising the stakes on his coercion, and his confusion, playing a unified part. Afterwards he lived his life. When he found himself there years later, he knew he had gone full circle. He had met her first. He spent the following years moving steadily towards her. She sat him in the chair.

Of course he did not realize he had begun the cycle until he came full circle and could find in his being there premonition that it had begun, at a point he could remember. He was attuned to the potential of strange things happening, but it was not to be perceived as strange, as that would mean unlikely, and it was all likely to become reality in the very moment described above, where he had first come to recognize the circle. And a circle follows a certain lead, and a lead requires a certain spell, and so it was that he was found there. That is not to say he hadn’t realized the cycle before he came to recognition. Maybe he had, and it is only withheld from his memoirs for the purpose of portrayal, to illuminate the uncertain in a peculiar way.

He could not tell the woman who read his spirits would be the very spirit to love him. It was one night and then another. The shading under her eyes standing naked in the bathroom, coalesced under a settled moon. An early sign of her teeth changing. Imagine her a mother, feeding her young.

“She’s occupying her body now.”

“There are others, left in the dark.”

“When I look at you I see her face.”

The merging of two spirits.

Disquiet, in his soul.

 

 

192

 

The recurring image of him leaving, her standing at the doorway, him having already packed, and her reacting with indifference,

“If you’re going to leave, then leave.”

 

 

 

193

 

We begin this novel at the beginning.

 

The Rebels

They had wanted to mean something. All of them, obsessed with their legacy.

One of them convinced himself he was laboring at the frontlines, in the revolution, by warding himself off from the world, living in a studio apartment in East Berlin in exile.

He believed literature would matter, in the end. That it had already mattered to the West, and that they tok it for granted, because for them it was without question an important element in the whole of society.

He drank excessive amounts of coffee, late.

He wanted to work harder, and when he worked into the night, he wanted more. He worked harder, and harder, abut he came at nothing. The game changed too suddenly. He was too involved in the real politics. He couldn’t be swept up by the philosophy. But philosophy was important, he knew it. Philosophy would also play a role.

His letters told of that languishing. The arid perfume of his work. He became known for his fixed phrases, blasé and impertinent at once.

What they both shared was conviction. He had unconditional faith in his servants, characters and a style of prose that stood in the wake of standing armies and fought bravely. They fought bravely for his sword. His language. His mission. The mission of an exile.

 

But exiles were never taken seriously, for having quit. To those who stuck around, the unalterable face of death did not give reason to leave.

 

 

194

 

 

He also had a trouble with endings. He did not like them.

I do not like them, have no use for them.

That was because he could never conjure up an ending. Maybe because he still believed in something; maybe because he believed in nothing at all; it did not matter; he could not make them.

Once, he had thought he had managed an ending. But then he added another hundred pages, thinking it was only the beginning. That was fun. Not for the others.

If it were up to him, he would ask them all politely to leave. He wanted to be normal. Normal people. He did not know them; could never create an ordinary character.

He wanted to be in love and knew he could not be able to because the universe inside his head was too loud. And nobody else heard it. He hoped once if she heard it then she would love him. She never heard it.

I am lonely.

He was always very lonely. He was the type of lonely who sought more loneliness out of fear of being noticeably lonely. The only thing worse than being lonely is being noticeably lonely; that is pathetic; he did not want to be pathetic.

I have no use for them.

He had no use for them. He thought he had use for them but nobody could hear them so what was the use; they would only destroy him. Death appeared pretty.

He was not bitter, only sad; never angry, a little hurt; always lonely.

Nobody could hear them.

Finally, he declared,

If nobody will hear them with me then I will die soon, but first I must hear them all, and everything they have to say.

That way he would know them. Otherwise he would die alone.

 

 

195

 

He closed his eyes and fell into dream, dreaming of boxes, hundreds, thousands, all kinds and colors and shapes, stretching as far as his eyes could reach, amassing the landscape of desert dunes, one by one, remaining unchanged, a performance he admired. He could not see himself amongst the boxes but after a while began to see others, first only a few, but then many, many others, trekking up and down the dunes, opening and closing boxes repetitively, obsessively, gazing into them as though they were hidden inside some desirable clues, so that no box was left unopened, the boxes having at once changed their composition, permanence once admirable now completely destroyed. he noticed one little box which remained unopened, and, as though he were directing the interests of the crowd, began to draw the curiosity of the many present. The mass watched in awe as the box, unmoved, stood completely still, and as the crowd drew closer, inch by inch, tentatively making their way toward the box, a select group of brav,e elderly men withdrew from the crowd, forming a barricade with their arms, marching with great character right onto the very spot where the box lay. The masses they had left behind, at the sight of the men forming a circle around the box and inspecting it with their eyes, fell into great cheer, begging them to return to safety, pleading to value their lives. None of the men, ignoring the ushering calls of the crowd, dared look directly into the box, standing more or less still themselves, lamenting a finer age, where men of their statue might have found the courage, or indeed, the tenacity, to peek into the box, kick it over, force it open with their hands. The crowd maintained their position for as long as he lay witness. His body jerked as he felt himself nearing the box himself, and suddenly he was awake, and everything around him felt coarse and brittle and dull of life.

 

 

196

 

Does the novel read like a dream? Or is it the reading of absent space, the narrative that is not there compiling together the narrative that is. Maybe the novel is a dream had but not buried, a dream lived but not yet without. The character’s disenchantment with the image – a license to project life- is the image. The lion in the bedroom is the ordeal.

To portray the impressions he had of space with the voices of the space. The passage illuminated a criteria of his writing that would be lost altogether form the final work. Telling of a novel that is there and not the novel without.

 

 

 

197

 

I step out of the house sometime near dawn. The sun still making her way over the horizon. I her the caged hog singing in the distance. I pour fresh milk out for the pups, feed the older dogs their breakfast. One of the younger pups wipes his wet nose against my jeans. I walk back over     to the kitchen, to carry the waste out to the hogs. The basket smells the rotting apricots, the rotting leeches.

I take the dogs to the basin, past the apple orchards, the lemon trees, the fig trees. They smooth themselves into the water, I watch from up ahead. The morning now in full bloom. I cut a line of sunflower heads, tossing the infested out. The head cuts with a snap of the wrist. With    my sorry aim, I pick it up from the ground, bomb it down to the collecting box. I carry the box towards the house, leaving it in the kitchen. I wash off my arms and back, applying rosewater to a few bites on my body. No sign of the others yet, I carry on.

A car pulls up near the gate. I can’t see from where I’m standing but I hear him come to a stop. Footsteps lead around the corner, past the outdoor mess, up the steps and down again, past the wooded seating and around the bend to where I am, piling firewood for the coming days.

He walks in without speaking, walking directly to the coffee on the fire, pouring himself a cup, filling the top with a shot of whiskey. He spends some time reading from the paper, probably from the day before. After a while, he finishes his coffee, pouring himself more      whiskey. He fills a plate with mashed eggs, every so often dipping a torn piece of bread into the mixture, before adding an olive to pit in his mouth. The morning sun settles that the day is high. He chews away at his food, filing his mouth with bites out of the eggs and sips out of the whiskey. Maybe he needs it, to keep his mouth full, to keep him from squaring up to the moment, meeting the face of his anger. Finally, when he looks over at me, I sense the             resentment in his eyes.

“You planning on leaving soon,” he asks me.

I nod my head.

He has his final bite, leaving the kitchen, drawing away into the woods. I hear him pull out of the driveway, turn his tires on the gravel, shoot off onto the road. I take a shot myself, and walk out into the sun.

 

 

198

 

 

The story was explained in a preface, where the editor spoke of their sleeping pretty irregularly, day and night, working when the weather fit but sleeping a lot of the time. As in sleeping, more like watching, for whatever came to pass. So in that context, the place was quite uncanny. You would see things mving in the darkness. Knowing they were not there, it made their appearance worse. You would hear voices in the woods, rising from sleep, or footsteps on the vines.

He told of how he would imagine himself in furor, chasing a figure between tightly knit alleys under the cover of moonlight, only to wake all of a sudden and find himself in the thick of forest chasing only a shadow.

(very fitting to appear right before #196, two paragraphs after another)

 

 

199

 

But there had been no refuge of peace in the entire region. Still, beyond an immediate sense of resignation, he felt a semblance of acceptance, of faith, brewing in the underbelly. A current that wanted lasting change.

 

 

200

 

The apparatus that rules over you wants you to lose the incentive for revolt. They stick their hands into your throat and pull at the wires. To trample on will. Ideas that are not habits will come to nothing. Inaction is a choice.

 

 

201

 

The urban living arrangement is a close combat situation. Imagine, a poisoned well succumbing our children to dysentery. Isn’t it the same with our compliance? The uneventful truth is that nobody cares. And it’s a shame, it’s a beautiful place.

 

 

 

202

 

Pablo Neruda, in his poem “I Explain a Few Things”, explains his transition from the lyrical to the heavy-handed:

 

You will ask: why doesn’t his poetry

speak to us of dreams, of leaves

of the great volcanoes of his native

land?

 

Come and see the blood in the streets,

come and see

the blood in the streets,

come and see the blood

in the streets![9]

 

 

203

 

We begin where history is looking in the past. A city cut off from its root. So the people are no less visible to themselves as they are to each other. But what need is visibility in the urban game? Ports of noise and solicitation.

 

 

204

 

If anything, her reservation to invite him to the wedding only served to heighten the need for such an inclusion. She was, actually, delaying the inevitable, serving as witness to her own cheap persuasions. She couldn’t be persuaded to please herself, for fear of upsetting others, nor pleasing others, for fear of upsetting herself.

Oftentimes, between the two of them, she would carry the same effect into their daily lives. She couldn’t enjoy his quiet company, out on the lake or working in the living room, without having to occupy herself with some other task, however important. If she were not able to fulfill a task, she could not endure the thought of being wasteful with her time, and so it was difficult for her to enjoy herself. And when she had made the decision to prioritize her working life, she would dread the decision, and think longingly of those afternoons she had without obligation, where all they did was fuck and read each other’s cards.

 

 

205

 

They arrived at the valley as expected. It had been described to her in a recent lecture by Carl Divorce, in his Query on the Athletics of Nature. He subscribed to her a certain style of conquest that he felt neglected the needs of the natives. For instance, she often held lectures at the auditorium where the natives worked themselves and enacted spiritual practices. At some times she had violated a certain delicacy of diplomatic protocol. It angered the local people that she did not respect the hours of prayer as sacred. In fact, she did. It was her way of respecting the natives that she ignored their presence entirely.

But most of her reports were littered with mistakes. The job was horrible to her, in the end.

She often cited physical descriptions as accurate when they were in no way accurate. Her explanations on the flora and fauna of a country was questionable, as well. There always seemed to be a body of water somehow, and circular ruins or models of sacredness and prayer, and the body of water is separated by a journey like expanse, and so is the prism, this room. To reach the water, one must first traverse over the terrain. These were the worlds she must’ve enjoyed, but they didn’t exist, they don’t. To her descriptions, movement through the urban quarter was like a painfully slow walk through a city that always moves in a direct straight line , connecting tones by displacing their possibility. And she describe dht ecity as though it was a North African casbah, when in reality it was designed by Europeans who had designed the city to conform to the central European model, prevalent in the south of Germany, and near the Swiss Alps. But the model no longer worked once the city had been destroyed by war. So they took to building skyscrapers, and other such postindustrial nonsense that hid the sunset from the majority’s view.

She had prepared a lecture on the poetry of the local peoples. Citing that winter rains flooding the peripheries had always played an important role in the development of the people’s poetry. Sometime after the religious wars, there had developed this idea, that the place had been blessed in a way, surrounded by water. A circle of water, where natives to the area return every evening to cleanse themselves of the day’s work. It is also believed the moat protects the people from siege, though they have never lived without occupation.

Having left the inner city after a short period of a few weeks, immersed in the comings and goings of the natives yet to desert their land, she was content to carry the journey forward into a more natural setting, where the architecture is not so fierce, as is commonly described, In her dissertation, she resorted to imagery of marble mortared onto concrete, explaining that she could not explain except by sheer force of dialectical stammering the music that lifts from the balconies and terraces of colonial buildings by the masonic dancing of laundry put out to dry. An image she equates with lost romances of a forgotten world. It occurred to her that she had left her own station of solitude, converging upon a bilingual conception of history she had never before encountered. She told him, as she kept her eyes glued to the architecture of the city she began to lose her own denominational size. She found herself walking amongst the natives as though they were reborn, day after day, or as though she were herself reborn.

Near the water, where they had spent the early hours of most of their days, him interviewing recent converts to the mercenary force, and her studying the conduits that guide the day’s fishing, trained men hauling expired fish with long metallic poles, attaching fireworms from the mountains as bait. But the creatures they fished were dead, and so they attached nets to their poles to carry in the swathes of fish swallowed up at shore.

On that cloudy afternoon, where they had chosen to travel by bus outside the city lines, she observed the extravagant intermingling of electrical lines varnished in symbols distinct to certain faiths, certain neighborhoods, certain schools. Homes, relying on the weight of the homes closet to them, built atop one another in contrasting shades of harmony and diffusion. They shared no apparent structure to their design, except for their unifying character of protruding the exterior façade as outwardly as possible. Most of the architecture that remains is lowlying, but for the purpose of hills, who extend the shadows of each building, and especially for those built along the peninsula coastline, compared to those behind the harbor lines. The shadows had the effect of manifesting little pockets of light and pockets of total darkness, where nothing could be seen, swallowed by the immensity of a hole.

Over the years, several earthquakes had shaken the foundations of the city, leaving ruins where monuments had stood, gaping craters where towers had risen only to fall. Included in her report was a description of a long and steady vale that seep through the city, running from one edge of the peninsula through to the other side, streaming out into the sea. At one point, plans had been made and tenders given for the building of a dam to accommodate the water supply, and also to direct the vale from its interior situation to the outer banks of the city limits, carrying downstream from either end an innovation used to irrigate and channel and steady supply of water to surrounding villages. The project was begun but failed in its completion.

She surprised himself to the degree that she felt comfortable among them. She had traveled there on a whim, using expedition to deflect her disillusionment with the drudgery of her tired life. But she felt at peace among the wounded natives, who by then only numbered a small percentage of the original mass.

They parked the bus on the edge of a cliff. She sat on the cusp of the highland, pooled in overlying grasses that allowed her to layer her feet in the mud. A few drifters, who themselves had escaped the war, were taking in the sun beside her. One of them was reading to the others from a deck of cards, while one of the other two was smoking a cigarette, while the other was braiding her hair. They looked over at the stranger, noticing her curiosity in her stare. She drew closer, hoping to comfort them, but their mouths twitched and their eyes bulged. She felt suddenly that one of them might bite her, lunging at her with jarred teeth. At that moment her scholarly companion shook off the dust from his shoes, returning from where he had been urinating.

He took a seat on the rocky ground, resting beneath her feet. She returned to thoughts of poetry, wishing she would compel the strangers to involve her in their primal ceremony. In the distance, children played happily, freely, in the open fields, picking from a vast parade of sunflowers, joyous under the assailing sun. It didn’t seem as though they were miserable, as had so often been described.

He spoke, pulling at a twig rooted in the ground, his voice carried off into the distance.

“It’s nice up here, don’t you think?”

She strangled a strand of her hair. Without realizing, she muttered, “No.”

He turned around, confused. She watched in wonder at the climate.

“Where do you think it all goes,” she said.

Understanding, he turned back around, realizing she could not be comforted.

“Well,” he said, “it just disappears.”

 

She thought of her southern passages in the summer, the old capital of her father’s resting place before it was reformed. She realized she could smell the fresh brick mold of sesame and thyme. She let her fingers roll across her hair, her earlobes, her hands. She returned her stare to the natives, who seemed to rejoice in the collapsing flight of a falcon. They watched with delight the creature gliding toward a fatal fall, seemingly at peace.

“Did you see that,” he said to her, amazed. “Do you think it had been shot?”

She ignored his pressing questions. She gathered herself and rose from her place, walking away from the prodigious ceremony. She clenched her teeth as she walked.

The midsummer sun had passed for the afternoon. A foggy mist blanketed the arena. The smell of pine trees breathing in her lungs. A glassy wetness of the grass beneath her feet, cleaving stains up to her ankles.

He appeared behind her with a cigarette. She hadn’t noticed before how often he smoked, and she really hadn’t noticed his deliberate accent that sounded so put on.

“I found jasmine,” he said, “down the stream of hills.”

He watched her as she paced back and forth, running her hands along a line of aster flowers and forgotten leaves. Several recruits from a nearby village arrived, and the bus driver began herding the passengers. He looked over at the crowd and back at her, his mood having slowly transformed, morphed into her melancholy.

“We’re set to go.”

Deciding she had nothing to say to him she remained quiet.

“Have I done something wrong,” he asked, bitterly.

The confession never arrived. The moment interrupted by the others of the bus. In a moment’s flash, the entire scene vanished, carried off into the early evening mist, taking with them the hesitation of his words, and her silence.

 

She couldn’t have known he was also suffering. He had made his journey over to relieve himself of certain facts that had begun to dominate his life. Unlike her, he had a strong connection to the land they were scouring. He had lost someone, some years ago, and he had heard she’d last been seen among the ruins, working as a volunteer medic from abroad. He hadn’t expected to find her or anything. That wasn’t why he made the journey. But in the absence of distraction, in the presence of infinite time, riding through the tranquil channel that cuts into the mountains, he found time to give her some thought. He’d come to terms with her death. Death had been forced upon them all.

 

 

 

 

 

206

 

While he had expected her to relieve him of his nihilistic feelings, she harbored within her presence the very conflict that had begun to take hold of his life. Whenever he touched her, he had the sensation of being watched, of touching himself, of staring into a mirror, being ridiculed from afar. He did not believe that she existed. He could not believe it. It would mean that he would never meet her, in person, for those who are met underneath the provinces are rarely seen again.

 

 

207

 

A character who is too often forced into the channels of his thoughts tries his best to relinquish, to surrender to the given moment, and yet, even within the force of ritual he cannot, and returns – as we see in the continuation of the passage- to the memory of another, a symbol, perhaps, or a lost love. A figment of the imagination that returns to him again and again, in variations of the variable story.

 

 

208

 

In a corresponding illumination of their time together, the protagonist is seen in an editing room, editing the last remaining reels he has yet to cover of an experimental film. He had been asked by a gallerist to project the film during the opening of a photography workshop, that aimed to garner interest in photographic and visual work of the exiled diaspora. He can be seen pacing the room, reading out loud from a book. She is there, following him with her eyes. He looks at her and stops before picking back up the book. Finally, he falls to the floor, sitting in front of her with his palms held out. It is a gesture they have developed, to seek comfort and support whilst also giving it. It is also an allusion to her nature as a healer. Probably the only possible healer that is left, though he knows he has imagined her.

This great paradox rules over him.

 

 

 

209

 

He sits on the floor.

She holds his face with her palms, with a worried look on her face, prying deep into his eyes with her stare.

“Where do you go in your head,” she asks, sadly.

“Their anger is mine. You come from a better place.”

She holds onto his face.

“You’re beautiful,” she says. She kisses his forehead, his nose, his lips. “I’m here because I want to be here.”

Their bodies are entangled in love.

“Here we are safe,” she says.

 

 

210

 

In the closing remarks of Calvino’s novel, the narrator claims that, “The ultimate meaning to which all stories refer has two faces: the continuity of life, the inevitability of death.”

 

 

211

 

(As is the norm with legends) There are stories of him having been seduced by clandestine officers, sometimes in the appearance of a dancer or whore, while other legends deduce that he was lured by a wave of sirens who came to his door. So the myth goes, when they found him, he had been spinning in circles in the center of the room. An empty room, empty of furniture, and save for the fire incinerating thousands of written pages, an empty room empty of light. Only his emaciated naked figure chanting, I am an object, I have no attachments! I am an object, I have no attachments!

 

 

212

 

Some power caused him to write

I do not believe that I am able yet to affirm anything; nor is            such consequence result.

He heard the humming roar of a ship’s horn         announcing.

Beside me are the vanguards of Renaissance,

surrounding, the calamity of Islam. Do I feel Gratitude? An            element of wind hissing on dawn’s highway. The excursion          permits solitude.

He remained biased to the belief at the end of the road      lay Eldorado; home. Objects of string are elastic, he thought.        What I need is elasticity.

The road cut sharply, he plunged beyond the        precipice, her image flashed its sulking snakebite, he             remembered the infinite turns he hadn’t taken

escaping devour’s end.

 

 

 

213

 

For instance, in the very initial ordering of circumstances which he later described as a novel, and afterwards, a novel in the making, and then, a novel at its end, before finally, the reinvention of the novel, before, deviating from his tired will of finishing what he started, opening the puzzle up to its head again and starting over, calmly but with the urgency to liberate the text from its complicated shells, he noted, there are six cycles possible in empirical time.

 

 

214

 

Certain elements point to a varied experience of writing the novel itself. For instance, on several loose leaf pages, which after inspection are clearly draft pages of a larger manuscript that eventually made it into the final edit of, certain mistakes repeated themselves, consistently, without breaking the order of their occurrence. All g’s appear as 6’s, all capital T’s as 1’s. On a different selection of loose leaf pages, white or light beige, as opposed to those of light yellow or cream color, all f’s appear as 5’s, whereas in the previous pages, f is normally written, but the symbol denoting zero, 0, appears to be the same used for the capital letter o, O. These differences, when studied, appear to be the result of malfunctioning keytops on the several typewriters he used.

 

 

215

 

The next morning sang the wail of a new beginning, it surprised them all. The ash fell in citrus rain. You would have wept at the sight, he would say. The jester must’ve been watching, lurking as he does.

 

 

216

 

He had forgotten about Beirut. The stink wasn’t the same. He had forgotten the allusions to a romantic past, gentrified outlets commissioning an artist to string hot peppers out to dry, to hang laundry by a thread.

This would become a different port. He would not know it. He would probably be gone. And he no longer wanted to die there.

 

 

 

217

 

He hadn’t forgotten her. For him, it was like a punishment. To receive the punishment was a reward. He wanted to be good for him. He wanted to help him, assist him, in his illness. He realized he would be there for him. He would be good for him, be kind to him. He wanted to be needed by him, to be wanted.

He was happy to be transforming. In his eyes, in his own senses. He looked at himself differently. He felt different.

When he looked down at his legs, they seemed to have gathered weight around the hips, around the lower buttocks, whereas his arms had gotten slimmer, his lower back had turned inward.

He was happy not to decide, happy not to have an idea. As long as he was invited, he thought to himself.

 

 

218

 

“Is that all you eat?”

“There are different insects. But these are easy to breed.”

He recognized a sense of alarm growing on the pilgrim’s face, brought about by the man’s revelations. Sweat was visible above his eyebrows, behind his ears, on the nape of his neck. He scratched his hair and then swiped at his neck with his hands. Pretending to be lost in thought, but really he was terrified.

“Do you want some,” the man asked.

He stared at the creature, whose six legs had been caught in a delicate trap, so that the insides of the insect remained intact, without injury, and the quality of the cockroach retained, without their having to capture it with poison. He watched the antennas, as long as his fingers, vibrate in unison with the tension in the air.

“No,” he said. “No thanks.”

One of the other men spoke.

“Will you go hungry then?”

He turned to face the man who had spoken.

“Probably you are accustomed to a feast. Fruits and a piece of meat.”

“What do you mean to say,” he asked.

“You must eat what you can,” the man said.

He felt suddenly the change in temperature in the room. The buzzing of airborne insects, gnats and mosquitos, cockroaches and the evening bugs. Everything swirled in the air, insects landing on his shoulders, his forearms, his knees, disappearing again in flight. The straw that had been used to conceal the walls, that had so impressed him in the immense daylight heat, now seemed to him ugly and overused, infested and crawling with lesser forms of life. Forms that would outlive these men, for sure.

He turned back toward the man with the cockroach trap at his feet. Ignoring the enormous insect, that seemed to penetrate his gaze with its own set of eyes, contesting his will to live, he asked the man in a kinder tone, “How long do you intend to stay?”

The man answered without lifting his eyes, one set of fingers scratching his toes, the other petting the overcoat shell of the insect caught in his trap.

“We are still not sure. We have waited longer before.”

The drunkard who had not spoken all day shifted in his place, making a fuss about the smoke of two of the other men, who had lit their pipes. They seemed to understand his behavior as perfectly normal. They didn’t budge, nor did they apologize.

“What exactly are you waiting for,” he asked.

The man with the trap ignored his question. The two men smoking their pipes, the drunkard, the man who had challenged his refusal to eat the cockroach, all looked in his direction. The other men in the tent turned to him as well. He felt the sweat down the nape of his neck, the sweat of his lower back. He rubbed his hands together.

 

 

 

219

(from Memories of an Uncertain Future)

But he was never fully formed, and the creature was never driven out of his cage, given free reign or autonomy. He was withheld from the public, who had gathered on several occasion demanding his release, or at least, that his compatibility be tested.

The authorities who seized his body claimed that he had emerged outside of the story, that he had adopted his own free will, without their design. They congregated and congressed, debating and inquiring by what means he had acquired cognition, intellect, consciousness. They found that in observing him he offered no clues.

For if we conclude that the novel was articulated and written by one hand, we may conclude the transformation from one epoch of literature to the next within the text to be the result of metaphysical evolution that builds, in the assumption of T.S. Eliot’s voice on tradition, on the traditions of the past, and we find within this subtext of growth, change, evolution, devolution, construction, destruction, death and rebirth, the subtle signs of an ideology in the making, a belief system yet to be constricted into dogma, appearing illusory at first but with the manipulative channeling of textured voices through chapter and act, each voice emerging with more vitality than its poetic ancestor. In effect, the oeuvre stands in a sense voyeuristically on a watchtower, gazing over the decrepit ruins of its own civilization, discontent with itself, buoyed by, what the writer claims, is the banal passing of another martyr, the turmoil of another day.

 

 

 

220

 

He refused to become nothing more than the character chasing a figment of his own imagination. Whether it would drive him into the wilderness characterized by sleep and deprivation, or if he journeyed into the arms of his desolate port town, he understood that he would not meet the faces he had abandoned, and in searching would find only a weak representation of a time he had crossed. To his knowledge, he had still his faculties to him, and he had emerged from that epoch of thinking the conflict whereby he had come had been an engagement with someone else.

 

 

221

 

I wasn’t scared. It went very well for me. It was smoother than it was for most. And somehow I realized at some point that I would be coming back. I realized I wasn’t going to die. Not like the others.”

“You were lucky,” one of them said.

They went quiet. It remained quiet the remainder of the night. The incense kept most of the critters away but for the crawlers. The men slept on the rugs in parallel lines. Before dawn it showered hard, and before it showered the heat was intense, unbearable. Some of the men pulled their rugs outside. The pilgrim couldn’t sleep, and so he sat beside the needles of the tent searching for the moon, meditating on the arrangement of sounds.

A while later the cripple from earlier stepped out of the tent, ducking under the opening. Noticing the pilgrim, he walked over to where he sat. In the twilight his face looked sharper, friendlier, but more severe. His cheeks were wide, his forehead long, his hair crumbling over his eyes and over his ears. He had thick, farmer’s hands, and because of his affliction, his walking with a limp, he had stolen weight from one side of his body, distributing it to the other side.

He dropped his cane and flopped onto a mound of soiled sand. He rested against the stump of a tree. He waited a while before saying a word, and the pilgrim waited as well.

“Do you intend on going back?”

He filled his pipe with the colors, and pounded at the bowl with a small wooden rod he used to mash the elements into a solid ball. He thought about what he’d been asked. If the man beside him deserved the answer. What sort of man deserves the answer?

He couldn’t handle the frustration of returning to the subject, while immersed in the qualities of a starry night. Still, he spoke with eagerness and generous calm.

“You know, when you are there it seems like you will never leave. You will remain forever, wherever you are.”

He pounded methodically at the bowl, mindfully, like he knew what was required and was wating for the time.

“But then, suddenly, you realize you must leave. And from then on it is no longer the same. You return to your lover. To your house. To the school where your children play. To your garden, where you water the lilies and pick from your lemon tree. After a while, you realize something has changed, and you must leave.”

“Is that why you are here now?”

“I’m not really here. Look around you, my friend. None of this is here.”

 

Later,

“Well, there had been something different the last time. I was trouble by this recurring thought. It was torture.”

She walks beside us, lowers tray filled of tea, olives and figs.

“Are you telling him the story of the wall?”

He simles, accepting her joke without moving off track.

“I’m an old man. It sounds foolish of me to speak of fear as though it were not possible in me. Generally, there is nothing that frightens me. Sometimes I am afraid because, in prayer, I am too eager, my father used to tell me. As a mystic, I ascend very rapidly. When I was young it was frightening. I felt there was no limits. If I leaped from this cliff, in front of you, right now, there are times I believe I will fly, if I want to. But the question is always different for the mind. I have learned. Maybe, when I jump, I do not really want to fly. The laws are different, depending where we are.”

He drinks from the tea.

“When I was there, something was bothering me. I could feel it. I am very observant. I could feel something, like it was challenging me. Our first instinct is to apply a voice to these things. I was searching for the voice. There is a lake, a large lake that circles the land. when I had time, I would walk to the lake. I remember thinking in these moments, if the voice appears now I will not be afraid. But I was! I was lying to myself.”

He laughs wildly, the way an elderly monk may laugh when he’s seen something that reinforces his pleasure. His voice drops an octave.

“I became obsessed with the voice. I realized, the longer I listened to this voice, the less I heard of anything else. I had to alternate, in real time, even among my friends, between the world I had known before, and this world after, where I was being led, slowly, into another man’s feast. I knew it was not a man, it was something inside of me. But these things we apply another life to. I became like a hunter. Acute to the trail. I had my eye on everything, but it was really a very isolated horizon.

“Of course I began to dream of these concepts. It was difficult for me to communicate my obsession with anyone else. They would have thought I was crazy. In the old system, even those who experience ecstasy, are humble and grounded in the presence of others. Besides, the officials were deeply embedded in the camp. It would have been too dangerous.

“One evening I was walking through the trail that circles the camp. It was my usual walk. After dinner some of the men I spent my time with would go to the tables to discuss what we had discovered that day, or what we hadn’t discovered. I often went, but sometimes I decided it would be better to go elsewhere by myself, to reflect. When you are constantly in the company of those who inspire you, it can be uninspiring after a while.

“Maybe I am not the purest of them. I wasn’t at the time. I had a lot of doubt. I still doubt sometimes. I suspect we all do. But there are some, I know of them, who never doubt. They see with very eager eyes, and they see clearly. They are also dangerous. Beware of those men.

“That evening, as I stepped over the walkway that leads to the rabbit’s hole, where a nest had been created to nurture for animals who had survived, but who were not appropriate to eat or to use for work, I noticed that the windows to one of the lower cabins was on. That wasn’t strange to me then, but I am telling you now, so I am saying it that way. At the time, I was surprised that I noticed the open window, and the lights being on. I was surprised I took notice of this. I thought at first that I must be tired, that I was not focused on my way, that I was distracted, noticing something out of the blue. Finally I realized it must have been for some purpose, as I had never noticed the lights being on before. I walked over to the window, only a couple of steps.

“I had not met the eyes before, but when I saw them, I knew it was his eyes. He had a hunchback, that forced his neck to stand out from his shoulders. It was the first thing I noticed after his eyes. His mouth was the level of his shoulder, extending from his body. But his lower back was even higher than his stomach. I wasn’t sure it was a man. He was hunched over a boy, who I took for a pupil right away. Another student, but I didn’t recognize him.

“But he seemed weak, and he didn’t notice me. I realized then I could never have tracked him had he been well, had he been conjuring in full spirit. It would not have been possible. He must have led me to him. From his mouth, a dark wet liquid was slowly excreting from the sides. I recall his eyes. They were no human eyes.”

“It is a great conceit. We go everywhere in the world to return where we have come. When we are buried, when we spread the ashes of the dead, we are doing it for ourselves. We must all accept that one day, this will end.”

 

 

222

 

“It was terrible. What was to come, I couldn’t even imagine at the time. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was still reckless and violent. Arrogant. Thinking I could outsmart the beast. You realize there is no limit to the darkness. When you are so far. At some point, the only limiting factor is the imagination. For every passer it is different.”

 

 

 

223

 

“I didn’t know,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“But you knew where you were?”

“I was too far. And I met the creatures. When you go so deep, they are no longer hiding. They are waiting for you.”

“What did you see?”

 

 

224

 

The language in the story, without a herald or host, is without direction. The hero is lost.

 

 

225

 

He had spent the night searching for the seamen’s bar, where he would find the man with the keys to the next town. In the present order, it was told that he would be required to give the man whatever he wanted, so long as he could have it in return. Upon finding the band of seamen, he was alarmed to learn that they were all blind, and deformed at the hips.

He asked one of them, who acted as though he were their leader, whether it was really them who had the keys to the following town. The man said the town was overrun, and the keys were no longer given. Anyone who leaves will be prevented from returning. He advised the pilgrim not to move on with his mission.

Subsequently, one of the younger men took a liking to the pilgrim, and offered him a place to sleep for the night. The boy lived in a tenement home for temporary workers, who would live on a temporary basis. He lived in a ramshackle apartment, shared with seven other men, most of them significantly older, all of them unemployed and drunk on fermented date rum most of the time. They idled away their afternoons, and drank away their nights. None of them had plans to carry on, but they were all expecting eviction soon enough.

He shared a mattress on the floor of the kitchen with the boy. He had fallen asleep right away, and he stayed awake acute to the sounds of things moving around him, gathering food under the cover of darkness. The sailors he had met disappointed him. They had seen the world, and still they spoke without thinking. He remembered one of them say, how anything could be sought in the Horn of Africa, even the contents of a human skull. It disgusted him to hear them speak so openly of their dislike of other cultures. He accepted that their punishment would be idleness, trading the unpredictability of the open sea for the monotonous anguish of a wasteland.

It had become their wasteland, and they represented it. In ways he was beginning to understand. They would never set sail again, and with time they would become like the others around them, who hadn’t set sail beyond the borders, who hadn’t walked by foot from Tripoli to Damascus. What use admiring their differences now, when uniformity was inevitable.

On his way through the first row of hills that surround the city, traveling in the motorcade of several hundred pilgrims like himself, he loved to ask, with inundated passion, “Have you seen the port of ports,” before answering himself, “It is destroyed.”

 

 

226

 

A microphone stood in the middle of the room, surrounded by empty chairs. A man intent on selling his wife grabbed me by the arm.

“How much do you want for her,” he asked.

“How much is she worth?”

She was too tight for him to come inside of her. He had to take her into one of the backroom stalls, but there is a window that looks in to each stall, one at the door and one at the side, looking into the others.

Though she was tight, her skin was delicate and soft. She wanted to kiss him when they were done, but he refused. Out of mercy, out of cruelty. This fucking age.

She left the stall they had entered. He masturbated into the little bowl used as a toilet. Turning around to leave, he found a pair of hands reaching out from an underlying opening, at the height of his waist, penetrating deep into his stall. He crossed through it like he was cutting through a tower of weeds.

 

She was too tight for him to fully penetrate without using force. She started to squeal, in her foreign way of expressing with the convex mirror of her voice. He pulled at her fingers, crucifying her on the bathroom wall, digging his face into her neck as he pushed methodically from behind her.

She tried kissing him when he had finished, wiping his semen all over her neck, but he refused. Out of mercy, out of cruelty.

He left her in the bathroom. She thought of masturbating but it wasn’t any use. Soon there would be a knock at the door, and she would be found out and shamed. If not arrested.

Turning around to leave the hallway, he found a pair of hands reaching out from an underlying opening, at the height of his waist, penetrating deep into his stall. He crossed through it like he was cutting through a tower of weeds.

 

 

227

 

When he appeared at her house, the opening seemed vacant. He waited beside the long steel gate, adorned with the Baroque insignia of demonology. He grazed the gates with his fingers, gripping the gates and running his palm down the length of the spire. He held the steel rod in his grip as his hand reached his waist, and he pulled himself forward, so as to rest his nose to within the gate, as though he were smelling through another world.

The entrance to the estate, a wide and stretching canvas, stacked with lemon trees and a surrounding tangerine grove, seemed dry and sad. The trees looked sharp, like they had been cared for, but the ground was not tended, as piles and rows of leaves lay scattered along the floor, and the fruit looked pale, like it had been planted well but not picked. At the far end of his vision was a fountain, that sprayed its water from the mouth of a towering angel child, who stood on the shoulders of a small, golem figure, himself lying awkwardly on the wings of a hawk. The sight of heroism expanded from the golem’s eyes, and the hawk seemed vengeful, resolute, determined to accomplish some sacred task, while the child, with his short, waves of curls, and a curl that ran down each side of his head, looked playful, and happy, his eyes beaming with joy and anticipation. But the water was not spraying from his mouth, nor was the fountain itself tended, evidenced by the brownish muck that accumulated in the moat, and the decay of the once polished marble and stone.

His vision to the house itself was slightly obscured by the trees that separated the two prisms, but from where he stood he could see the broken callouses of the frames, the panels that had shuddered under the weight of winter, and the color of the building, once giant and engrossing in its pure white, now a stifled sheet of damp grey, with errant lines of black mold having carved into the outer surface, the only ( ) the emerging arms of vines, clamped against the eroding shell of the villa.

 

He waited a while before deciding to climb the gate. As he reached the height of the spire, he pounded a pocket of soil over the thin and precise spikes, so as not to be caught by one of the arms as he lifted his trailing leg. Pulling himself over the tip, he made two slow leaps downwards, and jumped finally to the ground. Suddenly, as he landed, he caught the eyes of a stranger a few feet away from him, breathing heavily, loudly, staring at him in a state of terror. He jumped back, alarmed, frightened, but as he fell on his feet, holding one palm against the earth, sheltered from the soil by a layer of worn and dried leaves, he calmed down, finding the figure’s eyes for a moment, holding their stare together, one. The figure, a small creature, with a hunched back, was completely naked. He was so thin, so emaciated, that his skin seemed to collect in certain areas, like his belly and his elbows, where it was stretched so tightly on the rest of his body, that it hung in loose balls. He could not see his feet, but he imagined them to be large feet, that gripped through the layer of leaves onto the soil surface.

The creature stood in his place, without moving, inching back and forth in a rocking motion, one palm turned towards his guest, the other, turned towards the ground.

Something soothed the pilgrim in that moment. It might have been, that after traveling so far, he had finally stepped foot in the estate, and after staring in through the wired fence, had climbed over the protective wall. It might have been the air, the late afternoon breeze that swallowed the contents of the day and cleared the way for the evening. The smell of his surroundings reminded him of a cemetery he used to go to for silence, for meditation, at a time where silence had to be sought, when it wasn’t the constant of his life.

He didn’t fear the creature, and this must have sent a signal to the creature to trust him, because within a few seconds of his taking a deep breath, and smiling, the creature too smiled, and walked steadily away, galloping on all fours like a horse. He seemed to be wounded in the leg, as he limped on his gallops, running forth.

The pilgrim looked over at the house, a few hundred meters away. Between him and the fountain, the disappeared outline of a paved path. He let his head fall against the earth, and sighed.

Opening his eyes, he found that evening had fallen, and he pulled himself together, walking between the two  clouds of trees, a solitary figure among the open ashes of an unswept flame.

 

He pushed through the crumbling door, two immense white panels of stone that wore dents to their makeup as though they had been bulldozed, pummeled through. The remains of a barricade withered to the floor as he slid the wilting structure open. He stepped over the beams lying in their sanctuary state, eroding in a pool of wet and soggy moss. The floor of the entire entrance was flooded, and in the uncomfortable distance he saw the tail end of a snake slither into the warmth. As he stepped down three steps into the wet grounds, the water stood up to his knees, so he had to push his way through the unchartered water, holding his nervous eyes to the place from where the snake had risen. Walking several feet forward, he came to a point in the large ballroom like entrance, where he could see, on either side of him, an immense tunnel of rooms, sheltered by high, nine meter ceilings, curved and painted in crusted hologram depictions of mythical rites. Further forward, two large staircases ascended from the ground and lost themselves somewhere in a thickening spiral of banisters that met squarely in the center of the hall, before diverging again in their usual directions. The centerpoint, which hung like the podium of an emperor, shielded on its front and rear sides by carved sculptures that rose above the standing height of any person, had lost the stone that held its center full, and from that hole he could see, straight through, to the impressive dome in the ceiling, twice higher than the ceiling of the tunnels and the hall itself, that opened like a door into the sky.

He continued forward. Darkness enveloped the room, and he found himself drifting forward in the way a man moves desperately through a crowd, his arms pushing through from side to side, waving away the ghosts that compelled him.

Eventually, he heard the sound of the crickets and the night owls, and before long could smell the effervescence of the jasmine, the pine trees that stood in the distance as a forest of their own, and the lavender that lay wilting in the passage leading into the garden. Stepping out into a field of wet moss, he embraced the surging coolness of the evening air, reforming his vision under the moonlight.

 

That evening he slept soundly on a dry patch of mound earth swallowed by the drooping feathers of a tree. He dreamt that he had been walking through ruins of a city, a city that looked much like his home. He ran his hands along the shattered glass, bracing the emblems of marble and concrete chipped in his hands. He stood in the presence of an older woman, who had been braiding the hair of a younger boy, speaking to him without looking. Her eyes were caught on the horizon, and the boy’s focus was not on the woman, her voice, or her hands running through his hair, but on a beautiful, slim golden necklace that he wore around his neck. Later, he watched as he held the hands of two strangers and escorted them into a large suitcase, where he explained, again and again, “I don’t do these things,” saying, “I don’t do these things.” He saw a snake, and he imagined the snake biting him. He pictured the old woman, speaking to him again. Eventually, he woke up.

 

Her chamber lay in the center of the garden. A mound of white sand, amid a circle of small elder flower trees, and on the opposite side of her, a quiet lake. When he found her body she was lying on the floor in white garbs. She had painted the area around her in ash, and smeared the garbs over the ashes. The smoke of incense burned from several corners.

As he approached, she rose to her feet, collecting herself calmly, stretching her arms, cracking her lower back, pulling her knees up to her chest, and letting out an enveloping sigh. Her cheeks puffed outward, and with the release of her breath, relented. She looked calm, at some sort of ease.

Before she noticed him arrive, she pulled herself to her feet and walked over to a small ottoman table, where she poured from a kettle of tea into a glass. She stirred the key with a tiny spoon. She raised the glass to her face, and swallowed the fumes. She remained like that for a moment, her eyes closed, breathing in the fires.

He didn’t want to interrupt her, or to frighten her, so he remained cautiously still. He watched her, her eyes closed, her breathing slowing down. She looked older than he expected, yet so vibrant. She was older now, but more beautiful. Her skin was deeply tanned, and her complexion seemed luminescent. She had healthy, thick curls of hair stretching down her back, that swayed so subtly in the wind.

Finally, she looked up from her place, and looked into his eyes.

 

After serving him tea, she took a seat beside him on a seating area of handwoven pillows. He had pulled his pouch from his jacket pocket, crumbling some small pieces of hash in a tiny ceramic bowl, mixing it with dried tobacco, and rolling it into a joint. He aligned the hash so that it encircled the tobacco, so it would smoke more fruitly, easily. She spoke, a raspy voice, that told of a long and meaningful life of experience.

“It’s good to see you again,” she said. She spoke calmly. They held one another’s gaze. “It’s always so nice to be visited by some of you, from then.”

“You still mean a lot to us,” he said, speaking before she could continue, so as to ensure she believed his words.

She laughed slightly, smiling, drawing away her smile and looking away. She was embarrassed, and it surprised him, as he had never really seen her embarrassed, had never thought of her to be capable.

“It was different then,” she said. “Everything was different.”

He sipped quietly from his tea. The cup was a little small for his hands, even though he had always felt he had innocently fragile hands. He felt soft, like he could fall asleep at any moment, but he wasn’t tired, he could listen to her speak for the entire day.

“Do you think we’ll ever go back,” he asked, rather dumbly, knowing it was a question he asked in order to exchange a sober kiss of nostalgia, and not for any real point.

“Go back where,” she asked, sadly.

“To that time.”

“I don’t think it’s possible. Besides. What for?”

“Things were simpler then.”

“We were ignorant. It had already happened. A castle isn’t overrun overnight. It takes years of preparation. We were too stoned.”

He shrugged.

“Still,” he said. “I prefer it.”

She went quiet, too. He thought for a moment he might have upset her, and he felt sorry for it. It was the last thing he wanted, to hurt her. She didn’t deserve the hurt. She had hurt enough.

“I’m leaving,” she said.

He nodded his head.

“I didn’t want to assume, but. Whereto?”

“Maybe back to the civilized world. London, maybe. All summer I thought I missed the cold, and I wanted to exchange this desert for a cloudy day. But everything is lying in water now. Maybe I can finally do it back in New York.”

“You were there a while.”

“Fifteen years. The biggest mistake I made was coming back. I won’t do it again.”

“It’s not easy to start over somewhere else. It’s easy for a couple months. But then the season changes and you start to wonder why you’re not at home.”

“It doesn’t feel like home anymore.”

She lifted the lid on a silver tray and served him some spelt pastries, topped with agave syrup and chestnuts she picked from her garden. She served him a savory pastry of bread with dried thyme, pine nuts, and sesame seeds. They ate quietly together. She walked over to a tall standing wooden cabinet, that sat perched perfectly on its hind legs, leaning against the ledge of an elder flower tree. He watched her as she threw some things together, pulling certain ingredients from little towels, rinsing them in the air and putting htem into a bowl. He realized she was making them a salad. She returned with the bowl, a large glass bowl that she cradled in her arms.

“Do you want to add the dressing.”

“Sure.”

He rose to his feet.

“Olive oil?”

“Here.”

She handed him the pitcher.

“I’m going inside to get some lemonade. I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want anything else to drink? We have some beer as well. Some wine.”

“Lemonade sounds good.”

They smiled at each other. She walked away. He walked over to the wooden cabinet hanging on the tree and searched inquisitively for some further dressing. He found what he was looking for, a tiny pot of sumac, and another with cinnamon. He brought them over to the table and added a lot of sumac and a tiny bit of cinnamon to the salad. He went back to the cabinet and found a lemon, cut it in half and brought over the half. He squeezed the lemon over the salad. He went back to the cabinet and found the salt and pepper. He brought them back and, adding the salt, he ground the pepper, watching as the little grains disappeared into the mix. He finally mixed the salad, white onions cut in long, tributary like slices, tomatoes and cucumber, rocca leaves and parsley. He mashed them all together, adding sumac and salt in little more bits. He drenched the salad in olive oil.

She returned with two glasses and a pitcher of lemonade, with ice and a few strands of lemon floating inside. She pulled a tiny bottle of pastis from her pocket.

“A tiny shot goes really well with the lemonade.”

“Sounds great.”

She garnished their drinks with rosemary. They each drank a sip. The flavors sat tirelessly on his palette, and he licked his lips in pleasure. She smiled at him.

They returned to the table, pouring the salad into bowls. Finally, without saying a word, they ate.

 

After the meal they washed the plates in unison, him drying the items while she washed them over with a small sponge and water and soap. He watched her mechanically lift the item under the water, then turn it over on its side and then dip the remainder of the piece under the water to remove the last bits of soap from its place. They were quiet. It was quiet. The afternoon had ended as quietly as it came. Somewhere in the woods he heard the rustling of a few wild dogs, taking their baths in the covered water.

“Should we move inside,” she asked.

He turned back toward her house. The pieces bunched together like a soap bar that’s been patched up with its own remains.

She laughed.

“I don’t live there anymore.”

He laughed, embarrassed at himself.

“I was wondering.”

She pointed to a small shed in the distance, just ahead of the opposite building that looked identical to her own.

“It was used as a night watchman’s house. At first it was a little room, with a window cut in to all sides. But then they built a ladder step and another floor, to see from a higher view. And after the war began they put it yet another floor, to see even further into the distance, at least to have a warning if something came our way. But then the watchman took a wife, one of the girls from the village. She was twelve at the time. They thought they would see out the war and go back to their village. But it lasted so long, they built themselves a little house. I’m staying in there now.”

“Have they gone?”

“A few years ago now.”

They walked together toward the house. As they approached, it appeared smaller and smaller, but at the final step into its little patio, a small roundabout that was surrounded by well behaved chestnut trees, the house suddenly seemed larger, like it was looming over him. As he took a few steps around, he realized the house was built on unequal ground, so the front was standing on a flat surface, while in the back, the wood had been carved into a thick mound of earth, and dug deeper under the ground, like the roots of a tree, but that the entire ground had shifted upwards, so that it kind of hung, leaning over itself, like a car slowly turned onto its side.

Inside, the place was just a two rooms on each floor, so six rooms in total. One room that fit a couple chairs and some appliances, and another longer room that was wider and had space for more. She had a kitchenette area laid out in the bottom floor, and the sleeping area on the second. On the third floor, a room that operated as a prayer room, a drawing room, and a reading room. The three smaller rooms were all used to store certain items, giving the bigger rooms more empty space, and space to move around. In the highest of the smaller rooms, he found a rocking chair sitting facing the window, where he could see into the immeasurable distance. She noticed him gazing over the chair and taking pleasure in it.

“I like to read there in the morning.”

“My mornings are sacred too.”

He sat on the rocking chair for a while. He heard her coming and going, ordering some things. After a while, he realized he had dozed off, and when she returned, it was pitch black outside. She sat next to him, her legs curled to the side. She wore a white sleeping gown, a different one. He could see her breasts from where he was sitting, through the opening of her shirt, as he sat above her. He was embarrassed and tried to look away, but he held his eyes there as long as he could. He realized then how attracted to her he really was, and how much he missed the intimacy of love.

“I made a bed for you inside, on this floor,” she said.

He was grateful, but also a little sad, as he had begun to hope he could sleep next to her, if only to hold her through the night. If only to sleep next to her and to feel her warmth, her strength, flood into his body.

“Thank you,” he said, in a quiet voice. He hoped he didn’t sound sad or resentful.

Through the gaping window he could smell the gentle breeze gifted with jasmine, the fabled pines, the almond trees he could finally recognize, the lavender and in the distance, a surging scent of citrus that climbed into his muscles. He realized how luscious the land had become, how fertile it still managed to be, and yet how fluid the departures became, how empty the place now seemed.

“You seem tired,” she said. “Do you want to go to sleep.”

He looked longingly at her. For the first time that day he looked at her with a sense of wishing, and unease. A sense of panic gripped him as he realized his eyes were not telling her of waning strength or enthusiasm but of loneliness, of a quiet, subtle pain, of dread for crawling into bed alone. She understood his  expression without his needing to say the words. She held his hands. She pulled herself to his level and kissed him on the side of the cheek, and on the neck. She held her face beside his cheek for the briefest moment. He could smell the perfume of her hair, and the oil she had applied to her skin, the few freckles on her tanned shoulders attracted him.

“I’ll make us breakfast in the morning,” she said. She kissed him again on the cheek, and moved away, pulling her body up with her knees, both legs simultaneously, and taking a few steps toward the ladder before descending downward to her room.

 

That evening he dreamt of the garden. He dreamt of his movements through the expanse. His hands waving him forward. His bare feet sagging into the inviting earth, in her cool wetness, in her naked glance. He dreamt of the creature he encountered after jumping the gates. He dreamt of his host, the woman he so admired, the woman he had hoped endlessly to impress. He dreamt of her lips, the way her upper lip curled and the way her nostrils opened and tightened while she was lost in thought, addressing something in her head, curious. He dreamt of the raging forest, the empty plains, the quaint luminescence of her extraordinary garden. He had come so far.

Faces and voices pulled him from his ethereal trance. He caught the image of the dung quarter whores he spent his first nights with on shore. He found himself masturbating in the presence of a court. He found himself tasting a whore’s feces, and tasting his own. He woke up drenched in his own sweat, and right above his hand, he saw the dangling figure of a furry spider.

He pulled his hand quickly and the spider shot off into a run. He jumped from his place and looked around, careful as he leapt forward not to hit his head on the panel that held the leaning walls. He let his feet rest on the cold and hardened wood, strengthened by its reinforced steel. He sat there a moment, thinking.

He hadn’t really observed the room before going to sleep. He had drifted so languidly, carrying his cumbersome body from the rocking chair to the bed. He wondered when he had managed to move, if he had remained in his seat for a while gazing up at the moon, or sleeping soundly to the rhythm of rocking back and forth. Or if he sprang from his place with arduous sight, using his palms to guide him safely under the ceiling panels, through the lowered entrance and onto the freshly made bed in the tranquil room.

He remembered then that he had been sad at her departure. He wondered if she took notice. He felt a tinge of embarrassment at his behavior. He remained still. He heard something scratch a wooden surface, a break in the noise, and then a fall. He felt the breeze gorging in through the panorama opening in the wall ahead of him. It was still dark outside, incredibly dark, but for the gazing luminescence of the moon.

228

 

He awoke in the morning to the blazing rays of sun entering the corridor of the room, and the sound of dishes clanging somewhere downstairs. He dusted off his face, rubbing his eyes, pulling the thin blanket off his body and dropping his legs to the ground. He stared at his feet for a brief moment, staring at his toes, a little dirty from the long and tiresome walk. But they would get dirtier, he figured.

He rose from his place. He put on his pants and a shirt he found lying beside the bed, and walked under the panel connecting the two rooms, giving the rocking chair at the window a little glance before taking the ladder down. As he reached the bottom floor, he caught the glimpse of his host cleaning dishes at the sink. She had her wet hair slung back in a knot, and she wore running shorts and a sports bra on top. For a woman her age, he was impressed.

As she turned around to acknowledge his impending presence, he felt the urge to walk up to her and kiss her, calmly, letting the moment pass without giving it much significance. But he resisted the urge and kissed her on the cheek.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she said, smiling wide, “Did you sleep well?”

“I did,” he said as he turned around, taking a seat at the dining table behind her. She returned her focus to the dishes on hand. He felt suddenly that he should help her, drying the dishes or doing the washing himself. Somehow finding her way into his thoughts, she spoke before he could move another inch.

“Don’t worry. I’m almost done. The water’s going to be out in about an hour, for the rest of the day. Do you want to take a shower?”

“Sure,” he said, rubbing his eyes.

“It might not be back tomorrow either. Sometimes it comes back for an hour or two in the morning.”

“Yeah. I’m not surprised.”

She rubbed forcefully the inside of a large pot, that looked like it had been stained with some sort of tomato sauce. It must have sat there for a while, he thought, as she had to dig her fingers into the pot and scrape each rusting crust singularly.

“After you shower we can go for a walk.”

“I’d like that.”

She turned around to him, letting the pot quietly down without turning off the running water.

“You’re leaving today, aren’t you,” she asked, the disappointment obvious in her voice.

“I think so,” he said, without much conviction.

She turned back around to the dishes. From where he sat it appeared as though she were wiping the edge of the pot with her own hands, having let the sponge fall into the sink. The water pressure was lower, and he could see her gently running her two fingers along the edge of the pot. A steady stream of sunlight seeped in through the lowered blinds that harbored her from the outside world. He watched as the light illuminated her arms and draped over her shoulders to extend his vision onto her lower back. He watched as her dimples tightened and released, alternating at the rhythm of her collecting forearms.

He rose from his place. Standing a foot away from her he could feel her light breathing. He restricted his own so that he would not be heard. At times, he was embarrassed by his own heavy breathing. It seemed to him as though his breathing intensified when it was most quiet.

He walked passed her body and stopped at the edge of the room.

“Is there a towel I can use?”

She turned toward him and smiled. He wasn’t able to hold her gaze, and he dropped his eyes immediately.

“Underneath the bed where you’re sleeping, there should be some clean towels. Don’t take too long. The water will run out.”

He looked into her eyes again and they smiled. She turned off the faucet and shook her hands in the air, and then dried them with a towel hanging at her waist. As she walked toward him he turned outward and climbed the ladder up to his room. He heard the screen door close behind her as he pushed himself upward onto the third floor.

 

Outside, she pulled an axe from beside the door and flung it over her shoulders. She walked over to a stump with some wood piled next to it. She grabbed a piece of wood and placed it on the stump. Without giving it much thought she slung the axe over her head and dropped it onto the wood, splitting the piece in half. She pushed the pieces to the side and pulled another. After three pieces of wood had turned into six, she piled them under her arm and put them next to the door, where she also dropped the axe. She opened the door slightly and grabbed a white shirt hanging by the door, then, without giving it much thought, she walked away from the house, into the orchards.

She walked for some time. The orchard was designed so that at the very center of the grid was a an empty space with a tall fig tree standing in the middle. The fig tree was surrounded on all sides by a circle of other trees. From a distance the grid looked straight, but at the center she had put the eye, a place where she came for thought.

She sat under the tree. She had wanted to read but she didn’t know what she felt like reading. It was always like that. You get into a rhythm and then someone shows up at your house and you lose it all. She had been doing well until he showed up. She hadn’t thought of her losses or her gains, she hadn’t compared those days to today. But somehow she had expected him. She had sat waiting for her guest like a sage expects a visitor climbing over the ridge, banging at the door. On the nights preceding his arrival she hadn’t slept, sitting outside with a shotgun at her side, a joint she puffed on from time to time, a bottle of red wine and a plate of her own black olives. But he hadn’t shown up at night, like she expected, expecting the figure to walk in through the dust and carry his naked footsteps into the light.

She wasn’t sure if she wanted him there but his imminent leaving scared her. She would have been better off alone, she thought, alone without any guests or wanderers dropping by. When someone came they inevitably left, and when they left they rarely, if ever, returned. She had enough of that waiting. Waiting for someone else to arrive.

He hadn’t mentioned her daughters, it troubled her. He hadn’t asked about her, if she recovered. He pretended like they were old friends, like they’d slept in the same bed before, drank from the same bottle. They weren’t friends. He had been in love with her daughter until she killed herself. He didn’t know the other daughters. He never did.

Of course, they were linked by more than the child. They shared a similar interest as well as a similar loss. Her poems had been collected in magazines over the years, while his circulated through a series of otherwise meaningless publications. Still, they liked each other’s work.

She understood that his work had yet to find its maturity while hers was slowly losing its wind. She had lost the fire. She didn’t want the fire anymore. The fire belonged to death and she had eaten death. The fire infested in wounds and she cleared her body of wounds. She didn’t write poetry anymore. She cooked, she ate, she cleaned, she slept. She tended to her garden, a magical forest of wonder. She put her heart into the soil and it returned the gift with life. But the garden would soon collapse, she knew it. This season or the next. The water was already running out. Even if she stole above her rations, which she already accepted she would do. Even if she bribed the local officials, which she had already mastered doing. Even if she dug her own well with her own two hands. The water was going to dry. It would not rain for more than six or seven days a year, when before it rained for fifty, sometimes sixty days. She accepted that she would lose the garden. But for now she had some time.

Earlier in the day, before he had woken up to the sound of her cleaning, she had woken up at exactly dawn and gone outside for some fresh air. Standing in the midst of a galloping autumn breeze she rode the sensation of breathing in her lungs. Returning inside to take a shower, she had considered, momentarily, to walk up to his room and sleep beside him. The idea hadn’t occurred to her, ever, but she noticed the moment he had considered the kiss just the evening before, as she rose from her place on the ground and went off to sleep. She thought about sleeping next to him, but she couldn’t do it. She didn’t even know if she wanted to do it, but she knew for sure that she didn’t do it. She almost knew she wouldn’t do it, but she didn’t know if she would or she wouldn’t, she only thought she knew she wouldn’t, primarily because of their past, their unfortunate bond. But suddenly, after all these years, after the immeasurable descent, after the entire mess, he came to her. And she saw it in his eyes as she rose from her place, the look of longing she saw so many times in the lonely men that surrounded her enclave. Men who had lost their wives, their whole families, to some unfortunate brutality, or to abandonment, in response to their neglected curse. It was enough that he had come to her, she thought.

She looked over the expanse that lay before her. She never had the chance to say goodbye, to those of her life who passed over, from one little vacuum into the next. At least with the garden she knew it well. She knew what would be coming and would be prepared. She probably wouldn’t wait for the seasons to cull all her children. She could do it herself. Poison the soil, poison every inch of ground. Or she could set fire to the entire mess, do it on the most beautiful day, on a day where the garden shone with such indescribable beauty that it deserved to die. A woman of uncommon ritual. She would perfect the act of the last rite.

She counted slowly the days that had passed since she’d last spoken aloud. He was the first visitor in a long while. The workers who used to calm her company had all abandoned their posts, moved on to the raging mountains to take part in the conflict, or herded their families together and fled as far as possibly away. She had told him she would be leaving, too, and he hadn’t been surprised. Leaving had become the norm. Even those with land like hers, with possessions like hers, even they left. Leaving had once been for those in dire need. It had become the indiscriminate norm.

In the distance she heard the firing of a rifle, followed by the crack of another. Hunters, devouring the last living remnants of migrating birds. She thought she heard a car pass somewhere nearby, the familiar wave that hollows in the wind before suppressing her echoing sound. Another rifle fired off. This time she was calm. She hadn’t seen the birds in a while. She knew there were no birds.

229

 

In the morning that rises in the calm. The day had started as any other might, but for the fact that he had woken up in the strange enclosure of her palace. As the day rose from her heels, the fields grazed under a blazing sun. The wind that had accompanied his walk had disappeared. He found himself sitting amidst the dullness of a wood colored room, monitoring the approaches of a breeze. How could he learn to describe the heat, he wondered, without first describing his thirst. Recognizing the thirst that accompanies a scorching day, finding the resolve to inhabit it.

 

 

230

 

The garden sat in the center of a long, maze like expanse. Densely wooded forest surrounding a tall grass prairie, a landscape he would grow accustomed to. From the center of the garden can be viewed a circular series of sculptures, all classical, heads bowed, pertaining to a certain myth. In the very center of the garden the fountain raises its sprout to the canopy’s height. Underneath the immense showers, there are little faucets, rusted over time, for the orderly to wash, drink, and cleanse.

He washed his hands beside the fountain. He looked over through the early evening glare, lights towering over the grassy plain, from where he dug his feet into the muddy earth. He’d taken off his shoes to clean his feet, and to feel the earth beneath him. To give them a rest, he would say to himself, but he rarely, if ever, wore them.

A crumbling lighthouse pierces the azure. From where he stood he could look straight through the sculptures, into the forest, and expect that within two, three hundred meters he could see into the sea. He turned to address a few passers, young, well dressed, sober. They looked in his direction and turned away. They must have expected it would be empty, he thought.

Moments later he wet his face in the water, pausing to let the coldness of the water ease into his skin. He rubbed his eyes, licked his lips, raising another handful of water to his face, bending low enough so as not to lose too much water. The hair on his forehead was wet, and he drew his head back to remove it from his face. He cleared the sides of his eyes, clearing with two fingers the wetness of his nostrils. He dried his hands off in the air, turned and walked away.

He would be waiting at the pier, rising under an autumn shower, waiting, like he had promised. He had expected to see him first, before entering the city, to see his grieving mentor one last time, before they traded places. He thought of his mentor impressed on the image of the archetypal sea, the mother of all his dreaming. The sage sells perfume, he thought, once, twice to comfort himself, he sells perfume for the soul.

As he walked through the grass, the ends of towering weeds grazing against his legs, tickling his elbows as he passed through them, focused on the sound his feet made running against the earth, on the sound the weeds made when they were stepped on, abused, pushed down to the earth in a scrambled mess, returned to the weary creator. He heard the evening symphony rise, the day ending like any other day, crickets delivering their sacred psalms, fireflies lighting up the sky. He felt a ladybug rest in between two fingers. Do they live at night, he thought to himself.

Reaching the cover of darkness, the end of the prairie, he stopped. Turning around, he noticed the garden had emptied. the fountain rose like an upended stream. He counted, One, two, three…He continued counting until ten, breathing, slow, breathing. He turned back around, and with a slow, deliberate twist of the arm, he rested his palm on the first batch of branches in his way. He held the twig, the branch’s stem, biting it with his fingers. Slowly, calmly, he lifted the branch, one by one, passing through.

For the remainder of the night he disappeared into the darkness.

 

 

231

 

Twenty minutes over the crest, there’s a valley, high in willows, waterlogged. That whole river from where you came travels into it. Now, you’re right, it’s more of a bog if the leaves are cut. If the branches are worn during winter. The whole roof looks life its been carried down. When you walk, your up to your neck in water. The submissive tip of the willows disappears into the surface flesh. In July, the valley is a place of death. The air is thick. The water’s gone. As the humidity rises, the mosquitos drop down, even the birds. Patches of the surface break apart from the lack of water. In other parts, the heat is so intense it causes the ground to wave. The moonlight trail disappears. Coordination, navigation, the processing of information are depleted. The place is so dry, the air doesn’t circulate in your lungs with enough speed. Confusion is inevitable. Without a compass, you get stranded walking in circles.

 

 

232

 

Under the last line of pines he woke with the sun in his face. He spent some time coming into himself. In the wild, obscenity is in the soul.

He walked back toward the settlement. He thought of the crowd, recovering with the basics. Claiming a piece of land, settling there, calling it home.

He found him sitting with some of the dogs, cutting a small piece of wood.

“I was taking a nap. Under the pines. You guys should put a treehouse up there.”

He smiled.

“The blues is everywhere, but there’s no swamp.”

One of the boys had lost one of his arms to a spinning blade, and he was in charge of cooking the tea.

It had happened to him before. But then, he came to his senses. He saw it. He dug in his right foot, jerked his knees, caught the blade without moving his elbow, pivoting on his legs.

Grace.

He pulled the kettle from the fire, pouring each of them a cup.

 

 

 

233

 

He broke off a branch with two of his fingers.

“When we go hunting, deep into the forest.”

He cut a slab with his knife, and pulled it, like a film sprocket, to his teeth, to run along the enamel, like a spool.

“We never come back alone.”

 

 

234

 

The elder woman was braiding the hair of a younger native boy, speaking to him without looking, her thick arms brooding around the boy’s body, seated on the damp forest floor.

As the group moved forward, they passed several of the ruins the settlers left behind.

The Penguin spoke again.

“When we get to the lower marsh, we’ll take some time to rest and cook up a fire. Right now, I don’t want to get bogged down by a storm, with a few hundred feet to descend.”

They continued walking along the road.

“The provincial life was preferable for a long time. I would’ve loved to have grown up out here.”

Three of his men, Habi, Aleyva, and Shonah, caught up with them from behind. They’d been checking the woods, scouring for food, and seeing if they could pick up any trails.

“Most of the villagers have gone. Their houses stood fine for a while. You could see them, passing through or camping for the night. But after sitting still for so long, people took notice, started cutting them dry. Looting everything inside, then breaking off the panels and the frames. For winter, for supplies.”

He stepped over what appeared to be a large, redheaded beetle, his foot stopping in midair for a split second to agonize over the impending death of the insect, before jutting forward a little slightly with his carrying knee.

“Can’t say I blame anyone. If I needed it, I would’ve done the same.”

 

After a while, where the afternoon sun gave way to the clouds, the shadows of the foreign fighters scattered along the leaves settled into the monochrome hues of the earth, and the early cricket songs played over the crisp cries of a pair of hawks, the men, gathered in a straight line, stomping their way through the forest, came upon a large expanse of grass, leaving behind the wooded frames, looking upon the openness as though it were the sea. The grass had not been tended, wild as it was, and the appearance of large shrubs running along the tall weeds like a paved wall gave the men the impression it was their way.

 

There was a momentary shift in the silence, when a thick mass of rainclouds formed above their heads, and descended upon them, hanging so low the pilgrim felt the sweaty moistness of his breathing, the taste of the air sitting in his lungs.

“Watch out for the snakes,” the man in front of him called.

“They’re hungry,” said another.

The men walked, a few hundred meters, so that the grass leveled as they reached what then appeared to be a short plateau, from where they could see that the stretch of canvas that looked like a horizon was indeed the end of the grounds they had come, the culminating colors of the forest. Ahead, the grasses fell in height and stature, as though the entire field had been mowed just recently, though of course that was not the case.

 

 

235

 

His first night on shore, having passed calmly through the border, he read from a book of his favorite poems, passages he noted down when noticing them. While wiping his feet in the water, he notices the figure of a woman racing up the hill. He follows her, finding her having receded the passage, standing in a great field of waste. Waste, having amassed over the years, drying what was once a great lake.

She transforms in his eyes, from the affection of the earlier image, to one of death. He decides that night not to enter the city, returning over the hill to the earlier passage, remaining there for the evening, lighting a small fire, reading with a sense of piety, thinking. He listens for what wildlife remains to be heard. He sleeps.

In the morning, waking to the rising sun brushing against his face, he sits in the water for a moment, lying with his hands and knees in the sand, digging his face into the breaking waves.

He sees in the distance a great, impressive bridge. He remembers the bridge at the entrance to the city. An impassable bridge for some.

Ending at a cliff, locals are permitted to walk onto the bridge and dive if they please, the only sanctioned means to end one’s life. It could have connected two parts of the same nation, separated by a waterway, but they refused, and built a wall instead. The southerners live under the bridge, while the northerners live over it. where does it go, from which way does he ascend? Bridges of polarity. Nowhere, somewhere. Wilderness, civilization. Conscious, unconscious.

While he was away, everything reminded him of the place. Every song, every lasting scent, every bird, every harlequin. Every time he felt something close to him, closing in on his derelict heart, forcing him to feel safe, free, he felt like he felt here. It remained a mystery to everyone else.

The polite thing to do is to acknowledge the descent of the old woman from the upraised balcony, calling out to the man who has yet to power her generator. The woman, convulsing with yells, interests no one. It would seem it is a common custom. She is so accustomed to screaming, the town is not accustomed to hearing.

An ascetic breaches the front gates, storming out of the building. Quaint, tainted with time, eroded by sand storms, a steady stream of fumes, a layer of musk masking the walls. The ascetic looks precisely as you would imagine him. His tone, an eastern blend of honey and gold. He gallops, levitating through the city, veiled in an accessible violet cloak, and a shroud of incense smoke. Most impressive is his physique, fit like an auxiliary.

A conversation draws his attention. A resident and a man responsible to tend to tenant needs. The housing is pueblo like, confined to shades of pale lime and green, embellished with the romance of a spiral staircase, a wide courtyard door. The man carries oil, kerosene, lighting two lamps for the lady arguing her rights.

“I have waited all day for you to answer my call.”

“I was out, time off.”

“And me? How am I to cope in your time off?”

“The inconvenience is my embarrassment. I’m sorry.”

“So you will concede?”

“I will power the generator in less than an hour. This way, you will be within your right, and I will have saved what I am able. It is a difficult time. Please try to understand.”

“Always to the last drop with you.”

He shies away. The figure on the stairs curls into a shapeless shadow, while a group of young boys smoke, hanging out near a mural painted on the building wall. They smoke hash compressed in the valley, near columns of the resistance. Earlier, it had been debated, and one of the boys said that he thought the resistance had finished their supply, overharvesting the fields. One of the other boys assured him, whenever there is a demand for drugs, the drugs arrive in their hands. The border is opened, he said. They are quiet now.

The youngest of them, a gypsy without a home, isn’t wearing any shoes, but has inked the contour of a sandal onto his feet. One of the feet is done in color, while the other is black and white. The colors are well faded, and the black and white looks like muddy chalk. Simply for the effect of shading, the sandals are beautiful.

He sips from a friend’s beer. It is indigestible, burning a hole through his throat. This is fierce, he says. His friend holds him in a chokehold. You think I want to poison you, little guy?

The herd of boys drift away. He rests under the umbrella of a garden, peering over a flat concrete plain, hundreds of meters wide. Later, as he walks, his steps echoing in the darkness, he stands in the middle of the courtyard. He takes the stairs at the end of the plain, painted in a series of warring emblems. A townhouse door winces on the fringe, a steel gate pushed wide open. He sees dimly into the basement, covered in large masses of marble and stone. Through the door he emerges into an alleyway. A voice calls from behind him.

“Who are you?”

He turns around, to speak, but the voice speaks first, noting his hesitation.

“What is your business here?”

“Walking.”

“Where from?”

“The other end of town.”

The voice steps out from the darkness.

“Can I help you?”

“I’m trying to pass.”

“I’m not so sure.”

He comes nearer, removing his veil. He smiles, speaking kindly, bowing his chin. He doesn’t hold his breath, standing so close, the smell of cinnamon rising through his teeth.

“There’s nothing past here.”

Running back up the stairs he follows the memory of the empty plain. He runs across the concrete, steps heavy, breathing through dampened lungs. He tries running on his toes, running on his heels. He reaches the end of the plain, climbing another set of stairs back to where he began. The young crowd is out of sight. The women and tenants have disappeared. He turns a corner, finding an immigrant selling fruits and nuts off a cart. He approaches him. The fruit seller is listening to the radio and singing. He chews a certain leaf every now and again.

“Is there somewhere to eat?”

The man ignores him, continuing with his song, but not before offering a smile. He continues walking, turning onto a busier street, and then onto another. Finally, he turns onto a street that looks quieter, broken, the people sitting outside questioning his sudden appearance. He finds a few people standing outside a storefront. He pushes open the door.

He walks through the corridor until he finds another door, that leads him directly outside, onto the parallel road. Dust rises in a purple fume. While he walks, articulating dust into the air with the touch of his boots, he finds a little shop, an owner sitting beside the window smoking a cigarette, listening to the whining of his wife, or, to his imagination, an elderly customer taking her comfort too literally. The shop owner nudges toward him, indicating he is safe. He follows him into the back. The older woman keeps her eyes on him as he passes her.

He nudges past a velvet curtain, shying away into the dark, enjoying the creases of fabric on his fingers. The smell of feces grapples the air. He walks into a room, where men have paid to lie naked in single sized aquariums, each the size of an adult coffin. The feeling intended is that of a womb.

 

 

236

 

The noise settled. The room silenced. The closing of midday, when the afternoon sun takes her siesta. The seagulls can be heard once again. The afternoon songs of a gift coming to close.

He walks by other cubes, looking in, dazed by the scent of his own smoke. He fumbles into his pockets for a lighter, pushing out into the street. Nearly daybreak. High, raving in the senses. Impressing himself in the religious monotony of prayer. He retreats back towards a flight of stairs, walking along the stretch of seaside pavement he knows leads him south, towards his home. At the stairs, he takes a moment to breathe, sitting along the edge of the second step, looking out over the brightening horizon.

The port is emptying, men take leave from work, visitors absorb the loss of their first night.

A careful figure approaches him. They exchange the ordinary glance, taking wonder in the other man’s eyes. The figure stops, his form elusive under the light of a hovering lamp. Carried in thick, industrial boots, a layer of blankets. He holds his stare gravely until he finally tires, choosing to sit to the side.

He would have continued past him but for the man speaking again.

“Where are you going?”

He speaks his words but doesn’t wait for a response.

“You look like the type to try and cross the bridge.”

The man twists his neck, stepping forward into a grain of light.

“It takes the most celebrated pilots a lifetime to pass.”

He reaches into his jacket pocket, his hand resting there a moment, hesitant to move. At the shrill cry of seagulls passing he looks up into the sky, opening his palms in the posture of holding a book. Nearby, a local wrestles with a heap of garbage, several officers looking on, amused, near the opening of a barricade. Some of the poorest workers live in caves near the water, at the underbelly of the town. The road there begins at the lowest step of the stairs.

The man inspects a cigarette from his pocket, lighting it a lighter’s flare. His other hand remains in his jacket, and he is more focused now on the matter at hand. The unsightly racing of cockroaches at the two men’s feet, visible in the rapid succession of thick, dark clouds dancing between light and shadow.

The man blows out his smoke with careful ease.

“Are you with someone,” he faintly asks.

“I’m alone.”

Some time passes before he speaks again, his lower left arm still resting in his jacket pocket.

He thought it had been his time to leave, continuing on his way, but for the sudden feeling he had the man before him would serve as some significance. Was it by design that he had met him? These things took on a life of their own. He accepted that anything was possible.

The figure, now slightly crouching on one of his better legs, pulls a book from his jacket, revealing what had been hidden so long. He handed it over as though it were a gift and he had been waiting to show it. The sudden enthusiasm was confusing. Accepting the book, he found it to be empty.

Looking back towards the giver, the man had disappeared, the winding road to the stairwell now emptied, the morning sun praying ascension to dawn.

He napped for a while, lowering his head on a slab of concrete.

Later in the day the feeling of exhaustion had passed. He descended the lengths of stairs that lead to the water.

He climbs a few rocks to oversee the caves, dug in beneath the façade of an overlying boardwalk, the beginning chapters of a city expanse. A towering statue. A lighthouse in the distance. The city, once enormous, panders to insignificance. What is this world without the port of ports?

Some whistlers arrive his way, urging to sip from the applauding fountain. A well in the midst of desert.

 

We trail the water surface

towards the canyon of your upbringing

where you settled your debts with mushroom hands

smoking the healer’s stare

passing through

the eradication

of the natives

 

You see me as a vanguard of youth

loneliness in the equation

but when I speak

whole legions of crows

bow their heads

the titans emerge from their distinction

 

I am here

for the settler’s

eradication

 

He rose for the occasion before him. How long had he sat there? Had it been his will? He walked with stunted steps toward the magnificent bridge, a confinement of human imagination. Where does it lead? Does the end ever appear?

Of the indifferent souls passing by him, only one man took notice to his sweltering stare, the aggression in his eyes obvious, the aggression in his gait discreet. The two meet several feet from the water, one of them breaking his fast with a pool of sunflower seeds in his hands, a harsh shot of coffee gone into his mouth. The man stoops several levels, pausing on his knees, holding himself upright with his hind legs, squinting under the sweltering morning sky, curious. As he speaks, a certain bark emanates from his voice, he spits his letters, biting his T’s.

“What do you want?”

His breathing is increasingly louder.

“Do you have any water?”

He walked away, confused. But there was something of interest to this man. Something of an inane curiosity, a celebration in the vapid air. But the man, so close to becoming himself significant, fell flat on his face, missing the wanderer by only a few feet, his jaw smacking firmly against the stone, an obvious jam of several teeth in the upper structure of his mouth. The blood ran to his feet. He was alright, the injury would pass, but he lay there for a while, a long, long while, even after he had been deserted, left to bleed out from his mouth alone. He lay there, wondering about the day he might have had, about the calls he had been given to return to the resistance, to return his duty to where it belonged. He had been lazy. Smoking, staying up late, drinking at some bars. A life, he believed, to be worthless.

I am a bastard, he told himself, a bastard.

Removing an overcoat from his shoulders, a man watches the scenes develop below, folding his arms over the boardwalk rails. He’s always wanted to be the sort of man who appears, out of the blue, strolling onto the waterside with a sense of purpose, as though he knows his way around, as though he comes here often but never at the same time, always in search of something, perhaps, A man of inspiration, a man of thought. He’s wanted to have the patience to stand at one of the rails overlooking the great and troubled horizon and empty his mind of thoughts, of brooding, of displeasure. But he knows, deep down inside his own psyche, he has too many barriers to posses such empty thought. He does not posses the patience, the tranquility, of a silent master. So he remains in his position, thinking on his condition, on his dependence, on his generous goodwill but his noteworthy impatience, wondering what it takes to possess such silence, what it means to be really free of thought.

The man whose jaw hinges for life grabs hold of himself and walks into a cloud of intertwining stones so as to fashion a bed. He walks atop the terrain knowingly. Knowingly, he walks atop the terrain.

Over the years the bridge has lost one of its obvious ends, disappearing behind an imposing shroud of mist. Symbolic of the townspeople’s superstition, it is only passed by those who have chosen not to return.

He sits at the foot of the bridge, letting his legs hang off the rails, his feet drenched in the open air. He listens to the absence of commotion, to the sound of waves climbing onto seaside trees. Sounds he remembers. He remembers his first trip in an estranged past. The smell of freshly baked bread, of molten stew, garlic spread and friend in a pan, overcomes him. He removes himself from his thoughts, playing a song in dedication.

 

 

 

 

237

 

Cockroaches are my only friends. Singles, pairs, whole armies. When it rains, they disappear, like I do. When the sun is shining, they rise, ascend to their little kingdom beneath our feet.

He steps out of the house at dawn. The dreams, they’re like mannequins, passing by. The sun, making her way over the horizon. He walks the length of the sunflower fields, the length of passage beside the long wall of the abandoned farm. In the dream, he was walking through the ruins of a city, touching his hands against shattered glass, stones and wild concrete, running his hands along the cold brick walls. He finds himself standing in the presence of an older woman, braiding the hair of a younger girl, speaking to him without looking. The eye of envy written on her face. He watches his reflection force two other men into a suitcase, climbing over the bag to force it shut, reminding himself, I don’t do these things. He sees a snake, imagining the bite her tail holds. He pictured the old woman, speaking to him again, her voice in his ear. He wakes up.

The borders are open. Night buses carry over the mountains. Anyone who goes doesn’t think about coming back.

He enjoys his final bite, leaving the kitchen, drawing away into the woods. The dogs follow him to the basin. Past the apple orchards, the lemon trees and fig trees his uncle harvested. He finds the farmer’s son sitting atop a stone stoop structure, near the underpass of the first row of hills. The man is smoking his pipe, smelling the grass in his smoke, smiling. He sips from a lamb woven flask.

“It’s quieter, away from the house.”

“The border is open. I’m going.”

They walk together back to the eating house. The man carries a small pile of firewood, walking with a limp on his left leg, drawing a sound from the friction of his boots against the wooden floor. Dreaming into the passage.

“I fed the dogs.”

“They’ll miss you.”

“They will.”

The man pours himself a cold cup of coffee. He reads from a scattered set of papers lying on the counter, shuffling through them, lightly, without any real intention, touching them with his fingers, gentle. After a while, he fills a plate from a dish on the side of the counter, mashed eggs and vegetables, and every so often dips a torn piece of bread into the mixture, before adding an olive to pit in his mouth. The morning rays of a rising sun scatter along the dimly tiled floor. A red hue cloud sits under the one or two tungsten bulbs still running, presumably from the night before. The man chews away at his food, filling his mouth with bites out of the eggs and sips out of the coffee.

In the morning he climbs a wagon into town, riding on one of the wheels. After an hour or so wait at the crossroads, he thought of the face he would encounter one last time.

Two women sit on a pile of wheat and straw, a cheerful old man driving the wagon. The road is empty, the sight of an endless field. The crowd sit prisoner’s to the sun’s growing aggression.

 

 

238

 

The two men sat huddled together on the far end of the pier, laughing at something one of them had just said. The tallest of them, a local with a beard that covers his face, big, black eyebrows that hide the impression of his eyes, receding into his skull, arched his back as he laughed, coughing over smoke he blew from his lungs. He sighed, the sort of gesture that told the other of them he was happy with his company.

“Do you think he’ll show?”

“He’ll show.”

The other man, the oldest of the two, sat with his back against the woodwork of a small rowing boat, his feet pressed into a small bank of sand that rose from inside the harbor. He had his pants rolled up to his knees, his legs reflecting the overcast sky, varicose veins running from his ankles and disappearing into the seam of his pants. In his crouched position, his stomach protruded from his vest, a white undershirt that bore the blooded stains of an accident. Over his shoulders he wrapped a thick, woolen blanket, that looked like it was made from sailor’s rope.

The quiet of the morning had felt, for both of them, a good omen. How else would they explain the sighting of migratory birds overhead, the earliest sighting of many years. How else could the older oft hem explain the feeling he had when, making his way to the water, he realized upon reaching the final checkpoint that he had forgotten his papers, but due to the timing of the day and the look on his face that suggested he could no harm, the likeable officers let him pass, detaining him briefly for routine questioning, which he passed skillfully.

He felt thirsty, his throat drying over the hours, waiting, a taste of forgotten salt left ruminating in his mouth. He felt his forehead to accept that he was sweating. Looking over at the other man, he questioned him with his eyes, wondering what he would really do if he knew why they were waiting. The man, gazing off to a distant figment on the horizon, took it upon himself to speak, to break the evolving silence. But the older man, listening as he was to the migratory birds pacing overhead, the cry of seagulls and crows claiming their territory, the announcing horns of ships impeding their way to shore, didn’t hear the man’s words, thinking to himself all along, repeating to himself the same, exhausting sentence.

In the garden the way is long.

“I never came out to the water as a kid. You’d be surprised, seeing as how I do this now, spend most of my time here. I never made it over. We spent most of our time on the streets, playing football on the concrete, forming roadblocks and goals with our oldest pair of shoes. The shoes we didn’t need to play. Or we took off our shoes and played barefoot, if it wasn’t too hot out. It gets so hot in this country, and it surprises me, because it always feels hotter than they say it is. In some places if it reaches a certain temperature they just send you home, tell you its not worth it to work that day. but, I’m happy with my job, happy with my work. A lot of the kids I grew up with are bored out of their minds.”

Noticing the old man’s drifting gaze, he slowed is words down, dropping to his knees with another cigarette in his mouth, looking directly in the older man’s eyes.

“What are you thinking about? You look like an interesting man.”

The old man simply nodded his head, showing the top of his teeth with his halfhearted smile.

“Do you think this friend of yours is going to show?”

The man rises with the cigarette finally lit, looking out in the distance, hoping to catch sight of the older man’s interest.

“I have a lot to do today. Don’t want to spend all day out here, waiting for him.”

“He’ll show.”

The younger man watches over the movement of his hands, in and out of his mouth with the cigarette, in and out, taking long drags of the cigarette to feel the crispy burn at the back of his throat, and the weight of the smoke carry down through his shoulders and into his stomach, his hands, his thighs, drowning him in a sense of exhaustion and relief, following, elation that comes with his sighs. He studies the older man, who seems uninterested in his being observed. He’s probably used to it, the younger man thinks. He probably does this all the time.

After a long silence, where the two men, withdrawn into their thoughts, settled into a lasting peace, the younger of them took his leave, silently, without drawing his friend’s attention, walking slowly away with his head drawn back so as to walk with the feeling he owned the pier, and the actions of the morning, what had passed and what was to come, was only possible under his watch, his authority. He felt a deep sense of pride, in his little cabin of authority.

The old man sat quietly, staring into the outer limits of the sea, feeling the quick, bolts of waves crashing against the bank, where he could feel, every time they struck, a quiet rumble underneath him. He thought of the years that had passed, between his insignificant arrival, a port town he thought would not be his last, a transient place for him to continue with his writing, help reform a suffering literary program, and maybe, just maybe, fall in love. He had not thought of what else would be possible, and when the seasons turned their attention towards more political matters, in the beginning, he thought, why not?

He thought of the young girl, a student of his, whose eyes he would never see again, gazing up at him in the front of the class, her long eyelashes compelled by neat, black ink, her hair trimmed to below the ears, her chin always lowered so as to appear, more so than was physically true, that she was teasing him from below, calling out to him from her subsidiary position.

But in truth, though he thought of these things, he didn’t think of them for long. He knew what was awaiting him, and what had come. He had decided long before it had been told to him, before it had been described as necessary. All the while, seated with his feet drenched in wet, soggy sand, his palms pushing down on the side of the boat, his eyes cast off toward the endless sea, he held the tranquility of the moment, the passing, all the while, repeating to himself, In the garden the way is long, repeating, In the garden the way is long.

 

 

 

 

239

 

…And then, out of the blue, she dropped the ice cream from her mouth, pulled the spoon to her open mouth and laid it on her tongue, lifted it to her nose, and dropped it again, shoving it into the ice cream cup, whereabouts she held her gaze. Suddenly, the mood shifted, and he could feel it.

“You’re changing,” she told him.

 

 

 

240

 

The contractor. A graduate of the WestPoint military academy. Completed his first tour as platoon commander in First Gulf War. Tasked with infiltrating a security cavity in the desert. The mission was a success, and the identities of the rangers was never identified by enemy forces. He returned to the Middle East as a colonel in the US Army, working exclusively alongside embassies in the region. He retired after the fall of Saddam integrating his professional skills into the private sector, a weapons contractor and liaison for governments and American suppliers. Voted American businessmen of the year, and elected as the President of the American Business Association. Graduated two children from school and into university, where one of them excelled at sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. But after a public mishap, the contractor had to hit the ground running.

He divorced his wife, though she had been a good wife. He had always threatened her, not with violence but with her prized possessions, her children, who she truly believed she owned. He had always warned her that if she sought divorce he would keep the children. He would paint her as a delusional cheat, an irresponsible army brat. Finally, they did divorce, after the kids moved on, forging a life of their own. But she always been a decent wife. For instance, she accepted that the women who worked in their home had always been hired on account of their looks, which was pleasing to her husband.

 

 

 

241

 

The body had been stored, left dead, in one of the air ducts stationed on the roof. Whether the victim died during those hours of imprisonment was not sure at first, but tests revealed that the victim died of wounds sustained while inside the duct.

 

 

242

 

“How much are you paying for the place?”

“Around a thousand. But my parents are used to paying more so it’s alright with them.”

“You’ll have kicked out an entire family. This place is huge.”

“Well, sure, but also, in a hundred years ill have written a book here, while they just abused their children.”

 

 

243

 

I waited for him to leave his apartment. When I heard his door open, I ran to the door, looking in through the peephole. I should say for no other reason but that I had been tired at the time, I was naked at the time. Neighbours are like owls, or wolves, burnt yellow eyes that stare back at you through the forest.

 

 

244

 

As, for instance, the two men holding conversation at the window, separated by a cage of parrots and wild birds, in Tarkovsky’s Solaris. Citing it as a moment of inspiration.

And following, the rain.

In the garden, we drink wild berry juices every day of the year.

 

 

245

 

She wanted to work as a medic in the war, helping at the war front. But she couldn’t imagine staring injury and death in the eyes.

 

 

 

246

 

Your voice changes.

You forget what you are doing. You have become forgetful.

You realize this on a train.

You are going somewhere.

Where are you going?

You affirm, that having a destination is good for you. You want to be good.

You think to yourself, the most important thing for me is to be free, and I can be a good person. How can I be free?

By being myself.

What if I am tortured.

You will be tortured, but Bara will protect you.

These are the things that you are. Now where are you?

 

 

247

 

Your penis is a thinking agent, as is your brain. But do not let it think too much for you. But give it some rein. You will be gratified.

You finger yourself in the anus. You smell your finger. The smell pleases you. It is the seed of waste.

I am building a temple. Berlin is my temple to Dionysus.

I am a temple to the brave.

Beirut is the temple of sorrow and home. Enumerated by mysteries of selfhood and belonging. Primitive attributes of life.

The assignment was to photograph a series. I realized…

I started going down to the most sexualized spots. The cheap video stores. Sex stores. Public showers.

I took photographs of the violence and the revulsion, and the ecstasy and the tact. There is a way of dealing with people in certain environments.

The women you want to Fuck are the women you want to become. The men you want to Fuck are only the men you do not want to become, and you know they are worth only their cocks.

Are you afraid?

You are in the heart of darkness. But if you keep your eyes steady, and your heart strong, and you maintain a happy home, you will be good.

You want nothing more than to be good, but to also be who you are.

Fuck it, you are a star.

You believe in second chances, and second lives.

You know the characters.

You are ready for your first dance.

 

 

 

248

 

He’s the type of child to think of his mother, she had said mistakenly.

 

 

249

 

When the poison is in your subconscious, it remains there. It weighs like a cancer and it grows. You cannot detect the poison, and the poison only evolves. Soon, it devours the fire, turning you into a statue of ice.

 

 

250

 

The flutist sits atop the hill. She sits alone, the lone flutist. As she plays, the hill is surrounded by drummers and the wailing mob, who have been hired to weep hysterical for the occasion. The image reminds him of his bypassing death, years of television broadcasts depicting the mourning crowds, mothers weeping and slapping themselves hysterical besides ruin and devastation. It reminds him of hope, and that he has lost it.

She is escorted by the locals to the bottom of the hill, where she continues with the flute. The tribe encircles the flutist, like she is the center amulet of a necklace.

A man from the port prepares the ferry. The tribe gathers, collecting sand in their hands and lighting it in the air. The chorus of the mob is in full flight. Somewhere, alone, the jester is weeping.

 

 

251

 

I abandoned cinema for literature, I realize, because it gives me, daily- when I can hack it- the feeling of accomplishment. Cinema takes too long. It’s the patience I tell people about that I don’t have. But the same reason I’ve never written a coherent book and probably never will. It also requires patience. I’m a daily writer. Like a newspaper reporter, writing for the dailies, except I have no truth to dispel. Nothing, however strict or elegant, can quantify my word.

Recently, I reordered my library. I came to Berlin with fifty five books. They were, of course, the result of several days- weeks- of contemplation on my part. An aggregate of the books I left behind. Books collected over six years in Beirut, two stints in New York, a hiatus- sabbatical?- in Istanbul. Books I hadn’t read yet and haven’t still. The Tibetan Book of the Dead. A few novels by Mario Vargas Llhosa- incidentally, on a recent trip back to Beirut, where I traditionally return with a selection of those books still left behind, I brought back the only book of his I ever gave a chance, The Feast of The Goat. I stopped midway, after the assassination- sorry for the spoiler, but it’s recent history. I also bought one of his others, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, from one of my favourite bookstores here, on Proskauer Strasse, around from my house, after hearing him in an interview with the BBC. He mentions his infatuation with reallissimo and Telenovelas. It sounded interesting, and somehow relevant to my story, writing through writing. At least relevant to Eldorado, long destroyed.

Incidentally, most of the books of that time were Latin American literature or pertaining to. I had just discovered Bolano a few months before, racing through The Savage Detectives, and after hearing one of the bookstores near my place in Beirut ordered off Amazon at the retail price, I went on a rampage of sorts. Cortazar, Fuentes, Bolano, Zambra. Llhosa, Lorca, Paz, Neruda. Only the kings. Only the titans.

But those first months in Berlin I didn’t read the titans. I discovered Thomas Bernhard. I bought some German books here and there I never read. It wasn’t until a trip to Paris a few months after I arrived that I discovered a modern form, a space for my heart to dwell. I brought back thirty or so books, most of them poetry. I discovered Pierre Reverdy. George Albion. That was where I discovered, again, Jimmy Santiago Bacca, and I read Neruda’s “The Furies” for the first time, aloud, on a microphone, sending it to my angel.

I found the collected Amiru Baraka, and some Hafiz.

In the twilight that is the mind.

I remember the five books my brother’s girlfriend, Maya, brought over to Beirut before I left.

Maybe that was a dance with the Latin Americans. An introduction. Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. The Collected Octavio Paz. The Collected Mayakovsky. The Collected Rilke.

I never delved in Mayakovsky. When I showed it to Sarah- whom I had bought it for but after this incident kept that to myself- she turned quickly to wet rags and dismembered the translation with her fist.

I carry Rimbaud with me, wherever I go. Has it ever really moved me? At times. On the stairwell opposing the vanguard of renaissance, in Istanbul, on the hill leading away from her house and onto Tophane, where I watched her ascend with steely eyes. There, I read “Genius”, and “Cities”, and I wrote the first verse of Bara.

Some books I’ve carried with me along the journey, for several years now, biding time until I’ve read the work. Puppet, by Kenneth Gross. Let us now Praise Famous Men, by James Aggee. Every time I open the book to start, even halfway through, I feel like I’m at the onset of a great and monumental journey, like I’m lowering my sword and humble glance at the figure of a mortal beast, from whose eyes the waste of hell spews from watery ashes, drawing open the relieving gates. But then I get bored, and I lower the book from my sweaty palms, stained with the regret of knowing.

But it’s all just a matter of time. Building the archives, sculpting the database, summiting the yellow brick walls.

It was only that summer, 2012, doused in the Rimbaudian puzzle- a fuming cloak of insolent youth, vying for captivity of an angel’s corn- that I read, for the first time, Joyce and Beckett.

 

 

252

 

“Are you mad at me?”

“No,” she says, “I’m not.”

“Even if you were, there’s nothing I can do.”

“Okay,” she says.

“I did nothing wrong.”

“I understand.”

Proud to have spoken with confidence, he retired from the room. Upon his reaching the balcony, he lifted the blinds from the door, pulling at the handle with one hand and pushing the screen open with the other. Stepping outside, he noticed a dead mother cockroach on the balcony floor, paralyzed in its weight. The antennas were longer than the insect itself, who was probably a good five inches long. The image of her little legs, a balmy green compared to the supple blackness of her shell, revolted him. The legs were curled inward, in that extravagant pose he had come to regard as the morning’s victory over his dreaded night’s accomplice.

 

 

253

 

For him, love was a sort of commitment, a promise, not necessarily, he felt, to love, but to at least put in the effort, to make like you were loving, because that’s all anything is, that’s the consummation of love- to make like it is expected to occur at that moment, considering no balance of power has changed. The sport of loving. Sport.

 

 

254

 

And he said, like he had prepared the statement throughout the meal, with the tone of someone whose only just discovered he doesn’t like his friends, and he, responding with the air of someone who’s never had any friends.

“You two eat a lot.”

“Well, we’re hungry.”

 

 

 

255

 

 

“At the time, they told me I had the choice between short term memory loss or unbearable nasal pain.”

“Wow. What did you decide.”

“I don’t think I ever made a choice. It was so hot that day.”

 

 

256

 

He wanted to pretend, for a second, that she hadn’t been the mother of a friend who had taken her life, and had instead, like in a new york film from the nineties, been a girl he happened to meet, probably nearer his age, if only order for more wisdom, at the movies on a midnight showing, that otherwise remained fairly empty.

 

 

257

 

“But I don’t compare the buildings I’m in. Or the cities. That’s what the middle class learns, to talk about everything they have, and what they don’t have.”

 

 

 

258

 

“She told me to turn the novel into a book of aphorisms, or something.”

“What do you think?”

“Honestly? Fuck her.”

 

 

259

 

And of course, the men, who had ignored the baby crying in the straw mat crib, finished all of the weed. A man was drinking a fermented fruit spirit, dry, , who hadn’t yet threatened to notice the baby lying in the crib, astonishingly still asleep, finished all of his weed, the Chilean drinking a pisco sour, without ice, which also he thought about whenevrr he watched him pour his cup, and the Arab! Who was really english in sensibility, drinking six or seven gin tonics, and not ever slurring a word.

 

And he said, pointing drunkenly to the Yemeni, “and you, Yemeni, what city would you steal off the face of the map and implant into your own country?” as though the question had been asked before, as though the answer would reveal more than just an image, or a thought.

The Yemeni furrowed his glasses between his eyes and said, one of the cities that recurs in my dreams, almost belatedly, as they had been staring at him eagle eyed, suddenly curious to this idiotic notion, that a city could be stolen off the face of the map and implanted somewhere else.”

In the corner, one of the refugees spoke,

‘I once saw a ship implanted as it was.”

And the others nodded, approved, one of them even clapped.

‘what heppened to it?” another guy asked.

“Well,’the refugee answered, ‘eventually it was stolen.”

 

 

260

 

“I’m just saying, don’t discount the power a liberal leaning public has.”

“I’m not discounting it. I just believe in other tactics.”

“Still. It’s the same.”

“No, its not the same. I wasn’t around when people believed in politics. My generation doesn’t buy into it.”

And so the two continued like that, quarrelling to the end of nothing, to arrive without a similar thread by the end, not even a similar thought, though in their having shard the same woman, and recently, a joint, they felt perhaps to have shared more already than most share in a lifetime.

 

 

261

 

He realized then that, actually he hadn’t been invited to the party, and his arrival had been a genuine surprise.

 

 

262

 

I only write at dawn. It lasts a few minutes, then I’m off. I wait for a fault in the breeze, and move on.

 

 

263

 

He realize then that he would not see her again. He would ignore her calls, take the longer way home and pay attention to figures looming in the doorway. And then, without giving it much thought- or thought to her desperate, painful approaches- he would disappear.

 

 

264

 

Even after half a beer, he felt tired.

 

 

265

 

But when she got up to say goodnight, she shrugged past her husband, and he could tell something was wrong.

 

 

266

 

He goes out for a walk.

He walks toward the flea market. On Saturdays, they sell food, and on Sundays, clothes and furniture.

The day before, as he wa spreparing for a walk, a gust of wind blew into his room, and as it elapsed into the outside again, shattered one of the windows, the foreground defense in the rustic frankfurter allee windows.

At first, he had thought someone had thrown a brick. But he was wrong. He didn’t have to see that he was wrong to realise he was wrong. He just knew no one had reason to throw a brick.

 

 

 

267

 

My wife is asleep. I make sure the door is closed. I wait for immutable silence.

I walk into the bedroom. I quietly grab the plug from the bedside table.

I plug myself.

I turn on the camera.

When I was with you, when I was fucking you, I wanted to be you.

 

 

268

 

After coming home from dinner, he sends him a text- bold move- a selfie of himself.

He ignored the message.

He went to the windows and closed the curtains. There was nobody in the house, but he still locked and closed his bedroom door. He then walked into the wardrobe room, and locked the door.

He pulls a box from a closet. He pulls a key from a drawer and unlocks the box. He pulls from the unlocked a box a doll. He pulls a sewing kit as well, and a hairbrush. Other things for hair. He returns to his room, looks past the curtains, curious if anyone is there, and goes over to his rocking chair beside the bed, facing the television, where he turns on the DVD player and starts his favourite pornographic film, brushing the dolls hair for a while.

He pulls his phone from his pocket, to read the message the boy has sent him.

 

The only way to win the revolution is to turn it into a sexual revolution. Why don’t we start with us? Let’s get on it together. Our promiscuity for violence can be better directed toward sex.

 

He had to hand it to the boy, he showed incredible persistence and nerve. The police would probably have read that message, screening all communication as they are employed to do. Employed and permitted. But he had never had anything to hide. Other than his DVDs, and a few toys in his closet. But he lived happily in the closet, away from the public eye. A public that would never understand him, or his urges. A public that discarded friends like the found carcass of a household pest.

 

 

 

269

 

He arrived early to the party. At first, he had chosen to wear a tie, along with his suit. But on the advice of his friend, who had called him earlier to inquire if he needed a ride, he was convinced not to wear a tie but to wear a comfortable suit. They would be among friends, close friends, and the conversation would not deviate from an accepted form. He needn’t present himself in any special way. They would be glad that he had come, that they had all come. After all, it was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of the hosts.

Wearing his navy blue suit, tightened at the waist and lifted at the rear, so as to accentuate his upright posture, he stepped into the lavish home. A helper greeted him at the door with a choice of champagne or sparkling apple juice, for the religious guests. He appreciated the gesture, but he found that it reminded him of an airplane hostess greeting him onto the flight. As he hated flying, he felt uncomfortable to be thinking of it now. But the helper had now felt stranded before him, waiting on his decision. Relaizing his confusion, she withdrew the tray. He had made a decision though, and reaching out for a glass of champagne at the very last minute, he managed to knock one of the glasses over, which in turn knowcked over another glass, which, when splattering into pieces, knocked over two other glasses, one of them rolling off the tray and crashing onto the floor with spectacular sound. The helper, horrified, knowing she would be blamed for the assault, was falling backward herself, and not knwing exactly ewhy, he held onto the collar of her shirt for his own support. The tray went flying from her hands, all the glasses smashing all over the place. Champagne and apple juice splattered onto a nearby painting. In their mutual collapse, they had almost knocked over an entrée table, hosting three framed family photographs, a giant vase and an impressive antique sculpture. The scene ended within seconds, but the resulting mess was unfathomable to them both. He sat in horror beside the helper, who had fallen into despair, weeping at the sight of her mess.

“Madame will be so angry,” she said, speaking over her tears, gargling her restricted breathing.

He sighed, placing his hand upon her shoulder.

“It will be okay,” he said, but he knew it would not.

Within moments, her Madame, the host herself, came rushing into the entrance. As she caught sight of the mess she let out a horrendous scream, holding at her cheeks with her palms.

“What did you do!” she yelled toward the helper, who was weeping on the floor.

“Hi Sonya,” he said, “It was my fault.”

“Of course it wasn’t your fault,” she said to him in earnest, “It’s her stupid fault, she’s never focused on what she’s doing!” Returning her attention to the helper, weeping on the floor, repeating in her restricted voice, “I’m sorry Madame, I’m sorry,” she walked over to beside her body, towering over her, yelling,” What did you do!?”, over and over again.

Madame Sonya turned back toward him, her hands stationed at her hips, like the housewife who has caught- mistakenly- the gardener stealing.

“Can you imagine, just this week she destroyed one of my dresses while ironing? And last week, the idiot,” turning her head toward the helper to assure it was her she was speaking of, “knocked over my bedside table, destroying the frame and the small painting you got me for Christmas, from Venice, the painting fell into the water she had thrown all over the floor, because she’s an idiot, and doesn’t understand that when you clean the floor, you only add a little bit of water and then it naturally dries, you don’t need to throw buckets and buckets of water all over the floor.”

Madame Sonya sighed before heaving her breath, flaring her nostrils and doing something with her eyebrows that can’t really be described, before gesturing quietly with a nimble voice to the helper, “Get out of here, go bring your broom and clean up this mess.” Then, her voice rose to unprecedented proportions. “Now! Now! Now!”

As the helper ran away from the room, Madame Sonya realized her guest, who in her mind had been faultless in the disaster, had been kept in the awful scene and away from the party. Feeling suddenly remorseful and apologetic, she lunged onto his arms and with a pouting dash of the eyes said, “I’m so, so sorry you had to see that. What do you want to drink? Michael will get it for you.”

“Michael?” he asked.

“The helper we bring for parties! Remember, he’s from one of the Portuguese colonies.”

“Right.”

He remember Michael. He had hired him for his own parties as well, long ago, but after an evening of far too much drinking and a few drags from a friend’s unique pipe tobacco, he found himself oddly attracted to Michael, gesturing to him at the end of the night, when all the guests had left and the staff was cleaning up, to share a drink with him on the veranda. Michael, without choice, obliged. Much to the credit of his drinking, by the time Michael arrived with their drinks, he had fallen asleep, but as he woke up the following morning in his bed and sleeping trousers, he figured it must have been Michael who had put him to bed, and it embarrassed him. He vowed never to hire the assuming prick again.

They passed through the tight hall leading directly into the large salon, where the aroma of a roasting lamb caught his wearied attention. Madame Sonya eventually disappeared, though she had been leading him by the arm. He caught the eyes of a friend, another engineer graduate from his days in London. Walking over to him, he gently nudged his way passed another helper, elegantly lifting a glass of champagne off the tray in his stride.

 

 

270

 

 

Earlier in his own life, he had mistaken his own feelings of shame for an ascending set of morals.

 

 

 

 

271

 

Their ideas diverged at the crucial moment. She wondered if he was right. She hadn’t understood him then, his wanting to leave without putting up a fight, wanting to build a small little temple to the things he loved without pushing them on people. He hadn’t agreed with her vision of an all out revolution, but he understood her, her needs.

She asked him if he believed in the power of art. He told her he believed in the power of its creators, that they experienced something beautiful, and that it made them better people because of it, if they were aware of the process. And that for that reason it should be spread and shared. But why sold?

And now he was back. She had been back for a while. Living quietly. At her mother’s new home. She had moved in with her mother and stepfather in their new home. It was temporary. Her mother left the home they had lived in for thirty years. With all the kids gone, though they often returned, it was too large for her mother, too sentimental, and besides, no self respecting Arab man wants to sleep in the bed of his wife’s ex-husband, no matter how modern the man is.

 

 

272

 

In the morning he was awoken by great commotion. One of the men had suffocated in his sleep. The men spoke wildly and yelled over one another. Some of the men blamed his incessant smoking, others blamed seasonal allergies. But some of the men pointed his way, saying he had been an omen. That since his arrival he had brought on terrible things. They pointed to the fact that since his intrusion into the camp, they had lost their provisions in a storm. They had been overrun and forced to seek temporary shelter, moving off course. They were forced to sacrifice the protection of their homes. What is worse, one of them has suddenly died.

He couldn’t argue their accusations. He was the first to think of himself as an evil omen. Perhaps that had driven him into the conflict. Perhaps that had driven him home.

His chief ally was himself giving him suspicious looks. He realized it would not be long before the men turned their aggression towards him. He would be lucky to survive their onslaught. If he managed to escape, he would be lucky still to survive alone in the wilderness. It all suddenly felt like a trap.

But he had to make the journey. Whatever the cost, he had to find himself at the pier. He knew there would be someone waiting for him, waiting with his provisions. He had already come a long way. He had already lost all the possessions he had. They had only to look in his eyes to see a man of purpose. A man whose destiny was intertwined with theirs. They too needed to return to the pier. They too needed to pass through the mountains.

The eldest of them rose from his spot at the far end of the tent, where he had remained all through the prior evening and into the morning, ignoring the growing cacophony of sound. But suddenly he seemed to hold some feeling of purpose. He pointed in the direction of south, speaking rather directly to the younger leaders.

“The cranes flew over last night and this morning. I saw them. And the crows were with them too.”

The men were slowly gathering around.

“What are you trying to say, old man,” one of the younger leaders said.

“If you are searching for an eagle, the eagle is in the nest.”

The men ignored him. They returned to their debates. But they had forgotten to take care of the body, to dispose it, bury it, burn it, until one of them remembered and, realizing, set off on a rant on their ignorance and laziness. How could they disrespect their own friend in such a way.

He wanted to be of help. They asked around, to see who would be willing to dispose of the body. After deciding the body should be set free in the river, just south of their march, they agreed it would take atleast three men to do the job. Were there any volunteers?

The task seemed easy enough, albeit a lot of heavy lifting while the others would probably take it easy, camping out for a night before hitting the road again, whereby the others would meet up with them ahead, flanking them. But the chances of a change in direction, a change of mind, meant that anyone who was lured off track to bury the dead fighter was also likely to meet enemy combatants, or rioting natives. The chances were slim, but they were present.

He offered his help, but they ignored him.

He approached his ally, to announce his intention.

“They don’t trust you,” he said. “They would rather leave the body here.”

“But someone has to do it,” he said in return.

“Someone will.”

The morning passed in disputed conversation. Someone had the idea of making tea and coffee over a fire. As the debate raged the men took their breaks to sip from whichever kettle was preferred. None of the men would take responsibility for the body. The sun had strengthened and the heat forced their tempers to rise. It was unlivable.

 

 

 

273

 

He hangs in the city square. Void of mourners, there was no reason to station any guards. Not even the memory of his life, flashing at speed his final days. Urging a declaration of triumph, his body held still against the weight of shamal winds. A stranger inspects his body. No sign of struggle, he leaves.

Buoyed by the passing of another martyr, the crowds concealed their guilt in triumphant celebrations. A lasting peace forged on the result of war. Storming the city walls, they found the men had deserted their families, and the women, children in arm, lying on the floor, naked but a wreath.

The horns sounded regularly in the afternoon. The day’s events already forgotten. In the practice of missing things, items gone unnoticed, suspicion was reserved for the elderly, and most of them had gone blind. The horns sounded their triumphant song, a lowlying chorus of mourning whales, drifting toward the peninsula. They had spoken of things as they truly were, and there, it was infinite. Between the harbor of a peninsula, the fate of others mourned.

 

 

274

 

I take a photograph of an old man. He does not inspire me, but he accepts to have his photograph taken, so who am I to judge? I spend the morning overlooking the bridge, sensitive to the touch of her crow’s caw.

 

 

275

 

He had recently returned. The street had changed, but not much. The waste colonial buildings had been replaced by towering crystal falls. But the people remained the same. Classless. Elegantly dressed. Nosy.

Fortunately, his view hadn’t been obstructed. Most of the apartments were deserted. Some of them barricaded with reinforced steel, others with two layered slabs of concrete. Impossible to penetrate without a bulldozer or government iron will. But his view remained the same. A palm tree that stood in the center where the backside of four buildings watched. A garden had slowly grown in the place of cars and tired cement. He recalled how in the old days his neighbors would throw eggs, tomatoes, ice cubs at his lowered balcony, to quiet him and his friends. He was young then, and loud. But they were probably gone now. If they survived the evacuation order, they were probably still alive, feeding off the generosity of others.

He walked into the different rooms, where everything remained exactly as it were. He was surprised to find it relatively clean, even after so many years. For instance, he only found three dead cockroaches in the kitchen, and none in any of the rooms. Downstairs, he found a few lying outside the housekeeper’s apartment. Presumably a better place for them to nest. But he was happier this way.

He looked over to the terrace of his friend, across the way. Her terrace was larger, far more spacious, probably six times the size of his. His was long, and thread like, though it was furnished well. A Hollywood swing, a seating area, an eating area, and a small wooden fence that separated that portion of the space from where the laundry was hung to dry. Her terrace, squared with bronze railings that drew up knee high, overlooked the common garden, that used to serve as a large parking lot for all the tenants, and those who worked in offices nearby. But the offices had shut down and the tenants were gone. So a selection of persevering bush had grown in its place.

 

 

 

276

 

He boards the bus. The man sitting next to the driver inspects his ticket. He takes a while with the ticket in his hand, but ultimately he is satisfied. The driver, in his forties, well built, with broad shoulders and large, reaching pecks, so that his shirt can’t button all the way to the top, and a shadow sits under his breasts, ignores the exchange but grumbles under his breath, something about strangers on the longest ride. The assistant, an old man slouched in his seat, a cushion without a back rest next to the driver, as though the seat is there for the driver’s proverbial child, stares longingly to the outside world, wondering to what extent he has accepted his position. Tufts of hair rise from both men’s breasts escaping the second to last button of their shirts. The anticipation in either man is palpable.

The bus carries a varying number of passengers, with three doors, one by the driver, and two after the eighth row. Stretching from the northernmost tip of the country, at a border that has been closed for years, the bus travels to the southernmost tip of the country, to the last port before the overlapping hills that comprise the other end of an impassable spectrum. Though, it must be said, many try to pass. It is often overlooked, in reviewing the laws of mobility, the extent to which people prefer to take matters into their own hands, where many have proven that they would rather die on a journey into the unknown than waste in a world already dying as they know it.

Throughout the journey, people leave and people join, but the passenger in our radar remains. Over the course of the journey people will wonder who he is and what he is doing there. They will look to his outfit, a black shirt worn over black pants, black socks and black shoes, for answers. But they are wrong to do so. They will look into his eyes, and look into his features, hoping to understand something about him from his lips, the texture of his skin, the dryness of his hands, patches around the knuckles of blood, and across his face, scarring from untreated acne wounds. They will search his breath for signs of drinking. They will aspire to hear his voice, hoping he will have to answer the phone, or ask another passenger a question.

The color of his skin is not an issue, because he shares the national complexion. He is of average height, slightly tanned around the neck and arms, and wears a light stubble beard that thickens at his chin and jaw. Does he spend his work outside, they ask themselves? Does he pray? What brins a man like that to this part of the world?

It used to be that the country hosted many tourists, throughout the calendar year, owing to fine year round weather and a selection of historic sites. But the man is not a tourist, and tourists have not been seen in years. He doesn’t seem to be culturally clumsy, like a tourist, fumbling over his lines, overzealous, extending himself into other people’s conversations. He doesn’t use inappropriate gestures, speaking louder than the rest. Nor does he share the standout characteristics of appearance, dressed in a shroud of black, the man isn’t on vacation, he is clearly a man of work. He has no bag to him, only three small books he carries in his hand. Though his boots are obviously of good leather, and have been taken care of, manufactured for a European twentieth century trench war, they seem to have gone some time without polishing, suggesting he may have already been traveling some time. The steel studs have been removed, but the horseshoe on the heel remains. A stranger, but not a foreigner. Somehow, integrated. Not only that, but he is alone.

In recent months, the wave of guerilla fighters, mercenaries, inexperienced fanatics of war, hoping to join the revolutionary ranks has increased dramatically, especially given the often emerging rumors of imminent regime, or rebel, defeat. Could he be one of these fighters, crossing the established borders with only his necessary documents in hand, expecting not to bring anything over to the other side? Where are the fatigues? Are they given over the border, once someone is entrenched with the fighters? Are they stored somewhere in the hulk? The pants he’s wearing won’t last a good fight, though they’re obviously of good quality. They aren’t tailor made, but they’re a decent cut of denim.

The bus finally sets sail, with all the passengers onboard.

Maybe he is a man on the run. A man hoping to evade the lingering presence of the past. It suits a man of his style, to run, romantically, over the hills of Anatolia, into the Levant, a stretch of earth so beautiful, captivating to the eye, it is said, Alexander the Great stuttered in his stumbling steps upon seeing it, crossing it with help from the divine.

Or maybe he has forgotten his past, and he is in need of it. Maybe, somewhere, along the marauding torch of youth, cascading the empty lines of a vigilant soul, he disappeared too far into the depths to know his way around, to return uncoothed. A man who may have fallen prey to disease, and lost everything he owned, only to resurface healthier, healed, some years later, and having lost everything he ever had, went in search for something he may still own. A man on the search for possession. A man of great and enduring thirst. Or a man who has been struck by psychic illness. Automatism Ambulatoire. Disassociation. Nostalgia. Melancholy. Whoever the man is, he takes his eat on the seventh row, by the window, climbing the hours to the forthcoming border lines.

 

 

 

277

 

She was working too many hours. Working a job she couldn’t care less about, and a job that kept her from her vocation, from her real life intention.

As a photographer, she had never understood the inclination she had to do what she did. To step into someone’s life, interrupt its natural flow like an accident, an intrusion, steal from the elements, adapting, considering, for sunlight, heaving winds, shadows, reflections.

He had always told her, you do what you do because you want to capture the figments of beauty you discover. But where does beauty reside when I’m not there, she wondered. And where does it come from? And besides, she hadn’t taken a photo in months. To say she was a photographer made her feel like a fraud. Her last time out, on one of her usual excursions she relied so heavily on, where she woke up feeling agitated, insecure, abandoned by feelings of comfortable inspiration, the desire to do good, the room suddenly filled with the vacuum of romantic love, mornings where she could no longer find goodness and make friends with it, to become companions over the years, entombed in a shroud of dread and feeling the rising tide of nihilism claim her bones, she would pick up all her cameras, throw on some towel like rags that cost too much to look the way they did, smoke a joint if she had one, which she probably did, and head out into the open streets, indifferent to her then as they are to her now, being simply the way she liked it. In the damp autumn of Istanbul, in the wild winters of Chicago, in the fragile derailment of Beirut, she harnessed the powers, braving cat calls and slippery feet, neighborhood junkies that pulled their sickle shanks like sacred scarves. As a kid, coming of age amidst turmoil and devastation, she found a home in the abandoned squalor homes, the empty townhouses, the indifferent social classes who waged war on their own perception, at least in her mind, by destroying the aesthetic nature of their surroundings. She enjoyed photographing the emptiness, the destruction, but finding in them something aesthetically pleasing, like they were designed that way, like it was natural, like it should happen should it happen again. She discovered the feeling, photographing a city recovering from wounds that would open more often than they could heal, and as a student impressed in the torrential Chicago winter, she perfected it, riding the waves of inspiration, a curse and a gift, careful not to neglect when it arrived, cautious not to force the cause if it wasn’t really there.

But she had returned home, and she was slaving away, working for a mainstream treating gallery that was really the bored projection of a bourgeois woman’s fear of becoming a housewife. The owner, a tall and bulky witch with artificially blond hair and artificial nails, did not suit her notions of art, of gallery spaces, of the sale and sailing soul. She had grown up in a system of dysfunction, yes, but she preferred the world of charming aesthetics to plastic consumerism dictated by a social mass. A mass that could be studied by numbers, by clicks on a mouse, by trends. A mass who presented themselves in algorhythm’s. A mass who surveiled themselves, and who conducted surveillance on others.

She wasted too many of her precious hours.

(lead into 271)

 

 

 

277

 

His back ached. He cracked his back. He cracked his neck. He tried to twirl his head around his neck. He knew he needed a new chair, desperately. A working chair. Something to protect the back. He had the hunch of a colorist, or pedophile.

 

 

278

 

She didn’t find him funny when he made his jokes. Not his jokes in public. She didn’t mind him at home, but he was easier to handle when he was at home, alone, without her fear that he would mistakenly say something she couldn’t then cover up. He loved to blow his cover, had spent the better part of his adult life trying to amend all his fears.

 

 

 

279

 

How could I have known where I had come? Walking with my head lowered, fending off the glaring eyes. I turned the corner before I realized, and then I saw her.

How long has it been? I should have approached her. I should have gone up to her and said something, if only to touch her pale face, if only to run my hands along her neck, to hold her again at the waist, easing her into my welcoming arms. I didn’t.

She was standing there, standing with someone, intimately, her long arms stretched onto his shoulders, resting her weight against his. She still had that look about her. She had everything about her. That behavior that starts with a jolt of her lower back and I feel m heart sinking, and hers, rising. From my place I could see into her eyes. They resonated with health, and life, reflecting the evening light without exhausting the surroundings. Somehow, she managed to survive through the exhaustion.

I never forgot her laugh, and she was laughing now, laughing at something he had said. Her back stuttering with her hungry laughs. She returned her arms around him. She kissed him. I couldn’t see his face but I imagined him smiling.

I stood there a while down the road from her, wondering what I would do if she ever noticed me, but she had never noticed my lurking in the shadows and figured she wouldn’t notice now. She looked well. Beautiful, mesmerizing, alive. The fear that once kept her from attaining a certain height was gone from her. I saw that now.

Was she on the verge of stability? Comfort? Home?

I looked up, reaching my blessings to the sky. If only it would rain, I thought. It would be so fitting to rain. It never did.

After a while she disappeared into the shadows from where I came, taking her accomplice and vanishing from sight. A phoenix of the heart.

I walked over to her house. I stood on the street in front of the steel enclosure, peering into the garden, deserted now, in its own inhabited way, so that the gardenias I remembered were replaced by dust and ash, the olive trees that lined the passage replaced by an unintentional collection of plastic debris, things falling apart, wooden book shelves, clay pots, a porcelain vase, several mirror frames, put together in a sad line of desertion. I pushed open the gate, feeling the eroding paint chipped onto my hands, the violet that decorated the walls a sad and pathetic brown. Carefully, I walked forward, to the sound of a cello playing inside, rising in octaves and intonation, a call, I assumed, for my arrival. I peered in through the glass window. It was her mother, seated alone in the dilapidated center of the room, surrounded by the loss of all her valued things, playing as she always did every night, overtures of hope, refusing to lament the dead. She didn’t believe in death, older now but still beautiful.

I turned my eyes away. I left.

 

 

 

280

 

He did not know in that moment where he had arrived. He slowed down, his head fixed to the ground, like a tired dog stepping into a wet guttural home. He turned a corner, where he felt he had been freed, led by his own decision. Then, he saw her.

No length of time can imply how long it had been since he’d seen her last. It would seem he had passed through paradigms unscathed, supplied to hold her in his sight once more. But could it be so romantic! He had expected the end to be kinder to his frail needs. But he realized he was paying his penal price.

He urged with the fire of his youth to approach her, but he could not move from his place. He remained transfixed, a marching fiend stripped of his legs. He knew he should have, in that moment, gone up to her, to salvage, at least, a memory he could carry over the passing.

The endangered street. The cabin rope we lunged over the drowning rails. The image of you dancing at the fountain. Somebody must have saved you. I was a fool for you, he thought, a mule.

He watched her, beside the steel enclosure of a home. Scattered images of a life together. The shading of the light, the shadow of the street lamp forming on their shoulders. Had she been warned, she might have noticed the stranger lurking in the shadows. But she would never notice. The insignificant loom large.

Sometime later she disappeared, they all disappear. He had crouched in the darkness, mesmerized by the memory, overtaken by calm. He wished for himself that the feeling would last. Having seen it all again.

He walked over to her house, dreary with ornaments of fall. The path had led him there and he relented to reflect. Inside, he heard the playing of her mother’s cello. He peered in through the glass, stained with the embellishment of lived life. Her mother wilted in her chair, as she had done each night, playing a song of hope. She refused to lament the dead. She didn’t believe in death, older now but still beautiful.

With the image impressed in his mind, he walked. He heard a voice he recognized call his name.  It wasn’t true. Nobody knew his name. He had come a long way to return where he had begun. Still, he did not hear his name when it might have saved him.

The endings surged and seized hold of him. He was alive, yes, the boy was at last alive.

The next morning sang the wail of a new beginning, it surprised them all. The ash fell in citrus rain. You would have wept at the sight, he would say. The jester must’ve been watching, lurking as he does.

 

 

281

 

I keep having these dreams. I find myself on the top of a large structure and can’t make my way down. I don’t have the patience to take slow steps downward. I call for help. People look at me but nobody listens. Do you have this dream? And then I’m on a journey. At some sort of station. With a lot of foreigners. And I see a young boy almost get crushed by the train. I meet a few of the people. They all know where they’re headed. I seem to have lost a book, but I don’t know where I’m going. I like some of them, and one of them has a dog, so I follow him. But every room we go into carries the carcass of a cockroach, dead on its back. Or the room is infested. The cockroaches scurrying everywhere, all around us. The dream turns into a nightmare, where everything I see, hear, feel is the determined by these cockroaches, by their presence. I see them everywhere, and they know I am there. People tell me to relax, or they fall into the trap. We become vigilant. We try to defeat them. It is impossible. Alas, I am alone in a room, just me and this other world. I stand before the cockroach tribe, and I am inducted. They chew through my limbs into the bone. I disappear into the palms of their silky whiskers. My greatest fear has been realized.

“What book were you carrying?”

“What?”

“In the dream. The one you lost.”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do you enjoy forgetting the important details?”

“No. I remember everything. Why is the book important.”

“Maybe it’s not, but we surprise ourselves.”

“These dreams. They are the worst of me.”

“Have you seen the face of the cockroach tribe?”

“I have sat before the king.”

“What is your greatest fear?”

“That I have become a cockroach. That I am one. That we are all cockroaches. Filthy, disgusting insects without a soul. Punished to be born in multitudes and scour in the shadows for our food. Asocial, asexual. That every one of us has a cockroach mirror, a cockroach spirit doppelganger. That is the basis of our instinct. That we can assume the degradation of the cockroach. That I am one of them already.”

 

 

282

 

It was a dream. Like all dreams, the end was familiar. He would wake up in a panic and stare at the ceiling, stare into the crevices of the room, lighting his eyes to the window’s twilight canvas creeping through the felt curtains. He would search in desperation for a swift movement, an oval black form scurry across his sight, probably at an angular lift and speed from one dark corner to another. He would stare satiated at the whitewashed wall, where he had gone lengths to prohibit the hidden secrecy that affords a cockroach movement. He believed it was inevitable that a cockroach would appear in his room, at some point during the summer seasons, and sometimes late into fall, and definitely in the spring, depending on the rains. But he believed he could prevent a cockroach from nesting in his habitat, from taking comfort in his home. Within two weeks he wouldn’t only have one to deal with. If it were a mother, there could up to two hundred crawling about his room. The mere thought of this disgusted him so violently he shuddered, repeatedly, shuddering in his bed, his shoulders riding up to his neck, his hands nervously rubbing at the back of his head, down the nape of his neck. Everywhere he looked, every turn of his eyes a small black figure twitched away from his sight. He couldn’t sleep again tonight. He wouldn’t be able to sleep.

He rose from his bed.

 

 

283

 

You get down on your knees. You unzip his pants. You put your hands through the zipper and pull out his cock. As you do so, as you touch the tip of his cock with your tongue, you look up at his eyes. You stare into his eyes. You know it turns him on, to see your large, brooding eyes with his cock on the tip of your tongue, teasing.

 

The last time, she only fit the head of his cock inside her mouth. She tilted it upward, to draw her tongue from the length of his balls and up to the head. His cock grew inside her mouth. As it grew, she imagined what it would be like to fuck him.

 

You lick the entire shaft. You hold the cock with your right hand, tilting it upward, so as to draw your tongue from the length of his balls and up to the head, whereby you drip the erect cock into your mouth. Already hard, the cock grows even more inside your mouth. You ease your saliva onto the cock and push it deep into your throat. You suck outward, pulling it away, then you let it smack against your lips, teasing him with your eyes.

 

The last time, you only fit the head of his cock inside your mouth. This time, you fit his entire cock, even as it grows. As it grows, you imagine what it would be like to be penetrated by this man’s cock. You realize your posture and you sit up straight, straightening your back so the width of your butt is accentuated by its resting on your calves, the soles of your feet pointing outward. You start to make noises to accompany the spitting sound of your slow, seductive sucking, to accompany the sound of his groans. He looks away for a second, a temporary pleading to the sky, wondering why he’s put himself in this incriminating position, knowing it will be impossible to resist ever again. You bite his cock, gently, to lead him back into your grip. You offer him your eyes, and when he meets your pleading eyes, you fill your mouth and throat with his entirety.

 

He swells and you feel him stutter. It doesn’t take long and he pulls you by the back of your head, forcing himself deep inside of you. He pushes forward six or seven times before tightening the muscles of his legs, his ass, his thighs, and you feel his semen shoot into your mouth. You allow him total control, and he pulls your head deeper toward him, and then he relents, you hear him groaning above you, you feel his cock soften inside your mouth, the semen slowly sliding down your throat, his softening cock lodged between your tongue and gums, you slide the cock outward and rub the shaft with one hand while you lick the cock from his balls to the head with your hungry feasting tongue. He moans, and moans, with pleasure. You hold your stare, waiting for his eyes to reopen, for him to return from orgasm. When he returns, you offer a smile while cleaning up the remaining semen from his cock. He smiles, he laughs. You kiss the tip of his cock several times. You let go. You smile, putting your hands between your legs, staring at him with pleading eyes. He strokes your hair. He holds your chin. Suddenly he is confident. He no longer feels that he is wrong. That he has let himself go, to the hunger he has repressed his entire life. He stares at you with love, with thanks. He appreciates your work. He lets go of your chin. You lick your lips. Your work is done.

 

 

 

284

 

The protagonist found means to make amends with the militant crowd prior to their arrival at the encampment. They walked through the passage that aimed at the waterfall. The trail carried along a descending stream.

Few poets pass the threshold, and few mystics themselves return. The weightless forms that grapple the artist and drive their ascent of the sacred mountain can just as easily deliver them to despair. Behind the veneer of solitude and enlightenment there remains the lone filament figure of a man striving to equate his beast with himself. He had suffered an incessant and tenuous need to return with an elixir to his peers. But to do so he had to manifest its very existence, and this, in essence, was impossible. It has been surmised, that he was oscillating between two distinct poles, two positions, never completely himself. In such a way, he had sought the keys to a labyrinth that would always open from another side.

 

 

285

 

Weaned into spending long, momentous afternoons in reflection, idling away over beers and cigarettes by the harbor, watching the fishermen and sailors in their habitat, moving to the emphatic tantrum that is the port.

 

 

286

 

The office was colourful, but it was bland because of how things were spaced out. It would have been much more appealing had the rug been entirely removed, and the original tiles maintained, tacky as they were, they brought a nostalgic effect to the space.

 

 

287

 

I wash my hands beside a fountain. A man stands beside me grumbling and spitting tales under his breath. The myths permeate his mind. Voices in the distance and our immediate past. He knows this, better than you or I. I leave and watch him follow my footsteps, drawing himself            towards the fountain. He washes his face and then his parts, applying the water tenderly against his ailing skin. He is diseased, that much is obvious. His body is losing, his mind, squandered, and if he admits he has no soul left he will find himself dead in the alone. Tell me you never want this for me. Tell me I deserve dignity, home. Take me with you when you go, to the slaughterhouse rooftops, the pier off the lighthouse, the steps at my grandmother’s home. I will feed you honey and dates I collect from a camel’s womb. Are you listening? Let’s circle the tribes with the whirling dervish who caught our souls dancing! The wise man says, “I am superior and alive in thinking of you,” while the sage says, “Home is in my hands.” I clench my hands together to hold you in my palms. To keep you there, where you are safe, and a stranger’s harm won’t near you.

Night falls. The floor of rats pray by my fingers tracing the jungle of our disguise. The streets bare naked in anarchy. Sniffing fume proposals from an authoritarian nightmare. Will we meet again? If you sense desperation in my voice it is only because today I remember the woman who burnt herself alive before us all and we did nothing but scold ourselves in her memory. The bums fall over begging for change, and a second chance, for legacy. I point to the fountain two levels away on the ground. The eyes tell me they want mine, from my hands. I give them my hands, to feel them. The youngest tells me to go on home, the time is almost over. “I’m waiting for permission.” “From what,” he asks, “…to have a home is to really have one.”

Warnings from the Hassidic tides- the full moon is arriving. Waxing and waning of an inner turmoil. Archetypes and comforting signs. The chance to exhibition a monologue is given to me. What will I read? Has it been commissioned? I hear the bells ring the city’s charm. I remember the instruments off my uncle’s good arm. The cigarette plastered to my grandmother’s lips, reading a kind joke. I trace figures of the prophet and my sister in an embrace. My father’s moustache, my lover’s hands. I wander the vacuum of memory, sit on the edge of the park grass. A resting place. To die without form. To incarnate into energy. As I leave an old man asks to take a photograph of his face and hands, ruined in the biting twilight. He points at a stack of cameras on the ground. “Is one of them yours?” He shrugs. I step over the punk with his head in the gutter. His wounds fit firmly in his skin. I hide the urge to laugh. A hooker turns without her shoes. She counts riches with the wetness of her cunt. “How much longer do I have?” She orgasms.

The bells ring universal alms. The sick bastard is gone, off somewhere, losing his fight to the disease, offering his tongue to the minors who walk in. The fools eat my nails when I lunge them at their eyes. I  yearn for the taste of melancholy. The summer sheds her precious filament skies. Spring won’t set in next year I can feel it. I am the poet I never dreamed. I sleep with the little mystics in the courtyard, overlooking the water from the hospital garden. I wonder if the image of death is blatantly bound to the image of a garden, hounded by scriptures that pervade the chimes. The word sits in a figurehead’s drawer. Installations lit on fire by the river. The contents of mind disinfecting. “The part that hurts the most was sorting who to pay for burial.” I sleep with my neighbor because he’s gone blind. I drown in your aimless reaches. The flood restores my agency.

 

 

 

288

 

He had reached a point of severity- indifference. He had felt it come before but as it did in those times it was often met with rebuttal- change, of some sort, that he would accept its coming and go on. He had often wished that he would be drawn in a wave of passion to some cause that might ignite in him the unquenchable desire to live. But as he grew older and came to know himself above all other things, from which point he could perceive all other things, he had to reconcile with the fact there existed nothing of any such kind to which he felt driven to serve, indebted to live, privileged to participate. He had known life well and it summed up his grievances that he should end it on his terms. Even the excitement of an unnerving death lurking around the corner has waned, he reasoned. What might have been different will never be known, he thought, so that I act based on what I know.

 

 

289

 

There is always the possibility that the visitors to the room remain too long. The air frees the body, at first. It is comfortable inside. Outside, the hassle of citizenship, and borders. What for? Why, most visitors ask themselves, should I return outside, and suffer? The port is empty. The rooms are clean. One can travel far in the rooms, and meanwhile, they are fed well. Honey and gold, warm bread, date pudding, olives picked freshly from a nearby farm. The whole feeling is of the simplicity of a dream.

 

 

290

 

An ironic stage of separation, disassociation, for the visitors, is of finding the gate, and realizing, that one is not confined to the room, like it is usually imagined, taken for granted, as existential fact, during the course of a trip. But there is a very thin thread that separates those permeating the lengths of the room and those whose hesitation, what some might call the survival instinct- though survival of what is also in question, as what limits the trajectory into the cosmic order of the room’s visionary state is the limiting protectorate of the Ego- draws them back.

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlowe writes of Kurtz, both of them having experienced a similar descent or passageway into the interior of their psyche, that it was Kurtz who had travelled further, going so far as to surpass into, “the final stage of madness and confrontation with the ultimate deep.” Marlowe says, “Kurtz had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot.” For those who do not commit entirety, subjecting their subjectivity to the full possibilities of rapture within the subconscious psychic realm, it is never known how far, or how close, they have come towards that maddening state, the upheaval.

This upheaval, the force that impales and causes great disorder, is regarded as the Dionysian force, of Dionysus. In The Lively Image, Hughes writes in his study on Dionysus, that he is the “enigmatic god, the spirit of a dual nature and of paradox.”

A textual source of reading is an upset balance and constantly striving for wholeness, a text that reasserts itself continuously, jostling between a state of Ego-chaos and a state of cosmic tranquility. We find evidence of the world itself existing within this paradigmatic confrontation, whereby the roots of the world are in a constant state of confrontation with themselves.

Basing the entire work on a journey through the abandoned port (read the womb of Narcissus, the unfulfilled desire to return to the sacred garden, the feeling of exile and loss of innocence of the primordial self, the celestial self destroyed), the thread that allows for the safe passage of both our narrator, and as we know the novel was written in subjective experience of the novel, the writer himself, being similar to the thread of Theseus, being the return to a beginning, a constant self-referential calibration, where the writer reminds himself of what he is presently doing, in order to survive confrontations owing their tutelage to the Dionysian force, the upheaval of the writer himself.

 

 

291

 

Within several hours of his diagnosis, and the story fits perfectly with the legend of his having been a patient in a house for those facing terminal illness, the infection grew onto his face. He was under the impression he had been molested in another room, a variation of his conscious dimension. The only method available at the time, consisted of a soluble lipid mixture, known as worms. The worms were known to target the infiltration of a parasite, extending from an interior cancerous buildup, or an infiltration from an exterior source, probably, a visitor of another matrix. The worms were piled into an aquarium to concoct a remedy for his condition. It had been expected that he would be concerned, worried over his worsening condition. An early assessment proved that the incisions made from an exterior infection were giving way to scabs, where the larvae of a familiar parasite would grow. But those whose task it was to administer some remedy were also ill at the hands of superstition, and the markings on his body did great damage to his reputation. He seemed, in their eyes, under the spell of some curse.

 

 

292

 

 

Old Timer began making like he was ready to leave. He’d unplugged his guitar from his tape player amp, the most beautiful, wonderfully inspiring makeshift anything I’d ever seen. I’d only known the man a half hour but I knew I loved him. I held immense love for this man, who felt the pressures of the world and could feel our spirits waning to the lull of a victim age. He gathered the instruments of need like a hysteric hoarder preparing for the apocalypse. Yelling about the space age, the space wars, and the food we eat out of our hands. A man who has seen the marauding tantrums of a punk and dissident age spiral into the frenzy of contemporary compliance. He forgave me for the deaths of all those marines, whose souls were washed away on our shore, not so long ago. The big native man playing a busted guitar out of a tape cassette amp for the promise of a few dollars. Lessons of empathy, lessons of rage. He was losing his belief as quickly as I was and even if we never saw each other again we’d probably lose it around the same time.

“Hey man. You off?”

“Yeah brother. I’m out for the night.”

He finishes loading his gear, the little shining box sitting desert white like the surface of the moon.

“Good talking to you man. Always good to have someone around who listens. Young kids don’t seem to have respect for the things I have to say. Not that I’m a man of much respect but I know a thing or two and I appreciate you hearing me. Seriously. One love brother.”

We pound, shake hands, I hug him and can’t find the words to express my thanks. Whoever I had come with I already lost. They spent the night inside the confines of a social jar hiding from the faces of their own steam, and I felt grateful to have listened to whatever he had to tell me. He seemed sad in a way, dispelling his sad truths onto a face my age, and I could read it in his eyes. Like he felt obliged somehow to deceive me into believing he had hope of some kind and that I could find some of my own.

I tried to reassure him by staying quiet, respecting everything he says, and I hope that he believed me. In the deep stretch of urban night, stumbling upon a consciousness to be shared by strangers from either pothole of the world, the important thing is for both victims to accept the other is there in a genuine sense and appreciate that. As he    left he reminded me of the oddities and irregularities talk shows on the radio every night, sometime at four in the morning, an hour of cosmic transformation.

I watched him leave and felt somewhere in my heart that’d be the last honest man I’d meet in America. It’s a fool’s sad, leaving song,           I thought, the race to destroy footprints we make in the sand. Dead minds in a dead vehicle cube. I felt choked by my vessel, choked by my clothes. What’s real is the doubt, I hear the taunting chorus say, and your necks too far down your chest to know it.

 

 

293

 

The protagonist is woken by a feverish dream. Realizing that it is only a few minutes after ten, he puts on his clothes and takes a walk to one of his favored bars. He finds an old friend there, and together they expend a bottle of cheap bourbon.

 

 

294

 

He felt suddenly then he had to leave America. In having to leave New York he had to leave the States. He did not want to ride West in a romantic impersonation of Kerouac and Co. and he felt wherever he went he had to write something. As a student he’d lost a love for writing because he had to do it excessively regardless of inspiration and in those days he needed the impulse of inspiration. But he’d always felt a keenness to write and felt now that he might, if he would choose correctly, and put himself where it mattered most, he would be able to write.

 

 

295

 

Playing with subtlety and tact, but for the most part, going straight for the kill, approaching the monster like he has two heads, and both of my hands can squeeze them.

 

 

 

296

 

The slave figure is the hero, because he is that figure himself. Through the classification and administration of the hero figure, he slips into the comforting dress of the slave and parachutes gladly into the butcher’s Oriental home. Writing from the perspective of those who do not own the means to their intelligence, or, the education to their own pasts, he directs his message to his indifferent captors. But he is unable to summon anything more than a light, technical job, a surface insult at best.

The writer tries for irony and wit, but he loses the weight of struggle when he calcifies his words. He is more effective, and fierce, when he speaks directly to the destruction of his oppressor, and not to the oppressor’s repulsive qualities.

 

 

 

297

 

In the neighborhood in which he was found, a dark, dilapidated enclave of antifascist Berlin, they never knew him by his real name, or any given name, just as the one who buried a butterfly, and to the elders, the one who did the same.[10]

 

 

298

 

The houses are quaint, tainted though by time, eroded by sand storms, a layer of dust masking the walls.

“Is she there now?”

“What do you want with her?”

“Nothing. Just curious.”

“Don’t be too curious.”

The boys drifted away from his sight. He sat under the umbrella of a frontyard, peering across a flat plain of concrete, hundreds of meters wide. His steps, when walking, echoed in the darkness. He stood in the middle of the plain.

He returned to his thoughts, wondering if Chimea were coming for her possessions. By the end of the plain he descended a flight of stairs, painted in rainbow colors. A townhouse door opened, a steel gate pushed wide open. He walked cautiously into a factory basement, large masses of stone and concrete. Through the door an alleyway appeared, which he followed. A voice called from behind him.

“Hello?”

He turned around, speaking without finding the vocal figure.

“Yes?”

“What is your business here?”

“I am searching for something.”

“Where from?”

“The other end of town.”

The voice stepped out from the darkness.

“Can I help you?”

It was the Persian, wearing a robe, covered with a veil.

“Are you a mystic,” he asked.”

“I’m just walking.”

“How long have you been here?”

“I’m not sure.”

The cloaked ascetic came nearer, removing his veil. He smiled, speaking kindly, bowing his chin.

“There is nothing past here.”

“Very well. I will go the other way.”

 

 

 

299

 

He walked into the room- his room- flopped onto his bed. He stared at the ceiling in awe. How mindless it is to be a ceiling, he thought, thinking nothing but observing, being by having been put there…Like, a plant in the corner, dying when it does, probably of thirst, or loss of light. People are strangely sad, for a brief moment, before throwing the plant away. The soil is wasted, and the pot becomes something else, like a helmet or a box.

 

Once inside the bedroom, Sarmad flopped onto the bed, laying flat on his face, cupping the outskirts of the bedframe with his outstretched arms.

300

 

The story goes on to speak of the ruler’s fortunes, of what he has controlled by means of coercion and what he has obtained through wit. The reality is of a town, nonetheless, abandoned by cultural output and production. No plays because there are no more playwrights, and theatre last seen in the province some generations ago. A port town where it is impossible to differentiate between the living and the dead. Where it is unknown whether any living being exists at all.

 

The article went on to speak of Ulach’s fortunes, on what he had controlled or attained by coercion or force, and what little he had obtained through smarts or wit. It played him as the son of a hard working man, and of a fortunate son who wanted nothing more than to rise above his father. The reality of the article upset even the harshest opponents of Ulach Bey. It spoke of a town that had abandoned the little reserve of integrity the political sphere allowed. It hurt them to be lodged in the same class as Ulach Bey, the man who redefined class to his leisure, and suppressed those who opposed his view of it.

 

 

He felt sorry for him. The accusations made against him in public were grave. How much courage he had shown in even coming to the party. Was he still going to work? Did he still show his face at the office?

As he shifted in his suit, hand tailored by Toufiq Jarrar, navy blue pinstripes, accompanied by a sophisticated Jenny Sweaters scarf, lighting the end of his cigar with his Royale watch gleaming under the hosts Able Electronics overhead lamp, he looked like a man at ease, willing the fight.

But he knew it wasn’t true. He had heard from his wife, who had heard from his wife, that he was depressed. His daughter was refusing his calls for her to return home. She was intent on staying put in District 1, serving as a secretary to a small time political adviser, typing up his notes and sitting in on budget meetings for charter schools and public prisons. It wasn’t the life he had in mind for her, and he tried explaining to her, reasoning with her, that it wouldn’t be the life she had in mind for herself, with time, and she mustn’t do anything she might possibly regret. Ofcourse he was referring to the much gossiped rumors that she had fallen in love with a peddler type from the Lower Branch, who lived in a housing project with his parents. But what could he tell her? He had married her mother out of love, against the good wishes of his family.

It might have all been easier for him, had he not been subjected to public humiliation at work. Poor, poor man, Bidra thought. He felt sorry for him.

They had raised their kids together. They used to play in the park outside the house, the circular Bowling Park that served as a roundabout around the Head’s Eye, as his old neighborhood had been called at the time. Before the PLS had come to power, it was named after the late poet Joseph Hassad. Hassad Square. There must have been some intellectuals of a certain pedigree for irony in the establishment. He would have enjoyed the circular enclave to be named after him a square.

Awfully close. Awfully awfully close. The relationship could not have been better. They spent two weeks together in Repose, the getaway southwest of the port. It was a first time for his family, too. It was a big occasion for them, to travel in that class of people and to do so with friends they had recently made at home.

A few months after Shadia was born, Mirna called his wife, Hadia, to ask if she could recommend a new maid for them, as theirs had run away. Run away? When, thought Hadia. “During the trip,” Mirna said. “Didn’t you notice?” They hadn’t noticed. They hadn’t even noticed the maid’s presence the entire time. Speaking it over with Hassan, he expressed shock himself. It was at that moment they wondered if their own maid, Vinetta, had run away. She hadn’t, and so they asked her for any recommendations for Mirna, regarding a new maid. Vinetta seemed upset, acting strange, so they pried. What’s wrong, they asked, communally, hovering over her little dungeon the way a pair of hens wait for a worm to crawl out from under a rock. Vinetta explained that, before Suli had run away, she spent an entire night revealing to Vinetta all the terrible truths about her bosses. The mister, Hassan, had been caught lying to his wife, though she didn’t know from what, but it had something to do with a rash, and that Mirna was now seeing a doctor, and it was bad. The kids didn’t know anything was wrong, but Mirna wanted to tell them, as she was certain they would take her side. They hated the father, who often punished them with verbal abuse and sometimes took them into a room to beat them with a belt. He even beat his daughter, and one time it was so bad the daughter left home for two nights. When she returned, Hassan did not beat her. He cried instead. And it was okay for some times, she said, but then it got worse, because Mirna was very upset for a few days, and she threatened to burn down the house. Then she went to see a doctor, and when she came back she was scared, and she looked pale.

It wasn’t such a shocking revelation to either of them. They had heard worse. Once, Akram Saddam had tried sleeping with one of the maids at their excessive mansion. But as he approached her, she noticed he was incredibly drunk, and so she led him into her room and locked him inside. She called the police, and when they found him he had gotten into the bed, vomited on one side, and slept in the other.

On another occasion, the theological scholar bin Mahmoud had been caught sleeping with two of the younger boys at the academy. When the news broke, several other boys tried to come forward, expressing their own instances of abduction and enslavement for the pleasure of the scholars. The boys were silenced with threats of violent retribution, but the reputation of bin Mahmoud would not recover. He was eventually forced from his home by an angry mob of secularists and activists from the Upper Ward. They wanted to hold him accountable for the wrongdoing of the entire Pilgrimage Authority and their rivals the Sacred Ground Committee.

It was surprising to him, thinking of it, how both men had eventually returned to their original place in society, their reputations largely untarnished by either scandal. That wasn’t the fate of Sit Shiham, of course, but she wasn’t a very tender woman. She had the audacity to stand in the public’s face and swear it off, as though it was their fault she had been caught thieving from her husband and feeding her little secret, a boy she kept locked up in an apartment of Avenue Rose. The name ought to have given it away immediately, upon finding a receipt from a grocery store around the corner. How had he confronted her? Did he wave the receipt in the air before slapping her in the face? Or was it more cold? The quiet reserve of a dignitary, of a tyrant.

When news of Sit Shiham’s infidelity broke, the rumors expanded to include her having started a lucrative business with the boy, whom she loaned out to other displeased women of her circle, who had kept the entire operation hush. Probably for no reason but to pour salt on an old woman’s wounds, who had always been a little too rough with the daintier men of their society, forcing them into corners where they had no choice but to react in an indignant manner, embarrassing both themselves and Sit Shiham, the intelligence arm of the secret police launched an investigation into the reports, and even launched a raid on the apartment in question. The boy had obviously fled, but what the authorities found destroyed Shiham’s reputation forever. The room was really the size of a mediocre studio, no more than fifty square meters, yet it was partitioned into six cubicles, each fitted with a bed, and pictures of various models, women and half men, on the cubicle walls, alongside notes and dates and charts detailing various appointments the models had.

By that time, Sit Shiham had fled with her sister and their two drivers, but their car was stopped at the borders to District 9, at the small buttonhole checkpoint under the Azari Bridge. The soldiers recognized Sit Shiham, mainly due to her voice, which she did not relent on that occasion. However soft the soldier’s hearts may have been, they had been given strict orders not to let her pass the perimeter of District 21 and its neighboring suburbs.

Nobody had spoken of or seen her face since that day, such was the embarrassment it brought on all their heads. A new order was taking form, he thought to himself. He could feel it. The new machinery was fierce. In the old days, when he first arrived at the little port, it wasn’t make or break as it had become. Of course, everyone spoke of all districts in the entire port society as such, as having degenerated into a cruel rat race between inhumane beings who used any means necessary to cripple their rivals and ascend in their place. But society, according to Rashad, had always been like that. The stories they learned in school, of Hafiz the Elect and Richard the Lionheart, cruel intelligent men whose ambition forced them to slay their own blood. And of course the plight of the natives in District ( ), who were slowly and methodically cleansed from their lands. And the young children of District ( ), whose propensity to cancer had quadrupled after the carpet bombing of their sad, sad city. And the swarms of migratory birds that were lured onto damp spring leaves that had been layered with glue, to relegate them to an easy target, imprisoned. But this generation, the men of his crowd who had taken that leap, the giant leap between what they had done and what was becoming the norm, and the younger generation that followed their lead, amassing a storm of their own, lured by the prospect of gaining proportions, bloodthirsty in the deep recesses of their hearts. This was a different crowd.

The old rules were buried. Rita Harb, the lawyer from Pradesh Alternative, the clinical mouthpiece of Ulach Bey, was rumored to be putting together a case that would put Bey Telecoms on the offensive. What would it mean for Hassan?

It would not end that way for his friend, but still, he felt an uneasy sympathy take over him. He wanted to console his friend, somehow, but to do so publically would likely outrage him, mildly hot tempered as he was. A temper that had never helped him in tough situations. But he had never had to deal with outright public shaming. And to think, only a few months before he had bought his new home, hosting a lovely function to inaugurate the house to his lovely friends and esteemed guests, as he referred to them.

 

301

 

The story tells of a giant tomb that stands in the center of the city, in memory of the Diaspora who have fled. To ward them off, speaking of a special day in the calendar year, where the tomb is lit on fire and scores of newborns offered as sacrifices from local parents, are raised to the mantel.

The children are dropped from the head of the tomb, as a sacrifice to the diaspora. The people sacrifice their progeny to prevent the diaspora from ever returning. The event marks a fictitious day in the future of the colony, where the diaspora has returned to lay claim to the land. As a compromise, the citizens sacrifice their children, hoping to evade the diaspora’s intervention for another year.

The act is a beginning and an end, a repetition of the cosmogonic act. In Eliades assertion, “the divisions of time are determined by the rituals that govern the renewal of alimentary reserves; that is, the rituals that guarantee the continuity of the life of the community in its entirety.”

 

 

302

 

 

He had even at some point entertained the idea of becoming a painter, and his wife had encouraged him. He didn’t spend enough time honing his craft, but every once in a while, say, two or three times a month, he would arrive home early from work, find that his wife was still out of the house, help himself to some food left on the stove, and carry a plate to his downstairs study, recently reformed from a gym that nobody in the house used, the old treadmill and step machine acting out their idle weariness in the corner of the suffocating room.

After a few months of such habit, he found that he had built a small collection, a series, still life portraits of items in the house he took pleasure in observing. Some of the images were skewed. Notably, the vase that carried the long snout of the bamboo root was plumper than its physical form. The reproductive errors in his work, he reasoned, were due to his lack of indecision, and not, as would be common among beginners, due to a lack of patience, which would be more threatening to his work than a simple concern over decisions.

He spent some of his holiday mornings inspecting the drawings, careful not to approach a drawing too soon, reserving his interest mainly for portraits that had simmered for a while. He would spend the afternoon mimicking the brushstrokes in the air. It was a secret he kept to himself. Along with the paintings.

Until finally, one day, arriving somberly to his study after a dinner and movie with some friends, hoping to enjoy a couple hours of painting before it was time for bed, he came upon a painting that pulled him from his quiet state and engaged him. It was a painting that had been troubling him. He had even once considered speaking of it to his friend, Salim Habib, brother of Peter Habib, when he was over with his wife for brunch a few weekends before. As the maids circled around them, pulling used plates and forks and replacing them with fresh plates, napkins, glasses of sangria for the ladies and arak for the men, and his wife pulled Salim’s wife aside to show her a set of fabrics she was considering in the refurbishment of their East River flat, he considered it opportune time to bring up his newfound, and secret, passion to his friend. But instead his friend confessed that he was spending too much of his money on gambling, and losing it all, on bets against his former club, the Glory Rockets. The news came as a surprise, and he had completely forgotten about the painting, until his most recent discovery, that very moment.

He remembered ( ), his wife’s friend who worked with all the non governmental organizations in handling the affairs of orphans, and children fleeing the Low Points. She had once spoken of a series of paintings in a gallery she visited, the Thames Gallery in District 1, where the author had taken careful effort to replicate the image of his birth in striking detail. But the image, as the author observed, had to evolve over time, as it was, by his bringing it into contact with the material world, subject to time. And so the image was allowed to evolve, and over time he came to evolve with it. The cause became so great, that for the artist, he had to perpetually recalibrate the painting to stand as a perfect reproduction of his own contemporary life. And so as he grew, the painting had to grow in accordance. It embodied his entire life, and encompassed his being. He grew obsessed with the painting, and over time would speak of the painting as though it were more than him, of greater use and important. He had become, to use his words, a total subject of the painting.

In his notes, available for brief visual scanning at the reception and gallery exhibition, the artist stated that he was only able to accept his condition as a subject to the painting of his own portrait, when he realized he was in fact destined, by birth, to give that sacrifice. He quoted the thinker, Slavoj Zizek, defines the slave hero in his admission of Judas as “the hero of the New Testament, the one who was ready to lose his soul and accept eternal damnation, so that the divine plan could be accomplished.”[11] He claimed to have risen over his own base desires, to fulfill the tribute that had claimed decision over his life. But it hadn’t led him astray, he said. On the contrary. The great mission had cleared his vision, so that he came upon the road to death safely and at calm.

His own painting was not so severe, of course, but he enjoyed the anecdote. It filled him with a sense of purpose. Such was the feeling when Habib had asked him to sit in on the writing of his inaugural address to parliament, and to the state. It was a pride for District 21, he thought, and so he accepted.

Naturally, the painting aching before him involved the memory of a woman, and the importance of a landscape, familiar to his own. Over the course of several sessions, the landscape changed form, altering to a new state of his perception. It had begun in full of brightness of day, but it had transformed slowly into a more macabre piece. He had sketched the familiar façade of the London Hotel, that carved into the blanched dome of the Martyr’s Mantel, at the center point of Paragon. He had chosen the location as a refuge form the unlikely curiosity of his wife, who would recognize nothing strange ni his painting an obvious homage to the symbolic heartbeat of his city. But what she could not know, what she would never know, was that he had highlighted, in a pastel range of burgundy and Tamil rose, the house of a woman he had fallen in love with, years ago in his youth, during his time at the National University, before it had been given the name. The entire fiasco, of his shutting himself up in his room, in order to paint silly pictures of a nostalgic harp, made him feel dumb and sick to his stomach. Engrossed in observation, he wondered what great harm he might have done to the woman he she ever loved him in return. what great harm had been done to him. To detail their estrangement, he never quite knew how to draw himself in the dark, hidden somewhere in the foliage.

 

Finally, he came upon a painting. A painting that had troubled him over the years. He could not decide how exactly to portray the evolving scenario. Naturally, the painting involved the memory of a woman, and the importance of a place. Over the course of his recent life, the place would change form, alter to the state of his own perception. But the woman remained the same. It made him wonder, of course, wondering what great harm he might have done to the woman had he ever known her. To detail their estrangement, he never quite knew how to draw himself in the dark, hidden somewhere in the picture. But he had gotten used to wondering. He was always learning the fate of the picture, scarred into his eyes. A painting, like bone marrow. A sculpted image on a dimensional form.

 

 

 

 

He had often stared at the drawing thinking in the morning that it was not yet finished but could have been done had he gone about things with a different air, and then, in that very moment, he would recount such air with a gesture, linking his hands together, raising them in the air, high above his shoulders, and cracking his knuckles, before cracking his back. He wanted his cracks to sound the way they sounded for a tightrope artist who does not fear taking the lead, like a gin fizz that sinks like butter fries in a pan. He wanted to be immaculate, and rise from a kingdom of errant woes to a temple, where every night, descending his cabinets to share a lick to his brushes, the muse would climb against his heels, and bite him in the ass. He would make a sound, and later would use that sound to ascertain an impression, from which to detail his wounds, to draw. And each drawing, made simply by applying his fingers to his mouth, sketched as an imprint of his perception, would encounter an audience at a later time.

 

 

303

 

Finally, he came upon a painting. A painting that had troubled him over the years. He could not decide how exactly to portray the evolving scenario. Naturally, the painting involved the memory of a woman, and the importance of a place. Over the course of his recent life, the place would change form, alter to the state of his own perception. But the woman remained the same. It made him wonder, of course, wondering what great harm he might have done to the woman had he ever known her. To detail their estrangement, he never quite knew how to draw himself in the dark, hidden somewhere in the picture. But he had gotten used to wondering. He was always learning the fate of the picture, scarred into his eyes. A painting, like bone marrow. A sculpted image on a dimensional form.

 

 

304

 

The patron saint of the colony. Herr, they called him. A former painter turned rogue mercenary. He slept on a large bed that unfolded onto the street. He kept his suitcases at his side, washed out near midtown intersections. His first few images depicted window cleaners hanging off the hundredth floor, sharing a smoke. But he had abandoned that world, the sensibilities of a European artist pushing through the Orient on foot. He wanted power, sought to yield its force.

He inhabited an old schoolyard and turned it into a fort. He forced the families whose children had attended the schools to join the ranks of his force or face deportation from the colony. It angered the natives but they were afraid of him. He used an old stereotype of busty German men to his advantage.

 

 

305

 

As the moment of ritual arrives the protagonist is gripped with a sense of hesitation, falling victim to the conduits of memory.

He saw his school. He would always dream about his school, a significant part of his past. When he slept well it would treat him differently, like they would be glad to see him, and everything was alright. When he was tired there’d be a volcano on campus, or an apocalyptic condition, and all the families had to duke it out.

There was less chaos, more order in his being here, as though he had a certain purpose. He always visited his mentor, the woman who taught him everything. He saw the children, the ones he still loved, before they had been stripped of innocence.

 

 

 

306

 

The writing that emerges from a solitary corner on the blanket face of the earth, written in the poet’s evening trench under candlelight, smoking wood by the fire. Poetry that intends toward the sublime.

 

They went outside for a cigarette. He joined her even though he had stopped smoking. It was one of those natural moves that needed no discussion. She rose from the table and he followed her.

They stood on the terrace outside her home, overlooking an array of blooming chestnut trees. A line of weeping willows hung over them. The bitter smell of her cigarette filled the air.

“Do you think they’re right?”

He shook his head, but he wasn’t sure. He was leaning with his palm wrapped around the neck of the chair, leaning against it so the leg was on it’s last keel.

“Be careful,” she said, her eyes caught on the leg’s chair.

He leaned back onto his legs, letting go of the chair.

“I don’t know man,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

“You must regret coming,” she said, looking back at him for an answer.

He shook his head, but he wasn’t sure.

 

At that moment her mother appeared outside, followed by her brothers. The two of them shook his hands, and walked off. Her mother’s husband waltzed outside, pulling up his pants from his belt as he emerged under the curtains.

“I’ll see you all later tonight,” he said. His voice was unusually soft.

He looked back at his wife for a hint of something. A message, perhaps, some sort of conciliatory gesture, or a token of love, hidden in her returning stare. But she only looked at him with a feeling of emptiness. Pious emptiness, like she was searching, somewhere, for his soul.

 

She would never understand him. How could he be so reckless! To think that after so many years, she would speak on his level. They were diametrically opposed. They could not become part of the same whole.

He joined her outside for a cigarette, even though he had stopped smoking. It was one of those natural moves that needed no discussion. She rose from the sofa and he followed her.

Standing on the terrace outside, overlooking a garden of limes trees hidden under a canopy of blooming chestnut trees, a stray bird circling over them blanketed by a scrawling afternoon sun, bitter smell of her cigarette filled the air.

At that moment her mother appeared outside, followed by her younger brother, Ramiz. The two shook hands, and Ramiz, after complaining that he hadn’t found any drugs, walked off in the direction of Haha, who was smoking a cigarette with a pair of waiters from the catering crew, who he probably knew from his time dating the catering company’s owner’s daughter, Imana. Her mother’s husband waltzed outside, pulling up his pants form his belt as he emerged under the curtains.

He seemed upset, staring at his wife with an unforgettable glare, searching, perhaps, for some sort of conciliatory gesture, or a token of love, hidden in her neglecting stare. But when she finally looked at him, she only did so with a feeling of emptiness. Pious emptiness, like she was searching, somewhere, for his soul.

Her husband, Antoine, looked questioningly at the others, stranded momentarily under their scrutiny. He looked longingly at his wife’s eldest daughter, for support. He looked at her friend, this stranger who he had never seen before, who suddenly appeared over the hills of Anatolia. He didn’t trust him, meeting the stranger’s eyes, who lowered his head at their exchanging gaze.

Antoine opened his mouth, prepared to say something, but he closed his mouth again, pulling back his expressing hand, stranded in hesitation momentarily, before finally walking away.

Her mother returned inside, walking the other way, passing Rania Jassar and Sonia Tabbal on her way in. Layla bit the top of her lip, a habit he had never forgotten. He watched her lighting another cigarette. He wanted to say something on the fact, but he figured it would sound stupid. He was relieved to have held his tongue, so often speaking without thinking.

 

 

He looked questioningly at the others. He looked longingly at his wife’s eldest daughter, for support. He looked at her friend, this stranger who had just arrived. He didn’t trust him.

He met the stranger’s eyes, who at lowered his head at their gaze.

He opened his mouth, about to say something, before he closed his mouth again, pulling back his expressing hand, thinking for a moment, before walking away.

Her mother returned inside, without saying anything. He looked over at her, lighting another cigarette. He wanted to say something on the fact, but he figured it would sound stupid. He was relieved to have held his tongue, so often speaking without thinking.

“I should be off to,” he said.

She looked him over.

“Will I see you tonight?”

He wanted to tell her he wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t.

“Yes,” he said.

She bit the top of her lip, a habit he had never forgotten.

He smiled at her, and walked away.

 

 

307

 

The catalyst for the narrative, the protagonist suddenly deciding to drop his life and leave, resurfacing in his native home, came to him through his reading of Jung’s studies on the condition of automatisme ambulatoire, a strange and elongated condition of sleepwalking, whereby a patient might disappear for two or three months and take up life elsewhere.

 

He really pitied Oscar. If his own son were refusing the family’s approaches, even refusing to be paid a ticket home, it would devastate him. He would be at a loss. He and his wife prided themselves on forging such a close and honest relationship with their children that nothing seemed to pass between them unsaid. Even when Sally had decided to study graphic design, instead of medicine, as she had promised she would when first applying to university, the family took her decision in stride. As far as he was concerned, it was her life to do with as she pleased, so long as she was careful to take of herself, and not to shame the family name, which no daughter of his had ever done and he expected would never do. Such was their unique relationship.

Oscar’s son had always shown a rough streak, especially when he moved away from his parents, who he believed, without saying too much of it in public, coddled and cajoled him too much for his own good. But to refuse the approaches of a desperate parent, even to go so far as to publically announce, on an online platform at that, his disgust at the family’s moral system, that really must hurt. How did he even have the balls to do such a thing! A public decision that could never be retrieved.

His wife had spoken to him of his son’s illness, saying that Rony had always battled depression. Coupled with his addictive personality, which he obviously inherited from his mother, who spent her mornings soothing into a Cetera induced trance, recovering from copious amounts of La Tasse wine from the night before. It made for a bad mixture. Something that could take hold of a younger ma, relinquishing control only when wrestled by the nurturing arms of a caring woman, or death. Such was the case, his wife reminded him, for Linda’s brother Muhsin, who torpedoed into an alcohol induced depression after the regrettable motorcycle accident he suffered when arguing with a speeding Mobilet convertible.

308

 

He had hoped to illustrate man’s ascent upward the sacred mountain. The beginning of one journey encapsulates the last, returning the hero to the beginning, carrying the narrative through the circle, in order to remain planted, with his feet firmly on the ground.

 

 

309

 

He felt something crawling up his leg. He kicked out and knocked over the table. His wine glass shattered on the floor, along with a vase hosting a lonely sunflower and a silver ash tray. He wanted to apologize profusely, but before he could open his mouth the cleaners had swept everything away.

Moment’s later he caught the shadow of an insect scurrying across the floor, disappearing under the sofa, and moment’s later it sped up the wall before tucking itself into the bookshelf.

 

 

310

 

His attention was distracted by the wasp. The insect had appeared only hungry at first, but after injuring himself on the light he appeared hostile, aggressive, flying into his face twice, getting caught in his hair.

But then he noticed something softer in the wasp. He was whizzing about like a maniac, and he seemed desperate. He seemed to be holding onto life. Striving. Struggling. After a while he landed on a friend’s wrist, crawling under a bullet cufflink. He pointed to the little wasp, that had finally succumbed.

The man beside him simply flicked the wasp off his blazer, catapulting his middle finger against his standing thumb.

 

 

311

 

He gets up from the couch. The neighbour stares at his ass as he moves away. He knows he’s being watched. He purposely extends his strides.

“Have you been growing your hair?”

“I have.”

 

He suddenly asked, finding hidden in his instinct the audacity to ask the boy, whose father had once crowned him the “jewel of his hand,” if he had been growing his hair. The boy nearly blushed.

Instinctually, he adjusted in his seat. It was a foolish thing to ask, because it had to be extended with a reply. It wasn’t only the foundation of a question, and an answer. The boy would have to respond, and he would have to respond in turn. And so the idea of a conversation would take place. It was the sort of thing you blurted in passing as you crossed paths at a crowded party, each of you walking in opposite directions.

Not the sort of question to be asked to the son of a long time friend, the Chief Financial Officer of Alma Capital, in his home, in the presence of a few dozen friends.

The chances that Sonya Massoud was watching his every move were high. The chances that Gita Suleiman was listening to their exchange over her shoulder, seated as she was in her tan drop neck blouse, the distinctive figure of her arm swooning like a vine away from her body, resting on her naked knee, could not have been more likely. Her elbow nestled in to the packaged fluff of the couch, and every so often he heard the scrunch the fabric made when it moved ever so slightly.

It hadn’t occurred to him that the boy wasn’t paying attention. He didn’t notice the man’s hands sweating in his palms, the sweat climbing out of his pores and cooling the landscape of voluminous hair. He was lost himself, weaving between scrambling thoughts of Layla Barack’s legs, the stack of wine bottles, each half opened, resting on the bar panel’s frame, and Layla’s mother, Rania, her crown of whimsical golden curls, and her overriding breasts, pocketed in the cusp of her violet sequin dress.

 

 

He’d hated him before he acted as a blow horn for the standing order. Didn’t he want to see the league more competitive? His articles neglected the savagery with which St. Andrews and (  ) committed their business. They focused their hate on Red Rover. It was unfair.

Writers from the dailies and the tabloids had no business operating iwhtin the system.

 

He refuses the instinct of his hand to reach for his dick in excitement. Catching himself, he looks away, for something to distract. He gets lost in the opaqueness of the window’s view, sheltered as it is by another wall, the facade of the connecting building.

He thinks of something to say, before danielle turns around.

“Why, did you notice?”

He instantly recalls the feeling of lightness that attracted him to the occassion.

They had become properly acquainted. Trusted. At first, he thought only sexually of him. He thought, and he researched, and he concluded that the boy, his best friend’s son, had only wanted to slep with him because he was old, he had a thing for old men. He imagined the boy with other men. He imagined him with some of his own friends. Remembering that the boy’s family were all members of the same gym wihere most of his friends went, he imagined him one afternoon, his fire burning, finding one of the men in the locker rooms, surprising them with his newly formed confidence.

He imagined him with his father. He refused the image, but it made him realize he had never imagined his father before. In that way. The boy’s father.

 

 

312

 

He had hoped to illustrate man’s ascent upward the sacred mountain. In the letter he made extensive reference to the surrounding landscape, dusty and plain of death, like the records of the painter Rugendas in his voyage through the Pampas. But he believed in the virtue of place, that history could be told in that way.

 

 

313

 

 

At first sight the spacious living room appeared colourful and full of life, the sprawling open set windows stretching the length of the room, the retro Juniper chaise and the set of magenta hoarse wood chairs, each uniquely handmade in Column studios. The parrots in their cages, their abrasive caw spreading across the room like shrill scissors to the ears.

But after taking his seat in the wing chair accepting a glass of La Tasse white wine from the hills of Aryapa, it all seemed so suddenly bland. Things were spaced out unevenly, leaving too much space between certain items. Take, for instance, the shelter of the coal burning heater, that protruded a meter from the wall, cutting the already peninsular room in half, as the chimney itself sprang from a platform that was already several meters ahead of either side of the wall.

The carpet, obviously an investment from Rim Trussaut’s collection, didn’t suit the tiles underneath, sprawling cubes of hand chiselled mosaic that layered the marble surface of the floor with authentic character. Had they been more visible, it would have lifted the energy in the room, giving it more relief, and a healthy dose of nostalgia, a presence in all contemporary living rooms, she reasoned.

 

 

 

, but it was bland because of how things were spaced out. It would have been much more appealing had the rug been entirely removed, and the original tiles maintained, tacky as they were, they brought a nostalgic effect to the space.

He had a staff composed entirely of men.

 

 

314

 

The coditions were totally dismal. It was depressing her, trying to do her job.

 

The conditions are intentionally dismal. It’s no surprise, then, that after the recent violence gripping the port, the inhabitants seem strangled to their deathbeds, indifferent to the usual calls for mercy. One of the more recent developments, a sign of outrage among few radicalized youths, has been the emergence of suicide missions targeting settler neighborhoods at random. The technique has been used before, in several uprisings, and the security apparatus of the settlers is impenetrable. But the strategy has employed an altogether radical change of face.

It has been documented that the idea emerged while two apparently apathetic youths were joking over their pet dogs, embroiled in a sort of urban conflict over territory marked by their urine. At some point in the conversation, one of the youths, whose name is not revealed and has been withheld from the authorities, his peers withstanding grave measures of torture to withhold his identity, mentioned that the dogs are probably even more independent, more liberated than their owners, as they could probably pass through any checkpoint without being noticed. It wasn’t entirely true, especially at the time. Many residents of the occupied territories had filed complaints that their dogs had been murdered by bored security officers at checkpoints, who fired at the dogs as they approached. Still, it was a useful idea to the two youngsters, who, after laughing about it for some time, decided to see for themselves.

Word spreads quickly in the camps. Before long, the elderly, localized authorities knew of their plans. Investigating the matter, the authorities asked the two youths whether they were willing to sacrifice the lives of their beloved dogs for the benefit of their little experiment. They admitted to not having thought much about it, that they had expected it wouldn’t be such a big deal. The authorities reiterated that the dogs would likely be killed by the occupying security forces, that nothing is ever spared for encroaching upon the settlements. The two youths were bewildered, and somewhat disillusioned. They slowly learned to oppose the idea.

But not so long afterward, the discussion was brought up in a secretive meeting of all security personnel for the resistance. They hadn’t had much luck in their recent asymmetrical operations. The only positive results over the last few years consisted of lone actors carrying out suicide missions without the consent or knowledge of the resistance, usually carrying a knife onto a bus and wielding it at random, or something of similar surprise and at a similar logistical simplicity. A commander, who has since been captured and killed, for reasons not directly related to the canine suicide missions, said that they should explore the possibility of employing animals, and possibly, shepherds. It sounded absurd, at first, but several of the men drew up a map of the anatomy of dogs, sheep, monkeys, lambs and wolves, explaining that the process would be very simple and the operation short. They argued, to those reticent to the idea, that the easiest, and perhaps only, method to reach previously unmanageable targets is to deploy the explosives in the least suspected way. Living bodies, that are spared inspection. Nitroglycerine, or something well in abundance. They didn’t have ample supply of anything, the portion of the port still in their hands being wholly and entirely subjected to a merciless barricade.

One of the security officials present suggested they pack a bacterial biological compound inside the living vessel, but the idea was quickly dismissed. A biological compound, they agreed, has loose ends. The bacteria spreads without order. And besides, one of the commanders had suggested, it was still not certain the timing of the explosion would work as intended. What if the biological compound were released within their own camp?

Among the various animals chosen for experimentation, dogs were thought to be the most loyal and responsible. Also, the least to attract visible attention.

Among the natives dogs hold a significant symbolic place in the mythology of the people. It is often spoken of a time in the history of the territories, before the invasion of the Frankish armies in the middle ages, where dogs were used to amend political ordeals among warring tribes or warring factions. The dogs took on a mythical sort of character, and it was even spoken of them that a dog whose mission was complete, whose tenure as a mediator among the people was realized, would orchestrate for themselves a timely farewell. In effect, dogs were thought to be naturally suicidal, after the completion of their given tasks. There were stories of wild packs of dogs so disturbed by their idling away that they were lunging over the cliffs that hang over the city, one by one, sometimes in pairs. Several dogs, surviving their fated leap, returned again to the precipice, and dove, clearing out into the sea without a trace. Dogs, falling gracefully from the sky. Painters of that time, taking their canvases and setting themselves under the bridge, said it was best suited to observe form underneath the bridge, given the circumstances under the monument, clouds of fog masking the outward sea, a dog’s leap conforming only a shadow glistening against the backdrop of fog or brazen sheets of light, a brief illumination of life and the interval before death. The paintings were in the National Museum, for over six centuries, until they were destroyed by intermittent war and neglect.

The dogs eventually used are remembered to this day, remembered as being mad stricken, fatigued with conviction. Once the initial tests were confirmed, that in fact a dog would serve as a worthy accomplice, the process took a life of its own.

The first few weeks the commission established to oversee the operation was out rummaging through the town to haul in the dogs. Dogs that would be least suspected, so it created a division among the people and the militants, as many did not accept their beautiful domestic pets stolen from their homes. Also, they had to find certain breeds that could be found again. Or, solitary dogs, not confined to a pack. Different breeds have different troubles. The northern mutts were thought to be better trained. In the past, bodies were burned to conceal their identities from an encroaching army. To the best of anyone’s memory, it can be said, the idea to booby-trap dogs was not borne of any genius, but a memory of enemy fighters, burning their comrades in the presence of the enemy.

The operations carried out were successful at first but soon the occupying authorities took action against the wave of suicidal missions carried out by dogs. At first, fear struck into the minds of residents, a fear fused with deep shock and confusion. But after a while, revulsion seeped into the consciousness of the settlers and their servicemen, and all dogs, not only those suspected of carrying explosives inside their bodies, were captured and sentenced to death by mass fires or individual firing squads. A sort of hysteria claimed the public. Much of what we know of that time is documented in photographs taken by nonaligned journalists who were given access to the execution sites for reasons unknown.

 

 

 

315

 

The old man kept vigil on the body, suffering for a long time. He had the swan on his head, and the amulet worn around his neck. He had believed in the good body, and the enlightenment. He was wrong.

 

 

316

 

You have tasted depression. You know the instinct. You know a fling from a deep romance. These connections inspire you afterword, but in the moment you are totally destroyed, totally at the mercy of the depression. The evidence can be found in the shape of your eyes, and the slant of your aggression.

You log onto Facebook. You have no messages. You are upset. It hurts. You walk away from the computer. You touch your cock. You want to become hard. You will not become hard in this instant.

 

 

317

 

The reading goes well. You find yourself in your hotel room, drunk, staring at the internet in a dark room. You dial the number ringing on the screen. You tell her you want to fuck her, that you read her name on a website, and it turned you on. You ask her if she knows a restaurant nearby her house, her usual meeting point. Something comfortable for her, but something clean. She agrees to meet. She decides the place and you leave the hotel room.

 

 

318

 

The man checks into a hotel room. Highway motel, just a four story building with modest furniture, two rooms on each floor. The front desk sits directly at the entrance, so it cannot be averted or overlooked. The premises is not usually trespassed anyway, accounting for its lackluster maintenance. Nothing significant about the place, save for its location, on one of many corners that lead the winding mountain road from the capital on the shoreline to great emptiness on the peaks.

How long do you intend to stay?

The curious concierge asks. A middle aged man, quite fit, seemingly sharp in his wits, succumbs to his impolite curiosity. He adds another question before an answer is given.

Can I help you with anything?

I’m alright.

The man lifts his bags.

Which floor did you say?

The second. It’s actually the third. The elevator doesn’t work. I hope to have it fixed after the weekend. But things are difficult to accomplish these days.

The man nods, turns around, walks the length of his corridor. He passes slowly through the establishment, thick carpeted walls aged with the remains of stale smoke. A turquoise color, rough on the edges, and the ceiling where incessant leaking has transformed the matted wall into a paper sludge.

Neglected porcelain vases holding dusty plastic plants. A huge mural of a peacock, infused with cheap mosaic tablets signed underneath in calligraphy. The name is illegible, owing to discoloration.

The man spends a minute inspecting the painting. He is about to place his index finger on one of the tablets when a voice catches his attention.

She’s beautiful, isn’t she?

The man turns around. The concierge is standing at the end of the corridor, his form easily deciphered, hands glowing under the dim red hue, where his face remains hidden. He seems to be studying with his arms hanging equally at his side, his legs firmly planted in place. Looking like a cowboy ready to draw.

The man says nothing, inspecting the distant figure with his gaze, all the while, running his finger seductively over the mural.

It was gifted to us. By an artist. A foreigner. He lived here for some time.

The man returns his attention to the mural. The concierge lets his words hang in the air. The man traces his finger along the mosaic, feeling in between the individual tablets. He notices the surface is moist in some areas. He turns around, to refer his observation to the concierge, but the strange man is gone.

 

He finds his way to his room, ascending the spiral staircase, pulling himself up with the rail. The stairwell is thin, circular, with little round windows that look out onto the road, giving him the feeling he is on a ship. A nautical explorer.

He puts the key into the door, but as he applies pressure onto the key, the door winces open, letting out a decent squeak. He stands motionless as the squeak follows the light oscillation of the door, cradling back and forth as though on a spring. Finally, he kicks the door open with his boots.

A simple room. The small corridor leading from the door to the bed is only about four steps. To his left, before the bed, is the toilet, and to the right, a closet. Across from the bed is an empty desk, and an empty aquarium, and on the streetside wall a balcony. The balcony door and the window are both already open, allowing for a tender mountain breeze to glide into the room. Early evening chills that carry the spine. Every so often, the wind lifts the white lace curtains, drawing them into the air.

He looks about the room. Dilapidated, neglected. Beside the bed, window side, a nightstand lies broken on the floor. The pruning carcasses of flies and mosquitos and mountain beetles scattered on the foot of the bed, under the oscillating fan, lying in herds on the windowsill, hidden as they are under a layer of soot and sand. Orange stains line the windowsill, the edges of the bed and sheets, colored in gross discoloration. The original color of the sheets had disappeared, as had the original color of the wallpaper, a tack beige with gold and yellow ribbons that encircled the room. He could see blood stains and pruning corpses of summer insects along the foot of the bed. A broken mirror on one of the walls, with another porcelain vase, like the one downstairs, carrying plastic plants.

He tosses his duffel bag onto the bed. He removes his coat, wrapping it around the arm of the desk chair, held up by three columns, all out of place. The room smells of ash, stale cigarette smoke. He walks over to the window, about to pull aside a curtain when a breeze blows the fabric into his face and over his head. The powerful gust carries for a moment, revealing for the first time the tremendous view. A winding path of mountain roads that swirl and swivel up a spineless arch. The highway, the long stretches of buildings that surrender the curving roads, and the expanse of vegetation that runs the length of the highway, from the capital to where he stands, a thousand meters high. In the immense distance, pooled in a wide opening that disappears into clouds of open dust, the great ancestral sea.

He has a strong urge to smoke but, having quit a few months before, he resists, choosing instead to meditate on the sight, the smell of burnt tires and pine trees warring in the wind, the sound of silence settling his sights.

He hears a mosquito fly past his ear. He ignores it. He walks the length of the room, removing his shoes, untying the boots with careful care. He removes them slowly, placidly, the boot sliding off the heel naturally, without any friction.

He rises, nudging open the bathroom door. The toilet is surprisingly clean, with a little magnet secreting a blue potion. The sink, to his right, is littered with hair, as is the floor, and stains of all kinds run from the faucet up the wall, purple, orange, black, dark matter stains,, melding with the damp disfiguration of the walls, peeling against the weight of unattended black mold. Over the means of an aged pipe, the smell of wet feces dries in the air.

He turns around. The bath is stained with muck and lines of eroding tile, and a fat cockroach, probably a mother nymph, lies dead on her back, a few inches from the drain, her long antennae triple the size of her monstrous body, the yellow of her six legs glowing amidst the accentuate darkness of her form. Looking behind the wincing door, he finds another vermin corpse, and pulling the door further toward him, yet another. He cringes, turning on the faucet, inspecting the water with his fingers, listening as it blurts and splashes in violent spurts, fighting to arrive. All the while, he holds his eyes to the beasts in their paralyzed state.

As he exits the bathroom, he feels the warmth of a carpet for the first time since taking off his shoes. Having neglected the floor in his earlier inspection, he dusts the carpet with his feet, kicking into the air an immense layer of dust. As the dust blows languidly in the air, creating a  little torrent between his waist and knees, he sees underneath the eroding remains of a beautiful Persian carpet, the weaving stylistic of evident expertise, the coloration interweaving forms inviting to the eye, drawing him in. He kicks harder, and even harder, with his feet, blowing into the air a thick collection of dust, resigned to blow just as awkwardly back onto the carpet the moment he drops to his knees, as though in prayer, paying uncharacteristic homage to the decorative illumination.

These people, he thinks.

Underneath the bed, housed under an even greater collection of dust and discarded hair, he uncovers a beautiful, hand woven blanket. The dust climbs into his lungs as he withdraws the blanket, and so he pushes it away, coughing as the blankets settles back into its heap of ash like a bear briefly tempted from sleep, slumping back, eyes half closed, into hibernation. A final, room shuddering thud silences the space. He wipes the dust from his eyes, from the corners of his lips, rising energetically to his feet. Looking out through the open window, over the rising tips of cypresses and cherry blossoms, he sees, climbing into his perception, the full moon take her stand on the horizon, a quiet, rural torrent spreading into the vapid room.

 

 

319

 

 

He had come happily to the surprise of a night with genuine sleep. He must have slept seven hours, a little more. Twice he had been woken by the sound of a mosquito burying in his ear, but both times, after slapping himself wildly, he passed out. In the morning that awaited his arousal, he touched his feet onto the dusty carpet, looking out beyond an empty, barren wall. Turning his neck slightly to the side, he felt a vicious shock rise from his hip to the nape of his neck. The shock that promises a cold. Had he caught the fever? He hadn’t been sick in years. He swallowed, touching his throat with two fingers, tasting a frightening itchiness in the back of his throat. He sniffled, drawing back his upper lip, pulling the cranial nerves of his face, trying to breathe. Allergies? He felt his palm to his head, then his neck, and then the glands of his throat.

It was true, he hadn’t been sick in years. Not since the last time he set foot in his country. A country he left in a blizzard, questioning for years afterward whether he’d made a mistake. Of course, he had only to look at the condition of those left behind to acknowledge he hadn’t.  Others whose stake worsened by the year. Friends from school who disappeared without a trace, into an urban void pregnant with shame, without the romance of an adventure, a grand soul seeking voyage, dying away quietly in a shared one bedroom flat with dystopic medicinal remedies scattered on the floor. Friends who made it through the vines, championing a cause greater than themselves, only to spend ten or twelve years rotting in an overcrowded prison cell on charges of terrorism, attempts to form an armed gang, attempts to assassinate a public figure. Most of his friends, lost in drugs, conspiracies, nihilistic activism, all suffered the same fate. At some point or another they have up, cut off their wings, opened their arms and let their souls be sought for corruption. He hadn’t come back, and through news reports forwarded by his parents before they died, he counted them off, one by one, slipping irreversibly into the abyss. He hadn’t returned, and thought he never would, even for the burial of both his parents, being an only child with few relatives, he had little guilt to contend with from others. But one friend in particular, after his disappearance, caught his attention.

He had been paying close attention to the news, as the country was slowly pacing towards another devastating quagmire, and as part of the obsessive diaspora, having lost connection to his roots through the death of his parents, he felt compelled to take an added interest in the wellbeing of the country. The stories were emerging with greater weight, steeped in the sort of moral heaviness that saddles along with an occupation, a genocide. Six journalists captured, beheaded. Failed ransoms lead to extrajudicial killings. Nearly 2,000 women feared missing, captured as sex slaves by rebels.

The stories grew darker, horrific. He remembered one story, of a woman’s dormitory that was raided at night, most of the women raped after being killed. Social workers kidnapped and tortured. Their fingers cut off the corpses and delivered one by one to all the opposition politicians.

At first local, regional and international newspapers ran the stories, trying to capture in detail every crime, however petty or grotesque, in order to, in some naïve industrialist way, archive the horrors for  future generations, hoping to seek justice in the form of printed word. Naïve, yes, but commendable nonetheless. The headlines continued, Safehouse for LGBT community raided by radicals, hostages thrown from the roof. Such stories were read not only in the Levant, not only in the Middle East, but in London, Sao Paolo, Tokyo. It seemed people the world over were scarred, hurting at the immense violence, the obscenity gripping the regin.

He didn’t know when it happened. Maybe when the first explosives rocked the major European cities. Madrid, three hundred dead. Berlin, one hundred dead. Then Hamburg, Cologne, Munich. Triple bombings, all at the same hour. Montreal, fifty dead. Milan, five hundred.

Maybe when the warring factions turned on themselves, splitting into tiny fragment militias all vying for worthless plots of land, infertile, nothing but sand and dust, leaving the international community hopeless, all parties aiding a rebel class with eyes cringed at the hungry vicious mouths waiting on the other end.

He didn’t know exactly how or when it happened, but at some point, after five years, five deadly winters, millions displaced imprisoned, killed, three generations destroyed, he didn’t know exactly the day, but at some point in the madness, in the shadows of the quagmire, the world fell silent, the papers, first the global papers and then the regional, and even the local papers after the shift finally passed, and the outcome of every day was more or less the same sort of madness they had been reporting, only with less hope, more malice, more acts of irreversible revenge, the news slowly moved to the periphery. Where once it was normal to open the front page and find a headline, a photograph of a blast site and scores of voices of international condemnation, soon you had to shuffle through the various sections, sometimes with four or five days passing in between, to find a mention of the wars.

And then, at some point, it stopped. He had by then already grown obsessed with the developing situation. His house, a studio apartment on the ground floor of an industrial building, turned into a workshop of pages, clipping, cutting boards and walls layered with the latest news, latest developments, new actors who joined in the madness, the family tree of several armies, several regional governments and monarchies, some of them taking the violence to even greater heights, others disappearing like an ant climbing into a garden bush, never to be spoken of again. In the context of war, it seemed everything had disappeared.

His relationships, of course, suffered. His already declining rate of employment, daylining as a substitute history teacher at a public school, and at night, working as an easily dismayed extortionist telemarketer, saw him eventually, without even himself noticing, disappear from the work force altogether. His declining physical condition, a symptom of little sleep and bulging bags under his eyes, worsening posture while spending hours at his desk, eyes glued to the computer monitor, the result of so much time spent gorging on coffee and uppers he could score in the university library or shady districts downtown, and before he managed to quit, on the advice of a relatively indifferent doctor, two packs of cigarettes a day, relieved him of his capacity to be seen in public, let alone teach younger kids. Parents did not want such a sight teaching their children. It had been a preemptive firing.

As a telemarketer, he caught the attention of his employers when he began to linger on the phone too long after a sell would not be made, leading the conversation in the way of news, current events, asking their thoughts on his country’s war. He would be slouched over his desk on the phone, yelling into the receiver, sometimes tearing up, sometimes falling into a pathetic state of apathy, his face resting in his palm, his elbow stretched out on the table. When they told him to leave, he hung up the phone and left. He didn’t even ask for his money. It arrived sometime later in his mail, in the form of a check, which he glanced over in his now permanent state of indifference, tossing it to the side to rest in a pile of other junk he had accumulated over the months. It just didn’t matter. Just as rapidly as the world forgot about the raging war, he found himself, after having glanced over the burial of his parents, after nearly two decades away, considering a prodigal return home. He was considering it, but he wasn’t sure, and it was really only delusion he allowed himself to indulge, until one day he received an alarming notice from a friend, Iskandar al-Habib.

The two of them had gone to school together, grade school, raised practically as brothers, living on the same street, playing for the same under tens and under twelves football team. Iskandar had family living in London, who would bring them both footballs jerseys and faked signature balls, from the days when MITRE still sponsored the Premier League, and the two kids would run around the neighborhood all summer long kicking transforming the ball from its natural white to a degraded pale brown, licking up dust as they scuffed it around the street. During the holiday seasons, they would celebrate with the two families, listening to Iskandar’s uncles from Baghdad and London trade insults on the apathetic state of pan-Arabist ideology, two men who made their fortunes exploiting the underclass yet remained loyal to their socialist upbringing. Iskandar’s family was not of nay fortune, nor was Karim’s, but they entertained their more fortunate relatives with open arms, every year, visiting whenever they could.

As they aged, their bond deepened, and like most admiring friends of a certain class in a certain country, they made plans to remain close the rest of their lives, almost like schoolgirls, they would joke, wanting to marry sisters or women of the same clan, to move into homes just as close as the homes their parents raised them in. But as it happened, a turning point came at the end of their tenth year, two years before graduating school, when his friend, a rabble rouser, highly intelligent but academically unmotivated, was accepted to the second most prominent prepatory school, while he was accepted to the most prestigious academy. This formed the first obstacle in their seemingly unbreakable relationship. But his friend made friends with others of a similar nature, individuals with the brains to manage a nation but the shortsightedness to throw fists in a bar. While they had only smoked weed every now and again and had a polite habit of stealing liquor from their parents cabinets, the two diverged on their ritual paths. A few months into the school year his friend was busted for, what the administration claimed, was intent to sell drugs on campus, and he spent the next six months locked up in a cell, wasting away the year while his peers emerged harmless. In that time, Karim had been accepted on a conditional scholarship to attend university in London, where he was to study Economics at the Imperial College. Karim’s mother, fearing Iskandar’s rough nature might harm the good he had achieved that year, forbade Karim to see his best friend upon his release from jail. They saw each other in private, but the change in circumstance brought the two families to a feud, and the days where they were like one giant family brought to an end. Eventually, Karim left for London having seen Iskandar once or twice, always formally, in a group of their old friends, never alone. Iskandar, according to Karim, hadn’t really learned his lesson, as he returned to the scene with more ferocity, earning him the reputation of hashesh, khales, he who is lost. Eventually, after another brief stint in prison, and the loss of his mother to a long, drawn out battle with cancer, Iskandar entered into a training academy for camera operators, which would eventually lead him into a career as a camera assistant, and much later, camera operator, in journalism.

In the letter to Karim, Iskandar mentioned how he still held him in great esteem, how he thought of him with love and tenderness, even though they grew so fiercely apart, and how he understood his great departure, his refusal to visit the graveyard of his family, and of Iskandar’s mother as well, how he had even forgotten to attend to claim a small inheritance he had been owed. He wrote him that he hadn’t seen his father in months, almost a year, and that he now could understand how Karim, so selfish to leave without turning an eye, could live with himself, as he had had to attend to his ailing father’s every need for so long, but upon leaving him on his deathbed to do what he had to do, he felt a certain sense of calm and relief, and embarrassingly, joy. Iskandar wrote that the country he once cherished above all else, the little waistbin of their sacred journeys together, through the enchanted forests, digging for crabs in their uncle’s riverbank, playing football on the enormous sheets of concrete that slowly embodied their lives, the land that fed them figs, and grapes, goat’s milk and peaches picked right from the tree, had all but disappeared, completely transformed in the flesh, a place he would not recognize if he, as Iskandar would later suggest he should, visit once again, if only to remember what he has forgotten.

He wrote in the end about the situation, about the war that was now like a great cloud over their lives, which they no longer noticed but took for granted as something inherently part of their existence, their being, a companion focal point that bonded them all to the same miserable fate. He mentioned some of their old friends, said he had taken his address from their only responsible friend, who had become a lwayer, who had dealt with both their parents’ wills. He finally told him that he’d been fighting with a rogue group of militants, with no real purpose but to suspend aggression on their homes, homes they only recently inhabited and had no real connection towards. He wrote that he hadn’t seen much fighting, protecting, as they were, land without much use, but that he’d spent the last two seasons camped out in a building in the mountains, an abandoned hotel that had traded hands several times before all factions agreed, due to its landscape and size, that it was a liability to govern, easy to capture but, due to its standing on a large outgrowth of a mountain, overlooking the entire country on eon side, hanging over a cliff, and nestled beneath a forest where the mountain watched over it like a large impending wall daring to collapse, it could be attacked from all sides, trapping the fighters within with little chance to escape and an easily cut supply route. He wrote that when they arrived, they found the place empty, three towering buildings with rooms held together by corridors that gave the feeling of a cruise ship, each building with its own descending walls, leading towards basement floors, large ballrooms on the ground floors, one in all white marble that had been taken care of, chipped only in a few corners, and another in checkered tiles, presumably where a restaurant had been. Underneath the restaurant, a large, beautiful theatre lay in ruins, the walls covered in baroque caricatures, the balcony adorned with faded gold armrests and hand crafted chairs. Separating the three buildings, a large courtyard, and over a small set of stairs, an amphitheater and a row of stables. He explained how on one side, the entire country, with the capital in glowing sheers of whiteness, could be seen tugging at the Mediterranean, while on the other side, an enormous mountain whose apex could not be seen, but imagined under an overcast cluster of clouds. He wrote that, of all the corpses they found, nailed into the walls, nailed into the ground in pairs, hanging form rope on railings or shattered elevator shafts, disfigured, morphed, vanished into skull and bones, the most beautiful of them all, the ones he felt had even dared to smile sometime near the end, whose souls may have lingered waiting on this moment, were the ones whose faces were turned toward the great sea, whose vision was not obscured by obstinate stone but helped through the open patchwork of a window, a wall with a large rocket propelled hole, or an open roof, the scene for example in one of the basement rooms turned chapel. And even more so, he added, more daring and gorgeous, captivating to the meditative eye and any soul accepting of grace, were the bodies to whom sunlight streamed, almost expressly for their sake, in all the rooms, glad streams of light that only touched upon the weaning faces of the incredible corpses. He said he wondered if in some redemptive, almost artistic act, the perpetrators had chosen to gift their vanishing souls the sight of an endless sea on the horizon and a regal stream of sunlight rising and setting in peace.

He closed the letter with thanks, songs of hope and honest admiration, a brief suggestion at their being reunited maybe not in this life but in some other. He admitted to falling sick with nostalgia over the course of those seasons, meditating on the remains of so many souls and an overwhelming surrounding landscape, that had birthed in him new light but with new light, the letter says, we vanquish our darkness, and when darkness is vanquished we lose little grips of what we know. And finally, as though he had written so beautiful and touching a letter only to arrive at his next point, he mentioned that the men he was with over the course of those two seasons had been guarding something, hiding it from the world, from even each other, and they buried it in the grounds of the abandoned refuge. He said he never found out what it was they had been guarding, but it must have had some strange significance, either to their case, or their futures, or their souls. He recalled that one of them, the youngest of them all, had once let slip while smoking and drinking straight from a bottle of anise, that the whole missions was the result of a dream, that their fighting was the fighting of ghosts fending off ghosts, that the real accomplishment they had achieved was in their guarding the only living thing in their possession. He called the mission a mismanaged venture into the wonders of the psyche. Iskandar never understood, but remembered the words in their entirety. The young militant died of poisoning, they found him the following morning, and one of the makeshift medics suggested he had gone blind. He never understood, but remembered that night, and his words, and their strange relationship to the refuge, in its entirety.

In the final lines of the letter, he wrote that it would be the last time he’d hear from him, in this life at least. He said he would be going away for good, far, far away, like yourself!, with the intention never to return. He wrote sweetly that, By the time you read this letter I will have passed into another form of beast. I leave you with the memory of our short life together, he said, and this strange significant story, a hook in the absence of so many years.

 

 

 

320

 

She must have fallen asleep. Opening her eyes, she couldn’t place the location. It wasn’t the stop she intended to make. It was obvious, after a moment of panic that rose from between her colon and chest, a striking shriek that emerged out of her mouth in the form of a dreadful open mouthed yawn, noticing the absence of other passengers, the dimness of the light, the mild sloping of the car, where she felt her body tilting sideways to some degree, she rose from her seat anxious, searching awkwardly for a plan.

She would miss the lecture, for sure. Why had she fallen asleep? It was so unlike her. Why had no one woken her up? Did they think she intended to ride until the end of the line, until the train were transferred to its rest stop in the middle of…She realized, she couldn’t know exactly where she had come, unless she somehow exited the train. She turned her attention immediately to the doors of the car, and in another moment of panic raced over to unhinge the door from its place. She clapped her hand against the button. Nothing. She was stuck.

Hadn’t they checked? Hadn’t they made sure someone was not stupid enough to fall asleep on the train?

 

 

 

321

 

She arrived home that night tired, unusually tired from the day. Her husband wasn’t home yet. He wouldn’t be home for a while. He had left her a message, an email, tried to call a few times. And afterwards, left it to fate.

In the morning she would be giving a lecture on Garcia Lorca, on his infatuation with causes of the animal spirit in poets, what he deemed duende. But she didn’t feel like preparing more for it. She had already prepared. Besides, the lecture she presented that morning had gone well. She read to apathetic undergraduates on the prevalence of ecstatic literature in nihilistic societies, a paradox she enjoyed mentioning in her work. They didn’t seem to care, but then, they didn’t seem to especially not care. She remembered how as an undergraduate, she used to hide her headphones through her blouse and under her long, curly hair, ignoring the lectures she was forced to attend, dreaming instead of the ecstasy of a real life experience.

She stands in the bathroom, her feet drying warmly with the aid of a blow dryer, positioned to warm her feet. She jerks her body up and down, changing his weight from her toes to her heels.

She pads her cheeks with a cottonpad. She puckers her lips, pouts, grins. She washes the makeup from her eyes, dipping her head in the icy water collected in her palms.

She looks into the mirror. The years have changed her, no doubt. Her complexion ahs always been impeccable. Probably the quality of her appearance, when meeting people for the first time, that they immediately notice, gravitating towards her olive skin, her sensuous pores, the freckles on her neck and between her lips and eyes. That, and her bushy eyebrows, dirty blonde, thick like an overgrown man’s.

But the changes, otherwise, are obvious. Even her nose, which she’s always had a slight problem with, the way it dips in the bone and seems to erode rather than protrude, seems to be getting bigger and growing in all different directions. She’s tried to adapt her hair to accommodate the changes, straightening her hair and leaving a fringe in the middle, or cutting it short, right to the ears, in wild curls. She even tried an undercut, and was going to go all the way to shaving her head, until a scare one day, noticing a stretch of her skull, no more than a half centimeter, where the hair seemed to be growing with a bit more hesitation. Worried, she let her hair out, forbidding the use of clips and hair ties, and reverted to using only organic products when washing, which she now did only twice, maybe three times, in a week.

But beyond the superficial changes, the alteration of her eyes, her declining vision, and the little scar on the edge of her upper lip from a kinky adventure gone wrong, she could feel undeniably the changes in her heart.

As a student, knowing the world would always fail to please her, she made it her mission, somewhat dogmatically, to please herself. Never to find herself in a state of boredom. Always on the run, always after the next big adventure. She learned Spanish for a year, sleeping in cabs on the coast of Spain and into Grenada in an exchange year she deliberately extended, leaving school for six months to travel to South America on foot, making it barely a few cities before getting stuck in the heat of the adventure, in the same worn, raggedy clothes, a few books of mystical poetry, Andalusian and Siberian monks, men of piety, who forgo terrestrial desire for spiritual illumination. Caught in the rapture of transcendence, she schedule her months and traveled based on the festivals playing, the drugs on the scene and the season to best take them. Mushrooms in the Alps, gazing under the stars with nothing but the echoes of cowbells in an immense forest of peak. She smoked hash in the deserts of North Africa until the days turned into one another and the faces of the crowd into one large face and she felt herself clinging to shaved crumbs of a ball of forest moss, holding on for dear life, transforming into the characters if her own past. She burned through republics with a herd of unconventional friends.

Her most transcendental experience would come one week during her great South America voyage. She had finally escaped the urban sprawl and found her way to a coastal mess of cheap housing communities and stations for the terminally ill. The real estate is so cheap most of the place is littered with students taking a year off from school to learn surfing from some retired pros, who could never get a real job after retiring. The type of guys who wrote shitty poems on sleepless camp watchmen, on cadavers drawing up in the sand.

After a few days she met a group of young radical surfers. Not the average gringo type, who wear sandals on dates, but refined intellectuals who preferred studying on the coasts, meditating on the waves, preferring the tranquil surroundings and natural bathhouses to the urban jungle. She traveled with them to one of their favored campsites on the end of a long peninsula, that swerved and curled like a dancing snake. At the site, resting on a wide cave that sits in the direction of the sun, shaded overhead by a wooded mountain, claimed by cypresses and dancing pines, surprising to the area, and below, swathes of olive trees that reach right into the water, so that one of the more agile boys used to climb one of the trees branches and piss into the sea.

It was a monumental experience. She hadn’t fallen for any of the boys but they all fell for her. The intensity cooled as their women reunited at camp.

One night, as she remembers, the longest night of the year, one of the boys mentioned he had been living with a tribe for the six months, learning from the cultivation of an ayahuasca ceremony. Two months later, she was spread out on the mattress of a tent somewhere in the jungle, the ayahuasca taking effect, her ego dispersing into a million little stars, feeling like she was standing tiptoed on the border of life and death, like she had a choice, to relieve herself o this life’s inherent suffering and ascend into consciousness, or return, bleary eyed and stained in vomit, to her life. She can’t remember if she ever made a choice, but at some point she returned to her muddled existence, feeling weakened and regenerated, restless and at calm.

She kept in touch with some of the others form the ceremony. One of the older women, a psychologist from the United States, had suffered in an earlier ayahuasca ceremony, losing his sense of balance permanently thereafter. On his return home, he was instated in a mental asylum, as no one would believe his distress. The ceremony they enjoyed together must have lifted the curse, curing him thereafter, but he told her about the scenes he encountered before and after their trip.

Years passed. She would move from house to house, never quite finding her home. She would enlist as an aid worker in the south of Turkey at the outbreak of the Syrian war. She would learn Arabic, fall in love, accept an engagement and leave the man in Ibiza, after two weeks of MDMA lead her into the arms of another man, who delivers her to Berlin. She would move from job to job, having nothing to spend her money on but cheap rent and entrance fees to dingy clubs, where she spent the rest of her money on speed MDMA, and coke. She would sleep until at least one, never brush her hair or do her nails or buy new clothes, and drink nothing but alcohol and water from a tap. Tuesdays were her day off, and she spent them reading the same romance novel over and over again, a cheap rendition of Orientalist love that blossoms after an Empress’ boat is stranded in the Gulf of Aden. The rest of the week, she would slowly prepare her body for the three night binge that inevitably claimed her conscience come weekend.

Some good came of her endless forays into the Berlin club scene, introducing her to a group of dedicated Hindu Germans who made it their objective to spread ideas of the mission. She joined their company, realizing they had access to excellent LSD, and soon enough was leaving Berlin for weeks, spreading herself into the surrounding forests, waking up with the sun for Kundalini yoga sessions, ingesting magic mushrooms in the afternoons. Some great change came to her life quite suddenly, when she encountered the man who had told her a story years before, the man who lost his balance during an ayahuasca ceremony, and was declared mentally unstable upon his return home.

After years of securing the next best high, she settled finally into a strict apprenticeship under a Qigong master, opening a flower arrangement school under his wing. She maintained the discipline with extraordinary skill, a feat she attributes to crossing over the threshold of thirty, staring down a different barrel paradigm of life.

A husband, the closing chapters of a doctorate, finding herself to be an accomplished writer and even smarter teacher, still having the time to watch over the school. Probably, in the future, a child, maybe two. But now, not yet. Preferring routine to chaos, no longer ripping through books that drive a hundred miles an hour or more. She could finally accomplish that unaccomplishable task and read through Proust’s oeuvre. Oh Albertine!, she thinks, that miserable bitch.

She turned to the radio out of tune, the speakers off, the channels somewhere between the classifieds and a visiting dj’s incoming set. She turned the radio on, playing with the knocks until the frequency settled on a storytelling hour of the public culture radio channel. An old, gruff voice read from a text she could not immediately place. She lit a candle with a match she drew from the cabinet atop the sink, grabbing a cigarette from her husband’s tobacco pouch. She dropped surreptitiously to the floor, slowly, arching her back, protected by a felt robe, leaning against the hot water heater extending from the wall. Smoking, dozing off, listening to the unfamiliar voice usher her into dreams she could not escape, staring into the void of another, cohabitating porcelain canvas.

 

 

322

 

She knew when she woke up that day that the dreams she was having were real. Her first instinct was to look outside, through the dreamcatcher whistling over the windowsill, the white silk drapes hanging form the wall, o the point in the sky she always turned to, for guidance, for reflection.

Full moon, she thought. She understood.

She had been dreaming of him for some time, waiting on his call, expecting him to visit. Like she had been warned, she thought. Like I have been told.

She follows her eyes to the bedside table. Stacks of books, poets- Reverdy, Hoffman, William Pitt Root. A collection of Silvina Ocampo’s short stories. Books on the cosmos and the human psyche, The Myth of the Eternal Return, The Myth of Meaning. Beside the books, a stack of freshly sharpened pencils, and beneath the pencils, a large yellow notepad. Free bookmarks sat next to the books, and in each of the books, a different bookmark from a different bookstore. Not, as she would prefer, the bookstores she bought the books from, not always, not specifically. But more or less, for every book in her collection, she had at least one and a half bookmarks. One day she hoped to carry a bookmark from the same bookstore for every book, but for now, it wasn’t possible.

These items had always been there, as long she remembered. Not the same books, and not the same pencils, but more or less the same amount. The only difference in the collection on her bedside table, apart from the different lightbulb she would use to view the contents, is the appearance of a thin, paperback book she writes in from time to time, more recently, every night, waking between dreams to note everything down.

She noted everything down, exactly as it came. She was careful to paint as honest a portrait of the images, her memory, the symbolic presence in every scene, the possible relation to her own psyche, to the possible relation to her life. Once she had achieved the capacity to note down to perfection the contents of her basic dreams, she then took it upon herself to note down the different elements of others in her life who may have made it into her dream, as an order to escape their own, or maybe, to ask for help. This change in direction, from a subjective experience of her dreams, to an objective experience of another’s, made her feel very special. It inspired her to dig deeper into the symbols. Different spaces gave her a different feeling, every time. Recurring spaces, spaces that she could name, spaces she knew she would never see. Cityscapes beyond the architecture of man. Towering urban systems conniving so they intertwined. She would walk between the buildings, stretching into the sky, beyond her visibility, waiting to be directed, guided to the next light. She noticed patterns, and from the patterns she noticed airwaves and soundwaves she could employ, to empower her decisions, in where she might go. Dreams being the content of her psychic self, meshing with the random introduction of collective unconscious material, she discovered certain elements to herself she had not been aware. After the rapid introduction of cockroaches, for example, into the dreams, she remembered entire chapters of her childhood she had completely forgotten. The months between spring and autumn, where the moisture in the air and the heat on the ground made it perfect weather for the reemergence of the cockroach onto every day life. She remembered her home, the third or fourth her family lived in, where she would wake up for school and between her walk from her bedroom to the bathroom, would find one, two, sometimes three cockroaches dead on their backs, the remaining sight of their oppressive battle. She remembered finding mothers lying on their backs with two, three of their young lying next to them, and the entire house would rise with a wail, and the feeling she had of being home, of being in her place of safety, was gone, discovering a new place she had entered, the feeling that is there when a child finds themselves in the face of danger, and the eyes of her mother, the voice erupting from her giant mouth, tell her she should be afraid. It became so the very sight of a cockroach made her scream a terrible scream, and if the proximity between her and the disgusting insect was too close for her to believe she was not in danger, she wouldn’t scream but freeze, her face would pale, ghost white, her hands would stretch to their most extension, her knees would tremble, her toes would kneel.

Even this, she had forgotten.

Over the course of several months the images became more steady, still, the pace of her dreams was disorderly, like everything was moving in slow motion, but the introduction of different space, foreign elements, disjointed, she stepped from one world to another.

The mountainous she spent summers with her best friend, hiding their prettier underwear and their makeup from her parents, their evolving interest in the village boys, young immigrants from poor households, who had no papers, no names, just arms and legs and a set of eyes they could use to put in the work, and their mouths were kept closed, and they never spoke a word, for fear, she never realized at the time, but on thinking on it now, of being reprimanded, fired, deported. Executed, if they were ugly and couldn’t put in much work. As long as they had no family. Executed, she thought. She noted it down.

In the beginning, she doubted that the dreams held any meaning, any purpose, but being a student of literature, a scholar of esoteric and ecstatic works, a believer in the persona of a cosmic order, she decided to investigate her interest, and treat the dreams as a sort of subject, a patient, and a place where she was free to experiment with things she had learned, techniques, like a hypnosis method, or a method of meditating, to see how she might alter the sequences, the spaces.

She was surprised to find that in the first several months there were no real faces. When she focused on a face, it disappeared. When she focused on a feeling, faces appeared out of nowhere, in great amount. More and more, she tried to study the faces, but they disappeared. She tried to trick her unconscious, turning her eyes away to the faces, but searching somehow, from the corner of her eye, or, if she was lucky enough to notice she was standing in the bathroom of her high school, or, say, the bathroom at her best friend’s, she could find one of the faces staring back at her in the mirror. In the mirror, the faces appeared. Many of them seemed as though she were waiting for her to see them, standing there with their arms crossed, or their backs against the wall, like they were studying her as she studied them, noting down her movements, regularities and irregularities, patterns and symbols. The color of her nails, the scratches on her back. The dirt under her eyes. The scars on both her knees.

Music. The element that was missing from the start. She heard humming, light humming, rising from the shadows of every image, and she followed the shadows, following the sound of a deep bass chorus, humming in perfect fifths the same four chords.

There were also lighter dreams, of fast, wormhole pacing, like she was running through the tunnel of a vacuum, the longer she ran, the deeper, the more it would expand.

It took her some time to make the connection. To believe in the messages. The connections she later made weren’t visible at first. The parallel faces in her dreams and the subjects in her life.

Voices came to her in the dark. She always had trouble sleeping, and those hours she spent waiting in bed for the sudden ignition of sleep, she grew accustomed to a spur of images, moments in her life she never connected, moments that were insignificant at the time and together seemed even more irrelevant. The corridor of her kindergarten, for example. She would even swear that she could smell  the corridor, like she was there.

Months passed before she recognized the face haunting her in the dreams. She knew that face. She had known him. What was he doing there?

The night she recognized his face, she saw him everywhere. In the corner of every frame, in the center of every picture, the depictions seemed to rotate around his figure, like he possessed a magnetic field and her images, her pictures, were drawn into his orbit.

Then she heard his voice. He was whispering to someone else, an extra in her scene, someone who comes into the dream to take up space, and leave you with the memory of their shoes, or their patterns of walking, or their eyelids. A tiny detail, expressing itself more for the whole.

She wrote down all of his words. Gibberish, of course, the content of dreams is fleeting, intangible, repressive. What she came to realize is the messages.

What is my name? She didn’t know.

Will we ever go back? Could they?

She was sleeping alone, had been alone for a long time. She accepted she could have done more for a relationship, for something meaningful, more than the occasional fuck, but if she gave it too much thought it just depressed her, so she left the idea as it came, always, on the brink of every silence.

In some way, his voice comforted her, keeping her company while she managed her day. That was why she decided to write down what she remembered, everything he said that she could recall.

But she still didn’t know his name, and she never knew where to look for his face, it appeared out of nowhere and she moved fast enough to notice, like the sudden interruption of a cockroach.

 

 

323

 

She wondered if she were possessed. If, in his visitations to her, she had become the subject of a demonic possession. He didn’t seem demonic. He spoke kindly, vividly, always with attention to her nerves, calming her in the absence of cognitive awareness, ushering her further and further into the dreams.

Did she want to be possessed? Possessed by him?

What did she have to remember? What did he want?

It all happened almost by accident.

She grabs her bag in a rush, bursting out the apartment door. She runs down the stairs of her flat, several floors with doors adorned with evil eyes or rugs designed with consistent greetings. Reaching the front door of her building, an old free mason lodge nearly two hundred years old, she stands momentarily in the wide passage, the ceiling carrying masonic emblems, the parallel walls fitted with stained glass mirrors. She watches herself in the mirror.

The duende rises from the desert, she tells herself, the duende rises from the soul.

Footsteps can be heard in encroaching from several positions. At so early in the morning, it is unusual to find other life in Berlin that isn’t still awake from the night before. She takes no notice of the footsteps, a pair descending down the stairs, another set of heels coming in through the hinterhaus backdoor, steering a bicycle through the steel enclosure. Another set of feet stop at the entrance to the building outside, and after managing with the keyhole, unfasten the door from its grip. The three passengers in her fury pass right by her, the four strangers in the hall moving past one another without noticing. The strangers disappear in their alternate directions, the woman descending the stairs meeting the man pushing his bicycle through the hinterhaus, both of exiting at once. The woman just entering disappearing into the hinterhaus passageway. All the while she remains, transfixed in her position opposite the mirror, peering in for some otherworldly news.

 

Arriving outside, the fury of the cold overwhelms her. She hides within her jacket and collection of scarves wrapped around her face like a Touareg’s turban. She realized she did not fit the profile of a professor, least of all a professor delivering a lecture on another scholar. Perhaps, had she bee teaching at the school of design or fashion, it would make more sense. But she wouldn’t apologize for her confused sense of style. She liked to wear what fell into her arms, dressing according to her morning mood.

 

She waits for the tram at Grunbergerstrasse, the M10 that takes her two stations to the U1 metro line, where she will ride all the way from Warshauerstrasse to Nohlendorfplatz, and from there switch onto the U3, where she will ride until Thielplatz, or Dahlem, arriving at Freie University on time to buy a double espresso from the Kurdish bio-market, and a whole grain cheese sandwich. Rarely does she have time to make breakfast at home, and if she had the time she would probably spend it thinking, staring at an obtuse corner of the room, wondering why she’s woken up that morning with a different set of eyes.

Finally, the tram arrives, and after several seconds she finds herself comfortable in a single seat, staring into the face of a sleeping cow. After a few minutes the tram arrives at the U-bahn station, and after running over the red light, a flurry of cars whizzing by her, honking their horns to the six or seven desperate pedestrians trying to save as much time, she arrives onto the U1 train just in time for the doors to close behind her, an old Turkish man, she thinks, kind enough to hold the door open while she jumps in, leading with her head, taking a seat on the long winding train, the snakelike trains that are usually reserved for the U8 or the U5, never used on the U1, pleasing her in the process.

The train ride is a generous time for reading, glancing over notes, disappearing into a blend of thoughts. She refuses her notes, staring at them bulging out of her bag. She pulls a book from the front jacket pocket. A collection of poems by Latin American writers, all of them imprisoned at some time, the poems written either during or after the poets served their terms. The poets are dead, she realizes, something she always realizes when she lifts the book to her sight. That is the life of poets.

The train is relatively empty, quiet, and for the remainder of the ride she glances over the lines of a Dominican poet, whose life ended as tragically as hers, she realizes, will not. She thinks of her husband, who didn’t come home the night before, of her lecture, which she will deliver with impeccable poise, and of her parents, who she hasn’t called in over three weeks. And later, after having exhausted her thoughts on various recurring subjects and themes that pervade her mind, she thought of her dreams, the dreams she’s been having and the dreams from the night before, the visions still acute in her mind, the sight of his waving handkerchief stretched before her eyes, the flight of white storks migrating above, the infant song of a carousel parading into the quiet night.

 

 

 

324

 

The director sits in the quiet chamber backstage, shielding himself from the raucous crowd. It takes so much discipline, he thought to himself, so much discipline over the years.

A small room, nested between two enormous crowds, a door on either wall, one to his left and one to his right. The door on his left led outside to the dressing room, the barracks of his army. In the old theater house, before it had been destroyed by two successive wars, the dressing room lay to the side of the stage, curling around and into the audience, so that during shows, unoccupied cast and crew could observe the peaceful onlookers, seated politely in their seats. After reconstruction, the dressing room cut its furthermost wing, setting it entirely backstage.

To the right of the dressing room lay the director’s box, a small room with four doors, one on either wall. To his right, the director can walk through the actor’s corridor, a hall of rooms designed especially for the production of every play, whose walls can be easily moved, transformed, merged, to suit the needs of every production. Some actors like to spend an hour before a show, especially a premiere, meditating in as large a room as possible. Others prefer to sit in a tiny box with four dark walls and a pitch black ceiling, to give them the impression of a cage, undisturbed, to harness the energy required for their labor. Many actors deny such rituals and actually prefer to have a beer outside the theater grounds with some of the crew. It all depends. In the director’s time he’s seen it all. Actors who induce a great big shit before a show, in order to feel light and weightless. Actors who recite their favorite Shakespearean monologue. Actors who get high, actors who have sex, actors who eat their favorite meals. Everyone has their own style, their own needs, to prepare. The director himself, before and after a show, takes his seat, as he is now, chewing a firm nugget of chewing tobacco, curling it into a ball where it rests under his gums, a habit he hides form his colleagues, from his friends, and mostly from his third wife. He finishes his chew over two single shot glasses of malt whiskey. He sketches a little figure on a piece of paper, a tiny figure he has drawn in just such purpose for over three decades.

Three decades in the business and he’s risen to the top. In the beginning, he worked on anything he could, just to gain a foothold in the industry. He learned the lights, the design and management of the props, the building of the infrastructure. He assisted a producer behind the scenes, in the days where city legislation wasn’t so generous to subsidize theater to such an extraordinary extent. In many ways, working on the budget for those early productions, planning devious ways to deceive the financial inspectors, choosing between a veteran actress or an extravagant set design, choosing to build a stage or to suggest it, something he became good at, where he developed his vitality, his relentless militancy to succeed, to put o the plays he wanted, the plays he felt were most needed.

He stares ahead from his still position, to the two other doors in the director’s box, viewing one of them through its reflection in the mirror, and the other, the door he never takes, sitting directly in front of him, to the side of his desk only a few feet, beside the mirror he looks into from time to time, like an actor, he tells himself, or a writer, he visits the characters in his play, visiting them in unfamiliar places, like they are both guests, or sometimes they even play host, and he watches them in their daily lives, in their lives outside the stage, the lives not documented, never seen. On these occasions, staring into the reflecting void, he wonders about his own life, about his own comparison between the public’s witnessing and his hidden rooms. Take your secrets to the grave, he remembers his second wife telling him a few weeks before she finally died. She was, remains, his only real love, like those pathetic love stories of older men harkening back on a time where they felt, for a few brief moments in spring, or under the fragile cloth of a winter, the miracle of true love. What would she be doing now, he thinks to himself, if she were alive today. Focusing on the sketching of his hands, he concludes she would have left him before his rise. She would not have watched him fulfill his dreams. Dreams he stole from her.

He met her the night he divorced his first wife, formally, though they had been separated for over a year. A woman he has chosen to forget. A woman who, when he thinks of her, gives him the impression he has been living another life since their fateful rupture. His second wife was the one to introduce herself. She had been reading quietly beside him at a late night café bookstore that intended to serve literature and drinks to the insomniac artistic class. Since most writers prefer the late night or the early mornings, the café was quite popular at the time. That evening, they had both attended a reading for Austrian writers who work in tandem, whose fiction was written specifically as an homage to the Alps, their cause militarized they say by the offensive character of Thomas Bernhard to their cultural heritage, whose revulsion of the Alpian people in his novel Gargoyles has inflamed and informed much of their work. The novel they were presenting, not the first collaboration by the two writers, tells the story of a little girl whose mother dies during labor, and whose father takes her from war torn Berlin to the Austrian Alps to be saved from the family curse, namely, never to know her parents. The father dumps the little girl in a farmhouse. The story is meant, so they allowed the presenter to claim, as a metaphor for the rebirth of the German speaking people, whose history is so tainted in guilt and violence that through a journey of independence the future generation is saved. The novel is no longer than one hundred sixty two pages, in manageable font and written with enough speed to carry the reader through in one sitting, and she finished the novel in those few hours after the reading, where he, sitting beside her, managed to finish a bottle of wine. He was drunk and content while she was upset at the ending in the book, where the girl, once grown, decides to relinquish her Alpian identity and returns to Berlin to live in poverty and despair. An immigrant, in many ways the novel seemed to suggest to her the writers’ apology, or subscription, to resurgent fascism. The heroine, as an order of survival, returns to the quagmire of the past to reclaim the fatherland she had lost, even in exchange for the relatively stable life she had been given as a result. She bought a bottle of wine, which she invited him to enjoy with her, and afterwards, she cried on his shoulder for several more hours, after which they were asked to leave for the morning ritual of cleaning that occurs between eleven in the morning and noon. That evening, they boarded a night train destined for the Alps, where they were going to confront the fascist writers.

So began a journey of carefree enthusiasm for the two, who would spend their first year together in over fifty cities. She wrote emasculating poetry, the kind that sinks a tyrant in his chair, and while she toured the cultured world with her eyes open, he read nimbly at her side, a time he considers his literary education. What will we do for food, he would ask, for money, still suffering the results of a divorce. Tranquillo, she would say, we’ll get married in the spring and live a beautiful life, somewhere warm with fresh vegetables to pick, and when I’m bored of writing I’ll tend a garden, and you’ll dust the shelves and read to us at night.

They did get married, in a barn in the Scottish Isles, where she chose the setting for her final piece of work. When she pressed him as to why he never wrote, having such an observant and sensitive mind, a trait she understood from his spending afternoons alone rescuing porcupines from crossing the road unattended, forcing them to spend a few weeks by the beach where they would lead freshly hatched turtles back into the water, he told her about his fears, his fears of commitment. He told her stories he heard as a child, about writers who disappear into the jungle of their soul, confronting the infernal mysteries. He told her he didn’t think he had the stamina, or the patience, or the intent.

He never met her remaining family, she never met his. They spent the years they had together each on a converging mission to destroy and rebuild the infrastructure of their lives. Maybe the destruction had occurred before they met. His failed marriage, which came to symbolize all that he did wrong in life, spurred him on to devise a new self. He forgot that he had been a financial advisor to several patriarchal monarchies in the emerging Arab world. That he was gifted a two bedroom flat in South Kensington and a studio apartment, with a chauffeur on call, in Saint Germain. He had forgotten that he married the valedictorian of his graduating class, the daughter of an oil tycoon in the Gulf, who doubled as a pioneer of introducing the latest firearms to his beloved country. A woman who walked barefoot the streets of New York but always traveled first class. Who donated her graduation gift of a million dollars in cash to a charity trending at the time, one of the more recent solutions to domestic abuse in the region. He had forgotten his wardrobe and his house of cards, his silverware and his impressive cellar of whiskies and wines. He had forgotten the boat they parked in a marina he would never see again, a stretch of land he could never again afford, or so he thought at the time. He never learned anything about her past, and he forgot his own.

A few weeks into the third year of their union, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She wasn’t afraid, but the debate on chemotherapy changed her life. She resented him for giving her something to look forward to. Had they not been married, she would say, she would have accepted her fate gracefully, giving in to the disorder raging in her body, without destroying the temple of her soul. She resented him, because she wanted now to live, to age together in their new form.

Without realizing it, he began his first performance piece as a director. She had always been an avid photographer, and she had two 35mm cameras in her possession, a Soviet made Zenit and a refurbished Minolta, with 25mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses. She always carried with her a Rolleiflex, as well. He never played with the cameras. He never knew why. but upon her diagnoses something suddenly took hold of the stagnant man. From the first day before treatment until the last day of her life, he photographed the evolution of his wife’s body and soul, capturing what he believed to be the evolving and developing victory of a body being eaten from within, mutating beyond its own capacity to survive. He photographed her naked, in bed, in the shower. Running, when she still was able to. Painting, when she still had something to paint. He photographed her waiting in line at the market. He photographed her walking down the tenement aisles of a refugee camp. e photographed her peeking through little dollhouses at a flea market. He photographed her reading on a bench.

When she died, he had amassed a collection, a series. It was his first creative pursuit and his first piece of art. He had seen his first character transform before his eyes, seen first hand the unbelievable trajectory of a lifeform in evolution. At first, he couldn’t handle the subject. He spent nearly a year wallowing in pity and violent hurt. When he looked at himself in the mirror, he saw the face of a rodent, and when he spoke, he heard the shrill voice of a rat. He no longer wanted to live, to experience, to watch anything unfold, worried he might forget the miracle of those documents. The documents became an obsession, and they took hold of his every thought, his every mood. He guarded them day and night, worried that they would dissolve with every set of eyes that set on them.

Something changed one Easter. He had traveled to Jordan with the intention to walk from Amman to Damascus, from where he would walk to Beirut, and finally to Jerusalem. He thought that the ancient city might heal him. He thought, that without some mystical retribution he would not survive another year, another winter in the drudgery of Europe, another winter among the guarded artifacts of their life. But when he arrived in Beirut, having spent nearly a month roaming with Bedouins in Jordan and Syria, he found himself secretly pleased. The weather was nice, nicer than it had been in the desert, landlocked as the Bedouins are. He stayed through the autumn and into winter, and as Easter arrived, he emerged slowly from the shadows of his pain, a man renewed, a man on the cusp of another life. His third life, he believed. His third life in just the one.

He never made it to Jerusalem. After arriving in Beirut and staying through the year, he never went more south. But he had found some spiritual salvation in the solitude of the people, many of whom remain close friends. He had found a thriving underground class of artists, whose work wasn’t tied so much to trends in the East or West but aligned somehow to a thread that cuts right between the two. He found a bustling city, a city that had yet to be ravaged by war.

Returning to Europe, he submitted his work with another piece of writing, a manuscript he claimed to have written himself. These two works propelled him to immediate stardom. He played a part in the resurgence of post-wall Berlin. He found himself immersed in the theater scene and sooner or later, after slaving away for the biggest names, the architects of a cultural rehabilitation, he put on his first set of shows, short one hour plays using sketches of symbolist poems fused with anthropological work of the early twentieth century among indigenous tribes of the world. Within a decade, he was opening every show at the Berliner Ensemble. Over the next few years he would rise and rise to greater fame, opening in Moscow, New York, Tokyo, curating festivals in Paris, Venice, Berlin. He took a year off and lived with a tribe in the Andes for several months, learning the mystical interpretations of their ritual dance, a pleading of the clouds not to behead them, living as they did on the highest peak inhabited by human life. He never returned to Beirut, to Lebanon, not to his beach house in the North of the country, not even to the heights of Mount Sannine, where he looked upon the world and fell silent in his mind and heart, silent for the first time since the passing of his second life, of his beautiful companion, like he had woken up from a spell, breathing in the air of revolution. And after a while, after he had built a name for himself and made a home among the very classes he dismissed not so long ago, after returning from his journey and rising to the pinnacle that few men reach in one life, he thought less and less of those days, of his repressive despair, his alienation from the world, his grave and utter loss. He forgot all about her words, Take your secrets to the grave. He had his own secret that had never been told, and he meant to forget it. He hadn’t written the manuscript.

He stares off into the door he never uses. It leads underneath the stage, under the restless feet of the audience, and out into the entrance to the theatre grounds. He looks into the mirror. A man now at the height of his game, at the peak of his powers.

He runs his hands along his face. Calloused fingers, thick with scaled fat and strength, tufts of white hair glowing under the spotlight. He never liked his hands or his feet. He felt they didn’t suit him, his mentality, his character, nor the rest of his physique. He had always felt so fragile, his long, slender body attributing to this feeling. But his hands and feet were big and bulky, bushy with hair and power veins pulling at the skin.

He ran his thick fingers across his face. Over the years, it was as if the skin had weakened, as though with age the skin loses so many of its layers and stops growing them back, the color of his body never revived. He felt like if he dug his thumb into his cheek it would slice into the skin and strike immediately at the bone. Did he still have all of his bones?

He stares at his reflection in the mirror. The reflection of a man who has claimed the golden fleece, who has deceived the underworld and returned with the keys. The reflection of a boy, he thinks, still at odds with his life.

Moments before, he had taken his final bow at the podium. Customarily the practice of the actors, the whole world knew he would be bowing out after this evening. The applause was deafening. Tributes in the morning papers would spell the career of a magician, a man who came in under a storm and made his mark. The following evening, he would walk arm in arm with his wife into the chancellor’s home, for a banquet thrown in his honor. He would retire without the lingering fear of defamation that inhabits a fraud.

But questions would one day be asked on his story. After the dust of his retirement would settle, a journalist, perhaps a biographer, maybe even a critic fond of his work, because not many were very critical at this point, would suddenly, when remembering his final piece, recognize something strange about the performance. They would think back on that night, they would realize that, of all the plays the director ever staged, this was the play they couldn’t remember. Of all the plays the director staged, this, they would think, is the performance they can’t remember to have seen. Where were all the characters? What was everyone doing? As though some mystical spell had been cursed upon the audience. It was as though, when the curtains were finally drawn and the lights came on, there was no one but the sad little man onstage, in the center of the room.

 

 

325

 

It was a dim October afternoon. Outside, the majestic color of autumn rainfall had descended. A storm blew heavily along the Eastern seaboard. Gusts of wind crashed angrily at her storefront window every few seconds sending a wave of shock down her spine, clattering against the backdrop of her baby’s weeping, clutching him to her chest.

She was waiting for one of her visitors, one of her newly acquired. She had been expecting him all day, and he hadn’t showed. She even slipped the CLOSED sign on the front door and covered the windows with the blinds. She left him a note, one he would understand.

A few days before, the first night they met, the world had seemed different to them both. He hadn’t yet heard her voice and nodded along as she confirmed to him things he already knew about himself but was surprised a stranger could so well know. And she hadn’t yet met his eyes, identical to her own.

She first noticed him walking by the front of her store with two of his friends, walking so unbalanced it was obvious they were drunk, each of them bumping into the other at various intervals. The nights were beginning to rise earlier, and it seemed that week had seen an overhaul in the busy streets of New York, the meek too tired from a summer of urgency to remain outside. They must have been going to the water, she thought as she watched them pass, cradling her baby in her arms, and later, seated before her in his drunken stare, he confirmed it, slurring over all of his words, over annunciating and compensating for his slurring, spitting when he wasn’t focusing, his face bleach red, his eyes glazed over, absent. He confirmed everything she said that night, but he was drunk, speaking over too heavy a tongue, he reeked, and if it weren’t for his puppy dog eyes that seemed to cry for innocence, she would not have told him to come again. But she did. She felt responsible for him. Him, who she didn’t know. Who she wasn’t supposed to know. She felt responsible and broke the code, and told him to come back without telling him why, and refusing to accept his money.

He had told her he would be leaving in the morning, boarding a bus West, he said, making it clear he didn’t know how far West he would go, just West, explaining that, in the business of what he was trying to do, hoping to do, to make sense of his provisions in life, the further West he would go the further the story could travel, and so on. East, he explained, cuts the story short.

She wasn’t sure how to handle him at first. Most of her clients were more desperate, looked the part more than he did. They came in winds, ten on one day and none on another. Like the city had a plan for them to be roused from their apathy. Most of them with serious problems. Eating disorders that took control of their life, one of them weighed over four hundred pounds and admitted to eating ten meals a day. How could she find the poor woman’s soul under so much meat! Another younger girl weighed on the cusp of eighty pounds and was chewing through her pencils, her teeth eroding and chipped. When she asked her where she might have developed her disorder, the girl told her she was trying to disappear, that she had been raped as a child and nobody believed her, and that she didn’t want to claim her body, wanting to let her spirit go. She must be dead by now, the oracle often thinks, she never came back.

The protocol is simple and most of the time she doesn’t have trouble following the rules. The protocol insists on the veneer of her being superior in spiritual connectivity to her visitors. This isn’t always the case, and when its clear from the start that the visitor has a formal connection to the divine, she forces her way into their thoughts, so as first to embed a complex of doubt, and following, when they no longer feel the source of their creation as they did before, she helps them to construct one again. This gives her, so the protocol says, the ultimate power over her visitors. She gives them what they need, without ever giving them more.

Over the years she started to lose control over her visitors. Sometimes, she gave up control. Not out of spite, but out of reason. Some of these people, she’ll tell you, don’t want to be helped. And the visitors who refuse help, who thrive on suffering, are cursed to remain in the dark, forbidden from the light.

Of course, she took pity from time to time on her visitors as well. For instance, the terminally ill. Cancer, AIDs, Ebola. Those with disfigurations, paralyzed from a motorcycle accident or losing their legs on a mine. Those whose faces were burned, attacked by boiling water, with gas. She helped these people, it was their right. They didn’t all ask to be opened to the man upstairs, to be receiving the gifts of a pious life. They asked for comfort. They asked to be given the strength to wake up in the morning, to open their eyes knowing the difficulties, the conflicts, the suffering they were going to face. They asked for humor, for love. They all asked for love. Anyone who asked for love, she believed, deserved to have it.

Those were the visitors she enjoyed helping, the patients she broke her back over, the ones she would give anything for. But the worst, the one she didn’t like to entertain, the ones she didn’t even bother to help, or if she had to, the ones who she manipulated toward their destruction, were the older men who had been lying all their lives, who had acted on their predatory instincts, finally, and couldn’t have enough, who lured children from schools, from their neighbor’s homes, from airports and shopping malls, into their dens to become subjects in an act of humiliation and degradation. the men who had children of their own and their friends had children as well, all of them meeting together for cookouts and carpooling to school, and the urge growing in the older man’s gut, until the day finally comes when the man give in to their transgressions and prey on the body of a poor little soul. A soul who has no will in the matter. She helped these men pass through the darkness. She helped them seek forgiveness for themselves, from themselves, and to seek forgiveness from their prey. But secretly she despised their presence and sought to punish them in some way, pushing them to the brink of sanity, leaving them stranded with one hand pleading to the great open door in the sky and the other gorged in the mouth of a subsurface cretin. She abused her power and treated them to a horrible kind of recovery, a horrible kind of mercy that begins with acceptance and defeat and ends with a bullet to the head. She never told these poor souls that suicide is a sin, that they would suffer damnation, cursing their already damaged souls. She accepted that she was leading them to the edge and watching them fall, if not pushing them herself, watching them drown with excitement, watching the great volcanic mire devour them into her ash. Most of her clients of such nature would eventually commit the rite.

But she wasn’t sure of this one. He told her he was a writer. She knew nothing of writers or writing, but it made it easier to navigate. She always thought writers to be obsessed hobbyists who tricked the world into a profession, if they were lucky enough to succeed. Her younger sister, on the other hand, knew almost everything about writers. But she hadn’t spoken to her sister in years, even after their reunion. For some reason, as he sat in her chair that first night, he reminded her of her sister. Beneath the drunkenness, beneath the veneer of loss, he reminded her of the way her sister used to stumble on her words, moving frenetically from idea to idea, like a mystical incarnation, catching the words as they drew by, chasing the words that lead to the next. He reminded her, because he was sitting with one leg over the other, and one of his palms dug beneath the upper leg, of the way her sister used to sit, crouching forward, begging with her open eyes for some sort of benediction. And maybe it wasn’t in the words, or the way he sat or the way he held her longer than most when they said goodbye, and she could actually wait long enough to loosen in his arms, to adjust to their respective forms, and to feel his heartbeat and to breathe, together, suddenly, breathing together in one long fight. Maybe it was the sight of him passing by the window, the sight of his eyes catching hers and the sound her child made in her arms as the moment stood still for muc longer, the look in his eyes when he refused to relieve them, when he passed and tilted his head and she tilted hers and he retained that position for just a moment longer, leaning backward with his head while his legs carried him forward, caught between his two ignorant friends. Maybe it was that look, that look that said, I remember something now, or, I have met you, that reminded her of the time, the last time she ever saw her sister, sitting in her chair as she did that night, that night when he passed and she hadn’t expected he would, how she sat there exactly like that the day her sister passed before her eyes, completely unaware of her surroundings, an opposite in every sense, and they caught each other’s eyes and though she knew it first it didn’t seem like it at the time, it seemed like her sister had been seeking her, because she didn’t seem at all surprised, she didn’t seem at all to be thinking, What the fuck, to be thinking, What the fuck, she just fell back into her groove, standing a little to the side of the window, staring in, before finally raising her right palm, peacefully, quietly, pulling from her elbow upward, the fingers tightly stacked so as to gift an open palm. It was the same look, and the same gesture that they had shared the last time she stood with them in their house, the whole family together for the last time, before she left their home to leave the tribe, to study literature and painting in an urban school, standing at the doorway with her elbow perched upward, her beautiful curls flowing down her back and riding across her chest, her little palm resting against the window, the invisible window that stood between them and that moment etched in time, the palm rinsed in the air by all her invisible sensations, her wanting to encroach on that moment and stab it in the gut, relieve it from its place and burn it in the mire she reserved for those decrepit souls.

And then, just like that, both times, her sister disappeared, washed from the aesthetics of her eyes.

In her evolution into a modern transformer of energy, she always recognized in her own struggle to attain ultimate perfection over her craft a pressing desire to reunite. It was uncommon for families to let go of their own, to embrace the curiosity of a wayward calf. ever since that day, she felt like a limb had been loosened from her body, stolen in front of her eyes, and the attempts she made to dismember the memory like the limb itself were no use in the end. Her family performed a sacred duty, and it was written in their destinies, so she was told, to perform it as well. The women in the family were tuned in to a sacred source, an energy basin that had long entrenched in the tribe.

The relationship with the source began with their great ancestors in the mountains known as Jabal el Druze, in the south of modern Syria. The inhabitants, who remain today, settled there as a haven for all mystical nations, for all Gnostics fleeing persecution in Europe and Asia Minor. The people, staunch ascetics, were smart to enlist the favor of the ruling monarch. Rulers come and go, revolutions topple regimes and instill yet another tyranny, empires that collapse bridge the era of another, and the ascetics have witnessed this for centuries, wars dismembering entire nations. While the Abrahamic schools destroyed one another, and secular armies pillaged like mad driven carnivores, the Druze protected their modest stretch of land, from the mountains of Syria and Lebanon and into Palestine, always obedient to the victor of another war. This small providence is where the sisters are from.

And yet, though she has performed her duties devotedly, she had never managed to embed herself in the popular will of the people. She could not understand a world of theological texts and doctrines. But nonetheless, the world is exciting to a young student of theology.

As a young girl, she would watch her mother and her sisters conduct ceremonies in secret. When she was old enough to join, she no longer had to hide to witness the miracle of transformation the women endure. None of the original myths that are known to scholars are reproduced. Most of the work is quite simple, from an exterior perspective, but the transformation occurs within. The women are drawn into a whirlwind, where they hear the testimonies of several thousand voices, speaking in relative frequencies. The women follow the lead, silently, diligently, of a voice they can trust, a voice that answers a question of theirs in return for a favor of their own. But the exuberant fantasies of contemporary horror stories is entirely absent. None of the furniture in the room is dislodged form its place. None of the women’s hands are endowed with special powers. The only real change occurs within the women’s heart, where they feel a deep and all encompassing possession of another soul, a process that embodies the heart of the bearer, her heart, and for a few moments in time she becomes the voice.

And all day, thinking of the images impressed in her mind, that of her sister’s little palm, that of the writer’s open eyes, his penetrating eyes, all the while questioning, debating, prodding whether the two could in some way be aligned, whether there was in fact some meticulous investigation she had to carry out, on her part, whether this could be the one visitor whose story would become her own, whose providence was in fact her lesson, whose presence was in fact her celestial gift. What would she tell the writer? What would she tell him when, appearing finally after a long day’s wait, probably a day he spent thinking and debating and prodding himself, wondering whether he had the nerve to show, whether he had the nerve to sit in her chair and listen to her gifts, what would she honestly tell him, if he ever showed? That she couldn’t help him? That she needed to use him for her own gesticulation? Could she tell him of the hours she’s spent imagining her reunion with her sister? That, when they first met, and he touched her palm while entering the door, all she could feel in that moment, all she could think about in that insignificant moment was a moment that had consumed the totality of her imagination, a moment she imagined the two sisters reunited, and after a restless opening conversation where they feel lightyears apart, at some point, at some gifted point, one of the sisters, probably herself, would reach over the counter and hold the other’s hand, ever so slightly, the way its done when you’ve been in contact over many years, the other person in the middle of speech, and without thinking, a sweet and tender palm falls onto the hand, almost robotically albeit for the wave of breathing energy that passes through the hold, resting there long enough for both sisters to notice, and for none of them to take notice, to take notice publically, for fear, she often imagined, for fear of turning their back on the moment, for fear of letting it pass, for fear of letting go and never doing it again, of feeling that one of them had acted out of line, that one of them, as in all relationships, especially those in need of repair, that one of the two fickle souls standing before each other needs the other more than the other needs them, that one of them is indebted to the other, that one of them will always feel obliged to give more than they can take, because the other demands so much from them, the other demands so, so much.

And yet, what had she ever demanded? What had she ever asked for herself but to be the quiet daughter, the obedient daughter, the daughter that is never reckless and always responsible, the daughter whose help can be sought at any given time, who is woken at four in the morning without even the slightest aura of annoyance, only to deliver her mother a glass of water, only to administer a diabetic shot to her dying aunt? What had she demanded other than to be recognized for her diligence, her sacrifice, her full fledged devotion to the family cause, devotion that would expire her heart and her age younger than most, that would witness the great slacking tide of her skin losing its softness, its tenderness, her face growing callous, her hands chipped at the nails, worn at the edges and losing every touch of health? What had she gotten for what had been given?

Once, not long after her sister drifted further and further away, her mother found her reading poems in the attic of her grandmother’s home. She had stolen a few books, books she knew nothing about, from her sister before the little one got away, and pretending to be ill, citing a case of the flu, she ascended the tiny stairs and emerged into the dustbowl attic, where she pulled from her long black overcoat a book of passages by names she had never heard, poems that were only read, she thought, by those who don’t have responsibility, by those who remain outside of the family cause. How could she have time for poetry, when her mother was courting up to ten visitors a day, up to ten visitors all claiming a little portion, a tiny portion but significant enough, of her soul, each time they visit, tearing away at her heart like the teeth of a lioness chewing away at the remaining food, after its been devoured by the king, the patriarchal monster that ruled over their home. She didn’t want to think of the monster, and that afternoon she retired to the attic and read, and it was the first time in her life, reading without the presence of her mother, her aunt, her grandmother, the neighbors, the visitors, the patriarchal monster, all peering over her shoulder judging, investigating, lampooning her every move.

But she didn’t understand the poems. She didn’t even know, afterward, if they had been poems at all. A series of essays, loosely constructed, which she understood to be fact, but in truth they were entirely fictional, and she didn’t quite know where the story began, if poetry ever had a story, she had only ever read a few of their theological texts, that’s all. In prayer, she could usurp the paradigm of creativity and become its humble bearer. In her sessions, with her visitors, she became the poem, she became the part. But when reading, she often felt let down by the words, like they promised, in the first few lines, something significant to be told, something extraordinary, a secret that the two, the writer and the reader, might share together, never to be told but at her grave, peering over her dead body standing alongside the writer, lamenting the absence of all her friends at the only ceremony to be held in her name. But after reading into the work, the feeling of significance would pass, the secret would expire into a petty series of accusations and dissertation, the aura of a journey shared together rapidly disappearing. She didn’t understand the poetry she read that day, but she also felt, after consulting herself in prayer and in union with the unconscious whole, meditating on her experience for several weeks before forming a conclusion, that she didn’t want to understand the poems, that the poems were only written by and for those types of men and women who coerce their families and spend their fortunes, and for families without fortune, for a family like hers, they would only use up what resources they had to investigate the aesthetics of wonder, happily pushing their family to the grave.

The hours would continue to pass. Hours that felt like she were slipping deeper and deeper into her own whirling cord, her own Dervish like dance, turning inside her blood. Where was this writer? People who make promises, she thought, people who make commitments and can’t even excuse themselves. It’s a pity, she thought, it’s a pity and its sad because she liked his eyes, she remembers, she liked the innocence that sprang from his eyes.

 

 

326

 

Modern literature owes much of its consumption to a flourishing culture of appeasement. Readers want to be trolled onto a spectacle, hurled through the grapevines of a journey that incarcerates the meaninglessness of their own lives into hurried subjects and verse and disobeys the gravitational structure of its living force, rebuilding in their eyes a vision of themselves as being renewed, come to pass of some monumental experience, transcendental force.

Readers want to be uplifted, coerced into thinking they have themselves committed the journey, have risen above the tides and the great Oriental punishments of a deviant God figure. The modern American, especially, reviews himself as an embodiment of the hero, as he is so determinedly portrayed on regurgitated cinema and television screens and in the folk generation mind of popular myth. But for every hero propelled to the stature of the Olympians, there are angular forces whose roles maintain the gravitational structure of the hero body. One of them is of the gods, and another is of the great devil spirit. But among those most often neglected and forgotten is the great, dwarf slave figure, who urges his life forward at the expense of his own health. He owns no property, possessing no deep mythical wish, and his journey is that of a stock figure, whose role is to take recurrent beatings and assaults from the hero figure, in order to propel the latter to their great heights, leaving the former where he was and where he remains, a dwarf in the capacity of nothing. With nothing to own, and nothing of his own to pursue, the slave figure fulfills his role to perfection, without the slightest hiccup of resignation, or worse, rebellion, enacting some Sisyphean triumph. The slave figure is the mud and dirt the hero trounces upon his sacred walk. He is the retired ash of a wet crimson fire, that burns in the wake of the hero’s epic run.

Zizek defines this figure in his admission of Judas as “the ultimate hero of the New Testament, the one who was ready to lose his soul and accept eternal damnation so that the divine plan could be accomplished…” “Even as he lamented the forthcoming betrayal, Christ was, between the lines, giving the injunction to Judas to betray him, demanding of him the highest sacrifice- the sacrifice not only of his life, but also of his “second life,” of his posthumous reputation.” (16)

“Nietzsche’s notion of a ‘noble betrayal’ modeled on Brutus remains the betrayal of the individual for the sake of the higher Idea.” (17)

“As Lacan put it in Seminar VII, the hero is the one who can be betrayed without any damage being done to him.” (18)

“John le Carre’s formula from The Perfect Spy, ‘love is whatever you can still betray…” (18)

“Every true leader, religious, political, or intellectual, has to provoke such a betrayal among the closest of his disciples.” (19)

“Perhaps there is no greater love than that of a revolutionary couple, where each of the two lovers is ready to abandon the other at any moment if revolution demands it.” (19)

 

The slave figure is the hero, because he is that figure himself. Through the classification and administration of the hero figure, he slips into the comforting dress of the slave and parachutes gladly into the butcher’s Oriental home. Writing from the perspective of those who do not own the means to their intelligence, or, the education to their own pasts, he directs his message to his indifferent captors. But he is unable to summon anything more than a light, technical job, a surface insult at best.

The writer tries for irony and wit, but he loses the weight of struggle when he calcifies his words. He is more effective, and fierce, when he speaks directly to the destruction of his oppressor, and not to the oppressor’s repulsive qualities.

 

 

327

 

An ironic stage of separation, disassociation, for the visitors, is of finding the gate, and realizing, that one is not confined to the room, like it is usually imagined, taken for granted, as existential fact, during the course of a trip. But there is a very thin thread that separates those permeating the lengths of the room and those whose hesitation, what some might call the survival instinct- though survival of what is also in question, as what limits the trajectory into the cosmic order of the room’s visionary state is the limiting protectorate of the Ego- draws them back.

In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlowe writes of Kurtz, both of them having experienced a similar descent or passageway into the interior of their psyche, that it was Kurtz who had travelled further, going so far as to surpass into, “the final stage of madness and confrontation with the ultimate deep.” Marlowe says, “Kurtz had made that last stride, he had stepped over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot.” For those who do not commit entirety, subjecting their subjectivity to the full possibilities of rapture within the subconscious psychic realm, it is never known how far, or how close, they have come towards that maddening state, the upheaval.

This upheaval, the force that impales and causes great disorder, is regarded as the Dionysian force, of Dionysus. In The Lively Image, Hughes writes in his study on Dionysus, that he is the “enigmatic god, the spirit of a dual nature and of paradox.”

 

He comes abruptly, and is opposed by the guardians of order…frequently                 disguised so that he cannot be prepared for, his disguises varying from the             terrible to the seductive. Pandemonium, frequently music, trances and loss                of self-identity characterize his revelries. He is associated with intoxication          and with the underground…subterranean dwellers…allied to vegetation                 and the seasonal rhythm of the earth…an insistent connection with            water…with women (he is tutored by nymphs, frequently disguised as a      woman, and the maenads, crazed women, are his most frequent   companions). Most important, and binding all the episodes, is the theme of          madness: he is the crazed god, his followers are frenzied, he destroys his    enemies with madness. An envelope of fury surrounds his story…he is the        unconscious itself. Narcissus is myth, the inviter to the unconscious; and                 Dionysus is what we meet if we accept Narcissus’ beckoning.

 

The Dionysian force, the duende force. Hughes elaborates,

 

To the rational and conscious mind the collective unconscious is                 incredible, frightening; it is radical, capable of altering the more staid world            of consciousness, so much so that “consciousness struggles in a regular     panic against being swallowed up in the primitivity and unconsciousness of         sheer instinctuality.” While it is destructive of serenity and order, it is also creative, indeed the source of the creative impulse…identical with           instinctual energy…denies individuation and lures us to a nonpersonalized                 state of being…is an extension of man beyond himself, a death of personal               being and a rebirth in a new dimension. If inhibited or denied, the        instinctual energy of the unconscious will yet break forth, violently if too   strongly repressed.

 

A textual source of reading is an upset balance and constantly striving for wholeness, a text that reasserts itself continuously, jostling between a state of Ego-chaos and a state of cosmic tranquility. We find evidence of the world itself existing within this paradigmatic confrontation, whereby the roots of the world are in a constant state of confrontation with themselves.

Basing the entire work on a journey through the abandoned port (read the womb of Narcissus, the unfulfilled desire to return to the sacred garden, the feeling of exile and loss of innocence of the primordial self, the celestial self destroyed), the thread that allows for the safe passage of both our narrator, and as we know the novel was written in subjective experience of the novel, the writer himself, being similar to the thread of Theseus, being the return to a beginning, a constant self-referential calibration, where the writer reminds himself of what he is presently doing, in order to survive confrontations owing their tutelage to the Dionysian force, the upheaval of the writer himself.

Is there a desire to refuse the call to adventure?

 

 

 

328

 

His novel speaks openly of a curse, when jokingly referring to the sovereign of their dismembered home, he writes, that he the beneficiary to a curse, the head of an empire without a turban to defy him.

 

 

 

329

 

A woman turns off a lit road onto a darker alleyway, amassed between the shadows of two impressive buildings. She disappears into the distance, after a galloping echo of her footsteps.

“The space we meet isn’t real.”

“What do you mean?”

“People transform into themselves as they enter. What you see inside is a different conception of the colony.”

“I know what you were saying, what you mean. But I’ve come to understand a lot more about these people. I like them.”

“Some days they are like agents of another planet, and you admire them. But some days they disgust you, just wait and see. They live their lives with such pathetic indifference. You would become just like them, or you will leave.”

They rush through the marketplace. The sellers hoisting freshly carved bodily limbs from straw hung banisters. Canvas sheets with oil prints and fiber paneled boots.

“But they are resourceful.”

“They will hope to gain your trust. Then they will suck your infant soul with their tongues.”

 

 

 

330

 

You wake up, tired.

You smoked too much the night before.

You always smoke too much.

The air in the room is sticky. You miss the moisture of late spring. You look outside, from your bed ridden position, and watch the scene unfold outside. Trees that have no movement of wind. The sound of a construction site idling away its hours. The journey of cars back and forth and the occasional train. The occasional silence. Rhythm.

You rise from the bed, annoyed. You put your fingers to your eyes and rub them. You stare at your naked body in the mirror beside the bed. You wait a moment, hoping to hear the absence of your roommate’s footsteps. You hear the scratching of a cat at your door. You are awake.

You never wanted much from anyone. You never wanted much in life. You wanted peace, for yourself and for others. Maybe that’s asking too much. You wanted to live free and do what you could do well. You thought you could make good coffee, but you couldn’t, even though you tried. You made good drinks but you hate working at bars. You found yourself with a camera in your hands and you decided to try photography. But nobody sees your pictures. You rarely glance over them yourself. Only at some midnight hour, early in the week, when you’re chasing away the ghosts of an ominous depression. You worry that you are depressed. You fear the ornate possibility.

You glance over at your phone. You lift it from the charger. You forgot to plug in the charger, so it is almost out of battery. No calls, no messages. An email from a friend you promised to help with his work. He doesn’t know where you are, you’ve been ignoring him. You stare at the silent device in your hand for a while.

You stare at your feet. They look oddly unfamiliar. You stare back at your reflection in the mirror. You look into the eyes. You feel nothing.

You rise abruptly from the bed and pull on your nearest slip. You open the door with aggression, hoping to announce yourself to anyone waiting around the corner. The apartment is quiet, empty. You smell the remnant scent of a bacon and egg breakfast. You pity the chicken that lost her egg. You feel the urge to cry, a lump growing in your throat. You laugh it off, and walk toward the bathroom.

You wash your hands. You rinse your face with cold water. You are happy the water is running. It’s been out some time. You realize you have certain gifts, certain blessings, you sometimes take for granted. You feel ashamed. You carry on.

 

 

331

 

You give her flowers. You want her to feel special.

Where have you been? You hate the formalities. When we’re fucking, your arms around my neck.

You seem different. You’ve just come back. I’m curious. Curious to see if you still run your mouth. If you still have the fire. You do. I sense it. You catch my eyes and there we are. Sharing in the moment. Standing on the dancefloor waiting for you. How long have you been here? When did you come back? Are you going to approach me, to say hello? What makes a guy wait?

You stand around the corner from the bathrooms. You avoid the dancefloor. It’s blurry. You’re drunk. Lingering in the shadows. I walk up to you. You don’t do well in the light. But you look handsome in the sun. You spend your days outside but you prefer the autumn where its cold and you have to hide under some layers. You like to feel the wind against your cheeks and your skin aching. You want to live on the sea, but you never go to the beach to lie under the sun. You walk to the beach with your boots, and your jeans, and a denim jacket with pockets to fill a book with and a pocket for your smokes. But you quit smoking, because of the smell and the taste. You carry your joints around nut the authorities are always watching. You carry one joint with you and you know it will disappear when you find your haven on the rocks. You find your spot and you remove your boots and your jacket. You look good in the light. You absorb the light.

You wonder where the interest lies, if she’s into you. You only do good when focused and you have to focus on things to know if they exist. You remember that she watched you all night, whenever you turned your eyes you saw her glaring at you. You catch her and she flinches, realizing she was in a trance, looking into your almond eyes. These are the things you share.

You carry a book of poems, something you put together. Other poets, an anthology of your favorite work. The work that heals and cuts to the bone. You want to print the books and share them in town. First with friends and then with strangers. But your friends are gone. They’ve left. To study elsewhere. To live elsewhere. To raise their children where they meet their needs. To nurture the mind, to care for the body.

You search the morning for a poetic voice. You read the French, the Reverdy. “In the morning that comes up behind the roof, in the corner of the cypresses that rise above the wall.” You finish the poem and you stare at the motionless man beside you, singing in his monotone voice, a folk song that fought to outlive history. The song and the voice are outlawed. The man in your midst disappears. His voice carried off in the wind. You lose the man to the sea.

You carry the sadness with you and you speak of Manhattan like a flood in the skies. You carry the young Hoffman and you search for his spirit in Mexico, encountering triangles of the dead. You churn the lyrics to resurface the middle class soul. You take a deep breath. You walk away from the harbor of the port. Mountaineers that pass with revolver manes. You wonder if you woke up from the dream, if you’re still dreaming. You ask yourself for the urgency. The quiet never comes. You want to make something beautiful of the past. You clear your eyes and hunt methods for the war. Did you leave to stay away and hurt for the poems? Show me your poems.

You live two blocks around the corner. You call an old friend once every two weeks, but the lines are cut most of the time. You go out to get drunk but you smoke instead and fall asleep by the wayside in a tomb of swans. You ask for the bar of the old quarter and the flooding manes tell you it’s lost. You cross birthdays off the calendar you won’t be around to celebrate. You stare into the circle and benefit from the void. You hear over your shoulder as you walk down the quarreling lanes. “Seeing him was like seeing a ghost.”

Are you alone among the pests? Are you surprised to hear my voice?

You go dancing in the rotten clubs. The streets are filled with mannequins sales. Clusters of disease. Are you here to make it worse?

The communes that feed over the hills. You follow the trail but it falls short. You wonder if you should run but you know better. The morning that vessels the evening’s hearse. You want to know what will be lost. What you will hand to time.

You stand under the mist, craving the eternal myth. The suspect is lost. You pull the book from your pocket. You cough, you say something out loud. The avenue channel its disguise. A wall stands between you and the world. The wall crumbles from within, collapsing into place. You pull the book from your pocket, standing in the shadows. The man beside you grooms his moustache. Radios play from the stable cars.

They call you the cavalier. Pushing through the quarry for madness. You grab hold of a stranger’s hand. The hand falls from the open shoulder. You stare into the wound. The hour of callous in the fall.

I feel your fingers curl into mine. I look up at you and I notice the sockets of your eyes, empty. I rest my forehead against your chin. I look up at you and the sockets are filled, then they are gone. Am I finally able to hurt? There is something to be done. I look you in the proper eye. Do you have a plan?

I shake my head, like a dog drying himself off. I shake my head and I can’t stop shaking. The moment will be erased. You stare at me with blank depression. You stare into a picture void. You say something and I didn’t. You let go of my hands.

 

 

 

332

 

I call you. I heard you were staying with some friends from home. Home? I never thought of you as someone with a home, let alone someone who stayed with friends from home.

Aren’t I home?

America makes you a bum. You smoke too much weed and you don’t look for a job. You spend most of your time on the sidewalk talking to homeless veterans and gutter punks.

But the days are quiet and near. You are good.

I call you. I hear you have friends and you’re staying with them. You wanted someone else to become your home.

I am home.

On the streets you study the virtues of time. Time spent focusing, time spent losing. Games that become the day. You spend most of your time on the sidewalk talking to the elderly, hoping you can change a facet of their life. Hoping to give them more life.

You are nostalgic.

You do what bums do best. You find a nice place in the sun and you claim it. What sunflowers do. What poets ought to do.

You are dying to be a poet. You try hard. Too hard. But you are a poet.

 

 

 

 

333

 

You worry because we are on the verge. You worry you will die before finishing. You think that there is not enough time. You ask for more time.

You find a new book, a new collection of stories. You ask them why they are not yours.

I call you, we meet at the park. I notice you by your hat, standing at the corner of an abandoned sandwich shop, rundown, everything looted except for a tiny chair in the middle that still has all of its legs but the seat is gone. Just the seat, and the rest of it sitting there like it could still be used. Do I have my seat, you ask?

You tell me you are planning something. You have a plan. Something is going to happen. I don’t feel like hearing about it. I don’t feel like asking. ‘m focused on the walk we will take. I have to take my roommate’s dog for a walk.

Your big, puffy allergenic eyes. We walk.

Sometimes you have to keep people away. If you let them in, they will become entrenched. You fear that they will suffer.

Sometimes I have to keep people away. I don’t want to be someone’s muse. The muse is lowered into the ground after invocation. The muse is ditched, dumped on the side of the road.

We understand each other. You give everything to the moment and then disappear, wanting people to wonder where you are and when you’ll pop up next. The mystery matters to you. You want to be a mystery.

Others want the mystery for themselves. They want to own it, find it in someone else and claim it as theirs. I decide I won’t let you be the one to leave.

When you seem like you are ready to go, I will leave first, before you.

You wonder why you are back. You wonder if everything is exactly as it was. You wonder if the place you left, if it ever existed. You wonder with the corner of your eyes the puppet’s first recital. You are a pupil of the violent world.

Why did you come back?

Over the hills of Anatolia. Into these tired arms. Where do you belong?

You’ve lost a lot of weight, preparing for a godless winter. You want to see the country, to go further than the port. You tell me you have been writing. I tell you I have been bored at work. We were both depressed for a while.

Everyone is leaving.

I am bored at work.

Every time we meet it will be the last time.

The next time we speak I won’t recognize you.

Why are you scared?

You walk at pace.

You feel like something is wrong.

You feel tired and vulnerable. You want to be taken care of. You want to be cared for.

You play quiet.

But I will leave.

I am offered a job in Paris.

We walk to the water. That’s where you like going. I have no plans. We are there.

We find a bench. I still have half a joint from before. You roll a small joint on the spot. We smoke. I don’t say anything to you. It is silent. Nice. I notice the stream of buildings that reflect sunlight onto the water. I watch the runners of the day. The stage glows with the veneer of life. Suddenly we have purpose.

You tell me about Europe. The Europeans colonized the world and in turn their own hearts. The soul has been excavated dry. There’s nothing left.

I ask about resistance, about renaissance, decay.

You talk about boredom. That the age of man will be remembered as the age of organization.

I tell you I am in love. That I was in love once, since the last time we spoke, and I am in love again. You want to know who they are. You feel like you deserve it.

Your like your joints thin and slick, like cigarettes on a model filter. I like mine fat, like bats, so they burn slow and I can taste the ash. Your joints crumble at the tips. My joint is airtight.

Smoke weighs heavy in the hands.

You smoke alone. I am never alone.

You lift the paper with your thumb, dipping in the spliff in the underbelly of the roll, leaving little pockets of air and pockets of light.

You want to be alone.

Always surrounded, always social.

At work, social.

At home.

You spend most of your time alone. During the day you read in the park when the weather permits. You walk to the water. You take photographs of empty seats on the train.

You need encouragement to go outside.

You miss the sound of another voice.

You roll a fresh joint, to walk. You miss the sound of someone’s voice. You spark. You continue down the boardwalk. The rail sleeps under your palm. You cross over some roadwork. Sand bags and excavation. Daunting.

Are you comfortable in the jungle?

Stepping over the obstacles, into the sand. You spent your youth on a construction site. You know how to move through the civil vines.

You want to kiss. You fall onto the sand. You laugh. You give out your hand.

I want to kiss you. We fall onto the sand in the day of gongs. You give me your hand. I am innocent.

 

 

334

 

You spend your last night with me. I ask you to stay. I invite you.

You tell me to enjoy the city alone.

The city comes in details too small for the passing eye.

I teach you how to use cameras and develop films. I teach you to clean up after yourself, because you never did.

You are tidy. It helps to be neat for the mind.

Generosity is a gift. You give with people you love. And with strangers. But you hold on to what you have.

I ask you to remove the blanket. You walk over to the stool and sit down. You hold a coffee mug in your hands. You enjoy the few healthy sips.

I ask if you want to leave me something. You don’t want that. You didn’t want me to know.

I used to record myself crying and send the videos to you. When you sit in front of me I can’t cry. Crouching, aligning your bones. Snapping your jaw in place. You watch me cry, without consoling me. I wipe my face, alone.

Love is seasonal, at best.

I take the first photograph. The second. The third.

The third is haunting. You look away from the camera. When you leave I won’t look at these.

Four and five are beautiful. Warm. You look warm. You look right into the lens. You are the one you want seen. A rare chance.

The next six photographs are sad. You get up, move around. You itch your stomach. When you turn your arm it looks like you are dancing, caught in a frame.

Passion holds this in place. I don’t have to move or run away, or make things happen to feel alive. I’m happy where I am.

We eat breakfast. You mention the books. We boil fava beans and crushed them with oil, diced tomatoes, onions and garlic. A pinch of parsley and coriander. Thyme, oil and bread.

I tell you to be safe. You leave.

The photographs are my goodbye.

 

 

335

 

You want to be taken seriously. You want what you want when you want it. You want what you deserve. You want to know what you deserve. There are times for reform, time for chaos, for change. You ask to receive the gifts but you aren’t’ so capable.

You are already there, where we are all going.

 

 

 

336

 

April was a dream. You remember the conversations, the twenty minutes to orgasm or to quit. You taste the baked goods stuffed with olives and grapes. You taste the effervescent scraps of hash. The translucent pages of sinister dance. Dark like the city ruined at heart. Waiting for sheets of ice to blanket the fire. You levitate through the concrete mire, napping on the hearth of lemons and gardenias.

You stretch out on a straw bench with stuffed white pillows. You face the sun in order to squint, tilting your head back and forth, hiding your eyes until you have something to say, lowering your neck to shade your view to the cold.

The wind blows through carrying the ashes of joints and mortar shells risen over the terraced square. You watch in amazement the little angels form smoke dust and glide away, burying themselves in the plants, along the marble, against the spray painted walls. You talk about the olive trees your father planted, the tallest of them rising over a pillar behind the porch swing, and the shortest of them a few feet away, cautious to punch above its class. You tend the wounds of orphaned trees and insects that nest in the soil.

You play music but you know only one song, and you play the variations that stem from the joint. You play in the afternoon that clams off the street, the markets closed amid frozen lips painted on mosaic bowls.

You write, slow and dreary, of the night before and the morning after. You finish ten bottles of street wine in a matter of days. You sit in front of the station amplifier blaring the conspicuous news. You sit on a swing with moss on the boards. You repeat in varying degrees of expression the melancholy of the same three lines, over and over again until the angels loosen their chords, chiming in to the chorus.

You feel the hook. The tranquil valley that yearns in the throat. The curtains that shade from the ineffable sun. The weight that makes you shudder or cringe. You want to ask for help but the bells are ringing. You ask to join the fight.

The pages fill with revelation. The beginning of a pilgrimage. You pick them from the pile without knowing. You pick them to see which one is first.

A walk. Your walk.

You feel the twitch in your stomach rising and culminating in the lungs. The journey that makes a friend of absence. You grow a pair of wings. You fly over the wasteland and muffle the scars with tombs. You put the pages down. You watch the character go about his life. You taste the dryness of your tongue. You hear the words, and the voice, striving from the void.

You feel older, and the summer flies. The winter waits tired for spring. Pageants of the story fill with magic. Portions disappear.

Maybe the world is a figurative sigh.

 

 

337

 

The borders close to contain the fire. The others plan paths to escape. It feels different.

The ports are closed. The airport destroyed. The flooding peninsula floods to the knees.

You need to get but where do you go? You rain in the smoke and lie drenched in the drugs.

The sun is out and you feel light. You ride a caravan, rolling down the windows. When the checkpoints pass and the wind flows through the vines, you feel that feeling of home, the passage you spoke of in your poems, the place you say you discover every night in your dreams.

You are trapped, between shelters and curfew calls.

You watch her, coming into a daze. The sun ascending in from the east. The first howls of a morning sleuth of crows. The jeers of a past troupe, etched into noiseless scars of sound. You feel that you are waking, under the guise of a passing dream. Morning dew forces crystal on your eyes. Magnets you shy with your fingers. You find the memory sutured to your palm. You realize it is her, the girl whose life debated in your hands. It makes sense, that you find her, that you are there to see it all. Years apart, drifting away to the paralysis of a worn summer night.

 

 

338

 

You move into the apartment in summer. You left Istanbul and the monument of your dreams. The apartment on East 3rd between A and B, a portion of Alphabet City that is yours. You walk to Tompkins Square Park on your first night. You walk to the East River Park entrance on 6th street. You walk toward the St. Marks Bookshop where you kept an eye out for roaches stemming out of the page. Across from the tenement homes and a little garden, a lower east side emblem of gentrified life. You learn the ropes of patience riding the hours in bookstores and jazz club basements. You find wet books on the canvas and you dry out their pages.

You know radicalism is dead, and you don’t search for it in the boroughs. Structures unfolding dilapidation to usher in the common era. A kind summer’s walk towards the bookmarked hearts of town. European canons, feeding by the classics and the watershed sparks. You pay for a lease to the unknown. You walk into one of the readings happening downtown. You leave before the reader arrives. You don’t want to lose the romance. You want to savior the voice.

You open the pages of a book you scoured over the seas, before you came to know the language of the people spoken. You sit on the roof smoking weed and reading the passages you like most, passages you still don’t get, passages that sound sweet and warm in someone else’s voice. You wait for the voice to cull filaments of your lungs, to breathe.

You wait for summer to stalk broken windows and enter the frames. You water a flower that pulls from the sidewalk’s inner chants.

You find some old friends, who still have their looks and their ears and they sing with cherry pits in their mouth. You ask to borrow a camera and you take pictures of their feet. The remains of an island’s soot pledged to the soles. Stoned, you put together a drink, rum without ice on a spoon of juice. You ditch the roof and go to a bar. You wash your feet on an open tap. You ask to spend the night. You pay for your mission, you leave.

You sleep in the room with no sunlight and without a door. You enjoy the exposed bricks on the wall. You ask about the year the building was built. You eat breakfast and walk toward the park. You are alone for a moment and you listen to the herd. Drummers praying against the steel. Horns that sound with hollow chains.

You find a typewriter for sale at the flea market. Missing one of the keys but the spare is included in the price. You sleep on the mattress of the owner’s apartment. The toilet doesn’t flush and there’s a cloud of shit waiting to drown. The smell of the garbage escapes the room. The pungent spread of a heat wave.

You listen to records of places you want to go.

You forget what its like to be sober. You go for afternoon walks in the sun, away from the feasting tribes. You walk towards the water and connect with the river ports. You sit by the sea to calm down. You speak to someone on a quiet bench, and it sounds like they’re talking from the past. You go searching for the world that was there the day the voice arrived.

You spend your first week in a haze. You sleep a few hours between lunch and dinner and spend most of your time awake, wandering the streets, searching. You roam the streets at night, into the morning, quietly into the day. You find your prism on the rocks and you lay there for hours, writing in your book, reading from the passages you carry.

You watch the fishermen lament empty hauls on the waterside. Expired fruits that propel their scent. You feel like you emerged from a long and dreary dream, where you ate from the thistles of a guarded garden.

You sit on the large concrete slabs that separate two egregious lanes outside your dead grandparent’s home, gazing through the alleyway that leads upwards from the front gate, to the abandoned kiosks where you bought chocolates and dates as a kid. You remember easing a basket on a string off the balcony, before rowing it up.

You ask around about those that remain, and most of the people you know are gone. Why did some of them stay, you wonder. You know they don’t have the privilege to leave. Some are addicted to their feelings of home. Attached at the hip to the paradox. Nostalgia claws at the hips, pulls in through the waist. You feel something you have never felt, and it burns with so much strength it consumes you. You could never forget or turn it away, chasing the immaculate high. Like the face of the girl who shot across your eyes the moment you ended your life.

You go on long, incredible walks, outside the bookstores that surge onto the bridge. You stop to draw a picture of the birds flying overhead, to take down the name of a poet someone mentions on the fly.

You walk for half a day, twelve, sometimes fourteen hours, and for an entire week you can’t life your arms, your legs won’t carry you forward. You walk to absorb the dormant melancholic score vibrating through the parallel streets of the maze. You walk to imbue the raging crimson fire, cautionary proverbs under an elm or an oak echoing off the machinery of a lyre.

You want to write, and before you write you sing, letting your voice trickle and trail like you’re hearing yourself for the first time. You focus on the emptiness that pervades the space between the words. You sing until you lose the space, until you can’t recognize the sound of your voice.

 

 

 

339

 

He passed the row of cubicles in the office. Turning at the entrance to the elevators, he walked into the men’s room. One of his coworkers was standing at a urinal, flicking his penis up and down to relieve the pressure. He noticed by the slump in his shoulders that he was feeling some trouble. He passed him. The man turned over his shoulder and glanced at him, and the two met a polite stare. Finally, he stepped into one of the stalls. Next to his stall a man was taking a shit. He seemed to clench and pull, and he thought that he must be a fat sort of man with a larger chin, sweating in his nerve. He pulled down his pants. He pulled out his cock. He rubbed the head softly. He rubbed the growing shaft. He masturbated.

It took him about seven minutes. Too long, in his opinion. He realized he was sweating. He hadn’t even removed his jacket, or his shirt. He had sweat stains on his lower back and under his arms. Tiny blotches of sweat formed on his chest, visible when the shirt pressed against him. And he had barely come, just barely, a minute expulsion of semen that hadn’t even given him a sensational feeling at all. It was less of a relief. He was in pain. He felt like there was semen clogged in the tubes of his penis, lodged in there, requiring a combustion to come out.

The bathroom smelled of shit. They would think it was his own shit, his having to leave the bathroom at that moment, stepping out in visible distress, palms wet, forehead sweating, his shirt drenched in his decaying sweat. The thought of this only added to his perspiring. Suddenly he felt stuck. He looked for an escape through the roof, but he knew the thought was ridiculous.

He flushed the toilet, cleaning his semen from the top of the bowl and the seat lining. He used a tissue to open the door, to unlock the hinge and step out, tossing the tissue in the wastebasket beside the stalls. He was relieved to find nobody inside the bathroom, only the faint possibility of someone in the stalls. But he heard no noises so he carried on, confident that he was, and would remain, alone. But the thought again frightened him. At any minute someone might enter the bathroom, and met immediately by the scent of feces in the air, would look upon his dreadful figure drenched in sweat and surrounded by fecal perfume, and assume it was him who had taken a shit. But he could not deign whether he would prefer them to know the truth, that he had masturbated shamelessly in one of the stalls, the ruins of his seed planted in a pool of goo somewhere on the porcelain and tiled floor.

Reaching the sink farthest from the stalls, hoping to evade some sort of accountability by appearing at a more distant point, he turned the faucet on and, amused at the diligence of the water running in a cylindrical bowel of pressure, he squirted some soap into his hands and let the water run over his fingers, his palms, and riding up onto his wrists, and then his forearm. But he had forgotten to pull back his shirt! Suddenly his wrists and lower arms were drenched in water! To accumulate against the sweat. Though it felt rather nice to cool off his own bodily fluids, he looked a mess.

At that moment, paralyzed in his confused position, the door to the men’s room swung open.

 

But it was only the janitor, a kind forgiving friend, who would never pass judgment on visitor’s to the room. They smiled at one another, and the janitor, carrying his bucket and broom alongside him, passed swiftly to the stalls, where he let out a great sigh upon entering the labyrinth of smells. He stared at the man performing his job, on the hour, on the dot, and he felt suddenly the unmistakable urge to say something, to make a joke or feign a light remark. To feign some sort of brotherhood among the men. But as the words were about to emerge from his lips he held his tongue, biting his cheeks and pulling himself back. He realized the foolishness of his idea. The two men shared nothing in common. Even the idea of their sharing this space was false. The janitor himself probably used another bathroom. A bathroom reserved for building staff. Reserved primarily for janitors. He wondered if the janitor were permitted to use the bathroom. He wondered if the janitor, permitted or not, wanted to use the bathroom, used by all the other employees. He wondered if the janitor cared for permission, if he had been restricted but, knowing nobody would in their right mind take offense or even approach the janitor were he using the bathroom against protocol, used it whenever he liked.

He hadn’t noticed but in his thinking state he had curled his fingers together, lifting them to the height of his chest, and he was staring unmistakably at the janitor with a profound sense of astonishment, like he were observing an animal in its natural habitat. The janitor himself had noticed the man’s curiosity and had returned his stare, albeit with less amusement. Suddenly the two were locked in yet another stare, their second of the afternoon.

“Can I help you with something,” the janitor asked.

The man, completely embarrassed, was at a loss for words. Wanting to effuse some camaraderie between them, to remind the janitor that he understood his condition, that he sympathized with his day to day reality, and that himself took great wonder in the job, and probably, were forces in his upbringing different, he wouldn’t mind the role the janitor were assigned. But he wasn’t able to say a word of all that. He muttered something under his breath and he caught himself stuttering, at a loss for words, before finally, giving in, remembering as well his own superior position, thinking, I don’t have to talk to this man, smiled at the poor janitor, in his sad and pathetic blue uniform, without a name tag on it, one large piece of overall, that had clearly been made without his strict measurements considered, so that the overalls hung loosely over his body, almost like they had at one time been the correct size but with the demands of the job had shrunk over time to accommodate the man’s own shrinking proportion. Probably, he thought, shrinking under the weight of his daily obligations, and the embarrassment that came with meeting men of his type between the bathroom walls, who always wanted in the first place to appear brotherly and forgiving to the janitor for his wasteful life but upon remembering their own superior condition shrugged off the nearing advances of the janitor, who only wanted, he assumed, to be likeable, not least of all by the men whose shit he cleaned, and for some men, their semen.

Thinking all that, he had still to move from his position! The janitor, entirely at a loss for words, had let go of the broomstick, resting it against the door of a stall. But the man, realizing the exchange had at some point to be ended, turned around in his place and walking briskly exited through the door, not before pulling a wad of toilet paper from the dispenser by the sinks, drying his hands off in a reckless fashion, and tossing the wad into the waistbin, without looking to see if the wad made it into the waistbin, which it didn’t, landing awkwardly on the rim of the bin and falling, like a leaf that hangs languidly in the air before flowering to the ground.

He had regained his confidence, stepping out into the office in a drier, freer state, ready to return to the affairs of the afternoon.

 

 

340

 

He learned his humility, his humbleness, among the pilgrims of that quarter. The man beside him, whose chief worry had become the loss of languages in the sciences and humanities…

341

 

Holding his feet pressed against the ground, dipping the interphalangeal joint of his toes, he spread his arms in the air. He watched the floor mysteriously shift beneath him. The children, released from their daily lessons, were running amuck in the gardens outside the walls. He heard them whistling, hollering, pacing against an autistic chorus.

His face turned cold. He climbed some steps to lengthen the divide. He looked nervously over the cliff, peering at the remote surface of the crater floor. He bowed, submitting his sight to the reeling darkness.

“Do you know why Bara is?”

The voice caught his attention. He had heard the voice earlier, in the morning, serving flour pancakes to the orphans and rebels.

“Have you seen this before?”

For a moment, he chose to believe he had become the poet, to advise them further. He had wanted to entertain the idea, that entering the labyrinth they would escort him to an altar and kneel before him and ask, in a quiet temperamental tone, to read them something. But he was laid bare to hazards of the uninitiated mind. Succumbing to a certain spell.

He thought of charging forward, diving into the absence. He watched the snow embody the children’s forms. They would be lost to the possessing winds passing directly through the encampment. He retreated to the corner, form where he had heard the voice. The speaker stood holding a basket of lenses and infirmary equipment.

“I’m going outside for a stroll,” he said, without moving.

“I’m coming with you.”

 

Outside the storm had struck the encampment hard. A scene of great destruction, yet no one seemed to care. He wanted to ask the man beside him, who he still had not recognized, whether the scene was completely normal to them. It would have surprised him to hear the man say yes, it was a normal occurrence, for the encampment, upon his arrival, had been flourishing. It showed no signs of having experienced such destruction before, and he knew the encampment was relatively knew. It had only just been built, and having survived the effects of a long and drawn out winter, it surprised him to see the people so calm. He walked through the corridor of tents whose contents escaped the hold. At his feet he found the remains of a stuffed animal that had been chewed through, torn apart, and because of its drowning in snow, had suddenly taken form again, frozen as it were. He lifted the little animal, hard as stone. It weighed heavy in his hands. He thought of what it might sound like to be thrown with all his strength, if it would crash against the earth and split open into a thousand pieces. As he walked, he noticed at his feet the frozen carcass of a dog, obviously a hunter, that had completely turned to ice. The man beside him, recognizing his obvious displeasure, attempted to comfort him, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“The animal would not have suffered.”

He drew closer.

“Besides. You show too much compassion in this part of the land.”

The words struck him as odd and true, simultaneously. He felt, himself, that he had lost a feeling of strength, of impenetrability. Was it the enduring conditions that forced them, at every moment, to turn their backs to the wall and take cover.

One of the nurses appeared from under a conglomeration of wreckage, several tents collapsed into one another. Bertha, a European, multilingual, with impressive strength in her limbs. She was muttering words under her breath.

He touched her arm. She turned back to face him.

“What is it,” she said.

The other man had walked away, disappearing into the crowd of indifference.

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Suddenly you want to help.”

“I’m sorry for earlier.”

She looked him up and down, questioning his motives and his unruly stare.

“You’re not fit to be here. I never trusted letting you come into the camps. If they don’t see it I do,” she said.

“What are you referring to?”

“What follows you.”

She turned and walked away. He watched her disappear into a field of ice, the crowds indifferent to her movements. Through the upraised minarets he heard the synchronized chimes of a pack of wolves. Darkness slowly settled over the landscape, carried under a nest of clouds. He felt in his pocket for his knife, and kept walking.

 

Some of the workers were collecting ruins of the harvest. Beside them, others were collecting ruins of the shattered walls. Broken window frames, panels and pillars that came crashing down onto a pile of soft, cushion snow. He tightened the scarf around his neck, given to him earlier. Torches were being lit, but there would not be many. He stood against the roughgrass, watching over the ascending silence that carried the prisoners into the night. Prisoners of condition. He felt for the mark on his lower arm.

Two women walked by with a basket of roses they handed out to the others. He fidgeted in his pocket with the knife, holding it with ulterior hands, shifting between frames and posture. From the corner of his eye, in the distance, he saw some birds that had been stuffed with food to put on the weight running loose on the snow filled prairie, among the ruins. Behind them, a young man was running with a machete in his hands, waving a bird’s head in the air.

“Do you have the time?”

Someone had chosen to sit next to him, smoking a cigarette. The voice came as a blessing. He had delved some way deep, forgetting where he had been. He recaptured his footing.

“The time?”

The stranger nodded approvingly. He looked over the plain, scattered chestnut trees nesting an assortment of races, before answering.

“No. I don’t. I’m sorry.”

The man nodded his approval.

“Are you looking for something,” he asked.

“Why would you say that?”

“You look like a man on the search for something. But I can’t really figure out what. I saw you coming in with the boys this morning. But you look nothing like them. So I’m wondering who the hell you are. Something tells me you’re searching for something. Or someone.”

He pulled back his leg, that had been standing against the foot of a kerosene lamp. He dug one of his boots into the ice, pivoting on his foot. He sat beside the stranger. The man, acknowledging his attention, offered him a smoke, which he declined.

“I quit recently.”

The man scoffed, almost choking over his laughter.

“Well, you’ve chosen quite the place to lead the healthy life.”

He smiled at the stranger, who was beginning to grow in trust.

“I don’t intend to be here long.”

He regretted saying those words too openly. They sounded rehearsed. He worried that he came off as pretentious, accepting his role as outsider, refusing to integrate to the times.

“Well. What do you intend to do, if you don’t mind my asking.”

“To be honest, I’m not quite sure.”

The man laughed again, this time more sincerely, pulling at his smoke with violent drags. He wore a beard that rode down his entire face and the length of his chest. His eyes, deep, receding eyes that hid behind a wide forehead and skull, were lost somewhere in a haze. He had the courtesy of brushed teeth, but the rest of him was ragged. He pulled at his smoke with worn gloves, and a fleece suit that covered his arms and his entire upper body.

“I’m sorry to say man,” he said, “but that sort of nonsense will get you into trouble.”

“Yeah.”

The stranger spat at the ground. He offered his hand.

“The name’s Pharaoh.”

“Pharaoh.”

The two men shook hands.

“You have a name, friend?”

“I don’t remember my name.”

The man laughed wildly now.

“Well,” he said, “You’ll have to figure this shit out.”

They sat quietly. Pharaoh spoke again.

“You don’t have to go by your given name, you know. You could always give yourself a name. Most everyone around you is looking for a new life, it’s only a matter of time. You might as well inherit the process.”

“You think it’s a matter of time?”

“Who knows. The word is that there’s some changes to be made over the next couple of months, but the people keep flooding in. It’s a sick sight.”

“Are you looking to go on?”

“I’m good for now. The camp is good. But when the time comes, it’ll get overrun. We’ll have to hit the ground running. I don’t want to be caught lazy.”

“What do you think will be done for food?”

“Most everyone knows the feeling of hunger. Most everyone has tasted the slaughter. The tide moves in waves. We’ll have food for some time, then we’ll go hungry. A lot of us will die. Those who can’t hunt.”

“There’s nothing really to hunt. I just came from the passage.”

“That’s true.”

“Sounds like sad situation.”

“It is. But I’m tired of going on the run. I’ll wait this one out.”

The embarrassing noise of a passing convoy filled the field. A motorcade led by a gang on cheap refurbished dirt bikes, followed by the main car itself, a pick up truck covered by two rangers.

“The ammunition is flowing in,” Pharaoh said. “It’ll be a rough night.”

He smoked the end of his rolled cigar. He had smoked three in the brief time they spoke. The protagonist looked at him in astonishment, calm in the face of uncertainty. But he also felt calm. He felt calm grab hold of him, simply because of the others. The others, around him, who were subjected without choice.

“Are you working,” Pharaoh asked him.

“Some things. I try helping out. You?”

“I’m at the shed cutting wood. Keeps me busy. Come around if you want to talk.”

With that, he got up and walked away, disappearing from sight before reemerging under a canopy of light, fireball flares that rang into the sky. By the looks of it there seemed to be some sort of celebration prepared for the evening. A celebration without much food, without much fire, without much at all.

He pulled the book of passages from his jacket pocket. He skipped over a few of the pages, remembering the first lines that moved him. He thought of his first days at port, before riding into the hills. How surprised he had been to see the ruins, yet how comfortable and at calm. Someone else interrupted his meandering in his thoughts.

“Hey. You have the time?”

“No sir,” he answered coolly.

“That’s sad,” the stranger said over his shoulder as he walked away.

He returned his gaze to the book. He tried to remember the first line he noticed, the line that caught his attention. He flipped errantly through the pages. He looked over the field and into the cloak of darkness, where the wild roses met with the first line of trees that dug deep into the forest. All we have left is the bush, he thought.

The clouds of the day dispersed under the threat of rain. He walked in the open fields. Even though the field was wet with impending rain, and the snow had frozen over most, if not all, of the company’s tools, it felt refreshing to walk outside.

Night had fallen. He felt calm, retrievable from the abyss. He was awashed with amazement, and could finally tell from the darkness of the pasture that the full moon had finally passed.

 

342

 

I started playing in the band. Friends of mine, Eren and Ali, were the mainstays. The three of us thought we could do something brilliant. Actually, we could’ve. We had the time and the resources and the raw talent and energy. We just didn’t have the direction. We couldn’t agree on anything, including the sound. But when it was flowing, naturally, without thinking, it was brilliant. Still I don’t think we realized what we held in our hands. And it was a beautiful time too, for all of us. Eren had just come back from his years away. I was just settling into my new home. I was recovering, too, from the disappointment. Admittedly, the disappointments were my fault. But it gave me a new lease on life. It gave me this raw energy that, probably out of sheer humiliation, was magical.

I blame the past. Ali couldn’t trust Eren and he spoke about him behind his back every chance he got. Not that Eren didn’t deserve it. He could be a lousy human being. But he was also warm and smart and gifted. He just couldn’t work with others. That was his fault. I had to let it go and I did. But Ali couldn’t and we started jamming together, alone, without Eren. And actually we came up with good stuff. But Ali also produced a shitload by himself. And really I was too spoiled to meet down that line. When he moved into a little cave near Taksim, it was terrible. I visited him one night and I couldn’t keep my thoughts from the fact that he obviously had bed bugs, or something of the sort. Fleas, or something. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t sit down. The place was a mess. A dungeon. Shit everywhere. Food everywhere. Wrappers everywhere. Clothes and books and cabinets everywhere. But the man is fucking talented. He can do magic with his hands. Fuck, he played so good. He showed me some of his stuff. And he had a steel door that opened into a concrete basement. Literally, a concrete square. It would have been amazing to record down there, but we didn’t do it. Eventually he moved out. Eventually I left.

I can’t say why I’m remembering these things. I was sleeping with Nicola earlier, and I was staring at the tattoo on my arm after we were done, and she was kissing it, and I saw the symbols, and I just thought of it all I guess. But I think of it all the time. Maybe because I feel like I’m still working for it, at it. Trying to make sense of what took us there and what brought us back. Shooting through the stone quarter like angels on a loose cosmic leash. Whatever the fuck that means.

I feel like we’ve been hanging out, all of us, the past couple days. Seeing the protests in Beirut. Seeing the thousands that went down, and then the obvious scuffles, and the obvious turn of events that obviously were politicized and obviously broke apart the obvious social wounds. Tearing the wounds open. This place will not heal, not like this. Beirut is miserable. I am miserable. I can’t connect to anyone around me. I try and I tried. Yesterday, I gave it a shot. I took some MDMA and went to a party with Nicola and our friends, her old friends and mine. They’ve accepted me, for the most part, and invited me to the tribe. But I don’t belong. Everyone around me was in a different world, for that time. A different paradigm. I wish I could go back, to those days of summer under the illusion of free speech and becoming. When we ruled Hamra without sticks and stones. But we didn’t really. We were just spoiled brats making noise. All of us were. IF you’re reading this now, you were part of it, because otherwise you wouldn’t belong in this story and you wouldn’t give a flying fuck what happened or what will happen. But what will happen? What’s going to happen to us? To our towns? Will Beirut be destroyed, like Palmyra? Will ISIS maraud her way through the capital and ravage our souls, raping our women and murdering our men? Will we become the seeds of an Islamic revolution? Or will it be the great Zionist force lurking in the shadows of our inner wars like a jaguar on the hunt, preying between moments of guided inspiration? Or will it be me, and you, and the others? Will we lift arms? Will we speak in currents of hatred or love?

I wonder why we didn’t have the nerve to take to the streets for our dignity when Arsal was taken over by rebels, or when Tripoli was being blown out by suicide bombs and skirmishes, or when Shiite neighborhoods of the Bekaa and Beirut were being blown apart by Islamist bombs, or when the servicemen were kidnapped, or when an entire portion of the country lost their homes in the war. I wonder why we didn’t go down for the sake of our Syrian brothers and sisters, who we somehow blame for the mistakes of their government, who is no exacting an even worse revenge on its people. Or for Gaza. For the Palestinians who are innocent and riding the incessant waves of violence form within their sutured camps. Why did we go down for garbage? How can we be so blatantly classist? And we complain about the indifference of the West.

The old world is over. Take it from me. I don’t know much, but I know this. When one world ends, we take with us our burdens and the ruins of the things we sacrificed along the way. The ruins of sacrifice. Riots and rampage. These are the wounds of a passing war. Negligence, indifference. The signs of a shroud of apathy descending over a populace. But the world is over. After the war, it will be a different world. But we need to name the war, and name the actors. We need to give evil a name.

(consider tying to Brando’s evil and a name section of Sans Soleil)

It’s been so difficult trying to write a fucking novel during these years. Sometimes I wonder what my life, as an aspiring writer, would be like if I were living somewhere in Sweden, or Montana, my whole life, without any ties to this miserable part of the world. If I could write about characters whose chief ambition was to ask her out on a date, or to commend his fellow physicists on solving the riddle. I can’t use names, I don’t want to. Every time I feel a sense of narrative calm take over me, the world erupts. And the volcanoes, once loaded, once open, spew for years, urging the collective fires. I wanted to walk from Aden to Bamako. To spend my life reeling in the poetry of our surroundings. In the imagination of our landscapes. And the songs of our tired cultures, stripped of their dignity and pride, swallowed whole by conflict, tyranny and oppression. Gross commercialization cannot be the answer.

It hurts me. I am ruined. I know I am ruined. I know parts of me are dead. Parts of me that carried courage and acquired luminosity have been pulled from their roots. I am empty. Empty. I swim in a vacuum of possibility, where once I showered in a pantheon of love.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m using it all as an excuse, not to labor. If the pain suits my tired life. If the pain suits my wasting. Probably it does. It’s easier for me to scapegoat mass destruction and the annihilation of an entire race of people than to face up to life’s hardship and get a fucking job. I live off my parents, and I’m twenty seven. It embarrasses me and it’s shameful. But I don’t know what else to do. I look around me and I don’t want to be anyone else, but who I am, and if I could pay my way through life just being who I am I would, and I wouldn’t ask for more than the gifts I have in my hand, which number plenty. All I can do is labor with my pen, with my typer, with the luminous computer screen. I try to be genuine but it makes me a fraud. Why won’t I commit to society? To life? All I can do is run to the magnet, the unraveling chorus of loss. Help me. Help me? In my pathetic state. My ego frenzy. My addiction to sorrow and mourning. Every single day I wake up and I mourn. People add to their belongings and I am stripped. But I am never stripped bare. I eat plenty. I can consume whatever I want. And so it makes of me a fraud.

And so wouldn’t you rather play host to a fraud, than to a magnanimous ego ghoul? Wouldn’t you rather one less adrenaline, testosterone monkey on the streets? Wouldn’t you rather I refuse the streets, refuse the arms race, refuse the guns? To sit in a room and write. that’s all I can do, for you. Write. I can’t be a field medic. Not now, not in this war. I can’t be an activist. I can’t be a lawyer. I can’t study the sciences or math. I can’t even read history and teach it to our kids. Everything I learn I put into the book, my book, my testament to this sorry kid’s life. Everything that I am. All I can do happens in the scope of fiction. And poetry. And songs. Song after song after song.

I’m trying to convince all of my friends to move to Berlin to sulk with me. To sulk outside of the mess. It doesn’t matter where I go, I will never be home. Even if I speak the language. Without Nicola I wouldn’t have a home here. I would be spawning an arrangement of electrodes that design the fire, and then one day I would leave. Like New York, like Istanbul. But in Beirut I never needed a reason to be there, I just was. In Beirut I can be my own human self, and I can accept the very being that I am. Even though, probably, the streets would not. And still I want us all to leave and to sulk here. Sulk away from the mess. It’s better, I say, we have to go into exile, for the revolution. What revolution? We are in the midst of this revolution, and its not ours. Oppression of the sovereign versus oppression of the theologians. These compose the wars. Not us. Not you and I, who read this book, who read Rilke, Lorca, Neruda, Poe. Not us, who cut holes in our hearts and put them in our palms and walk solemnly to Martyr’s Square praying for forgiveness. Forgiveness that we’ve never done enough, and that we won’t. That without arms, without a standing army that can rival the billions being pumped into the machinery of Arab wars, we are nothing. We can’t protect a site of heritage. We can’t protect our schools. We can’t even teach the truth in our schools. The truth of our wars, of our massacres, of our mounting stylized genocide. What can we do? We can sing, we can dance. But this will never be France.

So, I’m sorry. I ask forgiveness. I ask forgiveness so while I refuse the call to arms I can remain guarded, and I can look myself in the mirror, and I will not be the hand that takes my life. I ask forgiveness because it is time to ask forgiveness. From those of us who have nothing to give. And who realize that its over. Who realize that this is only the beginning of the darkest age in our mutual past. This world we know is over. The war has just, now, begun.

 

 

343

 

He opened his eyes, the vein of distaste in his mouth. Beside him, Issa was drinking from his coffee, slurping every sip.

“The siege has been lifted,” he said. “It’s the end of the war.”

He had expected to react when he heard those words, to react with indecipherable glee. He didn’t. Searching the room for a sign of something greater, he caught two figures in the corner of the room, meditating. They had their legs crossed, and they sat on extended straw mats that flushed out of their rears like the tail feathers of a peacock. One of them wore a crown on his head, the uncoiling of a serpent. Another man was sleeping, his rifle standing between his upright legs, hanging against his inner thigh. He heard, precisely at the point of opening his eyes, a flurry of mosquitos in the air, and the unmistakable sound of a rat running into a tin can. He didn’t mind the rats, they kept the larger insects away.

The man who had spoken threw the butt of his cigarette onto the floor, crushing the filter with his boot. He kept busy with a knife in his hand.

Another man appeared beside him, passing him a bottle of water to drink. He drank from the bottle, before dripping some of the water into his hands and wiping his face with the water, picking with his index finger at the area between his nose and his eyes. The other man was upset at his wasting the water, but he laughed it off and walked away.

He felt something at his feet and he kicked it away. He felt the sole of his foot kick out at something large and furry. He was happy to have the animals around, for their intricate inspections of food.

He envied the man who had washed his face. He envied the feeling, something he had forgotten to do for a few days now. To reel in the presence of bathing.

He rose from his blanketed cot and pulled on his pants. The men who were awake looked over in his direction, but before long, they looked away, disinterested.

Mistaking the cold inside the tent for an inaccurate assessment of the climate, he refused to help himself to a blanket. In the cover of darkness he slipped away from camp.

 

 

344

 

They tied his body to the chair. Injecting him with a dose of opiate, he fell into a trancelike sleep. His mind was elsewhere, but his body remained tied to the chair, strapped by plastic files that were tied by aluminum sheets cut into thin slabs. He could not, by resisting, remove himself from the chair. But he had no such intention.

The doctor pulled one of the tubes and began to lodge it into his face, through the nose, to go down the esophagus and into the stomach. His body, accepting the needle, remained perfectly still. The tube was being inserted slowly, with as much precision, so as not to disturb the trance. Though by effect of the drugs that would be virtually impossible. There remained the possibility his body would reject the tube. In which case h would likely heave and clench his throat, which had the possibility of lodging the tube too tightly against the inner lining of the esophagus, or even the back of the throat, in which case his body would go into shock, without his mental faculties becoming aware.

Moments prior he had forgotten to speak. They asked him his name and he couldn’t remember. But he had no name. He had not yet been gifted his identity.

They showed him the image of a woman he was expected to know. They had been searching for her, so they claimed. She had something that was theirs. But he hadn’t recognized the image. He couldn’t place the face. Something familiar, he said, was emerging from the eyes. But he denounced himself moments later, apologizing.

He heard from one of the parallel rooms the sound of chains linking. Before long, he was asleep.

 

 

 

345

 

Rushing toward the commotion. He found the entire settlement had come out into the square. A line of men were tied to a rope, and they were beheaded, one by one. The ceremony lasted several hours, and the crowd cheered, some in protest and disgust, others in religious celebration. Admiration for the executors was fierce, but so was distaste, though he heard less of distaste in the chattering of the public. The spectacle was amusing, at worst. The men who were slaughtered at the hands of a fighter were more or less negligible men. Men of little circumstance. Their wives, their daughters, were handed over to the fighters as slaves, to be enjoyed as they liked. The boys were sent to other camps to work and to train, and when ready, to raise up with arms.

 

 

 

346

 

He waited for them to fall asleep. Over the hours he contemplated the implications of his act, thinking about his decision more and more. In the end he celebrated, in his mind, the decision to steal the —- from the men and return it to the settlement. He hoped it would define his reputation. He hoped the sculptor’s daughter would return, to see him deliver the —- to the tribe.

It would be his greatest gift, and he would require significant strength and guile to attain it. He watched in the distance, a mortar claim her place on the horizon. The figurines were marching, ghouls descending a deserted garden. I am a stone’s throw away from Jerusalem, he thought. He liked the idea, laughing quietly.

He was happy with himself, being a man who laughed in the face of grave danger. The hours passed slowly. He pretended he was asleep, his face hidden under a steel of blankets. He waited until he heard no noise in the room, save for the occasional insect. He could hear the cockroaches in their bowls, beside the fighters, and the mother tied to her little trap. He felt one of the insects climb onto his face. He couldn’t move, for fear of waking the others. Every second, he felt the slow, hypnotic lifting of one of the insect’s hairy legs, and ever so lightly, like the gentlest tip of a feather touching with its outermost point, the leg would move barely an insect’s inch. Minutes that passed, he felt himself losing to the instinct of exaggeration. He wanted to lift himself from the bags and run with passion to the nearest pond, swallow his face in the water. All he could do was wait, and the cockroach insisted on waiting.

After some time, a larger animal must have knocked over a boot, or some other small stool, emitting a terrifying sound that enthused the cockroach to suddenly, beyond all reason, run rapidly away, off his face, down over his chin and onto his neck, before scurrying down his body, behind his back, and disappearing from his body into the form of battered clothes. At some point, moments later, he felt it curl over his toe and down the sole of his foot, before disappearing altogether again.

 

 

 

347

 

He woke up. In the corner of the room he saw a vulture pecking away at one of the bodies. By the lamp towering in the corner, he saw little dark figures scurrying up and over the body, into the wounds, digging away, clawing away at the open source of food, indispensable to their survival. The sound of insects hissing while their little teeth scraped away at human insides, sheets of muscle that were slowly losing color, expiring in the persistent mouths of the scavengers. Before long, he could see rodents sharing in the prize. The cooperation of the animals, the vulture, the large insects, the rodents, stirred his emotions. He felt numb. He couldn’t tell if he trusted the image before him, so grotesque and yet so quiet and admirable in its state of survivalist calm. In pursuit of fresh food, the scavengers met on his friend’s decapitated skull and pursued their meal appropriately.

He wondered if the same would become of him. He couldn’t tell if he preferred to become food for scavengers, or food for the fighters themselves. He wouldn’t mind if they cut up his body, separating the meat from the bones, and fired his muscle over a grill. He had little to give, anyway.

The sound of a shotgun disturbed the scene. The vulture had been shot, and before long, he saw one of the men pull at its head with one hand and cut off the head with the other. The vulture, hanging from the man’s hand, one eyeball cut loose from its place, the other showered in a pool of blood, looked oddly humanlike.

He felt a cockroach climb into his hair, remaining there. A pair of boots passed before his face. He heard them stop, and he heard some laughter over the state of the bird’s discarded body, funneling a pool of blood into the cots. Hoping it was quiet, he opened his eyes, to find a light shining directly on the face of the man sleeping in front of him. The man was quick to open his eyes. On the side of his face, stretching from his forehead to the bottom of his chin, a cockroach rested, it’s long antennas reaching over his head, disappearing into the dark. The man gave him a look of suspicion, and then surprise. He felt, suddenly, that the man knew what he was doing. He wondered if it mattered. If it would matter. They held their stare long enough to reach some fallible agreement.

 

 

348

 

He had been tasked with looking after the maid. She had gotten pregnant, and the militants were annoyed. They thought it was her duty to provide for them certain services which would obviously be interrupted in pregnancy. Still, they felt obliged to support the woman, for reciprocation. She still had a job to do, a job none of them could do. Among the most menial jobs she accomplished was the cleaning of the prayer room. But the question remained how she would be cleansed, daily, of sexuality, without her possessing virginity.

He pulled on his jacket, looking at himself in the mirror. He hadn’t looked into a mirror in some time, since arriving at the port, and for some time after hadn’t thought twice to his appearance. The image that returned to him was vague. It told him very little of the hardship he would endure, which he knew was inevitable. Soon they would sort out the lost papers, and would realize the rat in their ranks. They would suspect him first, for his being a stranger, and their thinking of him as an evil omen. The people of the port, the hills, and the forests and the peaks thought gravely of omens.

 

 

349

 

In assessing her papers, they found them to be falsified. They suspected his work, and approached him for the job. The woman had been brought in, rescued so to say, by a group of militants, and he happened to do the job. He hadn’t randomly landed at port. He hadn’t randomly become a spy. They knew that at the beginning, it didn’t have to be said. But where was he coming from, and what was his name?

They had to access his papers. To access his birth certificate, and his will, if he had established one.

Was he married?

How does a man come in from the hills, dressed like an acrobat, marked by boils on his face and wounds on his arms and body, without having a past and a name?

The port had become a wasteland. The encampments surrounding the port, some of rebels, others of greedy tribes, greedy businessmen, stretching the imagination of paradigms to exact power, security or wealth, were unhealthy as well. Sources of income were few. In some of the villages, provisions were so painfully scarce, the citizens took to eating insects collected from their own village, and for drinking water, sharing the remains of other villages. It made good work for a period of time for the shared economy of the villages involved. The construction of a pipe, the establishment of a treaty, the engineering, the counseling, the labor. It extended the ties between two entities, sharing at least a spoken of border.

The peaks were relatively free of damage, but to penetrate the peaks was unfairly difficult. The journey favored those in pursuit of an idea, and idea that would amount to some feelings of wholesome gratification. It wasn’t a requirement. Most made the journey without knowing they were in pursuit of wholeness. But it favored them to know.

 

 

 

350

 

He comes back to join in the establishment of the revolution. The woman interest, that sidestory, that carries the character’s personification, happens with the Leila character.

 

He believed in pragmatic revolution. The evolution of a social system. Choose one leader, today, and enter the political system.

 

Everybody wants the borders closed. Refugees have paralyzed and greatly burdened the state. It is a failing state.

 

 

 

351

 

He awoke in the morning with the urge to go for a lengthy walk. Early morning, before the others would rise. He’d been in a state of angst since their departure, and it felt good to stand alone, to meet the morning breeze before the copious rose to take in their thoughts. The men would plan generously for the day, and it would excuse them for another day of procrastination. Their supplies were running short, and they would soon be out. He hadn’t expected to remain so long, but the idea was taking hold of him and he felt an integral part of the plan. He realized, albeit reluctantly, that he had no real choice, he was confined to the port as its children were. The clarity her felt in that moment contradicted realities on the ground. But he understood where the revelation came from. Others spoke it as well, others who had tried to escape into the north but returned with their hopes dashed, finding it impossible to secure a better life, returning to the pit of their incestuous despair.

A march had been planned for the afternoon, but he didn’t think anyone would join. He had promised to meet Layla at her mother’s home, but he knew, within his heart, he was avoiding the confrontation. It wasn’t a confrontation to her, of course, but to him. He had studied his own attachments long enough to know what he sought when he sought it.

He didn’t know who to trust. The Hebrews were among them, and most of them were honorable and tall ordered. In the social gathering the night before, when they had discussed the possibility of an all out strike, an attack on the presidential palace, a division emerged between the two rival camps, both vying to institute their own ideas of reform. They disagreed on matters of principle and matters of action. He believed, like those within his camp, that the war would not be won by moderates, and that it was their obligation to withstand the violence, to brave the war, long enough to entrench their ideology in the ideas of the people. But the others believed the war would be won by the radicals, of either side, and within the first days of victory they would extinguish any moderates left. They remembered their father’s stories of retreating to the mountains, hiding in the deep recesses of the sacred peaks, before the occupations that divided the nation had ended. Did they want to live on the run? Or did they intend to do better?

He thought highly of Alexander. Most of them did, even those who disagreed with his politics. They believed him to be a man of principle. A man of great moral integrity. A man who would sustain the values of the revolution, after the reform. But he worried for Alexander. He worried that the price on his head had risen to too appealing a height. They would need to protect him.  But protect him from whom? If Alexander were killed, he would surely be killed rom the inside. He could no longer trust the others. None of them could trust anyone but themselves. These were the costs of revolution.

He would spend the morning contemplating these events, the unpredictability of their shared future. But he would also meditate on the sounds around him. He would meditate on the coffee sellers who refused to give in to their ill fated reality. He would meditate on the waves that carried in and out of shore the teasing pendulum of time. A mirror to their circumstance.

Suddenly, he felt his mood sour. A profound stench rose from the opposite end of the street, stretching to where he stood, upset at the smell and sight of overflowing garbage taking reigns onto the road. They were steeped in the wasteland. From all corners he could see the ire of black smoke rising from burning garbage heaps, neighborhoods taking matters into their own hands. A time for entrepreneurs, he thought. That was what their movement lacked, some ingenuity of cause. Many of the oil fields in the North had already been conquered by radical rebel movements. They were funding their campaigns selling the oil off the market. The market. The markets had all but disappeared.

Upon moving to the city, it had been reeling with a sense of promise, a sense of hope. Imminent change. Imminence. He vowed, during his first foray into the political mess, staging a friendly boycott of the student elections in his university, never to abandon the nation of his roots. At the time, he felt the port still possessed a soul. Unlike his, it could absorb the weight of catastrophe, and remain standing. Though he never knew the town the way elders speak of it in its prime, its golden age, before the decapitation of its heart, everywhere he would go he always felt a sense of longing for the ruined little port town. And when he pictured himself traveling across the empty quarter, selling bundles of dates and olives he had collected off Bedouins and farmers in his travels westward, finally living a life of solitude, connected to the soil, always moving, always on the go, he imagined the poor settlers he would encounter to look into his face and ask his opinion on their predicament. It is fine here, he would say, it is always fine. Where are you from, they would ask. A port, three revolutions away. What is it like there, one of them would ask. Now, he would say, it is destroyed.

An older man would intervene, collecting spit in his mouth and dismantling it. He is from the port of ports. In my day, he would add, it was the most glorious port, filled with monuments standing since antiquity, the most elegant, beautiful women you have ever seen. From the heights of the Cedar mountains, you could smell jasmine, lavender, descend from the skies, burning hashish swell the evening air, tasting zaatar on your spoiled tongue from the hands of an elderly mother, the wife of a village sage, who could recite to you verses of Greek poets, ulemma mystics, and the decadent couplets of Baudelaire, all in one breath. The his voice would drop, suffering what all men suffer when faced with regret, adding over the aged croaking of his voice, But it is true what he says, now, it is destroyed.

They would settle their accounts and leave, disappearing into a thick gaseous smog, desert winds blazing, glancing over their shoulders to the young traveler left alone, standing on the flatland with signs of loneliness in his eyes. He would contend later with what he’d heard, yet again, from a man who saw what he would never see, a land of beauty and liberty.

The memory of his youth sprang to his mind. Marching through the waterfront to protest a string of assassinations. Months after he first arrived, he would hide himself in his room, with a group of trusted friends, for two, sometimes three days, while the violence spread outside, raging and claiming the reality on the ground, and they would loosen the mood with bottles and bottles of wine, whiskey, crates of beer, joint after joint, some high grade weed he would pay extra for, ordering more than they would ever need, and the infamous Lebanese hash that he so coveted, from the valleys, from the Christian lowlands, from the slums of West Beirut. He tried everything, and everything worked. Cough syrup, during some of the curfews. Tabs of LSD during a lull in the fighting. Most of all, they enjoyed the heavy handed pills sweeping through the underground. By the time he had finished his first eyar of studies, he had become a symbol of political antagonism, courting only the dregs, the washed up, those who would not raise their voice for politics. Once, in his first few weeks in Beirut, he had been invited to partake in a weekly poker match between friends, friends of his older brother, friends of friends. No sooner had they divided the chips, drawn the cards, than a fight broke out between two of the players. Within minutes, the table had been turned, a gun was pulled to one of the player’s heads, and he realized the magnitude of the situation. They were not just politically inclined, politically charged, politically curious. His contemporaries were political militants, and they did not view their militancy through an intellectual framework, which he might understand, enjoying long debates on the utility of warfare, for the economy especially, the utility of torture, secret police, dirty tactics. He was not an idealist, but this was real. At the end of that night, sitting around a dining table, several of the guests now drunk, the two who had fought earlier having made up, enjoying the last remains of a spliff, he decided he did not want to be like them. He didn’t want to be like them, he wanted to be better. He wanted to raise the stakes of militancy. He wanted to build a name.

He walked now along the deserted harbor between two bridges, delegating two ends of the same tribe. He thought of the friends he shared his days with, who he remembered vividly on such walks. He lit a cigarette and greeted the fishermen, absorbed in the quiet of their craft. He took interest in the image of families crowding along the shore, just below the abandoned amusement park, where he’d fallen in love as a child. He continued walking, reaching the white sands at the southern tip of the peninsula. There lay a few groups down by the water taking in the sun. He remembered nabbing crabs off the sand blocks to toss wildly into the air in fits of joy, trying his best to impress her. Reaching the renovated shoreline, newly abandoned resorts, quieter now in the twilight of autumn, he watched schoolchildren huddled beneath the waterfalls, lying under the sun waiting on the waves. The waves that do not disappoint. The sea that is my home.

He listened to the silence of his mind, allowing the breeze to settle in. There had been many nights, many days, where he wandered without end, thinking of an earlier time, a different time. He would often wonder if it all really happened, or if he managed to believe the journeys of his dreams. The music is in my veins, he wrote one night, while she lay in bed beside him. He watched her that night, amazed, wondering, had he sought her out or had she? Did she really exist? Did he? At times, they felt so abnormally compatible it would feel as though they were distinguished from the rest. Others would applaud them but they ought to have pitied them, knowing it would not last. Not here, he thought, nothing of purity lasts.

As with most determinations in life, apathy snuck her fangs and removed him from his habits. Soon, he was weaving dreams on a stationary park, resting his legs and curling his head around an ancient tree trunk, reluctant to admit his declining faith, meeting the eyes of other drifters, possibly enlightened, with a dip of his own, curious not to offend, careful not to be too noticed. They might realize of him what is true of themselves, he always thought.

Staring aimlessly at the open sky, he wondered if there had been a time in his little country’s past where an eagle might soar over the landscape, choosing to bite at the instant those gathered below took notice.

Soon, he would hear the rapid fire agitation of assault rifles and mortars, cluster bombs painting a familiar summer sky on the horizon, clouds of smoke rising over banana fields and orange groves, jets dispatched over the pine forests in the East and the Cedars in the North, pummeling towers, schools, bridges, leaving a heap of rubble in their passing wake. The sight of firing squads, executions on sectarian grounds. Intricate assassinations and eruptions of violence. Still, he had hope. Until, it was gone.

The flash of a photographer’s camera startled him. His face grim, he felt in that moment swaying between the protagonist and antagonist of his own life’s film. He could not tell in that moment whether the crowd of strangers, who had taken no interest in him, had inconspicuously formed an audience. He felt paranoid, all of a sudden, feeling incontrovertibly alone. He worried that he was being watched. The paranoia quickly took hold of him. He searched for a crevice in the landscape, a place where he may hide.

He checked his pockets. Thankfully he wasn’t carrying anything incriminating on him. He had left certain papers with instructions at home. But he had to return to where he started. If he only now realized he may have been followed, then they might have followed him for some time. They may even have followed him the night prior, when he thought he was secretly going to the meeting. He thought of a safe place nearby. An old theater that had been barred from the public was recently opened. It was a gesture from one of the ruling families to lessen tension on the streets. In many ways it worked. It gave the youth something to do.

But as most ventures in the port, the theater attracted distasteful company. Still, he thought it necessary to go there, as it was only a few kilometers walk. He rushed through the city in an anxious panic towards the theater. The morning winds eased the day’s sparkling climate. He hoped for the delicacy of an autumn evening, that would announce herself later in the day. His senses heightened and his mind lifted past paranoiac thoughts. He concluded in that brief moment of tranquility that the day ahead would be one of grave consequence. The hour of indecision was over.

 

 

352

 

She couldn’t understand why she had been chosen for the task. She had never been good with crowds. She thought of herself as a grouch. She hated having to deal with people. That was precisely why she had chosen her career, to translate the work of others, and to write dissertations on literary figures long dead. She despised having to present her findings to a crowd, preferring to give it away to a publication, for someone of interest to read. But suddenly she found herself embroiled in a social manifestation. People would rely on her, to be outgoing and show leadership. And Alexander wanted to meet her, privately. He had high ideas of her work, and high ideas of her capacities. She could be one of the primary leaders, he had said. Leaders of what?

Besides, she was too busy. She had other responsibilities. Responsibilities only she would perform. Her grandmother was nearing death, and she had to remain beside her. They were the only two left in the family. A family that had been scarred by time. How could she abandon the woman who raised her, who sacrificed everything for her, for the ideas of an emerging social class? She didn’t belong to that class. Even in the meeting, the night before, she felt completely out of place. They had all spoken with such reverie of the need to band together, to unite, to dismantle the current regime. She never had such ambitions. She wanted to see out the remaining years in proximity to quiet. The continuing disruptions were already enough, why engage on the battlefield.

She turned off the stove. She pulled the kettle from the fire. She poured the thick coffee into a small, finely painted cup, and walked the cup over to the other room, where her grandmother lay on the couch, her afternoon television shows only just beginning. She turned on the television and blasted the volume, to the dismay of the neighbors but most of all herself. She pulled her grandmother’s legs off the couch and let them rest on the floor. She placed the cup in her hands, wrapping her two hands around the cup, resting it on her lap.

Her grandmother, Teta Yasmina, had always been a little on the heavier side. But her sickness had taken away most of her weight. She looked like she had been eaten away from within. Her case seemed perpetual. She always seemed to be on the verge of death by late evening, yet somehow would survive into the morning and be awake for the day. Sarah didn’t know if it was resilience on her part or madness, if she pushed harder and harder every night or if she herself was actually wanting to die. She didn’t really see the difference. She wasn’t always able to admit to herself, but most of the time she realized she was looking forward to Teta Yasmina’s death. It would be her emancipation. If the borders opened, she would consider leaving. She would work her way up at a university, somewhere like Istanbul or Thessaloniki. She would never look back, never have to.

And suddenly they wanted her to commit. Spoiled brats who had never showed interest in politics, in reform, had never voiced an idea of their own yet managed to always complain. Suddenly they were taking the city by storm, pushing through the different quarters with their agenda. Quietly, silently, amassing a people’s army. It would not last.

 

 

353

 

He kept the women as consorts. They were inclined to think of themselves as whores, because they were, but they were treated much better than the average prostitute. Still, they served the man his wishes, which usually involved the two of them making simultaneous advances onto his erect penis. But it was his strange habit of ego that prevented him from enjoying their company without his needing affirmation that they too enjoyed his. He wasn’t satisfied with his own enjoyment. He demanded that they enjoy their time spent together as well. A virtually impossibility given that he suffered regularly from erectile dysfunction and the foundation of their arrangement made for anything but an aphrodisiac. Still, while —- took to the arrangement nastily, —- allowed herself to enjoy the arrangement.

 

 

 

354

 

I wear glasses now. I realized today I am a glasses wearer. I was searching for them and they were on my face. A rite of passage. Initiation.

I wanted to name these The Life and Course of Daniel Thymes. A student who became interested in metaphysics at a young age. The school in Arlington was reserved that summer, so we drove up to Mahogany Baywater pond to catch the upstream meditation for the weekend.

As a writer you should never smoke weed. That’s usually my rule. Coffee and the occasional hash pipe. But never straight up marijuana. But Neil Gaiman says if something works, do it. Weed gives revelation, but it kills memory loss, though it advances thinking in disassociative ways.

I return to the port of ports. The city I want to make. I want it perfect for us.

I’m building us a home. I have certain characters I want to get back into. For instance, I started working on the mutant at one point. Writing the sort of story where the narrator is undoubtedly spoken of as, “For when they found him in Berlin…”

I wanted to end it like that, or to be that character who meets a young finale, but how could I say that about myself? I have no legitimacy.

I miss my balcony in Beirut. Everywhere I go in the world I’m trying to replicate that feeling. I never can. But in Beirut there’s always the roach in my subconscious. In America too. I am able to forget the roach in berlin.

Until my girlfriend brought home a roach.

I realize now my aunt is the mutant.

 

I’ve decided to write a how to write a novel book. It’ll start like this:

Anyone who’s tried writing a novel knows what it takes. Anyone who’s finished writing a novel (I haven’t) knows what it takes (I don’t.) it took me twenty seven years to be with myself. To meet myself. I’m not the one to be giving advice.

I want to talk about honesty.

This won’t become a log for the various genocides taking place.

Full stop.

I don’t know if the port of ports is fantasy or science fiction. I know it makes me tired. It relates to the sounds. Those horns.

But death is all too easy. And the misery is engulfing. Maybe it’s too contrived.

I hope you don’t share my feelings.

I have so much I want to say, and do.

I’ve never written honestly about love.

The mutant is my failed self.

Maybe I have to connect with old habits.

Tomorrow morning I’ll go outside for a walk, and spend some time in the park. I’ll smoke a joint in the morning. I haven’t enjoyed the wake and bake in over a year.

I’m afraid of being useless. But weed never makes me useless. It makes me relentless.

I think we have a habit of collecting toothpastes.

My life is a series of interruptions.

I write on my laptop, and when I turn it off, I write on my phone.

This is a new day. The beginning of the rest of my life.

Since you are reading me, it will change yours as well. It will change the course of your life.

Things you need to know, to hear about.

I prefer to do this with the typewriter but my wife is asleep so I’ll use the laptop.

I call her my wife but she’s actually my girlfriend. She might as well be my wife. I’m sure we’re married in some occultist definition.

A look at my bookshelf tells me a lot.

I haven’t spent this much time in front of a computer screen since my third year of university. I was in the tail end of the only serious relationship I had in college, and cruising through probably my most interesting and so easiest semester of classes of my time there. I was back on the rugby team, and I was taking a lot of supplements, like NOX and Nitrix. I was training with the squad three times a week and starting all of the games. I was going to the gym myself on the off days and eating five meals a day. I vomited a burger at lunch one afternoon because I had eaten five eggs and a manoushe for breakfast. I was waking up at seven am and taking my pills so I could eat right away. I don’t know what I put in my body. I’m sure it wasn’t good. But anyways, I was on the tail end of my relationship, and my brother and best friend and I would stay in and get stoned and alternate between FIFA and Championship Manager. Championship Manager had actually become Football Manager at this point. Championship Manager still existed, it just sucked. It’s funny, come to think of it, I never thought I’d make the switch from Championship Manager, and yet it happened, just like I never thought I’d make the switch from Winning Eleven to Pro Evolution to FIFA, of all games for football on the PlayStation. But yeah, at that point Football Manager was basically the most important thing in my life between all these things. I think I took control of Man City because Man City really is, or at least it was at the time, I wouldn’t know since I haven’t played, a Football Manager or Championship Manager player’s dream, a team with basically a free flow of cash. I still remember. Hamsik was one of my first buys. He was the type of player who you buy and don’t even know what he looks like in real life. Like when I discovered Javier Saviola. I still think I’m the guy that first discovered him. The 18 yr. old at River Plate. I still remember the day I saw him play for the first time. I was at my cousin’s house, which is actually my uncle’s house, but since he’s whipped by his wife it’s basically my uncle’s wife’s house, since she’s not really my aunt, even though she has a big head, and she’s always been very kind to me, it’s just that she’s never been anything but overly serious. We were sitting in the living room, which at some point in our lives transformed, like all living rooms, into the television and then cable television and then digital television room of the house. Argentina was playing against some other team, probably Nigeria, since I feel that was the era where they played all the time. Saviola came off the bench. When I see the picture now, I see the room from a slanted wide angle, from the opening of the door that leads into the room. I can see out the window as well. Omar, my cousin, is on the left of the frame, at the computer, and my uncle’s foot is in the right. His feet remind me of my brother’s feet, but my brother’s are younger. When they are older, they will hopefully not be as fat, but they will be as hairy. I shave my feet from time to time, even though they have barely any hair, because for no reason but to do it, I like to be a transvestite from time to time. That’s away from the point. Saviola, my champion.

I was surprised at the length of his hair. It was almost like a bowl cut. It was cute. He definitely looked young. And he looked sharp. He had his first touch of the ball, which I don’t’ remember. I remember at some point, it might have been his second touch, or his thirtieth, though I’m not sure if he even touched the ball or how many times he did it, but the ball came rolling past the last defender and he appeared behind the player marking him, racing onto the ball as it inched into the keeper’s hands. Remarkable. He came very close in that game.

I never saw him again, I don’t think. Maybe once in a Copa America. I don’t really care for that tournament, but when Alejandro Zambra wrote about how much he adores Sanchez, from Arsenal- who I have decided to buy if I ever play Football Manager again- and the Copa America passed over summer, I have decided to give that tournament a chance next time around. I couldn’t do it this year, because we had the World Cup last summer, and it was my first summer in berlin, and living with my wife, and this summer is our second summer together, and we live together on the real now, so I just felt bad. but I also didn’t care that much, because I would have done it. I’m not just saying that.

Football Manager was a beautiful thing. We smoked joint after joint, and two of us would duel in FIFA, on the PlayStation, and the other would play his Football Manager. Sami and I both chose Manchester City. Rami played with United then he probably ended up playing with Swansea and then Bahia C.F. or something. He liked the challenge. When he was in the hospital he perfected the game, basically doing the impossible and winning the World Cup with Leicester City. I personally gift him the praise for their being in the Premier League again. Great club, great outfit.

By the way, the joint I smoked tonight really brought me back. Sometimes it really helps. I’ll tell my dealer. He’s seventeen years old. He looks even younger. And he sometimes sells through his younger brother. He was pretty shocked when I showed up without body hair- it was hot, so I was practically naked- and purple nail polish. The nail polish was pretty cheap. But it was done well. Except the index finger on my left hand. We did it over three times. He was relieved to hear I wasn’t raped.

I remember the three of us basically boring the shit out of our girlfriends so they would go home or pass out in another room so we could carry on with our games. I was pretty excited when my girlfriend left and Sami’s girlfriend cheated on him and left him with his heart under a parked truck. But then Rami left L. Big brother out of the house. In some ways it was my emancipation, too. I no longer had someone looking over my shoulder. But I also no longer had someone looking over my shoulder. My drinking habit took a very interesting turn. You could say it took a very serious turn. I began drinking seriously. Not like, I began drinking, seriously. I mean, the amount of drinking was serious.

It would take me less than a year to be able to drink an entire bottle of whiskey before leaving the house. But that was when I perfected the habit of never leaving the house. A habit I commit to today. I never go out anymore, not ever. Today I went out of the house and I spent 75 euros. I bought four records. Actually it was 70. The guy gave me a discount. I thanked him like he had singlehandedly ended the war. What war? All of them.

I won’t bring up the war. You don’t want to hear it. I’ll sound like a blogger. And the content will be destroyed. I’ll tell you about the streets I miss most, the sights I can hear when I close my eyes.

I can tell you about the feeling of Beirut. But I can never give you the feeling, to taste it, without having been there.

Home is home.

Al Jazeera released a video, pertaining to the street protests in Beirut because of the waste management crisis, pretty partisan I would say, closing with the question, which will Lebanon get first, clean streets, or clean government? I’d say clean streets, first. And last. Lebanon will not achieve clean governance. What’s the point? Instead of paying taxes, we pay bribes.

But it’s a city with irrefutable charm.

I don’t know if charm has the same half-life, or greater, than destruction.

My first few months in Berlin, I had some strange symptoms of separation anxiety. First, I got this massive cyst on my face, the size of a thumbnail, the result of an ingrown hair that fell into rough times. Maxi, my old half roommate in Istanbul, was in town for a few nights, and when he’s in town it means he’s playing music or doing drugs at Kater Holzig, for however many days, unless they’re throwing a party somewhere else, and this was one of the few times I decided to go, mainly because I wanted to fit in, but then I made the terrible decision of trying to pop the little fucker before going out, and before I knew it I had squeezed the thing in all possible directions and it grew to the size of my palm, but it was unevenly terrained, so it was kind of like a mountainous region on one side and a mashed eggplant on another, a plateau, a row of interceding hills. I tried to bandage it up but I had no bandages. And I had nothing to clean my face with. I probably did but I didn’t check.

I went to the party looking pretty normal except for my face that was bulging with topography. I guess it got worse because I did some ketamine and touched my face for a few hours while running my hands across the bathroom grime and the several lounging areas I fell asleep in. In the morning my face the situation was much worse. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I went to the hospital and they put me in a chair, after paying one hundred and twenty seven euros to the man, and tied me down and administered some anesthetic in my face and went to town on the little guy. I guess I left a little while later and that night wrote some shit down and in the morning I told my girl I couldn’t go to the festival with them because Doc said I should stay indoors, it was over forty degrees and the antibiotics were a double antibiotics that accelerated and amplified the work. He said the only thing I needn’t do is go outside under the sun.

She gave me a hard time and I followed her to the show and after we smoked a joint I went outside and the moment we did I felt like I was going to faint. We pushed through the ever increasing crowd and I just remember rushing down the stairs to the subway at Gneissenaustrasse thinking that if I died in the subway station I would at least have another choice other cremation with which to dispose of my body.

Things ended well. After being given some sugar filled items and resting for an hour with my head between my hands, my back cold as ice, I managed to walk back through the crowd under the sun and slowly march up the stairs in my girl’s arms and lie on the bed naked while she fed me processed couscous from a small bowl, feeding me the couscous with a spoon and then with my reluctance resorting to her hands, pulling the couscous from the little bowl with one hand and mashing it into tiny little pieces she could shove into my mouth.

She ended up leaving me there to get high and dance. I remember falling asleep for the briefest moment before her roommate, Louie, and her boyfriend, Pascal, came home, and they immediately started smoking cigarettes and blasting the Trap. I thought, again, that I would faint, or that I should dispose of my body somehow. I put my clothes on and left.

It was dark. The streets were empty. She must have been expecting me to wait, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to make the trip home in the morning. It would be still be hot. I would suffer.

Besides, I was hungry. I had more to eat at home than a bowl of hand mashed couscous.

I found a cab a few blocks away. I was quite pleased to arrive home. I might’ve thought about eating a massive chicken kebab just in spite of her, since she coerced me into coming. But I ate at home, if I remember correctly, and I was happy to see her in the morning.

 

I’m thinking of downloading the demo of the old Football Manager or running the latest version. I wonder what it will do to our relationship. I’m happy with her. It will probably reduce the amount of pornography I watch. Although I have stopped that. It was a strange moment in my evolution. I haven’t watched so much pornography since I discovered the freedom of the internet.

Speaking of the internet. Why do we still have governments? I mean, what are they really for? Can’t we just integrate everything into a system that operates on a digital consumer based level?

 

A few weeks after the festival incident I got a strange rash on my dick. It was just dried skin, probably from all the fucking and the exposure to healthy and clean water. Her dermatologist took care of me. He also took care of my recovery from the ingrown hair fiasco. In the end it all worked out for the best, I discovered a cleaner, happier self.

My time in Berlin can be characterized by phases of my relationship and phases of my writing life. These two facets are the determining qualities of my life right now. I seek refuge in both. Together they form completeness. But I am not a complete self. I lack empathy these days for the people around me. Empathy and interest.

I won’t bring up the war.

I have an ingrown hair underneath my belly button. It looks dangerous. It’s growing sideways, I think. It’s too big to use tweezers. It might also be a tick, from the acid trip. I had nine ticks on my body, in total. I’m sure there were a few more, but supposedly they aren’t dangerous.

Certain things take me from place to place.

There are certain books I’m supposed to bring people. My mentor, Ms. Foerstner, let me borrow A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, her favorite book, my last few months of high school. I was serving in school suspension for tardiness when I tried reading it. I was about to begin hearing the voice, experiencing the shrill luminosity of its width, when the middle school principal walked over to me and explained to me his own variation and experience of it, and so I wasn’t ever able to come to terms with my own unique understanding of the sound, it was perpetually linked to that man’s squashed yellow face.

Callahan, the type of white that has yellow feet and hands.

Writing does strange things to me. One of them is definitely the need to dress up as a woman and act like a whore. At some point it gets boring and I return to my normal self. For those brief moments I’m a confident, passionate, curious woman. A slut, but a woman. But then I return to being the overly cerebral and neurotic grouch that I am. The moderately queer Emily Dickinson of postwar Beirut.

But while I make this claim to the Dickinsonian throne, I know more than anyone else that I am not the most eligible for the Emily Dickinson prize, and not even the most eligible in my family. I need not go far to find those more suitable than me to carry the good name.

 

Well, since beginning this piece I have searched for Football Manager and am now faced with the realization that it is unavailable for download in Germany. I guess I’ll just go to bed, and finish the book tomorrow.

 

I’m reading comments on a forum that is discussing the nature of Germany’s ban on Football Manager. I realize now the players are almost always fake German players. But the comments are really incredible. One of the commenters has related the licensing difficulties to a government plan of action to prevent the infiltration of the German footballing psyche by outside forces so as to retain its preeminent place in the world of football.

Comments in general are always interesting. Actually, most of the time when it comes to political articles, or any article that details the facts or opinion on any matter whatsoever, the article itself need not be shown, only the comments themselves, and they pretty much tell the story. I guess the comments are like the film script that takes the article and turns it into action. How the reality effects people. Franzen style.

The coffee in my system is waning. I will sleep now, since I emptied the pipe earlier. Otherwise I would have taken another hit from the bowl. Whatever keeps you writing, they say. It takes wonders to finish a damn story. Off into the ribbons, farewell.

 

 

 

355

 

Today I couldn’t start working until 3:01 pm. I was up until the wee hours writing. 4:16 I stopped. I smoked a joint at around 1:42 that really took me off. Actually it was a hit of Nicola’s pipe. It really works.

They’re shooting a movie outside our house. The huge studio lights are set up right next to the construction fence. The construction has had a good moment today. That large water tank that’s been sitting outside for three months finally went underground. Four men, working harder than I’ve ever seen them. Still not so hard.

There are days I have territory of the soul to consider and I write good shit to you. Today is probably not one of those days. I’m still confused. I tried reading Peter Stamm’s short story, “Expectations”, but it hasn’t helped, though I haven’t finished it yet. Maybe I will finish it now. But after the new record I got finishes playing. “The Feast of Achoura”. Pretty gangster drums.

I tried jacking off. It usually works. It didn’t.

 

I’m becoming civilized. Today, I refused to cross the street before the light was green, because a child was beside me.

 

I go to the park. Volkspark. Known for its beach volleyball courts. They give the place a good feeling. There’s also a few strange playgrounds. And a known cruising area and my favourite most authentic Lebanese restaurant.

It doesn’t have the dealers like Gorlitzer or Hasenheide, or that many hipsters, but it’s nice. It’s clean and the trees are gorgeous. They even have weeping willows. All around.

I might go watch the United game vs. Brugge at the bar down the street from my place, on Neidermanstrasse. They have TVs set up outside. Usually they show Bundesliga but today it’s just qualifiers for the champs league going so I figure it’ll work. I went last weekend to see them play Newcastle but I missed the game. They weren’t showing it. It was a lousy nil nil. I saw twenty minutes of the first half. We controlled well but didn’t threaten in front of goal. Rooney looks like he’s tired. I hate to sound like the critics but it’s true. And with Chelsea singing Pogba and stones on top of Pedro and their sick squad, and City signing de Bruyne, things don’t look good. I hope Fellaini isn’t the surprise striker.

 

I brought out the camera, thinking maybe I take photos. I took a few of the volleyball. Then I noticed the huge structure beside us. I had already put the camera away though.

The crowds are growing. My lens and mirror were super dirty. I tried cleaning them but it made it worse. I hope I’m getting a tan.

The crowd gets younger by the hour.

The sun is quite strong. Usually I can look into it for at least a second and a half, but here it immediately blinds my eyes and draws me the white circle.

Who was it that said we probably die at the end of youth, at the end of innocence?

 

Bukowski said he became a writer basically so he could wake up around noon and start drinking beer. He also said if he could have had a better life he would have written better, like the greats.

 

I turn on the radio on my phone while walking to the Lebanese restaurant.

“United remain intent on finalizing a marquee signing. They are in the sort of position Chelsea were in a few years back, when Terry was considered surplus as well. They’ve turned out well.”

“Yes, they have, and it all comes down to the manager and to depth. He’s brought in the right layers, in the key positions, but now he faces a different challenge. Retaining the title will be difficult. Costa and Hazard are off to a slow start. Cesc doesn’t look himself. Terry and Courtois, the backbone, have both been sent off already, int heir first four league games.”

“I’ve heard United are interested in hijacking the Stones deal.”

“Well, United have been linked with just about every player on this earth and his mother. But the united faithful will want something to cheer about. Although, last year, near the deadline, they signed Falcao and DI Maria, both of whom have left.”

 

I go often to the restaurant these days. It’s right across from the park, so after a few hours under the sun I head over and bring home some food. I was really stoned so I as hoping the owner wouldn’t take the chance this time, noticing my regular appearances, to introduce himself. The past few times I was a little annoyed because they don’t have proper bags to take food away with, they just wrap it in one plastic bag and it burns through your skin. This time, as I was reading, Cesar Aira’s An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, high out of my mind, waiting on the waiter to bring me my food to take home, I had a strong feeling he had prepared a new means of taking it away. Lo and behold, he came out of the kitchen with a fruit box, one of those cardboard boxes, with the food inside, perfectly wrapped and with lots of space. He even had the hummus in a different kind of bowl. I felt really positive at that moment. I hoped he would understand how grateful I was, that I recognized the gesture. I was too stoned to really make a generous offer of live, and kinship. But still, I think he got it.

On the walk home I decided I’m developing the idea of a Gesamtroman, the total novel.

I drop the food off at home. I bump into Bara, my upstairs neighbors, the man with the name of my book. I’m glad I don’t bump into Eude or his boring boyfriend, but I know I won’t since I always take the back way in order to avoid them. Though now I realize they probably also use the back way.

Bara complains about the roof situation, his raison d’etre it seems. And he tells me a neighbor died in June, at the age of eighty two, of cancer. Sudden death, his words. My neighbor, the guy next door to me, has lived here longer than forty two years, Bara says. He was born here. That’s how old he is.

Once I’m back from the market Nicola and I devour the Lebanese food. Green beans with rice, spiced potatoes, hummus and fatoush. I clean up after us and do some of the other housework, like laundry and some more dishes. I remove the plastic and paper stuff from the recycling section and throw them away outside, to start over, since I want to get rid of the dirty Lebanese restaurant take away packaging, which is wet with sauce and taking up too much space. The evils of delivery and take away.

Nicola leaves to have ice cream with Maryna. I catch the last twenty minutes of the first half of the United game.

The same strange number from earlier calls, leaves a message, I ignore it. I wonder who it is.

I consider watching half an episode of Bloodline, or some other brain numbing show. Every one deserves a brain numbing series in their life.

Rooney finally scores.

I take a beautiful and extended show.

I make a double espresso.

Rooney scores a hat trick, Herrera adds one.

I’m back at the desk, at work.

 

 

356

 

Pharaoh tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, his face characteristically dazed. There was an ear in his hand, mutilated.

He wanted to inspect the ear, and he should have, but really he wanted to take a bite, see what it tasted like. He wanted to know if he could taste the passing. The ear smelled, biting at him in the cast of wind.

“Are you curious?”

The whores were stepping out of the bushes. The idea was to keep moving, otherwise they would be overrun. She had wanted his attention, and his company, during the ride, but he largely ignored her. He felt sorry for it, but he didn’t know how else to keep his composure, going into the depths.

He was overcome nausea. He was overcome by a desire to react, once and for all. But he couldn’t bring himself to feel anything more than a slight sickness. As though nothing were happening.

He found the same crowd moving forward without notice to their surroundings, carrying the charred remains of an anthem. They walked the entire field, arms interlocked.

“How long has it been?”

“I’ve seen these bones already.”

Something must have come over the others. The group behind his were snapping their fingers repeatedly, to no desired effect it seemed. He wondered to himself what they were hoping to achieve?

He begrudged his figure to move and it did.

He hoped to be walking toward them, but he was walking away.

Taking sidesteps across the beach like a crab caught within rapture. He stepped through the ends of a noose. It disappeared.

 

 

 

 

357

 

The procedure to be used was outlined in the morning press. The judicial court released a memorandum on proceedings. The case was sent ot the judiciary to get its discussion on the government floor, but it was ignored by the cabinet. The interested lawyers referred the file to the municipal courts, in the hopes of the court returning the file to the supreme judge. But the lobby was too great on the other side. The case was postponed.

The pamphlets were eagerly distributed. They were content with the power they had consolidated. The movement that had looked like a revolution was beginning to look more and more like an entirely extinct radical uprising. The interim government, illegally constituted, sent sentimental broadcasts up the ranks of the parties involved, pressuring them to assist in the civilian roundup to follow.

They declared a state of emergency, and descended on the remaining crowd. Demonstrators fell like sunflowers in a storm. The expense was high.

Several of the leaders were rounded up. The method by which they would dispose of the prisoners was debated in parliament, and it was decided they would use an old quartering technique favored by Folterexpertes. Vierteilung was the term most commonly used.

Cutting the body, they would implant a steel ridge in each of the ankles and wrists, in order to pull from all sides the victim. The process fo quartering would ensue.

Horses would be geared somehow to the nails, and would charge in four corners. They decided, for the men, to add a needle strung into the penis, inserted through the foreskin. The hope was that the penis would be entirely torn by the horse’s charge.

The issue of using live horses was hotly debated, and in the end the decision was made to use tractors or trucks. One of the members of parliament proposed using tanks to quarter the bodies in no more than ten seconds, without the usual pull and blow method, but a more methodical yet efficient approach. It would require some heavy machinery however, which the authorities simply did not have.

They would use the bodies, not discard them. They would employ them, somehow, for propaganda. Ideas were presented by several ministers, including one who suggested waxing and freezing.

 

 

358

 

He stepped away. The head was void of serious injury. It was obviously torn fast. Incisions on the back. The wrists were pulled completely open. The bone had shattered, and the skin torn through, a huge hole permeating the vacuous grease.

But that was it.

He felt an amnesiac sigh of relief.

He wondered if the family of the aggrieved would accept a monument built in their name. The sort of gesture was common to the port.

A choreographed brawl erupted somewhere nearby, causing a surge of traffic and citizens fleeing the commotion. A sea of exiles engrossed in uproar. One of the ministers called for a day of rage. He thought to himself, it would be suitable to host a day of cowardice. He would gladly play the coward.

It could not be true of an exile to flee his own spectacle.

He topped again to see where he was going, his mind going adrifict. He could no longer see the crowd.

 

 

359

 

A story I better let tell itself. Here we are, at the beginning.

He walks into a room. Marble flooring, disguised with wood. A single window. An ensemble of screens. She would be there, waiting on a greeting stage. He wanted to revise the pages to ensure that she remained involved.

“I’m having visions again.”

“Do they hurt?”

He slept in that morning. The full moon had passed. He was warned by her, going back to that sort of thing never does the body good. The organism suffers, she said. She insisted upon it.

“A story lived twice never ends the same.”

The phantom rises at the beginning.

“Do you want to see the lake?”

“I just woke up.”

“So you should be rested.”

She had slept next to him, while he had taken the pills. He felt the subtle touch of a ladybug pass over him, grazing him on the shoulder. He felt a certain symphony vibrating in his veins. He resisted touching her. The feeling was too beautiful to interrupt.

 

 

 

360

 

Those who were released were under extreme duress. Their state would generally deteriorate upon their leaving the encampment where they were held. It was generally agreed in the nursing community that the adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, was extremely active during captivity, but upon leaving the scene of their impending doom, their body gave to rest, and they were significantly weakened.

The people kept quiet, even as they received loved ones into their homes, who had been injured in the riots and subsequent detentions.

 

 

 

361

 

…And then she returned to her being quiet, as he expected. They watched the authorities demolish the roof, hoping it were not booby-trapped. Around where he had gone for walks, and wondered precisely what had been happening up there. He had his camera around his neck but he wasn’t taking any photographs. Settlers were everywhere, emboldened by the recent administrative moves. One of the settlers took him by the arm.

The hawk soared into his sight to remind him of the passing moon.

“Do you believe in the other life?”

He didn’t answer. The remainder of the walk was relatively quiet. Some demonstrators had hurled firecrackers in their direction, but they ignored most of the commotion. She asked him if he had wanted to remain incognito for fear of their meeting up.

“I wanted you to find me,” he said.

He loved her, knowing that in her devotion to him he could confide in her. The crowd, too stoned to focus. As they turned onto the main square, they had an indifferent reception, altogether. The audience seemed to be dead of nerve and vitality.

“Take me to the basement.”

“Is it safe?”

As they walked, he caught the glaring figures of nymphs propgating in the wasteland. He listened to their footsteps echo in the rain. He was surprised to find, upon arriving home, that he had boarded up the room already, and it looked like a fortress. He had everything packed, ready to go.

He opened a bottle of wine, even though he had two bottles, one red and one white, already open. He poured her a glass and one for himself, while she cut up a few lines of coke, some for now and some for later. Without thinking, he turned on the radio. The sports commentators were gone. He was embarrassed that he had done it, but he found himself curious to the upcoming songs. But the presenter, speaking in her native language, would not stop talking.

They were drunk with the hour, and properly high. He paced around the room, reading extracts from books scattered across the room, in almost every crevice that could house a small collection of books, randomly ordered. She liked the odd selection. He seemed to have an interest in psychology and poetry, and that interested her. Even though she found the works cited to be a little too sentimental for her taste. She preferred more suggestive works, more uncanny in their delivery. But he read of protagonists who lived more like prophets, of protagonists of whom it was spoken in the numbers that he would raise a tribe between two rivers.

She found herself sitting against the refrigerator, smoking a cigarette, even though she never smoked unless it was a joint. He was massaging her feet. She looked bored, and realized she had said a lot of negative things that night, about not particularly enjoying reading, about preferring to be alone than to be with others, of being bothered by strangers in large groups. She didn’t want him to think of her in that way, as a negative person. She caught herself thinking, lost completely in thought. His face lit up when she noticed his eyes, staring back at her. How long had he been staring, she thought.

Out of nowhere, although it seemed to fit, she later thought, his enthusiastic cognition of radical behavior, he pulled her foot to his mouth, and kissing the foot, asked, Will you die for me? She thought it was a lousy gesture, but she complied, realizing he wanted to be the sort of guy, in her eyes, who asked such questions. Before long, he was undressing.

His cock rested on her chin, his palms on the headboard of the bed. He jutted back and forth. She almost resisted, but thought otherwise.

“Is it still dark out?”

She spoke from under the sheets.

He didn’t answer. She could feel his breathing through her back, between her vertebrae. She felt his breath on her neck, and his flaccid penis against her upper thigh. She had come all over her chest, and back, and some behind the ear. She thought of the suitcases in the hallway.

“If you’re going to leave, then leave.”

She closed the door behind her.

 

 

 

362

 

As they drew closer to shore, he focused his attention on the man across the small deck, glazed by the sun against the ship’s railing. He hadn’t checked yet if his papers were in order, but he had promised to get him across. He listened with careful watch on the radio transmitter, on the movement of the ship towards the port.

He was engrossed by fear, but he had the alternate feeling that even in their stubbornness the muses would be found. He was basically stepping into their courtyard. The man across deck could be trusted, and he had paid him accordingly. What use would there be to worry?

He watched the captain handle their affairs. The harbor neared, and he was preparing to unload. He accepted his confidence as a positive sign. As the boat approached, he saw several men standing, their knees in the water, waiting to pull the little boat in. He avoided their eyes.

A merchant approached them with a bag of jewels. He gestured to the skipper to carry them back. He rode away on his mule, leaving the bag of jewels with the deckhand.

They washed their hands on the dock, under a fountain. It felt as though the stakes had been raised. He felt his fingers to his cheeks. They were red, a result of the tan. He drank some water.

In the first line of showers he rested against the hot stone wall and drifted off to a miniature sleep. He twitched his neck like a snake, twitching all the while his half dreaming. His body felt cool against the hot earth. His feet were resting on the stones of a downstream hot spring. His hands hanging languidly on the cold stone of the deck. Warm water dripped down his head and neck, dispersing at his chin and shoulders, all the way down his arms and chest. He felt revived.

The crowd around him was mixed. He was embarrassed to catch the eyes of a woman in the distance, down a cave like hall of stone showers, the moment he opened is eyes. He watched her bathe.

Passing through the tunnels of the port, he circled the muses absorbed in their cages. The courtyard was overrun by dignitaries and their bodyguards. He didn’t feel at his sharpest. Not at that hour, between dinner and sleep. He had to decide whether he would stay up all night, circling the town, or if would rather try for a good night’s rest.

The square was swarming. Demonstrators wearing protective screens over their faces, for fear of government reprisal. Batteried light, just in case. It was impressive. He heard pilgrims were abandoning their ships before they docked, in order not to be seen coming in. Even the farmers were on strike, the harvest having been obliterated by the growing environmental disaster.

He entered a cull de sac room, void of light. Some locals were paying tributes to a sculpture, the anamorphic representation of a tumor, projected in the center of the room. Surrounding the sculpture were marble sculptures of different mouths, waiting to inhabit their prize.

He found one of the enlisted in a dwelling. After shaking her price, they walked through an abandoned courtyard and under an old government building entrance, surrounded by large columns. Behind one of the columns she removed her jacket, and then her blouse. She unbuttoned her pants.

“Where are you from?”

He ignored the question. Why, he wanted to ask, would it change anything.

They had agreed to do what they both needed.

“I didn’t want to fuck you,” he said as she left, stomping away on her heels.

He slept under the muse’s temple. In the morning, he headed back to the pier.

 

 

363

 

The painter had an anchor tattooed to his body. He moved around his studio in a seemingly state of rapture. Gorging a salad with pomegranate molasses.

It was believed in the days of sovereign and seafaring charters,  that the people of the port were servile creatures. Sat around all day on account of it being so despairingly hot. happiness that feels attainable.

“I know only the port after the war,” he admitted to him. “Like many of my generation, I watched from a distance.”

He watched the painter study his subjects.

(switch to painter’s subjectivity)

He could never accomplish the stroke has he originally intended. The pigmentation would appear differently, and it deluded his eyes. He had to elude his brush from the strokes, escaping at the threat of emulation. He believed radically in painting. But he knew he could not speak with a brush stroke what could be ascertained with words.

He switched positions, leaning on the other leg. After a while he felt his back hurt, so he sat down. He still had not corrected the drawing. He spent the afternoon staring back at the picture, like the two were squaring off.

He focused his attention on another drawing. He often stared at the drawing in the morning thinking it was not yet finished, and would set his sights on finishing it throughout the day, but ultimately he would fail. He would fail and by the hour of his sleep he would be so miserable as to his conclusion that he often slept in a state of frustration. It caused him to despise sleeping, and to avoid it altogether.

He linked his hands together, raising them to his hair, and cracked his knuckles before cracking his back.

Over the course of his life, the landscapes would change, form, share qualities of previous paintings, and evolve into convoluted, derivative selves. But the idea remained the same.

He thought then of the dread of unfinished writing. The pleasures of taking matters of personal history with arrogance. Treasuring love, but on it’s ending, destroying its reputation, so that it remained firmly in the past. The noise of romance that seizes the heart. He had his only cherished memory in his hands, a tribute to an early summer, when he was abducted by friends and they made a pass to the mountains, clearing away from the swamps. Reading the existential papers. He could not remember any of their names, or the distinct locations.

 

 

364

 

He settled on a bench for some time. The boulevard was completely destroyed. It had been overrun by rioting. Houses were reconstructed to position the dead in the direction of the temples. He felt the overwhelming urge to despair.

He oscillated between feelings of despair and feelings of worth. It was in many ways like the contents of a book. As a reward for reading, a sage sprinkled wisdom in the ears. But for laziness, the book would disappear.

So too for the port. Everyone had fled, and those left behind were losing to the disease. The authorities, still capable and alert, knew well that a man without fear would be dangerous. They learned the fears of their detractors and abused them.

He had woken up with boils under his eyes, slowly stretching onto the forehead and between the brows. His hair looked thinner. It felt dead, like it was wilting off his head. He looked in the mirror. He couldn’t recognize the face. He looked so sad, so morbid. He looked so sick, and old. He could sense his anxiety rising.

A spell had set over the public. They were quieter now, moving about through barricades of concrete and steel without rage or friction but in a state of impenetrable calm. Some of them were laughing. Those few still demonstrating seemed desperate. Like they were picking at remains with a sharpened axe. He still had not contemplated the aggression.

He found a quiet basin, a place to wash his feet. He removed his shoes quietly. He removed his socks.

He felt his insides churn.

How many protestors died, he thought to himself. He felt like he had betrayed his only redeeming quality. To give whatever it takes to usurp power.

I am a whore, he thought to himself.

 

 

365

 

It came to him by surprise. He had been walking. It had the force of an idea that springs to the mind when the body is in motion. When the body opens the heart.

The word floated off the tongue, dripping through his teeth like warm come. The word, spoken out oud, fluttered in the air and disappeared.

 

 

366

 

She carried a cask of water into the room. The sun leaked into the chambers. He lost courage.

“Are you bored of me,” she asked.

She looked him square in the eyes.

“The port is a dream. You, are not there. But we are.”

He slouched his arms, his body giving way. His vision was suddenly slurred by amnesia. He felt unreasonably warm.

He saw, repeated, her movement with the cask of water.

 

 

 

367

 

He stopped at one of the booths. Bruises haggling under vanquished daylight. The stream of people formed an auspicious crowd. He touched a sailor’s dial, feeling the ivory steering. Beside the booth, merchants sold photographs of an earlier time. Photographs of luscious gardens. Of perceivable calm. Someone brushed up against him, speaking to one of the tellers.

“Is this the way to the water?”

The teller simply nodded and smiled. He remembered seeing him, potting his entrance from outside the garden.

He touched a human skull, put out in the sun for the disinfectant to dry. They had stored incense in the skull, and set it to smoke.

“Are you looking for something in particular?”

The voice came to him from a sad projection of screens, like he was absent in the physical sense.

He picked up one of the photographs. It had been damaged at the seams. Shot on black and white film. The figure on the photograph was a fruit seller. He wore a fedora, and he looked to be singing. His hands were pushing a selling cart. To the man’s side, the woman he had been singing to.

In the distance, a group of young students can be seen approaching the merchant. He wondered if the merchant had something secret hidden in his baskets. An inciteful pamphlet, for example.

The eyes of the character turned toward the camera. His companion held her eyes to his shoulder. He believed the photograph to posses unfathomable magic. In its living properties. In its death, the photograph survives by figments whose erosion is not complete. He liked collecting torn photographs, watching the properties of the image digress over time toward something entirely different. A connoisseur, he thought, possesses the photograph that withers with eloquence.

He remembered his dream of the night before, of the lion stepping out of his cage. He ran his hands over the little scultures of elephant gods and titans.

He pulled another photograph from the stash. Smeared on the edges, peeling at the borders. The image shown was of a deserted quarry. A thin freight railway passed through its gates. There seemed to be a dimension of mystery to the area. The image appeared to be taken by someone who hadn’t dared to go closer. The area was surrounded by guards. From the image, it was unclear what the photograph depicted, as the area couldn’t be seen to house anything in particular. He wondered what attracted the photographer at the time.

A fragile canvas, black and white, with high degrees of contrast.

He studied his own surroundings. He realized he had not questioned his whereabouts in some time. Had he accepted ignorance? He felt relaxed, either way. His only discomfort the result of rising humidity outside.

 

 

368

 

The nurses wore armor so as to harbor their names. His bed rested on a plank, lifted by a massive marble sculpture. The sculpture gave way to a spread of roots, veins circling the floor in streams of water. He lay on his stomach in obvious pain. A nurse washed his body with a wet towel that had been dipped in rosewater. He hung between breaths, alternating between fits of excruciating pain and fits of boredom. He saw through a ceiling orifice the contour of a rainbow.

A door swung open away from the plank. He heard the footsteps of a stranger near. It hadn’t thought it possible to add to his discomfort, but the fact of the stranger nearing did. He felt, suddenly, that in such a room anything were possible. He wondered if the nurses could be trusted. It was only a superficial wound. There would be light scarring, that’s all. They hadn’t needed to tie him down.

 

 

369

 

He had considered painting his own portrait before. He would always resist, convincing himself it would be an act of imbecilic narcissism. Why paint himself, when he could paint others? Why paint others, who were so often a public variation of themselves, when he could paint imaginary abstractions of the people he met on the street, people closest to him, people he would never truly know.

He stepped away from the line of canvases, walking over to his pack of smokeable material on the table. He pulled the remains of a joint from an ant hill like ashtray, filled like an overflowing landfill. After lighting it and taking two puffs, he found another one, and yet another, and repeated this six times, amassing a total of nine or ten puffs altogether.

 

 

 

370

 

He looked across through his tinted sunglasses and sweat infused forehead at the figure of his friend in the distance, a thinner, angrier, drunker version of the man who appeared out of the woods only a few weeks before.

The daylight suddenly lashed into the room, illuminating in linear growth spurts of pillars, forming a staircase leading from the open window to his feet. He watched the staircase grow as a vine would and rise off the wooden floor to the tiled wall.

He bit into an apple. The waitress finally arrived. He removed his glasses and as he did scratched at the side of his eyes. She watched him maneuver his finger as deep into his eyeball as he could.

“Are you ready to order,” she asked.

“I’ll have a coffee, for now. No milk or sugar.”

She disappeared with the menu, bringing him an ashtray before disappearing again. He played with the latches of his watch. He watched his friend in the adjacent café, speaking to a stranger whose face he couldn’t place. He figured he had seen enough.

After a while the waitress returned with his coffee, but he had already gone.

 

 

 

371

 

I was born into the classist feud.

 

 

372

 

She sat in the final square of the park. He had his eyes set on her figure. Her left hand holding a pencil, twirling it against the left side of her face, against her ear. It appeared, from his place, that she was reading something, lying with her shoulders perched, her legs stretched out behind her. He looked up at her, once, twice, to make sure he noticed when she decided to leave. He had made the decision to follow her.

He wondered what she might be reading. He tried to imagine her reading a book of his, his own words, his stories, before he had stopped the practice altogether. She tilted her feet, touching them against each other, slapping them in the air.

He turned to hear the figure blowing his nose beside him. A girl dropped her bicycle on the ground. Some Arabs selling hash a few steps away. A couple sat by his feet, examining their mutual roles.

A dog ran past him, occupying his sight for a brief moment. When he returned to her figure, he could tell she was preparing to leave. The book was no longer in her hands.

Providence, he thought, as an agent of the universe intervened, approaching her. He realized the book was not in his hands, it was in hers, and she was handing it to the stranger. What does he want with it, he asked himself.

As he watched her walking away, he thought about what it would mean if they all followed her that day. If they would all dedicate their, and possibly their nights, to the acquisition of her strengths. He felt like he had felt before, on a ruthless manhunt without end, observing outside of the details, focused on the instantaneous picture on hand. He was told to keep no record of his work. He would act like a guide to his employers, who wanted him to detail the comings and goings of several individuals who they suspected of reactionary activity. What did they want with her? He liked her. He had come to appreciate the way she interacted with life, her daily habits and expectations, her rewards. He enjoyed, most, spying on her rewards.

The hours would pass most often in dullness. In excitement, the fever would last a few minutes, and then it was gone. He felt like he was drifting through the outlines of people’s dreams. Forgotten dreams. The dreams they never had. Subverting himself to the contents people deny most of themselves. He could see into the character, into both sides of the frame. She would meet one person in one location, hoping to evade the reality of where she had just been. And upon seeing another person, would disguise from where she was going next. But he knew.

Miles away he heard the echoes of a demonstration. He remembered his father’s stories, confined to his childhood, portraying a certain impression his father had of the past and its consequences. Paintings of a port that had been sentenced to its death. Paintings of himself, a man avoiding hunger through his days. He could draw a connection now to his father’s stories that he wasn’t able to as a child. The figures who were collected in his tales, whose faces he never saw until the very end, spelling their noses with light, textured strokes, preferring an overcast sky to sunshine, they gathered in the roots and waited to exploit. Monochrome, he thought to himself. The pages were always the same. Doors, windows, coffees, drinks. Laundry, nails, lunches, parks. She would go into an office, working as she did as a freelancer. She would return outside and idle for a few hours, before returning to her home to cook. She often ate alone, though when he listened in on her conversations, she always pretended, to others on the phone, that she had just finished seeing someone. In fact, she looked quite busy when she walked down the street, pushing through the unsuspecting crowd, who rarely, if ever, noticed her, though she spent grueling hours preparing herself, every day, for the briefest walk outside.

She was putting on her jacket, and pulling her bicycle toward her. He reached into his pocket, to check the time. He noted it down, watching her all the while. She was preparing to leave, and the stranger who had spoken to her was getting himself involved. He had forced her to smile and pulling his hands in from the cold, breathing out into the frosty air, gained her trust.

This irked him. He looked over the plain, trees scattered between the walls of buildings, nesting an assortment of natives and refugees. He turned toward the stranger and the girl.

Maybe he is someone from her past, he thought.

He looked down at his notes.

Someone had sat beside him, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. The smoke filled his eyes and he felt them tear. He ignored the man beside him, but he was annoyed. He was more concerned with the movement of the girl, and the emergence of the stranger. Had they planned to meet up, he asked himself. Is she in trouble?

He was surprised for that last thought. It suggested a certain feeling he may have developed. It hadn’t occurred to him that he thought so highly of her, or that, as was his way with women, he felt protective of her. His thinking what he did caused him sudden excitement. He felt compelled to rise from his seat and approach the couple. He had been called to action.

“She doesn’t live here,” the man beside him said.

When he turned his head, from surprise and a sense of intrigue, to know what the man was about, the stranger whose voice he just heard had disappeared. He glanced over his shoulders, searching for the vessel of the lost voice. He heard another voice over his shoulder, turning around, a full pivot. But all the voices were gone, slipping from his grasp.

He turned back toward the woman, but she had disappeared.

All ports are quietly the same, he noted. He sat back, astonished.

Suddenly he began to notice the book everywhere, in everyone’s compliant hands. Everyone was reading the book, except him. He was reading an entirely different book. He tried to open the book in his hands, but his hands wouldn’t move.

He felt the youthful hands of a girl reach out to him.

“Are you alright,” she asked, but he couldn’t place her words. He couldn’t really hear her, though he made the motion of her lips.

“I was writing this story,” he said to her, confused. Then, he added, “Is she the muse? Is she someone from his past?”

The girl dropped her hands from his shoulder, figuring him out to be drunk. But he wasn’t drunk. He didn’t know what was happening to him. His senses were distorting even great lengths. Everywhere he turned his eyes, the image would transform into a painting, sutured into a two dimensional canvas form, that he could run his hand against.

He heard commotion sound around him, as he rose, knocking over a stool. An older woman came to his help, but he quickly shrugged her off. He tore at his jacket for cigarettes, but he couldn’t place the idea of his hands with the idea of what they captured. He felt a sudden disconnect emerge in his senses. He was seeing with his eyes what could not be ascertained by his feeling, or by his taste.

He had been drugged, it was obvious to everyone but him.

He found himself lying on the grass, his feet and arms stretched out in the air, like a dog lying on his back. The contents in his jacket had fallen out. How had he gotten himself in this position? He dug his face into the ground. The mud soaked into his skin, he felt it, pore by pore, a droplet of water soaking into the skin. He felt at the dirt with his fingers, rowing the tips away from the spot, digging the soil into his nails.

In a few hours he would wake, and it would be assumed, for all matters of investigation, that he had only fallen asleep a little drunk, and that he was innocent, that he meant no harm in his being there, and that he had no reason to suspect foul play. He would gather his thoughts and regret. That would be the norm.

He turned his eyes to his navel. He realized he had been watched, and thinking himself the watcher, had become the subject of another investigation. He felt this as he felt his insides churn and his lips quiver in the motions common to throwing up. As he regurgitated in his place, the swelling vomit soaking down his neck and onto his shirt, he rubbed his face in the dirt. The sensation felt good. In his advancing temperament, he forgot his predicament. For a moment, he felt free.

 

 

 

373

 

Waking up at noon was a way to miss the day. If he woke up too early, he felt the pressure of productivity. Sometimes, he was up for it, but not always. Still, he needed two hours to freshen up in the morning, reserving that first coffee sometimes for the moment you put your head in the bags and roll down the Wakayama trail naked. He was alone in the room, finally. His guests having disappeared in a trail of horror, leaving a sad promenade of empty bottles in their wake. He fetched through the ashes for a joint. Nothing. The seeds are out.

 

 

 

374

 

I do whatever it takes to write. Every day, I wake up, and I figure out the schedule. I try to be up pretty early, but sometimes I’m up writing until five or six in the morning, so I have to sleep in. My greatest fear, other than the surprise appearance of a cockroach, or losing everyone I love, is to get a flu and be out of commission for five days. That’s always the case with me. I start out strong. Two, maybe three weeks of powerful writing. Then one day I wake up, my back aches more than usual, though it always aches, just a bit more than usual, and my entire body is stiff, and everything everyone says pisses me off, and then around noon there’s a lump in my throat, then the lump dries out and it becomes like an onion or a piece of hair lodged at the back of my mouth, and by the afternoon I can’t breathe right, I feel like I want to sneeze, or blow my nose, but I can’t, and by evening I have a fever, and the next morning I wake up and I hate my life.

None of this matters to your life, I get it.

I check the news. I got into the habit of reading periodicals for a while, but then I realized it was just a dialogue between educated white people with a moral conscience, which is great, I Love those people, but I didn’t want to write like them, so I stopped waking up and opening up the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Tin House, New York Review of Books. Though they do look pretty on a shelf.

I listen to Baroque. I listen to Soundscape Jazz, a genre I have codified to enlist the various jazz artists I listen to, since I don’t really listen to ap articular strand or variation, but just random individuals, like Pharaoh Sanders, Stuart Dempster, Peter Zumo.

I like Baroque. I like jazz. I also listen to some dub, old dub, like Lee Perry. Some of the vocalists I listen to on breaks, like Horace Andy or Cornell Campbell. All the Campbells, actually. Al Campbell. Even Sol Campbell, the football player. Had his goal not been disallowed against Argentina in the second round extra time in 1998, Beckham would not have been scorned that summer, England would have advanced, and I would not have watched eight tournaments end in penalties defeat for England.

The aim of classical music, I believe, as someone who listens to only a few composers of very mainstream reputation, is to aspire to something beautiful, and to channel the voice of God. The aim of traditional African, Asian and American music, of tribes, of nations, of religious traditions, is to channel the spirits, to invoke their being, and to enlist them in the coming war of attrition between nature and man. The aim of Western music, popular music at that, is to create something catchy.

My dislike for popular music has evolved into a dislike of people in general. I’m using Beirut as an excuse, but really it’s not the reason I’m depressed. I’m not depressed because seventy migrants were found dead in a lorry on the border of Hungary and Slovakia, or because several hundred drowned last night in the Mediterranean, or because firebombs were hurled into a refugee center in Germany. I’m not depressed. I’m happy these people are dying. They will be born again, into a better life. Maybe they will be born as Swedes, or Norwegians.

Yesterday I complained about Norwegian Air. My friend took great offense. He’s Lebanese, but for him, the idea of an airline supplying WiFi to it’s passengers was like supplying the perfect risotto to the entire war ravaged world. It hurt him. I apologized. His three Italian girlfriends showed up. First they spoke about where they had traveled the last few weeks. Then they compared how long they had lived in a beach resort in Italy. Then they compared where they would be traveling next. And then they left, presumably to travel. I wonder if it was just a pit stop, a meeting they had agreed earlier. To navigate their wandering.

You want a story, don’t you?

Fiction is contrived. As I am a fraud, I should know how to do it. Surprisingly I don’t, but I try. My idea is that I have to be relentless. A machine. I have to think and see and feel in words. I have to fuck in words. Shit in words. Bathe in words. What else do I do?

 

 

 

375

 

He turns on the hot water, lets it run in the bath. He cleans the toilet while the water heats up and fills the tub, scrubbing it with the little black toilet scrubber that he’s never been sure he’s using correctly. He washes his hands, carefully, and goes to the kitchen to put the eggs on the boiler. He recently purchased an egg boiler at a flea market, an old classic model. He returns to the bathroom, takes off his clothes, considers the weather for a minute, and climbs into the bath.

After the bath, he washes his face over the sink, applying a cream before washing it off with cold water. Regardless of the climate, he has always used cold water to wash his face.

He returns to the kitchen, where the egg boiler has finished boiling the two eggs. He rinses them under cold water. He peels the eggs, cutting them into little tiny pieces, drizzling olive oil and salt and pepper and mashing them up to eat with bread. He’s forgotten the bread, so he returns to the toaster to toast the bread.

He was overtaken by fury at the close of his meal. The buzzer rang unexpectedly, and the announcement of an unexpected guest ran fumes down his spine. He opened the windows and yelled repeatedly, that whoever it was would not be welcome. But there was nobody there. He had spent the morning lying on the couch, thinking of taking a bath, thinking of smoking a joint, thinking of going out for a walk to have a coffee, like normal people, in a normal café, where the bread is usually white and contains, according to generalized rumors, the hair of young Asian women. The rumors astound him. He had never slept with an Asian woman, let alone eaten her hair.

He would do both if given the chance, but he was never given the chance to entertain a woman if he didn’t have the money to pay for it. As he had only enough money for food and drugs, he rarely spent it on sex. The extent of his suffering, for sure. A man goes out of his way to forget where he is from. This man had already forgotten.

Blending between this chance and that. He forged all of his paintings, scraping the stories together from gossip he heard on the streets. He had been dubbed first a pictorialist, and then a naturalist, an urbanist, and finally a sodomite evangelist. The paintings, he thought, had gone too far from him. They would exceed him. They would pave their own way through the world. He had given life to them, portraits he would have to emit to pass on into another body, a payment he made to the galloping horns. But he would never become them, nor did they remain his seed. So he abandoned them, learning the true costs of abandonment.

He watched his home go up in flames. The passage into the interior complete, he listened to the flames collect on the panels of the canvas and slowly sink into the flames. He felt like he had been called for, into another void, climbing through the columns of pantomime worlds. If someone else needed a call to arms, if they needed to fall ignorantly into the onset of a journey, he would hand over the reigns to his life for them to do just that. Some of us step willingly into the flames, he thought, others turn blindly into her sight.

The door behind him swung open. He had seen the door swing open before, just like that, the flames climbing over his body and enveloping him in a great cloak of fire as he stared questioningly at the opening door. Into the room stepped his neighbor, who he had seen only twice coming up the stairs and coming down. The man seemed to be saying something, calling to him with his hands, pleading. Was he reaching out to him? Was he cursing him away?

His eyes were rolling, turning in their sockets. He found himself gripped to the floor, the face of his neighbor still there, calling to him. He found the strength to reach out himself, what for he didn’t know. His hand fell onto his ears, and he felt them pulse and then wither in his hands, melting like a molten stew, like wax that peels into its liquid form.

The pages aren’t real, he thought. This did or didn’t happen.

 

 

 

376

 

She pulled away from the desk, confused. She checked her phone, nothing. No calls, no emails. She pulled the chair back to her desk, happy that she could roll on all floors. She kicked at the carpet’s edge that disrupted the chair’s movements. She opened her computer, for the thirtieth time that afternoon. She checked her email online, as though it would be different from her phone. She checked her social media accounts. The usual.

She pulled away from her desk, confused. Why had she been given the manuscript? She hadn’t edited in years. Never edited fiction herself, without the presence of the author and the chief editor of the firm.

All novels are the intention of an author to take a journey. She remembered this fact, to get her moving. The office next door was having some sort of afternoon break. The music blared into her office. A mix of classical or jazz, she couldn’t tell. Probably they were listening to the latest recordings being developed by their production arm. She didn’t mind working beside them, but not today. Sometimes, they invited her over for a glass of wine, or a pack of beers, that one of their clients sent them from abroad. A case or even a keg. Once, they had received a carton of wine that was the only wine of its type that season, as a gesture of thanks, from the parents of a Ukrainian girl whose piano recital at their concert hall had landed her the big gig.

She decided she couldn’t work that day. It was gloomy outside, gloomy inside. She wouldn’t be able to work. She listened to the choirs rehearsing downstairs. It would be a great evening. Some source of inspiration, she thought, will come to me from the stage.

She started changing into her running clothes. It started to rain outside, and within seconds the rain turned into a heavy storm. She removed all of her clothes, put on her running suit. But she had forgotten her shoes. How stupid. She stared through the window outside. The pavement looked wet and slippery, but inviting nonetheless. Cleaner streets these days. She decided to run without shoes.

She passed the choirs on her way out. The neighborhood looked tired and gloomy in the rain. The large black steel door that opened into the hall was open for passers to see. She stopped for a moment to look inside. She saw one of her neighbors, slouched in one of the chairs, sleeping. One of the neighborhood greats, who had never left, always finding a way to survive, even through evacuation, reunification, gentrification, through it all. They were playing for him, she thought, that’s why the choir sings.

But she found them sad when she looked at them. The youngest of them had tears in her eyes. The older women of the group were shaking, their arms held before their eyes, quivering. A choral soprano group. Where were the baritones, and the bass? At the front, she thought.

A wrenching sadness overcame her. Something felt in the gut, in the stomach, a derivative of great morning shame. She felt herself on the verge of tears. One of those lousy, inspiring days. She took off on the run.

 

 

 

377

 

He watched her pass under his window. Running with bare feet, he thought. That ought to do it.

He walked over to the bar and poured himself a shot, and then another. He thought about another, but the thought of falling asleep dissuaded him. The difference between a little buzz and a tired morning, he thought. The rain fell heavier now. Oh what the fuck, he thought. He had another shot.

He walked over to the window again, this time to open the window and allow the room fresh air. Before the world gets oxidized, he thought. Carbonized?

He watched people collect in front of the hall doors. He watched them stand for a minute, enamored. If they were alone, they stayed longer, standing off to the side so as not to disturb those just passing. If they were in couples, they discussed the performance, smiling and greeting and admiring the work. If they were in groups, they usually caught only a brief glance of the magic emanating inside. But none of them stepped foot into the hall. Maybe they were afraid. He was for sure afraid. Afraid to commit to the emotions. Afraid to discover why he had come.

He had always thought of himself as fearless, until he finally found something to fear, and his entire life changed. He hadn’t thought he feared anything, ever, until that night. When, standing before the commanding force, they threatened him with execution, he realized something about himself he had never known. Not only did he fear death, he feared losing his life. He had always thought of himself as a wayward soul skipping time until judgment came. But he realized then that he had a deep commitment to life inside of him. He would not accept death so readily, even when it stared him in the eyes. And it had. And he rejected it.

He didn’t remember how he survived the incident. He woke up in the desert with a bag of keys in his hand. He had no papers, and no name. He had no past, and no presumable future. He had nowhere really to go, so he walked. Before long he found himself at the foot of a towering cascade of dunes, that ran the length of his sight and further. Atop the dunes he found Bedouins resting for the afternoon. He asked them the way to the nearest town, they laughed at him. He spent the afternoon resting, too, drinking tea and smoking whatever they smoked. Sooner or later he arrived at the following morning, hungover, with a dry taste in his mouth. He had caught the flu, and he was now in their care. Some months passed. He learned the language. He refused the call North or South. He stayed put. Months later a force arrived, of the nearest State, calling for the Bedouins to take up arms in their defense. The Bedouins refused, but he didn’t. He was spared his life a second time, but the Bedouins were not.

Did all of that really happen? Did it matter? He had forgotten the pictures of his former life. He had forgotten the various dimensions that make a man a living animal, the dimension of past, present and predominate future. The presence of an eating force, the presence of memory, the containment of desire into social norms. What else was he made of?

He had become the force of presence. He had one step and one thinking mind. Always forward, pushing through from abyss to abyss. Lighting wind to the void. Igniting the passage.

He would approach her, when the time was right, and he would complete the task. That was the extent of his knowledge. He had only to approach her, and to wait for her response. Who was he working for, it didn’t matter. It never had. He had work. He had a job to do. It would be done.

Would he hurt her? Could he even? With what hands? With what mind?

The choir outside would not stop. The song was crying through the roof. He thought he was being called to react. In what way? He stared back at the morning bottle. Sooner or later it will be gone, he thought. Then where will I go?

 

 

 

378

 

He knew her walk. He had memorized it. It wasn’t her. Still, it looked like her.

But she looked older. Did she? No, she didn’t. She looked younger. Much younger. Too young in fact to be her, but it was her. No, wait, it wasn’t.

It was an elderly settler, breathing the last of her days. Trudging by in her wheelchair, occupying a bench nearby. Her rogue wheels noise along the pavement, the clatter filling the air like a mosquito in the ear.

Two house painters ate sandwiches to his side, talking over the sound of the elderly woman wheezing in the distance.

He checked the time. Orderly time. She wasn’t out yet.

There was a doctor’s office inside. Was she in there? Was she somewhere else?

Was she visiting a friend? Is she alright?

Why was he worrying about her?

Two years ago. Three years ago.

 

 

 

379

 

The columns of the outer wall collapsed. He looked over from the bench at the collapsing structure. The construction had finally given way. They had tried for weeks to bring down the building, without any result.

He didn’t fully understand why they wanted to bring down the building itself, why they couldn’t simply renovate the structure from inside. It had a nice façade, he thought, though he often didn’t think of such things, the elegant things. He never tried for elegance, not in his days. He preferred silence, solitude, emptiness. The vast plains on the peaks of Kfardebian. The white slopes in winter, the gravel pits in fall.

What happened to the stories? To the dreams, or the last rites. What happened before the ritual of construction?

The cranes were brought around full circle. The vacuum would drive one hundred feet below the ground. A square the size of a football pitch. An open wound in the city. A scar. Surely, there would be disruptions. Pipes won’t hold the pressure. The incessant drilling. The fumes.

How well did he withstand the fumes? How well did his body metabolize the industry? Had he so much evolved from his ancestors, who would suffocate at the smell of sulfur?

Well, he withstood the fumes enough to smoke. To swim underwater holding his breath, for at least three minutes. To circle the track ten times before stopping for breath. That wasn’t bad.

He checked the time.

He wanted something to occupy himself. It wasn’t like him. It was unlike someone of his craft to want to be occupied by anything but the movement of time, from one epoch of seconds to the next. it was unusual. He was being messed with.

At first he turned his suspicion to the painters beside him, but they were gone. The elderly had also disappeared. The street, the construction site, they remained, but they were empty. The workers had fled. How long had he stayed there?

Something was bothering him but he couldn’t place it. A sound, maybe. A voice.

He turned, to hear if there was a voice some few meters away. Nothing. An empty bus stop. An empty store. Empty.

He had the good nature to quiet himself like the morning, calming beside a stump at the crescent bottom of a hill. A flight of swallows flung themselves over the precipice, diving like trained architects of the trapeze.

It lifted his spirit, to see the animals grace the fall. He hadn’t noticed he wasn’t feeling well, until then. It was like spotting a fig tree in the middle of a desert, realizing, after so long, the unrelenting banging in your ear was merely the voice of hunger.

He checked the time. He walked forward, down the remainder of the hill, turning at a traffic light. The lights were out. There weren’t any cars, but he heard the distinct buzzing of a radio sequencing through frequencies. He looked up at the stars, he searched behind erected barriers of sand bags and concrete blocks. The radio went quiet. Was he close?

How would he know when he came upon the sound?

He reached a gate, recently polished silver columns, chained together. He sat in a pool of slack, resting, waiting like a motor waits, to fire in the hole. He pushed against the gates. The chains shook like a maraca. He shook once. He shook twice. He moved on.

He found himself near the shore. Without noticing, he had walked the entirety of the peninsula, had landed near sandbars that extended from the mouth, like particles of spit that sat in the air. He thought he heard the sound, the radio digesting the waves. He thought there might be a sound in one of the cabins, noticing the cabins he noticed he had come upon a private beach, that had been claimed off the public shoreline, receded so that the waves fell upon the sand like the overbearing armory of a tsunami. In the receding distance he saw the tower of the central square, the rising minaret of the fireplace. Where the illusions go to die, he whispered.

He felt at his hands, at his face. The feeling of a man searching the quiet. He reached into his mouth, gripping his tongue between his fingers, searching at the flesh. He felt the cuticles of his fingers scratching at his throat. He reached into his throat with his tongue, contorting its figure to slide off the roof of his mouth and tickle his tonsils. He pulled at his tonsils with his hands, only to find his voice, a bolt of breath, his fat, peasant lips, reverberating. The papillae of his tongue stood, like the hairs on his back, the strands of hair on his neck, behind his ears, and his ears were also standing. He reached into the pool of mud, his hands disappearing into a sweat of floating sand, aquatic debris of presence.

His presence, but where was she? He had lost track of time. Was it part of his plan? Was he only now forgetting what it was that had been planned? How could he figure that out? Who could he ask?

Who? Another surprise. He knew very well that he worked alone. He had never sought help from another. Who might that other be?

He had to get back. To return to the scene. She would have stepped out of the doctor’s by now, would have met her friend for an extended coffee, and then an extended walk to her favorite bookstore, where she would pretend to read the books, hoping to be noticed. Then she would actually find a book she liked, and she would be glued, and she would have forgotten all about her urges to be found out by someone else in public. At which point, of course, engrossed in her reading, she would attract the attention of someone else, someone also there with ulterior motives, and he would brush up against her, navigate his way through the introduction, and invite her out for a drink.

Where would she be now? He had to flank through the caves under the shoreline cliffs, and walk the length of the coastline until he found a suitable place to climb back onto the boulevard, or some other part of the shore. He had gone so far, he couldn’t turn back now, the way he came. It was too dark. He would get lost. He was already lost. He couldn’t risk being found here, on his own. They would recognize his credentials, and before cutting him loose they would humiliate him. Then they would only let him loose to be found again at night, driven to some corner of the earth where the vultures were too smart to fly.

Could he fly? If he could fly he could cut through the canopy of the tired skyline, composed mainly of cranes and skeleton architectural shells. No, he couldn’t fly. His clothes were too heavy, soaked in water and stale smut. Where was he going, if really he had to go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

380

 

She didn’t know if she should buy the jacket. It cost so much, and she didn’t have that much on her. But it was half the price it was originally. She would wear it for years, maybe her whole life. It would never go out of style, and the material could not be questioned. It would be a gross embellishment, but didn’t she deserve it?

 

 

 

381

 

As he descended the stairs his neighbor overtook him. He handed him a letter, sealed in a paper envelope.

“Is it mine?”

“Someone asked for you to have it. They said it was urgent.”

He opened it carefully, examining the contents with his eyes, and then, blindly, with his hands.

“What is it,” the neighbor asked.

“I’m not sure.”

 

 

382

 

The bar is empty. The radio is on, playing through nervous speakers.

“How is it outside?”

“Stressed.”

 

 

383

 

She offered her cheek to kiss, he eliminated her wondering, complying with the exit plan. She left him at the door, standing silent. Her weight resting on a lousy ankle. So frail in his eyes. He left.

 

 

384

 

He waved away a calming resurgence of energy, choosing instead to remain in his place, stunted. The stars were brittle. The days were tight. He looked around for an attitude of consequence, for an animal that would choose flight over fight. He continued, kicking with his feet as he walked.

A drifter approached. He wasn’t dressed in drifter’s clothes, but he walked with the curiosity of a drifter. He hadn’t the look of waste in his eyes, the look of shame, of disgust. As he passed, they did not caution their eyes to deviate but fixed their gaze straight on.

A woman passed behind him as he stepped between two streets, stepping out from an alley. He felt himself jump forward, leap forward, to approach her. Did she notice? He could turn away and pretend as though it were not true, that he had turned to notice her passing. But in his doing so, in his refuting his own wants, wouldn’t it be so obvious? Denying what is most true of himself, he thought, that left to his own devices he was nurtured by a search for the Avant garde. He would never know, he realized, whether the two had passed before his sight, or whether they made of his sight a fool.

Was she there at all? He could not distinguish in that moment between the passing of drifters, more and more of them passing before him, and the general passing of time. The usual reason for his standing erect at the corner of two streets, eyeing the globe with infant confusion.

She had actually passed, and likely was still passing. He negated his perception by accepting that scent, he thought, was his only true given. If he scented her, it meant that she could sense him, that she could smell him, and without doubt, would return her eyes to his, to notate the engagement in time. If she had real panache to pass by him unannounced, without interruption or pause, she would not notice his eyes wavering, tracking her steps in longing.

As her face passed before his eyes, he spoke in her ear.

“Hello,” he said, but she kept walking.

Had he really spoken? Thinking on it now, he couldn’t really tell, because if it had happened, he might still have been there, if he were really there, and he would have no reason to tell of it having happened or not. In seeing her, he realized he did not know that truth that others know, sung from minarets at daybreak, hung from the scalpel walls. Conviction. He had none of it.

But he remembered it clearly. She had arrived with the marker of a droplet, pervading the corner of his right eye. She wasn’t carrying any bags, though she may have been shopping, she seemed the type, but in thinking of that he realized he could not place her clothes, turning to her he realized, for the very first time, what she was wearing.

 

 

 

385

 

He sat beside the monument of his father, a towering structure erected after his assassination. He had died, like many of his time, in an hour of no significance. He had been killed, dismembered limb by limb by a set of explosives detonated at the passing of his motorcade, a ritual in those times. He could not forget that he had lived a life of reason, and in his ascension to death he wondered whether reason had remembered him at all. Had he died a reasonable man, or had reason dismembered his body and mind, leaving only his soul intact? But he had cared for his son, deeply, proving his devotion to the spectacle of fatherhood by his addressing his son with the I and never You, often saying, “I will go the market to get these things for the house…I will study economics…I will care for my sister…”

Dying a hero was inextricably lonely. Beyond the funeral ceremony, life returns to normal, unabated by tragedy. His death had galvanized those usually complacent, but not for long.

Digressing for a moment, he had the sudden realization that it was, on all accounts, the coldest day of the calendar year.

 

 

386

 

Painting her figure before his eyes, he didn’t see her in a moving state but etched in a romantic shutter of time. Almost at a gallop, dizzying her weight above ground, one leg perched forward, heel neatly pointed to the sky. Her right leg augmented in his memory, rooted so firmly on the cobblestone floor, heel and toe contrived to the ground. Was she flatfooted? It made no difference.

He colored her figure with the shadow of light that escapes the shutter. He decorated her in hues of blue and violet, surrounded by a contrasting palette of stormy greys and morning orange glows. But when he remembered her, he saw through the authenticity of monochrome.

 

 

387

 

Tormenting his movements like a grape left hanging in the remnants of a dwindling branch. Like democracy, and hope. She neared his lips, nearly missing. He focused on the posture of his chest.

 

 

388

 

Fuck  this shit L

 

 

389

 

Standing at the far end of the pier, the native gripped the pile of fishermen’s rope to prepare for the incoming ship. A small boat, carrying sixteen immigrants. That’s what he had been told. But he rarely hauled into port what had been promised to him before. When he paid for more than the previous trip, they sent him less. When he paid for less, they sent him more. He had gotten used to it, accustomed to the dealings of those across the shores.

He wore a beard that covered his face, big black eyebrows that hid the impression of his eyes receding into his skull. When he laughed, he arched his back, coughing over smoke he blew from his lungs. But he rarely laughed while on the job, except when he was visited by some old timers who took their afternoon siesta on the banks of the canal. As most of his trade, he had a cigarette attached to his bottom lip at all times, resting at the very side of his mouth.

He had gotten the call in the morning, and rushed out to the harbor to greet the boat before the sun was fully risen. Light would give them away, but the shaded blue sky that foretold the coming dawn acted as a generous guide.

His wife had been paranoid recently, owing to the disasters that had befallen their neighbors over the water. More boats were coming in, and the greater the number of boats the higher the bounty for their capture. She warned him, almost every night, that she would leave him if he continued with the job. She preferred him to return to his normal duties on the harbor, hauling in and out tugboats and small freights, navigating with the coastguard for the first two hundred meters offshore, and rescuing endangered species of fish that were spotted too close to the coast. He reassured her that he took great care to protect himself, and that she had grown used to their living conditions, and as the money was far less without the risks he was taking, she couldn’t return to that life, the life they lived before he got called to the job.

He walked back and forth along the deck, fulfilling his routine checks on the various boats. Nothing seemed to have changed since the night before. He trusted the nightwatchmen, but they sometimes dozed off, or invited a friend to pass through the hours, leaving a blind eye to some parts of the docks. He couldn’t ask them not to do it. Working during the day, he was allowed to invite friends for lunch, to have his wife cook them a meal which he served to two or even three guests. Sometimes they cooked together the simplest dishes they knew. Dishes they learned to prepare working as cooks on commercial fishing boats, or during a spell in the navy. He himself had worked in both fields. Wanting to be a captain himself, he later recognized he didn’t have the desire for physical exertion that the job required. He worked his way up through the cleaning staff and into the kitchen, where he eventually landed the title of Harbor Procurement Officer, a laudable title in those days. But after the disaster that befell the town during a failed revolution, the harbor emptied off foreign boats. It became a port mainly for illegal smuggling and emergency supplies. The coastguard was there to ensure no such work was being done over the expected limit. They allowed the routine landing of boats that carried refugees seeking desperate asylum, and the smuggling back and forth of narcotics, light arms to be rescued in nearby battles, and medicines that were no longer of use in the port.

The quiet of the morning had felt for him a good omen. How else would he explain the sighting of migratory birds, a cluster of albatross not native to the area, passing overhead, the first such sighting in years. He passed easily through most of the checkpoints, only having to stop for routine interrogation at the one closest ot his work, where the men knew him quite well but had to question him regularly to appear steadfast. They often had internal security forces watching them, disguised as passers themselves. If they appeared too lenient, they would surely lose their jobs, sometimes even their life. They would disappear, never to be heard from again. The ideology of the vanguard was simple. A weak link can never be restored to its original flawlessness. Once flawed, a weak link out to be destroyed, so that the chains could realign without it.

He stopped at his small cabin that stood in the center of the docks, pulling a bottle of water to drink. He sipped casually at the nozzle while keeping his eyes focused on the shore. No movement, yet.

It was generously cold for that time of year, but he was still sweating. Out of nervousness, maybe. Maybe he had caught the flu. But that was unlikely. He caught the flu twice a year, once in spring and once in fall. He would be sideline for two days, sweating nervously in his bed, after which he would return to his duties. He didn’t allow for more time to pity himself.

He finished the water, but he remained thirsty. His throat felt dry, he felt himself sucking on the top of his mouth, his tongue latched to his teeth. The anticipation, waiting.

He walked silently along the pier. The moon was still visible over the horizon, but the sky was turning a shade of light blue. He lit a cigarette, waiting.

He checked the time. They had to arrive within the hour, otherwise it would not work. Even if he consulted the necessary officials, it had to be done in secret. They couldn’t risk being caught, and the officials couldn’t risk the embarrassment of colluding. After all, the boat contained within its ranks the rank and file of revolt. Most of them would be honest men, ready for arduous labor. But one or two of them would be men of action.

He checked the time. Only a few minutes had passed, evidenced by his having lit another cigarette and finished it. He had thought a few times of quitting, but he knew he would never manage. Cigarettes were for those who spent most of their time between things, waiting. How else would he pass the time?

Almost an hour passed before he noticed the small contour of a boat coming in to the water, pushed through the shallow end with ease, owing to the receding high tide. In the past, the shore had seen hundreds of turtles lay their eggs on a night much like this, but most of the turtles had disappeared. Those who used the shores preferred the coast down south, where the beaches were torn free of harbors.

As the boat arrived it was obvious there had been trouble. It contained only three men, one of whom had been wounded. His thigh and his chest were covered in blood. He had a tourniquet around his arm, braced across his shoulder. One of the men was steering and the other was sitting off to the side, ignoring the wounded man, who was moaning, agitated, for help. He quickly rushed to the aide of the boat, at which point the captain, who had looked impressively calm up until their arrival, suddenly rose to life. His features animated distinctly, and the portman wondered if his face were lit up by the evolving sky, or if he always glowed with such magnitude. Nonetheless, the scene turned violent, the captain yelling incomprehensively at the port man, as though what had happened were his fault. Pride getting the best of him, he threatened to let go of the rope, to push the captain’s small boat away from the harbor. The captain yielded to the threat, apologizing for his being so coarse. He drew up to shore and removed himself form the boat, stepping off a side panel and onto the dock. He was barefoot, and except for his impressive belly, he looked an emaciated man. Nothing but skin and bones.

As the captain and the port man conversed, mainly about what to do with the wounded man, another man, an older looking man, stepped off the boat and onto the docks. He didn’t look at either of the men, but began to walk away. After a few steps, his indifference insulted the men, who reacted first with curiosity, cutting their sentences short, before turning to anger ot resolve the issue.

It was perfectly clear at this point that the captain had been overtaken. He admitted this to the port man while the older man walked away. That he had been stripped of protection just before departure, and the men he was supposed to bring were taken from his custody.

“Who is the older man,” the port man asked.

He hadn’t yet become furious, to the extent that the captain would need help. He was still curious and had not yet decided that the older man, by now having walked halfway down the pier, was any threat to his business. He asked for the captain’s reassurance that he would still be paid. The captain shrugged.

“In all honesty,” he said, “I don’t have your money.”

The port man returned the captain’s words with a shrug of his own. He pulled a revolver from inside his windbreaker and shot the man in the chest, twice, before turning his gun to the wounded man onboard the boat and shooting him as well, three shots to the head. He turned to look for the older man, but he had disappeared from the harbor.

 

He had to act fast. Authorities might have heard the shots, even though he had equipped the revolver with a silencer. There were rumors of microphones and cameras fully equipped on the dock, hidden between panels and behind steel plates, or filming from the interiority of a boat. He had to be careful. If nobody showed within the next hour, he would be alright. The sun would have ascended the horizon, and the day would be fully lit.

There was also the question of passers themselves. Morning workers passing by the upper boardwalk that, albeit from a great distance, had an unimpeded view of the entire pier. He had to act fast, before anyone would arrive.

He kicked at the body before him. He pushed his leg over, to turn him on his side. He checked the time, before bending over to grab him by the legs. He dragged his body and, pulling the boat by the rope simultaneously, dragged the body onto the boat. He had to act fast, and he had no real choice. His only thought was on cleaning the mess before it would be noticed, though he felt bad for discarding the bodies in this way. Even his enemies, he felt, deserved their own preferred burial.

But he had no choice. He tied the boat to the dock, to make sure it wouldn’t move. He walked briskly along the pier, toward his cabin. Once there, he pulled a canister of gas with him back to the end of the pier. He jumped onto the boat and paddled it toward the other side of the pier, from where it had an easier access to the open sea, where it would follow with the current outward. He emptied the boat’s motor, breaking it off and dropping it overboard. He drenched the boat in gas, focusing on the bodies. Pulling himself toward the harbor, he jumped onto the docks. From there, he kicked the boat outward, tossing a few matches into the boat. Before long, the boat was on its way into the open sea, engrossed in an evolving flame.

The cry of seagulls filled the dawn. Gazing over his shoulder, he found a murder of crows pecking at the captain’s flesh, lying on the panel floor. It didn’t take long for the boat to disappear from sight. The first order of business had been taken care of. What he needed now was to clean up the blood, and dispose of the revolver somehow. He walked back toward the end of the pier, where the crows were feasting on dismembered flesh.

It was then that he remembered the older man. Suddenly he was overtaken by a sense of fear, of paranoia. He felt himself being watched. He looked over his shoulder, pivoting in his spot, looking over his shoulder again. Light had cast her shadow over the port. Soon the day would rise in ignition. The motionless man would be observed, for any peculiarity. He hoped to be forgotten, but they would notice in his stare, in his pleading steps, a deep and mournful hesitation to advance. Was he hiding something?

He had to find the older man. He had to clear his conscience. To know that he had killed a pair worthy of murder. He assumed as much, and for some reason trusted in the older man, who appeared to him like a pilgrim, the sort of man who arrives at port, pulling the curtains down on time. Everything would be changed. His innocence would not last long. He would have to choose a side. Actually, he had already chosen.

 

 

 

390

 

She had always felt that she married below herself. Not to excuse her own shortcomings, which she knew to be many, though she would never admit to anyone but herself. But she knew she married below herself, and that she could have done better. Much better, had she applied her father’s reputation, her mother’s insistence, her sibling support. Nobody gave her attention after she married, and for that she felt unjustly hurt.

 

 

 

391

 

The old man sat quietly, staring into the outer limits of the sea, feeling the quick, bolts of waves crashing against the bank, where he could feel, every time they struck, a quiet rumble underneath him. He thought of years passed, between arriving, and emerging from transience. To reform a suffering program. Turning attention to more political matters.

He sat with his back against the woodwork of a capsized rowing boat his feet pressed into a small bank of sand that rose form inside the harbor. He had his pants rolled up to his knees, his legs reflecting the overcast sky, varicose veins running from his ankles and disappearing into the seam of his pants. In his crouched position, his stomach swam from his vest, a white undershirt that bore the blooded remains of an accident. Over his shoulders he wrapped a thick, woolen blanket, that looked like it was made from sailor’s rope.

He was thirsty, but he didn’t have time to sulk, searching for supplies. He had to fetch them. He knew the people of the port, and they would be curious. They would ask his name, and ask him where he lives. If he told them he didn’t have a home, they would grow suspicious, and ask if he had any plans. If he admitted to having none, they would distrust him. It would be a mistake to admit to them his lies.

He felt nauseous, a bout of sickness overcoming his will. He vomited into a pit of sand. He watched the vomit dissolve into various degrees of itself as the tide swept it from shore.

He looked at his hands, at his fingers. He turned them on their side and looked into his palms, at the ripples of skin that had been torn by the tug rope and other jobs on the boat. He had lost a nail in one of his fingers, and the blood was running down his arm onto his elbow. He had a cut above his eyebrow as well, that had dripped onto his shirt, mixing with another’s man blood as well. The man had been stabbed in the chest, between the lungs. He had also been stabbed in the thigh.

He had to construct a new face. Not to mention the fact that the port watchmen had clearly seen him. He knew he would come after him, to save his own life, and he had to be prepared. Though he understood that the man would come searching. It had been a long way, and he survived. He accomplished the unthinkable, breaking into the port.

He had forgotten the names and the faces that coddled the streets. He had forgotten his way around, but he would remember upon stepping foot onto every blade and stone.

He checked the outline of his feet for scars, cuts, bruises. He twisted his ankles, to make sure he was alright. He dug his toes into the sand beneath the water, eyeing them in the cool.

From around the corner of the sharp plateau, he could hear the rising voices of dawn, several fishermen clanging against the chimes of their scrap metal tools that dangled from the cast of their boats, racing against the wind. If he were found, he had to act suspicious. He decided upon playing the hermit, appearing out of the bushes with a frog in his hand. A frog, or a crab. Something to offer, even if they assumed he was insane. He wasn’t worried about being institutionalized. He was certain, above all else, there were no institutions.

He removed the remainder of his clothes, throwing them to the side in a heap. He grabbed a rock from the ground and banged it against his head, gushing it open. He immediately fell to the ground, and when he awoke, moments later, the crowd of fishermen had gathered around him. They were frightened by his appearance. Suspecting him to be foreign, they steered away, until they saw that he was bleeding. Still, they refused to be drawn into trouble. The authorities would expect that they leave the victim alone, for them to deal with.

“We should go find some support, or tell the guards.”

“If we don’t help him, he’ll die.”

“He’s already dead.”

“Then we should bury him.”

“Who do you think you are? Don’t be crazy.”

The men stopped short of leaving, but they didn’t draw much closer. They watched from afar the old man writhe on the earth. He was grabbing at the sand, clenching with his fists.

 

 

392

 

I’m happiest typing, answering the questions. My biggest problem is remembering to end the sentence. I elongate it as much I can, without much effect. I need to learn simplicity. Humility. Brevity.

Like Zambrano. He knows the utilities so well. When he begins the Secondary Characters section of his novel, The Wanting Prince. When he tells me, that the streets smelled of urine, I can smell the urine. Or when he tells me that the detective fucked her like a dog, that was the dog. I know the dog. I am the dog.

I read his first novel in Beirut. I read it at night, after I was done working. I read it in three nights. I couldn’t have read it faster but I didn’t want to, and I didn’t try. I needed it to last me.

I ordered it at a bookstore nearby. The Center. They catered to what they considered the West Beirut new literary class. I once overheard the owner tell the editor of the American University library literary magazine, that he catered to a different crowd, an older crowd, as though that was meant to be a projection of his superiority in some way. She didn’t think it was right of him to say it. She got pretty mad.

And what’s with writers repeating the same idea, of a character who looks the other in the eyes. I’ve stopped caring to write like that. I try not to.

This is bullshit.

I’ve wanted to read it again. I recently went through it. I noted the phrase where he says, “My friends had grown up reading the books that their dead parents or siblings left behind in the house. But in my family there were no dead and there were no books.” It marked me, somehow.

When Claudia and I were in Beirut, I watched the sea devour my copy of The Wanting Prince. I had brought his book, an academic translation of the Tao I Ching, and a book of poems by random authors I can’t remember right now. I remember one of the books was completely destroyed, and that must have been the one.

I’m finding the book difficult to write, and I keep referring to Zambrano’s book. I know the differences between us are his superiority, his maturity, his age, and his having published four books in a very vibrant young career, and my having done nothing.

I know he has style, and as a Latin American he has perfected the reallissimo. But I come from a world without borders. I keep hearing my voice, and it’s the voice of another. I am always in separate worlds.

My book will end, but I’ve never ended anything. It seems that life has become a series of closures. everyone I know has left. I am alone in the wilderness. Can you build me a fire?

I am the want away bride. But I am married to the divorce of my self. Disassociation. Cult being. There is a master self, and he controls everything. The puppet master.

I want to go to the park and read Kenneth Gross’s Puppet once and for all. I use his title in its full attire because I haven’t read him, so to reference him is easy for me. I don’t want to be the type to give away my details so openly. This story isn’t about me. It’s about the other guy and The Ghosts, the parade of phantoms.

They are the characters in his new novel. He has been writing it for longer than he even knows.

I tried to be real this weekend. I tried to go back to a former self. You can’t go back into the past. But I came out stronger.

I ended my cult of war with Berghain. I fell in love. I felt connected to the people around me, and I realize now how important a role society plays in my existence. I couldn’t get over the presence of others. I was never in wholly myself. Have I ever been? Have I ever forgotten about the existence of others?

I took a quarter gram of mdma powder and about a quarter of a pill. I think the pill did the job. I was having seizures of back pain before it hit. I was waiting for the yawns but they never came. They were deceiving.

What is the heart of darkness?

The walk home was beautiful. Even before that it was beautiful. The place finally opened up to my eyes. And my senses. I was in the presence of kings and their slaves. The accomplished other. I looked myself in the eyes.

I spent the rest of the weekend adopting a proactive approach to identity. Some Syrian refugees hosted a gallery opening. And then a screening a few nights alter. I went to those.

I went out for lunch a few times, and to a picnic, for a friend’s birthday. On that same day I went to a demonstration, to support the protestors in Beirut.

I don’t know if I want to be there. It changes by the day. Sometimes I think I’m better of forgetting the place. It’s a shithole. Sometimes I think I’m nothing without it, and it wants me too. Berlin doesn’t care about me. But it will. It’s a matter of insisting.

I haven’t replied to any emails in over a month. People think I hate them or that I’m a lazy piece of shit. I’m running toward suicide. How many people would even notice? If it weren’t for Claudia people would be worried.

But I’m not on the verge of death.

I’ve been writing. Torturing myself. I really don’t know how to describe it to you. Whether this is a testament to a future me, or if this is me, in the future. Who am I talking to? Like I said, disassociation. Charming. I’ve always wanted to be charming, and funny to the cute girls in class, and respected by the boys. I fluctuated in states of normality. I was afraid of greatness. Control over myself. Control over others.

The book is starting to read differently. I still suffer from a lack of patience. I want to end the writing every night. Maybe it’s obvious in the writing. Characters begin and end my day in the same sort of cosmic loophole, where they can be anywhere at all yet are entirely in one place, where I think I’ve left them, hanging by a thread.

What Zambrano does differently is acute. He’s punctual. A character shows up for dinner, and there’s a meaning for him to be there. It isn’t always evident, but it works. And his characters never act out of bounds. They are perfect human beings. How can I create a character without knowing myself? Knowing my creations?

I have to be dark. I have to be sick. I want to heal. I want to provoke.

We went back to our favorite lunch spot on Rosenthaler Platz. One of the prettier gifts of gentrification. Daluma, the healthiest restaurant and café in all of Berlin. I ate a wild rice plate with a tomato basil mixture. Probably garlic, pine nuts, onions, and some other nonsense. It was amazing.

Husain hasn’t seen his child in a long time. He goes for the weekend, flies out to Switzerland, but his bitch wife won’t give him the chance. Actually they never married, but we call her the wife. It makes more sense. Streetwhore.

But he’s actually doing much better without her in his life, it’s just that he misses the kid and he’s spending everything he has and much more on getting her back.

He moved apartments, taking the rooftop apartment with a forty square meter terrace. He invited me over today, but it’s so fucking hot. I should have gone, and I should go say bye to Marinaki. But I’m sitting here, writing. Why do I keep writing? Why is it the only place I feel safe?

It is the only space I am safe.

I had trouble writing, but I kept the characters moving. It’s my mission. To keep them moving.

I brought back the old man. The old man from the mentor scene at the pier, in my first draft. He was always the herald of something. The one who paints the omens, who describes or implies the ominous nature of the story. But I got rid of him. I went with the other guy, the port man, who calls out to him in the original draft, and who basically loses him in the second.

I need new background music. The whole thing is becoming repetitive. Maybe Stuart Dempster and the whales are the reason the writing stays on this point of waiting. Characters who are moving slowly and drunkenly toward a place where they are expecting to meet someone.

My brain is fried. I smoked a fat joint. And I was drunk all weekend. And the ecstasy fucked me up. Even coffee the next day gave me a shock. And I almost fainted until we ate.

This is a story for progress.

Zambrano has lived his whole life in his hometown. He hasn’t ever moved. I’ve tried to go wherever I can. Now I’m stuck wondering where I belong, and who I should work for. Work to imprison, work to free. Work to flee myself. I am the loudest flea of my generation!

I want to own something. For the cause.

Leila won’t shut up about doing something else. Beirut is dead. Leave.

I had too much coffee in the heat.

I read Cesar Aira’s An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter. Something draws me to Latin American literature. Of course it’s so abroad to sum up an entire region of the world in such a way, but it’s basically Spanish language literature. I actually don’t know anything about Brazilian literature. Most of it is from Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Spain. The occasional Cuban. I’d like to learn some more Haitian literature. I know nothing. And some Peruvian. I always thought Neruda was from Peru.

I want Bara to ring like Neruda’s poetry. Like “The Furies”. Or The Captain’s Verses. One day I will write my epilogue on Arab culture. It will be a mix of Benjamin and Chilean prose.

Poetry is important to me. Without poetry we are dispensable.

I saw something move with the corner of my eyes, as I was reading about the Haitian undead. It turned out to be much smaller than a cockroach, but my original panic sufficed to feel my heart stop. I need to get over this fear! It ruins me. I can’t even travel outside of Berlin because I’m afraid of meeting one! Or worse! Having it touch me without my knowing!

I know they are everywhere.

I’ve always been interested in Haiti, and Haitian voodoo culture. The mystics of Haiti are a powerful mob. Maya Deren’s The Living Gods of Haiti was an early educator. Of course I’ve said already I know nothing about Haitian literature, or Haitian culture at large. Once I bought a record from A1 Records on 6th between 1st and A that had a Haitian guy reading something in Creole, and in French on the other side, saying the same thing. I liked listening to it. The guy sounds angry. Inspired. It sounds like he’s telling the colonialists to go fuck themselves. Like he’s telling his people now is the time to rise up. And of course I wish Bolano’s section on the Haitian writer in Nazi Literature of the Americas would also help to be true.

 

 

 

393

 

I’m happy with United’s transfer window so far. They sold De Gea, once and for all, and they make a good thirty five million to spend on Anthony Martial from Monaco, and get Keylor Navas as well. It’s a good deal. The kind that happens in basketball. Someone should end up at Monaco.

I’m happy with my book, but I’m going to have to leave it again for a few days. And the weather being so hot, and needing to be alone. It’s difficult. On some days I lose the thunder. I lose control of it.

I think football clubs need to take into consideration certain things.

 

 

 

394

 

I tried all night and all morning to download Football Manager but it didn’t work. It seems Germany’s system is impenetrable. For the better, I guess, I would have wasted away my life.

I keep reading over the pages I’m writing and I can’t find nay answers. I don’t know yet if it’s all one piece or if it’s a bundle of stories. I know to take out the phrases I like most and turn them into poems. But that’s the easy part. The novel is the hardest thing to imagine. There’s no beginning and no end. My parents have beginnings and ends, for their generation. They have said goodbye to most everyone they know and love, at some in their lives, thinking they would never return, that it was truly the last time. I’ve grown up without a civil war and with a computer.

I do well with goodbyes. I make them last. For me, the goodbye is not the end. It’s the beginning of something. A different form of love. Love, in presence, is more subtle. It doesn’t have to be said. It doesn’t have to be remembered. Growing up, I obsessed over remembering, obsessed over obsessing. When —- left, I forced myself to remember that I love her. I wrote her letters, most of them sent, some of them still ruminating at the bottom. I didn’t want to admit it was possible to forget. So I never let myself stop feeling.

When —- moved away, foretelling her eventual abandonment of me, I also clung on to the feeling. And when —- left, I did the same. And with —-, and —-.

When people leave, I remain. I always remain. I am never the one to leave.

But I have left, just not in love. I leave the tribe, to go elsewhere, to move within the ranks of others, study their ways and bring back the stories.

Stories can’t be made up. They come from the deep recesses of the inner spirit and the mind. They come from your father’s disappearance, and his moustache. They come from the swings and the waterfalls at your cousin’s farm. From your first high school suspension.

I can only start this story, but I can never end it. I don’t want this story to end, because this is a story about characters who do not begin and do not end. Characters you meet in the middle, ordering their second or third coffee of the day, smoking a cigarette outside the mail office after work, sending a letter to their grandparents. It is a story about the look you caught between your uncles when Italy scored the winning goal, and you realized they were talking about something else. Something you would never understand until you did. You do understand.

But it is not a diary. The faces you see aren’t real.

I am searching something. In the end, I will realize you have had it all along, that I had given it to you.

Won’t you give it back?

Who are you, looking at me?

 

 

395

 

I don’t judge her. Not tonight. When she waits, she waits like a bear in hibernation. She has a look fo sobriety to her, crumpling her lips together, pouting. she looks up at me. Am I a monster? I greet her with love, and affection. But she is sour. She refuses me. At my own home!

When I wake up, the amulet is cut. I take two steps from my bed. The sculpted elephant falls from my pocket.

 

 

396

 

I wake to the image of surging waste rising on the water. The garbage is a sign of love, a giving of thanks.

The lone fisherman, and the Sufi guitarist circulating my veins. Two boys in skinny jeans and fake Moschino shirts walk over to me, ask why I’m praying on the beach so late at night, with headphones on. I let him listen to the music. He walks away, confused.

Sobriety wakens the eyes. Have I ever told you that? Probably not, since I never felt it until now. You were the fuel. I bite into the cabbage. Today is the episode of shame.

I am sober, and eaten alive. The architect is the savage artist. Look what pain he sows!

A mother consoles her grieving child. Further forward, a pair hoist a father on their arms, galloping the pavement, bound by the luxury of unconditional love.

I turn and wipe the pages from my mind. The couple is no longer there. A solitary cup of coffee resting a testament to their passing. The mother and child have moved. The drunkard scavenges my eyes in pursuit of a light. He is gone, unseen, until I notice he is below, preparing to fish, memorializing time. He sees what I see, judges what is unheard or forgotten by my senses. Like, a father yells across the sand to his child, another lets his son win football legacies on the concrete. There are occasions for remembrance and others to forge. He looks away, wondering. Who is winning the war?

I prefer them here, at least they enjoy the sunlight. I am first to love or hate, that is my supplement. Passing the chained gates of the theatre I think of our march and the path we took to squat there. We could have had revolution, you and I. Did we? It is longer ago than I thought, seeing him now, the guardsman, wrinkling by the steel doorway. The stoned eyes of a woman damaged at heart. An immigrant yells, encouraging the men to turn around. Where are you going, she asks?

I pass the child lugging a gas tank towards the elevator. His old man bosses him around, smiling. My steps lengthen, conform to the pace of my heart, racing towards you. Have I found you? You have more to you.

A longshoreman carries molded heart and bendable spoon. The television runs the select catastrophe. The ascetic mastermind passes me briskly. Neighborhood legends carry off the trash. I remember lying with you on the floor, circumventing our instincts. You know how love destroys me.

 

 

397

 

Everything I say has been rehearsed. In the paper I discover my politics, only for it to sway from my hold. Minutes later, I forget where I stood. At every turn I accept that I am better and gifted, and others are worse. I ignore what frightens me so that it does not. Should that make sense, you are gifted as well.

In school, I was a bully. I hated Mathematics because it required me to use my hands when I just wanted to close my eyes. One day, I am a bourgeois gypsy dressed in rags with dandy hair. Tomorrow I am a Pashtun princess.

Because I eat with my hands, I am human.

Songs, like nothing else, inflammate my passion.

When I fuck, I think of you.

Sometimes I lose it. If she’s too boring, or I’m too drunk.

 

 

 

398

 

The silence of that first morning empowered the truth of my being there. I was reluctant to admit I returned. I did not think of her but knew in my neglect she would arrive.

 

 

 

399

 

I coach the varsity football team at the local high school.

 

 

400

 

He couldn’t accept the poll results. Most of ythe collectors were poor, aand most who chose to recycle their waste were of better social standing. The collectors resented them outright. It wasn’t valid.

 

 

[1] Marker, Catherine Lupton, 89

[2] Ibid, 93

[3] Ibid, 95

[4] Ibid, 89

[5] poetics of ecstasy, 22

[6] Bataille, Literature and Evil, 75

[7] ibid. p. 53

[8] ibid. p.53

[9] Harper’s magazine “Letter from Chile” pg. 39

[10] What they may have been referring to is his claim to have “…passed through the ages again and again,” or the more refutable claim that he had lived in a style similar to theirs, which is invariably a lie, as he had only lived a quarter of their years, and lived most of them lavishly, without hardship. By no means was he an ascetic until probably the very last chapters of his life. What we know of his life. is that it was riddled with violence and abuse, usually, but not entirely limited, directed at himself.

[11] “Even as he lamented the forthcoming betrayal, Christ was, between the lines, giving the injunction to Judas to betray him, demanding of him the highest sacrifice- the sacrifice not only of his life, but also of his “second life,” of his posthumous reputation.”(16)