The Meditation

The Meditation

 

He drank half a bottle of date wine on the seated steps of the National Museum. Merchants sold bags of honeyed peanuts and warmed, stovetop bowls of cashews. An oversized umbrella hung over the Hotel Bey walls, peering over a flat concrete plain, a hundred meters wide, the meeting point of future celebrations. Housing units emerged from the rump camps on the outer walls of Rue de l’Infinite, emerging like giant jellyfish pools seeped in darkness. A shrouded woman pulled a cloud of smoke from a well of water, breathing in the vapor, raising her hands and drenching the nape of her neck. Across from her a man was doing the same, and beside him, a woman, close enough to be his wife or sister, carried a cask of water into a nearby tent. The sun leaked through the plastic covering of their home. The rubber shielding clattered in the wind. A stranger in strange drifter’s clothes approached. He had the look of waste in his eyes. As he passed, they did not caution their eyes to deviate but fixed their gaze straight on.

“You smoke, bro?”

“No, bro.”

“I need a light, bro.”

“I don’t smoke, bro.”

He was shaking his head.

“Carlo, come and get me something,” the faded man called out. “This man don’t smoke. You want something?”

“I’m getting ahead, bro, I’m broke.”

“I’ll buy you something, brother, stay on.”

“I’m broke, bro, I gotta go.”

“We going to Dawson?”

“I’m out, bro, I’m gone.”

“Alright, brother, be gone.”

A woman passed behind him as he stepped between two streets, stepping out from an alley. He felt himself leap forward to approach, before turning away and pretending as though it were not true, that he had turned to notice her passing. Was she there at all? 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 the panache to pass by him unannounced, without interruption or pause, she wouldn’t notice his eyes wavering, tracking her steps in longing. As her face passed before his eyes, he caught himself wanting to speak. He remained silent. 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, it would disrupt things. Pipes could not withhold the pressure. The incessant drilling. The fumes. How well did he withstand the fumes, he asked himself. Had he so much evolved form his ancestors, who would suffocate at the smell of sulphur? They tried for weeks to penetrate the colossal hole without any luck. Finally, it was working. Well, he withstood the fumes enough to smoke. To swim underwater holding his breath for at Least a minute. To circle the track two times before stopping for a break. That wasn’t bad. He checked the time, searching for something to occupy himself. It wasn’t like him. It was unlike someone of his craft to need to be occupied by anything but the movement of time, from one epoch of seconds to the next. It was unusual. He turned his suspicion to the elderly on the bench, but she had disappeared. He turned, to hear if there was a voice some few meters away. Nothing. An empty bus stop. An empty store. 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 stepped over 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 knew her walk. It wasn’t the first time they would try to evade the authorities, trying to make it through the net on curfew. It wasn’t her. Still, it looked like her. But she looked older. Did she, he asked himself. No, he thought, she didn’t. She looked younger. Much younger. Too young in face to be her, but it was her. No, he thought to himself, 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 noised along the pavement, the clatter filling the air like a mosquito in the ear. He checked the time. They were fine. She hadn’t come yet but they still had time. Where is she, he thought. Is she visiting a friend? Is she alright? He could tell he was worrying about her and that surprised him. Two months ago, three months ago, that would have been impossible. For him to feel any empathy for someone else. But he had changed. They had all changed. Those who hadn’t changed would not survive the difference. The difference was culminating and they were part of the solution. If the solution were to expand, their fight would hold some merit.

“There’s a lecture.”

“Where?”

“At university. Do you feel like joining?

He had heard about the lecture, and they agreed to go together, but the curfew had made things more difficult for them to foresee going, to make it to the other side.

They agreed to meet in her apartment, a two bedroom on Block C5, in the Administration quarters around the corner from the President’s school. He waited in the borderless zone of the school for her to arrive. At various points he raised suspicion, and for some time he was circled by undercover members of the Civil Guard, driving in a small white van, with no backdoors, windows open. The driver had his arm resting against the window, focusing on him as he passed him by, and the other in the passenger seat was nonchalant, sometimes taking photos and other times playing with his phone. They refused to stop and ask questions, but he was reminded to check for his ID. He pulled it from his. He studied the picture. It caught his eye. In many ways, he felt that it was no longer him. That’s always the case, he thought. The photograph didn’t do him any favors. He was drunk when the photograph was taken. One side of his face looked larger than the other, like it was swollen from the inside. The area around his eyes were bruised and his eyes were red, like he had suffered for a week from a cold. He hadn’t done anything explicitly wrong, but for some reason he had the feeling he had done something wrong. 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. Finally, he found Lena crossing the street and followed her, walking several steps behind, several blocks of stone at a time. They passed the bushel scarves of secondhand clothes hanging from banisters on the busy streetways. Sometime after she would disappear, and he would have to make the choice whether to follow her inside. A friend of hers brought them tea while they waited for the call. He felt like a drink, accepting the tea. She offered him nuts and some crackers. While she spoke, she ate from a handful of almonds and cashews resting in her palm, burrowed like a nest. From her window, the expanse of the park could be seen, cutting down a series of hill, flowing like the wild river of the dog, into an abyss miles deep, where guards stood watch at the eastern gate, in dark blue jackets worn by park patrol. The border of the park was shared with the school, and the field was full of students, reading, playing music. In his time, they would drink and smoke joints in the park without care for the police, but the people had largely retreated indoors, preferring the private to nature. On a quiet night, footsteps could be heard circling the lawns on the boardwalk pavement. She used to sit at her desk and turn the chair towards the window, light a cigarette and smoke, listening to the heartbeat of the empty park, hearing the encroachment of a stranger from nearly a mile away, passing swiftly on the cobblestone before disappearing, starved of weight or consequence. A guard passed from the gate, where cherries lined up like a soldier’s line. He could make out the outfit clearly, the head’s shape and structure, the encryption of his collarbone on the white undershirt of his uniform. From the gates the field cut in half. He watched the guard stride along under the canopy lights strung like the marauding crests of a wave. The figure emerged into sight, bleached fluorescent. He had a beautiful beard that covered his face, big black eyebrows that hid the impression of his eyes. The quieter the walk, he thought, the healthier the omen. The wind’s current blew forcefully, causing her to sneeze repeatedly. He left her in the room. He flipped through a City Pages booklet, distributed for free on the mailboxes in town. The sort of book he tended to toss aside without even looking at it, finding it funny, that sort of quality in her to collect the booklet. She came into the room, finding him seated at the table with the magazine in his hands, drinking from a glass of lukewarm water.

“It’s going ahead,” she said.

“They’re starting?”

“They are.”

“Can we make it for the meditation,” he asked.

“I’m not sure.”

 

He had his camera in his bag, his hand on the revolver. They stepped under the two arches, walking at a snail’s pace, gathering in the colors, the fragrance, of the empty room. He walked through the cemetery to the meeting on Rue Abbas, beside where the mystic’s lay, on the long boulevard downtown where the martyr’s head looks over, watching like a parent watches their children go to school, wondering what will become of them, if their influence has already been lost, if they played a hand. A protest was planned for later in the day, marching from Ras Shahid to the cliffs at the farthest end of Boulevard Haggar, a fifteen mile march that would last all day. They were expecting residents to play the “March of the Fairies” in anticipation of their pass, and that the fanatics would respond by showering the march from their balconies with chants and insults, holisms of death, cursing the onlookers and protestors alike, singing in drunken furor the ballads of the “Royal Fours”, a rendition of the “Military Office Incumbent March”. He was carrying a magazine and three books, two manuscripts and a novel he was reading. The manuscripts were poor but he was fortunate of late to be given jobs for editing. The novel was his for reciting. He wanted to join the proceedings but his plan was to perform for something else. The weather was becoming hotter, the climate terrible that time of year. The pollution in the quarter could be felt year round, but without the winds dropping in from the mountains, the autumn rains washing clear the grounds, the whole area smelled like the stench of slaughter, blood and organs spewing from the guts. From where he stood, he could see the new outlets recently opened in the district, a small boutique hotel, the Hotel Huge, where patrons drank until it was light or they had somewhere else to go, and the small café and bed and breakfast, the Villa Marge, whose name he didn’t know, nor cared to either. The building was small, the façade of each wall drilled into its partner, neighbors looked upon themselves to litter the walls with pots of flowers. Patrons lined up like oysters to be picked from a pond. The frontyard looked upon the highway, and the backyard looked upon Sahet Shaar al Nasr, the square of the eagle’s hair. The stairs reminded him of his home in Dar Elias, where he had spent his summers. The smell carried into the house, into each room, embedding like a stench of feet at temple. The smell of artisanal carpets, of hiking clothes. Worn summer boots and garden sleds. Because of the stories they had told since then, he was afraid of going back and meeting them. The speaker he had sought had told him, it was written in the numbers, that he would find himself there when it was most required, but until then he had only to remain calm and able, steadfast to the grown unknown. They were waiting, expecting, for the beasts of dawn, staying up all night, rehearsing verses, smoking by the window until the rooster cawed. On the sixteenth day, of every month, Sit Shiham woke her nurses and slept at the window’s edge, in the balcony on the second floor, overlooking the street. She discovered jasmine and white tea, two packs of cigarettes, a facelift. The speaker’s voice could be heard, quieting an unruly audience. He had taken the assurances to protect himself from any serious physical engagement, emerging behind a shroud of security, a blanket fence, hiding him almost entirely from view. But such was his weakness. One by one they were admitted into the auditorium, that sat naked and bare under the behemoth on the hills of Pastoral, at the city center, situated at the port’s navel, the center of their world. A world they shared and shared a lot, whether building or destroyed, sharing everything but the riches. He was invalid, meaning he would not be handed a name, and so he did not need to introduced himself, only to listen, that would be enough o carry him across the meditative fields of enrichment, Leaning as he drifted further forward, among other invalids, cleaning the disregarded portions of the heart and mind. They came seduced for their rations in the early morning, before the belligerent sun would rise, and the others had already eaten. He was forced to wear a mask to hide the contents of his face and his expressions, so he did not dare think outside himself, to expose what he had been thinking. Inside of him, as inside all of them, there was a system broken, and in those broken chambers he was gone, relieved to the skinless pale face of destitution. If he were called for he would not be addressed by name or number but simply by the tugging of his hand, led forward and left to the speaker’s admonition, which he would then deserve and wholeheartedly endure, if only to be left alone again in submission, but more so, to Learn the speeches of the trenches, like minded and friendly invalids who had come and gone, who presented themselves as trustworthy. They traveled to a place in the heart and mind, where the spirit was yet to excuse the womb, saved from their roaming like savages the peripheral enclaves that surround the heart, hoping for wood or gold to steal, anything that can be bought forgotten. In their hearts and minds they did not age. Those who were given masks, left without name or number. The adults did not need for weapons, though that had once been their aim. The children cared only for toys and pleasures, and the warmhearted feeling of games. The speaker was surrounded by six musicians, three on each side. As the speaker spoke quietly, solemn words breaking like embers on a quilted shroud, speaking spoke quietly, solemnly, on what to expect, what would be passive, what was meant to expatiate stress from traumatic wounds, what was designed to elicit pleasure. Pleasure of, and the speaker chose to depict on normative terms, the darkness, the interior, an absolute subjectivity divorced from an expectation of self. Having no conception of other, pure conception of self. Equal the self to the ultimate source. Where is the source? The speaker wavered between the rhythmic breaths of the small orchestra. One of the drummers frantically beat at his instrument in a flood of tears. Yesterday they sang the Marsellaise and under the blue platoon crossed the pacific. He heard them speak, and felt that they were found. He had chosen them and they spoke, together, like the will of crows, at Marjayoun, and the hill of her defacement. As per his expectation he heard him speak again. He felt that it was the promise of lessons he had been told to expect. Out of his own kindness he listened. And so some of the nobler guests arrived. And they were so compelled to be feared, they accepted to wear the masks of veiled men, in order to raise their voices, and be heard by legend and daily tabs, to taste the salted soil of West Beirut, after it was lifted, when the great sea of Jews bled red, and to be feared by their opposing forces, of which are many and opposed. As a professional, Dadalle respected them. Their tiresome ethic, their conviction. They were rigid, and so it was that they came to be feared, for their heeding the fears of an oppressor, who could not sustain the life of powered men, nor did power of such life be given but with conviction apart of them, heeding the wheels of worry like they did of then, pulling the heart apart. With conviction, belling the sacred to conform to their expectations, of themselves and their predilection. It was comforting, that Pharaoh, of all of the, did not seem to surrender to the etiquette expected him, for fear of legal or social retribution, as some of them in fact, nor did he evade the basest fault of his name, knowing it was so, to be however rigid and oppressed is to be divested in a rove of claws, and across from his expectations, of his freedom felt. And being so compelled to be feared he accepted to wear the mask of veiled men. To put his faith in a power that had forgotten him. Ask any of them, they will say the same. So it had been told, as it was in the opening of days, where Ob hears the confessions of Ra, and the path persists and we are next to last obliterated. The speaker was surrounded by six musicians, three on each side, three more singers either side of them, to let the speech persist, and so it was to accompany them. As the speaker spoke, his words were solemn and content with what they had achieved as men, and what they had, for their women, given. He wore a silver patted quilt and hunting boots with shoelaces made of hammock thread. The only one of them properly clothed, the rest of them in shroud white robes. He spoke quietly of debt and the remaining ceiling, the rest of what was lost to fraud. How to experience stress and from stress to free oneself. Issues of the inner self, the inner garments. He spoke briefly of those androgynous who were equally blessed, realizing the work of others. The difference was in sameness and so the brief was to conclude. The room fit the temperature, the mood, the speaker salvaging a work of trust. They trusted that in his age he had seen what he was preaching, had witnessed it first hand in the sea of robes, the place where thoughts were a thoughtlike robed. He was young, yet he spoke with authority. He knew him as Baba Rahman, and had thirteen times heard his sermon. The meditation followed in eventual stages. The sacrificial journey of rooms. It had become the plan of myth, to face the seed of wasted blood, to face it. He devised the work like an analysis. A therapeutic means of speech, followed by deep meditation. In its eventual stages, it was meant to succeed the journey of entering the eternal womb, or exiting the room of behaviors. He played with archetypes and different forms of understanding the character of shadow and the shadow of halls. Walls that were displaced to appease the disassociative, and walls that appeared like scrolls to fools. The soundwaves emitted onstage by the drummers were meant to resonate with the body, creating a vibration that pulls the body apart, allowing for foreign waves to enter it. The elders of the temple were taken care of, but the Civil Guard were gathering evidence, to expose them for what they were to the law. Every generation had its brand of deviants. He knew that, as did they. Even though Baba Rahman, the latest torrent, had been given walking privileges for the remainder of the week, and the checkpoint at Ras Shahid was easier to cross, it was done out of spite. To teach those among them a lesson on luck, so they would know when it was running out, what it had meant to all of them. He may have been bred to regard his being body as the body of a dwarf and of a giant, but all the same, he knew, by his detesting hatred, that he was the cockroach all the same. The cockroach, lying in wait, in meditation, he returned for his food to sustain himself. To play his or her part in the eventful seeding of sick infatuation. You wish me extinction, the cockroach said, but I will persist. Baba Rahman, the man of laurels, who sang in long soliloquies often outraging the displeasing crowd, religious though secular, that to survive they must all Learn from the cockroach, Learn to think like a cockroach, like a creature that was naturally, without the suffering of a single moral abiding soul, totally and abnormally abhorred. Hated, disgusted. Revolted. The very image repulsive. The very presence disconcerting. You want to be loved, Baba Rahman often said, but those featureless forms will never love you, those who know what is in your hearts. For what you are, he would often say, you will pay. The lives of Yacoubians, whomever they are, are no different. They lie in wait and they pray, and when it is quiet, like on the first of the second month of prayer, on the surrounding hills of Der Durun, the pastures cleared with pesticidal warming, the Yacoubians fly in like a swarms of sloth, laying siege to the harvests. A variation of the experience could be found cited in the artifacts of past local cultures, who had all but disappeared from the eternal grounds. Maybe the little insects were their only friends, feasting on the same set of lies as their brothers. That is why they appeared to him in dreams so often, gifting him a symbolic shade. What was said of him was said also of the Major Wa, the Wakubi Chief of later tombs and pleasures, who taught his children to bathe on sunbeds, rather than desist by the levers. The cockroaches disappear and so would he, when the lousy hours passed and when it rained and the sun’s flat roses on the concrete flour blooms, the critters made equal ascending to their kingdom beneath his feet, running like monologues let flow on the loose, like howards of hens run amuck in the space. Sometimes he would wonder if he was made for the world, or if he had been called to surrender. But he Learned the sanctions of the heart and from them he relented. What would happen to them would happen, nonetheless, he could not pull fate apart. From each step was made the future, and from the future made the rest. Even the sagging breasts of lady heaven, which from birth, until then, he had forgotten. Where were they to him? Creditors? Friends? Each of them performing a fitted task and a suited role for all of them to behave as they were to behave in public. And yet, where were the best of them? Left alone, afterward, when they were chased, and hunted, and left for dead in rows. There were those of them who could not feed, and it seemed normal. The raids came in blows, and mothers made the saddest victims. To those resisting came no good. They were sanctioned to cuff and drag them by the feet to the nearest bases, to keep them from the other caught. They were alone in the world, though each of them was listening and intent on pertaining to the fallen name, if the name were good. They could accept to wear the mask of fallen men, if only they were granted, and were granted more, to appease the Seven Tenets and the hall of chords, the namesake for the rest of them, and the blessings rose, Mashallah, and the rest were left of them, and the people crowed. To those resisting came stones, and the raids came in blows, mothers making the saddest victims, and the victims rose, and they chose to wear the shields of victims, and fall in rows, and make the saddest victims, and the left were rowed, and the bodies stowed in seaside basements, for the thrills to slow, before, they could, as grieving victims, lay the dead in fabric cloves. He didn’t know where to stand in the crowd, if it was meant, as some of the others had said, to stand off to the side, when the hour of drumming neared, what Pharaoh once said was to be forgotten, to kneel at the feet of speech and pray, and to be forgotten, to kneel at the nearest beach and pray. The procession was led by grieving members of the Civil Guard, in their usual red and white uniforms. The brown lapels of their necks adorned with a crust of gold, and the starred eagle emblem on their chests handwoven. They were followed and led as always by members of secret police, plainclothes officers with red batons and hair slicked back in Angel’s wax, a purple gelatin styling mixture, thick black Dimanchi sunglasses over their eyes. They were most of them locals, quick to adapt to changing temperatures, to abnormal light and behavior. The pilgrims they had accepted into their care flanked them on the side, forming a semiofficial circle from which was led the prisoner’s body, tied to a string of ropes that pulled apart at the limbs. He hadn’t believed Shahad when she said she enjoyed the feeling of thinking herself there, driven into the arms of the center circle. Children from the academies pulled at their clothes, wiping their heads with the backs of their hands, uncomfortable because of the heat and the obvious stress of their parents, and people who looked like their parents, who were old enough to be their mom or dad. He was curious, fascinated by the speed at which the mob conformed, regardless of the captive, who they had not yet known (was active). The servant Yamine picked at his teeth with a wooden stick, one of two he kept on his person. When the Captain arrived, the crowd fell silent. It had yet to happen. A clerical service ensued, three robed men in pepper beard, reading from the scroll of scarves, the deliberation and the people’s rights, and the names of some of their most famous victims. The captive’s ankles were chained, and it seems that he was badly injured. Miles away he heard the echoes of a demonstration. Soon the chaos would reach their doors. The randomness of attacks was an indicator, he felt, that something was terribly wrong, and the randomness of raids was worse. There was a line that had not been crossed and some had crossed it, and it was obvious in their local stare, and also in the fact that they had lost most of their givens, and were searching for revenge. It didn’t sound at all like the master Zahreddine, so he knew it was fake. The administration was wrong to assume he would not notice, but noticing a small thing such as that it was best to remain quiet, otherwise there would be more trouble than already there was, simply for the fact of its occurring, the heartless aimless fake. The scene at Boulevard Haggar was the same, and so was the blessing, and so he sang the poems again, and each of them were always listening, counting places he had been. He had decided not to become the shadow they had planted for him, even though it was obvious and inevitable that he would take it from them when it was time, when it suited him to become his next favorite complexion, to fall within certain chords, to become someone and to make of him a someone of knowing odes. No matter who has been given the keys in the past, the father will always own the body. That was what he had always been told, to make use of his time in the name of the figure, and to prepare himself for union, with the power OB, under the banner of Ba, Horah. He didn’t know if was ready to make the crossing. He had come that day to ask the blessing of an enactment, to realign the seeing scrolls, and to become them, and make of his many faces a single misconception, so that he might with the people go, and be what would become his bested. He had only made two invocations so far, in the past two weeks, each of them on one occasion, what Baba Rahman referred to as questioned inspiration, serving cause for the people’s woes. Revelations, like the one OB received at Bir Amin, when he was instructed to lay down at the foot of his oppressor and pray forgiveness for their souls, he had felt similar weight and similar destitution, lifted off his body like a surge of blows. But with every outgrowth of his mind he came upon a field of doubt, feasting on inner impressions and self visualizations, where he did not succeed in becoming his most desirable infatuation, causing him grief, knowing it would repel the outer forces to empower him and to let the spirits roam where he could, by dignified impersonation, become a hero known. He had only had two invocations so far. He drew sentiment from the book, bruised in his heart and words scripted from memory. Did he deserve the blessings of Elias John and the three brothers of Rotaro. He had blessed them and from his blessings come to take his entitlement, at best, a few kind words of believing and strength, to take with him to the debate. He would surpass the interrogation at Army Cross, believing himself the victim of incarceration, becoming that fear to inquire its killer opposite, becoming that instead. He had begun the story in her chair, waiting for her decision to come to him. She said the question was in his constitution. It was to become a way of life, and if anything less a desperation, but never, a want ignored. She urged him to know what could be done to know that they had done it, and to stay away from acting so. It was in his nature, she warned him, to be kind and peaceful to others, and it would reflect in his losing what he mostly sought, ascension into the higher self, free from predilection and depression. There was a taste in the medicine a lot of them were taking, but he had decided against it, and it showed. He felt for a long and honest time, before it concluded, that the face of one of theirs was one of their only known, who had vanquished in the distance searching for love in disrepute places, where the people known would go when there were no more laws to amend but the people chose to do among them what was hoped to happen somewhere in the people’s searching thoughts, and that was where the thoughts had led them. The session began with the raising of a large stone bell, passed among the followers to touch and clap as they saw fat, the serial chanting of the speaker in the background alluding to the Sacred Noise, the sacred humming five times in the inner mouth, placing the tongue at the upper satchel of the mouth, five times with the annunciation Aa, B, a, r, a, Bara, in unison, and among the trailing seven chords, subdued by monotonous drums, incantations of blessing and thanking for the gifts, in the name of Bara under the banner of Bo, Mashallah. The speaker began her sermon.

“You will ask, how can I accept this of myself, to accept these harsh demands, even if I do not conform to them myself at all times and in life I am openly rebelling. The truth is it is in our nature to accept, and to adapt to our circumstances. This way we are closer to the spirit, the spirit of forms and odds. It is when you are there, and I accept you into my body, passing like the spirit combs in the inner clouds, cooning into a total self, Mashallah, a higher bringing salvaging light. This is the revelation carried and finally fulfilled.”

He knew this to mean a reference to the enlightened, being the revelation carried and finally fulfilled by Zahreddine after six generations waiting, when he discovered the vows made to her holiness at the temple of holy shreds, at the center of the mountain, securing the allegiance of a malignant God, whose promise had yet to be fulfilled, and was coming. It had become fashionable for tourists visiting town to pay a visit to the temple, and because of the high costs surrounding the plot of land it was becoming more difficult to fend them off during prayer hours, as it was easier to incur the costs of their becoming there, to take pictures and self portraits, treating the temple like it were a treasure discovered in the wild. But Al Mussawi was reserved and resorted to reason, knowing that to accept his fate was to become them all, and to accept them into his body, the body of the jurist Ra, lying in the house of Ro. He could respect the body, and the body, then, was pure. The body of temples and of the silver gods. When the war was amplified and the terror subsided, residing in the heart, the body of the temple was pure. He was taught to become his pain, to become the emotion and to unravel what had become of his heart. Above all, temple made him happy. He realized how important it was in his life, to be happy, to do things for that reason, and above all, to be content with himself, to experience life without loathing, of himself and of others, loathing of being and otherness, including the otherness of self, the otherness of forms, which could amount the total, and the otherness of others, which would amount to death. The knowledge survived in the teachings of Ra, told in humble slumber in the telling’s of Ro, by the spirit O, Mashallah, the words of the speaker worthy of words, who embodied the weight of embodiment, secured the valorization of the omniscient crowd, kneeling, forbearing in prayer.

“As the sun so too rises, so too does the morning bugle of the spirits ring, trilling like the singing of larks. There is no darkness where belief is prone, and no light where darkness fills her damely void. Because we fear accepting it is true, so said Zahreddine when he was wading through the flooded streets of Dar Imam, rescuing what havoc rested.”

“He said the flood comes in three kisses, and the kisses come in three blows, over the unmarked horizon, the waves rise from the sea deep bosom, the womb of the external world. And so there is a luminary returning call. The first kiss is inspiration, she kisses on the neck. As with every song that vanishes the moment it is heard, becoming a part of the great unknown, the catalyst is interrupted by silence, and following, a response.”

And as it happened, the culmination, the beginning and multitudinous end of the journey, crossing into the celestial whole, the paramount giving of service, the crowd fell deafly silent, like the whispering misty fumes of an apex mountain’s early evening, steady like a raindrop falls and lands on a Leaf, weighing perfectly to rest without being disturbed, as though it sprouted from the Leaf itself, from the interior, and when it were to eventually fall, falling like a balloon crashes to the upper limits, dispersing into the infinite body of the infinite whole, Leaving the crowd stranded in the same squalid air of the temple, smelling each other’s feet as they rose to commemorate the prayers, to ameliorate their common pain. Once, as a result of some dispute, a full grown woman ascended the mantel and hurled herself into the crowd, crying out in painful ecstasy as they received her folding arms. Since that time he returned every night to bow to the zenith and recite his prayers. Sometimes he felt himself questioning again the virtues of the onslaught, but being a Yacoubian, he had belief. The presence of the energy, the presence of the spirit was strong. He felt the spirit summoning him, reducing his wisdom to a flood of words while standing in defense of the armory. He had been told twice by his father, the late Hajj Hassan Hussein, to be devoted to something bigger than himself, in whatever way, was his destiny. To play some effect on the lives of others. That made it easier to believe. The Yacoubians pray once a day. He tried to pray as many times a day as felt necessary, but at Least to meet the minimum required. If he was unable to pray, to physically return to the void of his heart and rejoice, then he would force himself to meditate, to focus on the inner vision, to repulse the negativities of the world and find his circulating heart in the world of treasures.[1] [2] He had his scars but he tried as most not to dwell on them. He felt fortunate in his life to have endured so many tests and trials of his will, his character, his devotion to the cause. He knew he had developed some insensible fears, and the fears had the authority to interrupt his life, but these felt like necessary precautions against the winds of change, that brought so much disaster to their home. Like most of those around him, he had one particular fear that outdid them all. When traveling, or lying in bed wherever he was, trying to go to sleep, at the end of the day, or waking in the middle of the night, waiting for the shutters to pass over his eyes, all he could picture, all he could imagine, all he had the ability to perceive, was the possibility of a cockroach, a giant, powerful, terrible, terrible hissing cockroach coming upon him while he slept, dazed, crawling across his arm. What made them more frightening for him was his acceptance that they were not so much a single body, but more than that. They were defined by a collective mask, lacking the regards of individuality, they could be grouped together and scorned. But each vessel contained a soul, another life, and this made them terrible. A life aware of itself is a life aware of others. So he felt they were aware of him, and so when they stepped upon him in the dark, when he was not looking, or when they appeared out of the darkness, emptying like scarabs into the room, they were aware of him and they enjoyed his suffering. The important thing for Al Mussawi was above all to accept his condition, to accept theirs, to move on to some sort of collective reason and ethics of justice, liberty, love, that could be applied for others as much as to himself, as a means of making formal amends, with history, with time. To deflect as much away from the horrors as could be done, and to accept the demands of the hour. To give him strength, Al Mussawi would read from the revered mystical texts of the Yacoubians, to aid in his labor.[3] He had been taught to show respect for the public, and in his training he had excelled and exceeded expectations. For some, the ritual proved simple. Marry into wealth, study at a fine university, take pride in rituals, commit to family obligations. Celebrate triumphs. Spend what money can be spent, in order to express, to the public, a sense of happiness, and to achieve it. To attain all arms of wealth. Health, spirit, fortitude. But Al Mussawi lived in the lion’s den. He saw things not as they seemed to everyone else. Sure, he had grown humble, and this made it easier for him to renounce earthly whims, but it wasn’t necessary to be the case. His father had donated most of his belongings, most of his incurred wealth, to the Charitable Wellness Foundation, just before his death. He did it to appease Al Mussawi, who was suspicious of it all. He believed in the Five Transitory Tenets of the Citizen’s Pact, passed at Durahan on the eve of Peter Habib’s inauguration. Dress well, be generous, do what can be done for others. So he was always dressed impeccably. To express himself, he used what could benefit those around him most, his mind. But he did not flout his strengths in public. Nor did he discuss, with any matters of self interest, what occurred to his mind. He thought of men like Dadalle to be self interested in that way, and it seemed perverse, to build a temple around one’s fortune of education and common sense. And he respected Audrey Habib. Even though he was known to believe in the specific attributes attainable to the opposing genders, man and women seemed wholly distinct creatures in Al Mussawi’s eyes, he believed she had the necessary attributes to Lead the discussion. She was brave, and she had grown up surrounded by evidence that would entitle her to feelings of self worth. As a woman, she represented not only her mind, but her body as well. Her curvaceous features, her impressive height, standing at six foot one inches, and her domineering stare, the slits of her eyes bold and prodding, lending her an almost snakelike form. He couldn’t hide his attraction, and it embarrassed him, somehow. One by one the pilgrims rose from their seated places. It was an act of celebration, to situate themselves at the cleric’s feet. One by one rising to kiss the floor separating them from their mentors, sages who demanded of themselves to abstain from self worth, so too did the men and women and twos and threes among them rise from their places, chins stocked in the air, arms tucked on the ground, carrying a confidence that would revive them all, accepting the fate set upon them by the rule of thumb, urging steadfastness and resistance. One by one the pilgrims in their bare feet rose, swearing in oaths of allegiance. The other listener- The speaker spoke with such grace, it sounded better on television, or on one of the desktop screens, than on the radio beside her bed, but she refused to abandon the radio, holding it in her arms she fell into a trance induced by the speaker on the illuminating screen, preaching among a small posse of disciples an evolutionary code of silence, tranquility, to answer the great societal wrong of everyday noise pollution. The speaker mentioned the inner garments, the inner self, into the other and of the interior. Androgynous, equally blessed. Realizing the work required a temporal entity to represent the interior labyrinth, the speaker developed the concept of an omnipresent, omniscient room, a place where their deepest pleasures would reside in harmony with their deepest strains, grievances, pains.

“This life,” she suggested, “is a gift to her, a gift to have been given for no reason but to experience beauty.”

“The meditation,” the speaker insisted, “is much like the river of life. In its eventual stages, it is all the story of a journey into a room.”

He takes another look at the room, drawing in his breath to ensure hesitation. She stands in an adjacent window, underwatched. He senses her. Am I really there? I tell the best of them we are treasures. Haven’t we sold our lives? I conform to heart’s pace. He chose to be the one who could end things. His steps lengthen, emerging. Trust me if you do not already. We are a leap from my kiss. He is racing towards you. It wouldn’t surprise me. He has no guilt, but would he? If he’d ordained torture in some other life. A longshoreman carries molded heart and bent able spoon. The ascetics mastermind, passing briskly. Onwards, a hologram of this story, myriad soul mirroring his soul’s sought asylum. He evades war’s melody. I am made of war’s tantrum. He was certain to walk home. I visit my brother’s keeper. He lingers while the others leave. He wants to speak but can\t. I won’t have it. He knows why I am leaving, to deliver this to you. To stand at your doorstep and dream something beautiful. I wash your feet, accept me. Whip me with your bells! I will deny it. He hung from the waterbelt, from where he was allowed to sing. I offer what a creature affords. I know the penalty. Isn’t it enough to know? Implicate me, I serve the sentence, painting your wings during visits. Society will descend. He speaks through the haze of evening’s glow, shrouded in smoke. He wanted to remain incognito until the others arrived but they never would. Returning to the beginning, a testament in his hand. Have I got your attention? You will say when we ride in your car next this entire piece written for our generation is about sacrifice and nothing else, and I will agree, except to say it is a photographer’s lament and a poet’s lost child. Did I not tell you? While wrapping things up I decided I would return the third temple to our tribe. I think poorly of the settlers and those who empower them, and decided it would take time, knowing my steely eyes, and my language. I am a guest in their house but I am deceitful. I sell my soul. They buy it. I have come to know myself by knowing you. Even though times have changed me, I say this with clarity, because you are gone now and I am worse off than before. We are like sand, unitary. Let a thief be thankful. Using tablature in language I speak to the blind. The situation is ominous, at best. At best, the winter will be wet, and the summer will be dry. The room is a collection of memories. Withstanding the effects of aging the room only grows. An image of his ancestral birth, moving away. The paintings set in neat rows. He is preparing his escape. To move to safer sports. Drying the windshield in a rainstorm. For whose benefit! He tries his luck, pushing his heels to the side, pulling dust mites from his pockets, sheltering himself from the storm. What storm? He may not be able to move but has he tried to? He believes he is not worth the misery of survival in their hands. We deserve none of the applause. A faint door creaks open. I hold you in my palm. In the beginning, most visitors cannot comprehend the expulsion of time. It is not in their mandate. But very soon into the experience time’s essence dissolves into an essential archetype of anarchy. The structural rebuilding that follows is very much the building block of cognitive experience. Experiential time. From this very audience stems the unbridled loyalty visitors express to their oppressor. To these settlers, they carry the names brought with them. So it is not always involved as the port of ports, though one can assume it to be what one wishes. I move into a room. I’m writing a book for you. We’ve been to four ports so far. He piled us into a book. I can leave the manuscript in the closet. I can go where I belong. I changed everything. I changed nothing. There were a lot of things that weighed on him. The embellishment of home. The mystery of death. It was a very nostalgic piece to begin with. A representation of his entirety, if it could be collected, and maintaining a certain quality, illuminated. He heard the symphony as it was finally played, hearing an ensemble of voices for the very first time. I would disregard, for a firm reading of BARA, the implication it is not entirely and without exception about the seventh century dwarf of his upbringing. Of his mother’s tongue. I had to search very closely. I was in natural conflict. Who called out to you? You would imagine, the voice of a woman to be his first. Maybe it was. He may have known many. He may have known none. He should be forgiven for being shy. IT is always disconcerting for a newcomer, seeing the totality of a single image detach from the inscrutable whole and immerse itself in his presence. Swimming the capillaries of an explorer’s distance, he could see. But he was not cured. Promises had to be made, and he asked for them. He wanted safe passage into the vortex but it would not be given. He was at the hands of his own admission. At the mercy of an oppressor, bloodthirsty. He could only configure from the accumulation of personal imagery and this troubled him. Where could he go, if far? There was bound within every journey a woman and a home. The room that throws the trophy in the air because if it were really only those two they would be easily aligned into one. But a room is an endless image. An image is an endless room. I’ve watched closely myself grow over the years. I’ve seen my being change. Rooms that act like buttons. Buttons that act like brooms. I was in conflict, thinking of the port to reach into my throat and tear out my solar plexus, tie it to my mouth and silence me. Is it still there? Would he be surprised? Nothing spectacular happened. I was in love. I was a child. I saw the mystics rise and the harvests fall. I felt a moon grow full. You can say I’m still in love. She was his first love, and she was many of them. The idea is that he began the journey with her. Sometime during an autumn shower, they met. It was written that they would meet, 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. He could not hold his gaze from the muse’s arms. Even the conduct of a mystic truth, dressing their women with giant garbs so as to hide them from sight for fear of their spiritual complexion, could dispel his eyes. Not even the faintest glance at his own impression, gave him the idea he would later regret that he was responsible for his movements, and not because of them, resulting in life. He transcribed a few images, moving forward. I stand by the wayside in a tomb of swans. He remembers the neighbor’s tragedy, little flutes migrating upstream, hanging laundry by a thread. Do you think he’s here? He watches us. He turns to look overboard. He wasn’t ready to live without me. I sit on a bench and read. He could sense, beyond the perception of reasonable doubt, the outlines of a keeper, realizing he could never claim sight under his total control. Living under the expense of an apparatus. He could not differentiate, no matter how cavalier he tried, between the keepers of his presence and the limits of his mind. But what were they really guarding? To answer the gestures of a trespasser? To establish a criminal price? As important as it is to know that the story waivers between psychotic dreamlike states, it is equally important to note, continuously throughout the reading without moment’s doubt, that the space under investigation, from where our eyes are driven by thought and gesticulation, is guarded by a keeper. He sits on a bench to read. The book is not empty. I am told, the book is disappearing, but the book is in my hands and in yours, so we are really determining that nothing disappears except by our own volition, and our volition is just. The custodian’s ensemble will reconcile our existence. I have no way to tell you but to persist, you are the keeper of these gates. He walked now along the deserted harbor lines. Between two bridges. Two ends of the same tribe. He thought of days past, greeting the merchants hosting coffee wagons and porridge corn. It heals a man to regret what he has forgotten. He had an urge to step out of the house that morning, urged towards the beach to meet the de facto breeze. And it feels good to be alone, for this reason he wandered, feeling his mind grow conscious. He has in his tendency to remain awake a preventative blanket of sleep. But where does his mind wander when deprived of sleep, but towards the sanctity of a boardwalk fountain, or a crumbling lighthouse beside a bridge. He would be waiting at that pier, and having clarity in surroundings that leave him deeply afflicted. The rise of morning showers aiding his inspiration, in such mornings he felt an indistinguishable part of the whole. What about you? I am old, and alone. Have you ever loved? I would be discounted. I tell her about you. The way you stand when you are dancing, dance when you aren’t sure. There are traces of your smell across the city’s arm, briefly independent. She recognizes you by the mark. It is a mater of insisting, she believes, and I will find you if I insist. It has begun. I withhold allegiance until the very last word, where one of us will be mistaken for a prophet and the other a fool. Beneath an inescapable sun, lightness that does not escape you. Here, together we are safe, joined in an emblem of love. Love that consoles our bondage. Love that purifies the air. Though no one would admit, the season he had only just encountered had hurt his ambitions, accusations to escape uninvited into the wilderness where he felt, in metaphysical bounds, he had begun. But when had he begun, and if so, where? Others spoke of it as well, past life regression experienced in the rooms, catacombs of an endangered class. What did they want to accomplish? Uncovering tombs they had themselves designed. But now, everywhere his eyes fell he found a spirit passing from territories he had already been, but when? He could remember a time where he cared deeply for the place. It had brought him to his knees. He had vowed never to abandon ship again, but he had proven himself wrong. And now, what, suffer? Drifting further into melancholy he stepped to the side, lying against a gate he took to be his own. Images of past still haunt the populace. Each rebellion passed with the fervor of youth swelling away. Where are you from? The port of ports. What is it like there? It is destroyed. Then, his voice would drop. He would suffer what all men suffer when caught in the rapture of regret. It is true what he says. It is no longer like that. She listened nervously, chewing her nails, as the speaker commanded her participation, declaring with disregard to native doubts of herself, her affirmation. The meditation was like the ladder beneath the mythic Cobra’s nest. Members of the snake tribe paid their shuttles to the other side. The scene would unfold before her eyes, without her having to do anything but listen and open her heart to the words. The words were prepared for her, but they were figments of the speaker, and the speaker spoke to a crowd.

“You never wanted much from anyone,” the speaker said. “You never wanted much in life. You wanted peace,” the speaker said, “lying on the floor in purple robes and a strand of scarves hovering. You never wanted much and you never asked for much, from anyone, but yourself. You wanted peace, for yourself and for others. You never wanted much but you wanted peace, for yourself and others. You wanted compassion and peace, for yourself and others. Mostly you wanted for others, but because of that, you believed you deserved it for yourself. You believed that you deserved. You deserve,” the speaker said. It would take someone else to describe this moment as her eventual chasing of ghosts through an ominous depression.

“You worry about time,” the speaker said. “You worry about finishing.”

“You worry you will die before finishing,” the speaker said.

“Bara is at every given moment in a state of becoming, growing in the activity of participants, hidden from the public eye. Projecting content as it is spoken. Pervading the consumer even in sleep.”

He took three deep breaths, inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling, inhaling, exhaling, the stomach of his balloon receding and extending, in and out, holy. As with legend, there are pilgrims of Bara, somewhere others not present. She had become one of those pilgrims, had outlasted even her own expectations. The weekly meetings demanded she chase what was left of some good life’s beginning. Shedding the excess. She had lived in fear, with fear. She had become fear. Fear had owned her entire body, so that she had never felt anything else but fear and the strange absence of fear in the pleasure of heritage hope, lost at late pubescent age. She knew she had asked for more than she admitted, by admitting giving herself the distance to ignore that knowledge.

“In the event that you hear of him, hold your tongue,” the speaker said, “hold your thoughts, he will retain your dignity after having become you. In the event that you hear of her,” the speaker said, “hold your tongue, hold your thoughts. She will retain your pleasure, after having become you.”

“In the morning that rises in the calm, she is inside of you.”

“In the morning that rises in the calm, he is inside of you.”

The speaker drank from a large bowl of pure ginger tea, explaining the benefits of warm ginger tea and other herbal teas as well, the relief it had for the stomach and the bowels and the heart as well, and the sinuses for those suffering allergies that week of spring. She read from a small pamphlet she handed out what stimulant herbs and antioxidants were good for those prone to depression as well, stimulants that energized the inner spirit, without having to inform the body with stress hormones, often the result of physical activity as well.

“You will be rescued from need,” the speaker said. “Did you know,” the speaker said, “that you are always wanting? Did you know,” the speaker said, “that want is in your eyes. You know that want is in your eyes,” the speaker said, “you know it is in your heart,” the speaker said. “Did you know that you are always wanting, and want is in your eyes, and you are wanting beyond surmise. You want to emancipate yourself,” the speaker said, “but you must submit. You must submit to emancipate,” the speaker said, “submission is pleasurable to you, and you must learn to enjoy your pleasures.”

In the Year of Dog, and Silver Fluid, the classes of master Ro, conducted in the Hall of Grievances. He sat between his hedge of carpets, reading the alerts. Drago was apologizing to him, for having committed a mistake the day before.

“You must be more critical of yourself,” he said to him, “you must be brave and admit your faults, admit you are suffering. I know my faults. Look, when I raise my hand, and bring it to my heart, I do not weep with joy that I am alive. Wasn’t that the word of her majesty in the fourth ascension, when they removed all of her clothes, exposing her inner garments, and the maids had too destroyed their robes, and they sat for the fourth ascension, preying on the sight of death like a child wonders through sand entirely unopposed. What is really your problem? I have no patience, and sometimes I can be fooled into thinking I am stronger than the code, but the code is pure, I am not. How do I know this? I studied the Qur’an, I should know.”

“Aminin.”

“Aminin.”

“Amino.”

“Aminin.”

“I have been reduced to a pest,” Drago said. “The administration, may the mercy of shamseddine rail upon her the greatest of all injuries. You do not understand what I am going through. Every day, I am met by agents of the apparatus. They are watching my every move. They are also watching yours. Can’t you see, the situation is dark. We are confined in this prison, and the prison never grows, to include where our fathers and forefathers once roamed. I am treated like an animal, like a slave, a bitch to their program.”

“What are you doing to combat your injury,” Abdullah asked him.

“For the eminent, nothing.”

“What’s your problem?”

“She,” he said, opening up his hand to her.

She looked deep into his eyes, searching for him. He responded by his laying down his other palm, flatlining, offering them bare. She told a lot of a person’s values by the state of their palms, them offering.

“What do you do for fun?”

“I sing, with my choir. We sing very nice. We’re very nice to listen to. I think we are. I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I don’t know, if I can last here, anymore. For me, it’s all about the music. I love the children, I love the board. But my wife works there, so I know it’s over. Now that I know, she’s squeezing me out. She’s squeezing. I’m out. I don’t know where I’d go. I haven’t thought about it. This is enough, for now. What od oyu think? Am I losing it?”

“You look alright. You have to focus. What do you want most, in life?”

“Peace. I want peace.”

“You can achieve that, I assure you.”

“How,” he asked, his hands shaking, the sweat on his chest seeping into his white shirt more, the sweat stain growing. He was shaking one knee, pushing down on the ground with the other. Every few seconds, he would hiccup, again and again, hurp-hurp…every few seconds, hurp-hurp….

“Where did you acquire your hiccup?”

“Well, basically, I’m a drunk.”

“You drink a lot. I gathered that.”

“Can you tell? I mean, you’re not really a doctor, right? How do you know?”

“Your skin is soft, kind of like, droopy. Your cheeks are tired, your eyes are worn. Basically, you look like shit. But I’m here to help. It’s been a rough day for me, too,” she said, holding his palms, resting her hand on his knee, looking into his eyes, holding him still, as she required, counting the blessings that came in her mind, counting with the hopes of sharing them, half for her and half for the blind, the witness standing in her office, absorbing her unruly mind.

“Is there a moment, in the past, was there something, specific, that used to happen, that told you this was happening, a moment you can remember where you felt especially aggrieved, at the situation, by her. I want you to remember that, and when you’ve found that moment, you know when it was, it can be a series of moments, an entire month, but a place, a sort of feeling of time, in time, I want you to become it with me, okay, that’s how we’re starting, now, open your mouth, say- aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

“…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa….”

“Good, now blow, go hooooooooooooooo…”

“Hooooooooooooooo…..”

“Good, very good, now, do you have any questions, something you want to ask, before we begin. Are you under any medication? “

“No.”

“Have you ever done cocaine through the nose?”

“Yes, why?”

“I was just wondering. I have some if you want.”

“Really?”

“No, I’m kidding. It’s just important for me to ask. There are certain blockages in your system. It’s about the aura in the room. The strength of your abandonment is in the soil, what we give to tell the lie. I want to create a requiem with you, of your being, and your past, something that destroys the lies you have been telling yourself, about your history, your role in this planet. Have you ever been depressed?”

“Well, not clinically involved, no, but I feel depression. I’ve felt it all my life.”

“And, how are oyu doing?”

“I’ve guarded against it. I’ve guarded all my life. Built up so many guards. It’s why I drink all the time. I don’t like where it goes.”

“What?”

“My mind. I have thoughts, and they lead to other thoughts, and then cycle kicks in, where I see myself in the same position, losing someone I love, watching their burial, seeing their body parts scattered on the floor.”

“Have you experienced any unusual phsyical traumas in your life? Gunshots? Victim of a terrorist attack?”

“Yes, only once.”

“And, what happened?”

“A group of pilgrims came into our school, they had weapons. They told everybody to lie on the ground. They only shot one of the guards, I heard it. I didn’t see them brandish their weapons and shoot, but the shot was loud. I was scared, really scared at the time. It made me hate guns, and weapons of all kind. And hate pilgrims. For a while, I hated them, really. I hated them, all of them. Really, really hate. If I saw a pilgrim on the street, I wanted to stab him in the neck, to watch him die, to bleed him out, to step on his face and cut into his throat with a pair of scissors I have in my bag, waiting for him. But I don’t. Of course not. Of course I don’t.”

“And now? How do you feel about pilgrims?”

“I feel terrible about them. I hate them, still. But I’m a teacher. What can I do? I’m supposed to take them into my care. Supposed to care for them.”

“What do you hate about them? Do you teach any pilgrims?”

“I hate everything. I teach two.”

“Two. How old are they?”

“Nine and fourteen.”

“And they’re in the choir?”

“Yeah, they are. They stand in the back. I cant even see them. I want them in the front but they’re too shy.”

“How old are the other students.”

“There are two choirs. One for twelve and below and one for thirteen and above. Sometimes we join them. It’s nice.”

“Did you drink a lot growing up?”

“What?”

“Did you drink a lot, growing up?”

“No, I sang in the choir. I was worried about my voice. I started drinking when I was twenty five.”

“What happened?”

“I fell out of love with myself, I guess.”

“Is that still a problem?”

“What?”

“How old are you now?”

“Forty nine.”

“What is the nature of your injury, Drago,” she asked, “when the virtuous of all virtues is remorse, for the injury of Jalaludin in Ras Shahid, when he was kidnapped and tortured and harassed. Who are you to concede? To admit something is wrong?”

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. He had really big boots, and they didn’t seem to fit his feet, they were bigger, so he looked really awkward, and on top of that, he was strangely built, because he had a skinny torso, overly skinny arms, but his waist was big, and his thighs were immense. And then, just to round things off, his knees seemed to buckle in under his weight, causing his ankles to sort of hinge to the side, hanging, and it made his calves look really small, and his entire leg even smaller, so he looked kind of like a dwarf, but he was over two meters standing upright. At the same time, I think he had never worn socks, so his feet smelled really bad, but I guess it was collector protocol to take your shoes off at the door. He would always come in, take his absence from his host immediately, go see the bathroom, and the paperwork laid out for him to collect. You know, who’s been in the house, visiting or staying there. If any photographs had been taken, he came around to collect the negatives. Something really extreme. The collectors never let an inch they didn’t look at, and their eyes were always bulging. I remember once, this guy came in to our place, and it was right while everyone in the building goes around for a jog around the quarters, or people are just shooting the shit downstairs on the concrete, so I was alone inside. The people I was living with, well, I was living with certain inmates of the fifth ward, they were refugees who didn’t have somewhere to go back to, they could only be considered refugees seeking asylum, because they could never go back, so it was kind of permanent, and they try to set their shit out, sort life out so its good here. I was living with two of those guys. My paperwork was messed up by one of the landlords. Anyway, nobody was home, so the collector showed up and I was already busy taking a dump in the bathroom. The collector was sort of weirded out when he came into the house, but it wasn’t like he could smell anything, but he could tell, maybe I was still buckling my belt or something, but he took an immediate interest in the bathroom. It was like he had been called to duty. I didn’t even have time to shake his hand. As soon as I opened the door, he was about to start speaking and then suddenly he just came out of nowhere and barged right in, past me, head straight without even looking at me, shooting towards the bathroom. We lived in a two bedroom, so one of the two guys had his own room and I was bunking with another guy. The bathroom sat right in between the two rooms, no living space, and the door directly facing the bathroom. So, he gets into the bathroom, and I guess then he notices that I’ve already taken a shit before he arrived, because he turns around, without saying anything, he just turns around, takes a few whiffs, his neck is sort of hunched, lurched forward, and he farts. It’s a very disgusting fart, I remember it almost every day, when someone else farts, or sometimes I’m just tiring on my way home, on the bus, or walking under the bridge. I could smell it instantly, but it had a very echoing sort of noise. It started strong but fizzled out, and I’m sure he left some stains on his underblankets. At that point I was more confused than anything else. I heard about some collectors who come into the house and let out a massive load in the bathroom, just to prove a point. But it still didn’t dawn on me that that was happening. I was convinced we were in the midst of a misunderstanding. But then he took off his pants, in front of me. His dick was pretty small. He looked like an oversized, overfed Athenian statue, with lots of hair, and big brown nipples, and puffs of hair sticking out from his shoulders. I hadn’t noticed his nose or ears until then, when I could finally see his entire being force its figure onto me. I waited for something to happen. Nothing happened. He farted again. I realized the door was open, and the last thing I want, probably the only thing I could think of more disturbing than the scene unfolding before my eyes, would be for someone else to witness my seeing it, and report to the general public, for some crude fascination of their own, that I was enjoying it. Because I wasn’t, and if you mistake my enthusiastic telling for excitement, or worse, pleasure, it’s not true, and you’re gravely mistaken, and shedding an indecent cloud over my life. If you think I’m the sort of, I won’t say it, but listen, I wasn’t excited, I was very confused, but I do enjoy telling the story either way, because in telling it I remember certain feelings I’ve had since then and for some strange reason I have a certain enjoyment. You know, the way our hair isn’t growing obviously, but it still grows, for some. I feel like a hair, lifted from its owner, and all the time, wondering why I’ve stopped growing. Ever since that day I’ve asked myself, why me? Why was I chosen to be the victim of the collector’s heinous crime? And it’s not the rhythm of its happening that confused me, it was the entire plot, the occasion and the riddles, and the startling joy in my companion’s eyes. Not a real companion, just someone I now know, deeply, because I’ve seen him do things we should never see done, or do ourselves. I’m not trying to be moral, I’m just saying, the man filtered his load all over the bathroom, and it was everywhere, seeped right into the walls. He did it in front of my eyes, and I had to clean it. I had nowhere else to go. I had nothing else to do. I had to claim the space as mine, but I didn’t. I watched him. And so we’ve shared something deeply, the two of us. And afterwards, when he left, I shook his hand, because I pitied leaving his hand empty when he offered it. You see why I’m so sullen? You see why I’m ruined? I do anything for others to enjoy my company, and my life. I do everything for others, except living. Living, I tend to do it for myself. I tend to try certain things and hope for others. I tend to tell the story like it usually is. I can’t go back from having seen this though, and it worries me. I’ve seen prettier things since then. I’ve seen uglier. Nothing pushes the image from my mind. I want to share it with you, of course, but I can only tell it. I can’t paint for shit. And how do you draw shit these days, you know, with the exception of an abstraction? I wouldn’t want to be abstract about it. That’s not how I felt. I felt abused. I felt harmed. I felt disabled. So you see, I can’t do anything, except wait for others to ask me how I’m doing, when I’m looking at something, when I should be walking but I’m dazed, and I forget where I am, I forget where I’m going, and I stop and think to myself, why me, why did I have to be the victim. But you know, it’s worse now than it was then. When they come around and collect our feces, they never ask for it. It’s difficult for me to live like this. I always wanted to be a free man. I wanted to experience certain things angels experience, while still alive, because dying I’ll try easily, I’ll do my best and have a go, but living, I want to make it work, I try really hard, it’s not possible. It’s not fashionable either, to try your hardest to live. It’s supposed to come easily. How can it though, when we’re out on our limbs like this? The last time a collector came through my ward, he dropped six bags for an entire floor. He filled the same bags with our shit. He said it would be like this from now on. And he left. And you know what I’m staring at? Nothing, but my gut hurts, my stomach is growing more scarred by the minute. Imagine the rules. Imagine the irony. At first, the collectors came to our doors, and took massive shits in our bathrooms. And then, they came in bigger groups, and shat all over the walls. And now? Now they come in and ask for our shit. They don’t have their shit anymore so they need ours. They say they feed it to the prisoners, and to the wanted, and to the damned. I say they feed it to themselves. I say they’ve grown sick and tired of human food. I say they have nothing else to live for and so they need to take my feces and put it in a stew of all the other feces and mix it with a ladle and some piss.

“I admit it for all of us, for the program. Can’t you see? I’m not afraid for my life,” he said, elbowing his way across the floor of the cabin, his boots sounding on the grease, the mettle of cleats turning on grass, the sound of coal bricks mashing, for the water pipe to smoke, cackling like stirrups in the air, in early morning, when the few of those awake tend to their rows, preparing for the daily choring, the chores coming in seven blows.

“You must learn to listen more to your emotions that are smart and not those you save for warring, mourning the flood of three blows in the coming morning. You must be good to yourself, Drago, good to those who have taken such an interest in confirming your life, bringing you to the footsteps of the Rashmallalah. Isn’t it your duty to serve the code of all conceptions, and to confirm yourself in the bay of arts? To be responsible for your breath and wisdom, and to Leave here ready to build a life and home, if you are not departed, chosen as one of the few to blow?”

“I know. I know.”

“This is what you have wanted all along, isn’t it then?”

“It is.”

“You have wanted control, no?”

“I have.”

“So why are you afraid? Why are you shunning from the call of today?”

“Did I upset you, Abdullah?”

“No, you did not.”

“Have I said something wrong?”

“And I am told, by the honorable on my right and on my left,” he said, waving his hand in the air, the white of his robe glossy under the spotlight, that could be seen lighting in three corners of the room, igniting, “that the defendants will know what I am capable of, before it is my turn to know. They will know when it is time, when it is my turn and my number is called, when it is my turn and my number is called and it is time, and it is finally time for me to go to the place I want, to the place that is mine and of the mind, of the heart of the heart of the other, under the banner of the Rasmallalah, prince Jessem and prince Resim, under the banner of our flag, hadi takoun,

“Under the banner of Bo and the rhythm of Ra, five times in the inner mouth, five splinters of the tongue, sing the many incantations.”

“Bara”

“Who forgives”

“Bara”

“Who reduces”

“The feeling comes and the feeling quietly goes, and in that time we must turn our noses to the scent of effervescent rose.”

“There was a time, when I was younger, I was living with a lot of fear, a dagger of fear permanently stitched to my heart, like I had to wear it, for however long, to bear the brunt of this pain, to bear the common injury. In that time there were many injuries among us, many injuries among our crowd. We were  being beaten and dragged in the streets, for no reason, without cover, without arms. We will not enter these times again, not only for that reason. And I must give my thanks and blessings and be to it I am seen in giving my grace, Mashallah, to the people who have seen what I have seen and have witnessed. The struggle was in the soil. It was not anymore. The struggle is today in herds. The struggle is in consciousness, in charisma. In poetry, in verse. I did not foresee these pLeasantries coming. No, I did not foresee. I was afraid. I walked for miles, on the day my father left, asking the spirits, did I do something wrong? Why have I been injured? Did I upset the spirit Na, serving in the house of Ro? Did I appear bold and arrogant when I should have been more humble? Was I not friendly enough? Did I not dare enough to love? Why has my heart been torn asunder? Where have all the songbirds flown?”

He paced back and forth among the crowd, speaking to them in his calmest voice, rising when he was told to rise by the proctor sitting in his heart, retrieving the calm as he gallantly chose to clear his throat, to speak softer.

“He’s a really good speaker,” he said to her.

“He is. I like what he does with his voice.”

“So do I. I trust him, you know? I don’t have to know everything he’s saying. But I trust him, nonetheless.”

“One morning I was walking in town, to a small bookshop near my house. A small bookstore, some twenty thousand titles. I don’t know anymore. Is that small,” he asked, posing the question to the crowd, garnering a few laughs.

“I spent a lot of time in books, wanting to see the world from the outside, not knowing then ohw to live it, how to experience myself, my story, with the charisma that is of the fourteen elegant charms of being, what the voice of Aden and Ka’al were said to be saying at the time of odes, as in Abraham’s three religions, the universe removing all her robes.”

“Please, stand up and please, please speak up, so everyone can hear you. Say what you came here to say. Go on.” She flapped her hands in the air, as though she were shooing him, urging him on to speak, to let out his words of grievances, to spill his sorry heart.

“It is an honor to be here, in front of you, and in your presence. Bless be to you, and the master Ra, and the jurist of the mother Ro, taro, taro, hoorah.”

“Hoorah, hoorah.”

“Hoorah!”

“I want to know something and I think it is similar to what you are saying before. The work of the master is tough, and pure. The most important lesson I have Learned, and maybe some of you here today can attest to feeling the same, is to control my temper. It is the most important thing, the most important lesson for us. We are weak individuals. That is why all of us are here. But no, that’s not to say we are weaker than others, or weaker than most. It is not. I refute that. We are stronger, because we are fear. I am submitting to you, and my submission is pure. In submitting, I am becoming the pattern that is spoken by the Master Ro, spoken at the Whim of Odds, in Lake Inferior, before the coming of Ob. I Learned to count three times before arguing my rights in front of a superior, and in front of the spirit I hasten my words to speak them, because I know the ear is just. The work is tough. Knowledge is power, and it is also a chain. Of course, I am hurting. I have relinquished parts of my given name, but to be reborn is generous on the power of the divine. But every hour, a Yacoubian is captured and killed for their beliefs. They are tied to a chair and made to recite indecent words of others, made to dispel their beliefs. I am here, away from the suffering. It makes a martyr of them, but not me. I am immune to their pain. I am immune to their unreported loss. Why have I been saved? For what is this blessing? I wonder if it is all an act. The mark of trickery, like what took Shahid, in the Womb of Caves, before the adjunct superior, Master Ro, proclaimed the coming of Ra. Do you hear what I am saying? I’ve seen the photographs, and they tell the truth. Even if they are forged, they are doctored, who cares? The archive exists, and now it is there, and for me, that is enough to declare war. We have put together the evidence and it shows. The violent must also be brave, otherwise, they are damaged in the limbs. Isn’t that so, or am I marked inferior? Tell me, one of you, who really cares? Who is willing to renounce their leisure, this pleasurable life? To remove themselves from exile, to enter the Tomb of Scarves, the interior, to pull the serpent from her nest, thrown into the sea, like the rest of them, searching for their lot.”

They were waiting in line, and three hours later found themselves in another line, the line having split evenly, forming two lines. There were at Least forty others still ahead of her. They were handed placard cards with fourteen verses, oiled in ink, scarved onto the hardboard of the placard, the answer and question of her regime, asking her regime of questions, the diet of words. Andrea raised her hand. He found her after class. She was wrapping up some of the mats, putting them in their cooling cases, in a cupboard next door.

“Do you do yoga?”

“Yes.”

“What kind?”

“Liberation.”

“Praying rouses the chakras.”

“Do you pray?”

“All the time. And you?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you think? Do you belive in it?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you do with your life?”

“Mostly, I don’t know. It’s just, I get into this head space. I start keeping to myself, I don’t want to ever go out. I don’t like it but sometimes its too hard to fight, too hard to change. I have a lot on my mind right now, trying to finish. Seeing people becomes a thing in itself. So, I was wondering if you give private lessons? You know, I could come to your house, or to your studio, if you have one, or if you don’t you can come to mine, if you’d rather not meet at your apartment, I don’t know what your living situation is.”

“Part of me wants to say yes, of course. Because I understand, really, totally. But the part of me that is expected to give lessons has to say I’m sorry, I just can’t, and I won’t allow myself to do it. If you want private lessons, because you feel its what you need to do, because you have a haunting hesitation when you think of doing it, then succumbing to that is exactly what you can’t do, and group sessions is exactly what you need. I’m sorry, but that’s the practice.”

“Wow, okay. That’s a little rough.”

“I’m kidding. Of course. I’ve busy most during the day so I can do early morning or late nights. I never sleep, don’t worry. I can work all night, I have a lot going on. I can even do Sundays if you want, if it’s not too outrageous to meet so fast right away.” Am I doing the right thing, she thought, in meeting him. I don’t know. She found him after class.

“Yo!”

Industry fumes. Steam rises from the manhole. Welding tools scattered on concrete. You carry this image with you, bursting from a screen after the great war. A woman’s voice catches him. He turns around. My thoughts are with you. Two steps away from me. How she dances! Are you the poet, she asked him, sifting his movements for a sign. His eyes glazed with the waning of an insurgent youth. I bow, accepting her departing gift. Is the story subject to change? He takes a moment. I have nowhere else to go. Savoring her voice, the image continues down the road. She could not have turned to him again. Disappearing beyond the waterfront. He passed two colonial buildings, resting against the courtyard stump. Do you recognize where I am? An ocean tremor aligns his senses. Take a walk. I have. He walks out of the room. Head down, coat buttoned. He rests a trilby on his head. This is a moment you will encounter, feeding you, in the twilight of your life. Deserted alley. Weaving pines. Soon, the willows will commence in weeping. He pulls on his gloves, lit by the prevailing smoke. He walked. The refuge gathering house. Two lovers tend the gates. You should know by now. Be charitable with your memory.

“Isn’t she so weird?”

“She’s awful.”

“Why didn’t you just ask me? I can find someone to give you private.”

“I don’t know. For some reason it was like one of those things I was too embarrassed to ask.”

“I know what you mean. Are you doing her summer workshop by the way?”

“I don’t know. You?”

“I heard she’s one of the best. Like these sessions are just her way of loosening up. If she wants to deep she can go deep, if she wants to go hard she goes hard. I was thinking about it. I wanted to go to Numerol, there’s a festival there every summer. I don’t know. They’re both a bit expensive. If I have to choose, I might do Numerol. Most of my friends are going, then I won’t be alone.”

“Do you hate it so much? Being alone.”

“I hate it. I don’t see the point.”

“I went to Numerol last year, it was alright. It wasn’t the best. The food isn’t great. It’s included in the ticket price, right?”

“Yeah. I was thinking if I should go. I don’t know.”

“So, are you liking it here?”

“I am. It’s cold, but it’s nice. I like it. And you? How is it going so far?”

“It’s going well, actually. I’m doing alright. I have visitors, all the time. It’s hard to keep it together, stay at the right pace. There’s a lot of weird shit happening lately. I don’t know how to explain it. I feel like when I first came to the city I was a little scared. Of letting go of something. And then I thought I had to experience something specific, to Learn to let go, but being here, it’s so peaceful, and quiet, compared to anything I’ve ever had, it’s like I let go without knowing, without having to try. This is the first summer I feel it. Do you?”

“I feel almost the same. I broke up with my girlfriend, when I came back. It was really, really hard, like, the hardest thing I’ve had to do for a while. How’s your brother, by the way?”

“He’s good. He’s fine. He’s coming to the game tomorrow, he said.”

“Cool. You’re going to that?”

“Yeah, my old friends are going. You should come. You know Jad, right? Jad Saboun?”

“Yeah, yeah. I know his brother.”

“Exactly. I was talking to Jad. He’s pretty upset he didn’t get picked I think, but he didn’t say it. But he was talking shit about the coach and the game, and how everything is about this game for them. It’s so different for us by the way. Like I remember when we were playing, it was never that intense.”

“You guys don’t even play with offsides.”

“Fuck you, man, that’s not fair.”

“I’m kidding.”

“I know.”

“So your brother’s coming to the game? What for? I didn’t know he was in town.”

“Why, are you interested?”

“Fuck off.”

“No, honestly though, yeah, he’s here for some work, he said. I don’t know. My parents don’t know what to believe anymore. And they think he’s really trying but he’s actually just out there stoned. I guess it’s better when he’s here. He has a girlfriend now. He doesn’t talk about her. He should. I think it would help my parents. They’re dying for him to get a job. He says he’s making a film right now, that it will help him to get a job. It doesn’t make sense to me. I hate when they’re upset with him, and then they totally forget about me.”

“That can be nice.”

“It can be, but not for long. But he takes up so much of their time. But yeah, anyways. He’s coming to school, to ask if he can make a film or something. He wants to shoot it in summer, when the students are out of class, so it won’t be such a bother and they’ll have no reason to say no, as long as nothing bad happens in it, and he says that it won’t, that it’s mostly just pictures and everything’s grey. That’s what he said, like literally. That’s how he described it.”

“What do you think? What’s it about?”

“I don’t know. I never know what he’s doing. He doesn’t ever share. When I ask, he gets annoyed. Or he gets upset and Leaves the house. When he’s away, we don’t talk. So whatever, it’s quiet. I looked him up, on Narcis, and I put Tanzim Shamseddine, filmmaker, into the wire.”

“And? That’s clever. I wouldn’t have thought of that.”

“Are you kidding? You don’t realize that all girls do that, like all the time.”

“Like how often?”

“Like literally always. Like whenever a girl thinks you’re hot, or thinks you’re stupid, or thinks you have something to show, or she has something to show you, she looks you up on Narcis, and on BlockPro, and on BubuCum, to see if you have a picture.”

“That much I know.”

“And then she digs through everything on Narcis. Like literally everything. Or she has a friend who does that who’s fucking insane. Like I have Sabrina, and Sabrina has Tamara Rizk, who also lends her all of her clothes. Sabrina does everything for me. Like, she digs up every picture that’s ever been put online, every picture that you’re tagged in, every letter or document that you wrote, read or signed, everything you’ve ever posted, like a picture or a video, anything you’ve said in forums or chat groups. She can dig it all up. It’s so easy. And like, literally see everything. Like literally, no joke.”

[1] Bara says, when guarding a treasure, watch it from afar. Zahreddine adds, The holy pLeasures are in the root of sin, and the sacred definitions are in the tomb of scars.

[2] Blake and Bataille

[3] For the Yacoubians, the body is a ship, moving along a giant stream of unknown waters, approaching from harbor to harbor base, form the real roots of Dar Imam, to the wonders of Durahan. The spirit of the town, of the people, is in the blood. The blood is the juice of the public. It stems and rises from the will. So the will cannot be broken, and so there are certain things must be done for others, which are done as well for the self. For the Yacoubians, society is the shape of the public will, and the will cannot be ruled by terror.