Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘short story

Are there “Songs for Women”?

Note: re-edit of Jan. 2003 post Songs for Women. I had posted many stories on women I was lucky to know, and called these stories “Songs”

 

My songs are for the divorced women, widowed and singles with children.

Still sexually and determined active unmarried women.

My songs are of the short stories  kinds

Lacking imagination, of a grateful man,

Short on feelings.

 

Songs for women, who were my teachers in matters of love,

Loving and feelings unknown to me,

Much of feelings still a mystery to me.

Songs of remembrances, for my own sake,

Trying to connect the strings of feelings among these relationships.

 

Each song has a single heroine and a single name, as it should be.

Names of children of these mothers are sometimes added when recalled,

My way of praying forgiveness for my lack of attention to them,

For most of the duration of the relationship.

 

My way to say that I am sorry for failing to consider

The integrity and totality of the heroine’ s life.

My way of admitting that the deficiencies were all mine,

A man from the outside looking in

And ignorant of the new rules in this old game.

 

Songs for the women, who gave the best of their loving to men,

So Man could grasp the essence of life.

Songs for women, who need to be married for love,

With a man capable of learning a new gamut of feelings,

With a man thankful of discovering a wealth of emotions,

With a man becoming whole lest the cynicism of old age creeps in.

 

From all kinds of literatures I like short stories best.

The shorter the better

The perfect short story should generate two strong emotions:

It should make you cry laughing,

It should make you cry hating or loving

Same difference.

Why she had to do that? (Short story)

I knew her from middle school and our affection grew steadily: we were considered a couple and the world problems didn’t count much to us.

After graduation, we got wed: the few invitees told me it was like a pantomime: a prom date.

One day, we threw a big party at our small apartment and we got drunk.

I was kissing a girl when my love barged into the kitchen and saw us. She laughed hysterically and left in a hurry.

By the time I rejoined her, she had jumped over the 3 floors. My first instinct was to jump too and rejoin her. My friends helped me to go downstairs.

I laid down near her inert body and mumbled: “If I knew you could be the cruellest person that history ever created. That’s Not a punishment you crazy cunt. I don’t love you anymore: You are a dead body…”

For 20 years, everytime I’m at a balcony, My right leg tends to hump the rail, but my body wouldn’t react to this prompt.

I have been transferring my attention to adolescents, Not dwelling too much on their upbringing, Not suffering enough for their experiences. “Love is a losing game”

“Life is Beautiful. It was not meant for me”

I don’t have friends. Not a single one.

Occasionally, I’m in the mood of chatting and lend a careful ear, a behavior that encourages the talker to open up in matters that I didn’t expect to hear, and frankly didn’t care.

For most of my life, I didn’t have the patience to listen to people’s stories. Until one day in a coffee shop, 30 years ago, I listened intently to a tall US girl whom I used to occasionally meet at the International Students administration of the university.

She was discussing her thesis, and on a whim I decided to focus on her subject matter and I asked pertinent questions. (I am an experimental design minded person). For once, I didn’t go on tangents in order to avoid the real conversation. She was very impressed and said: “You always gave me the impression of a shallow person. I was wrong.

She was not wrong and she was not off the mark: This conversation was a rare exception to my behavior, but it opened up my eyes on what constitute a “conversation” and the power of intently listening that is the main ingredient in a conversation.

The truth is that I was going through a difficult time, as was usually the case most of my life. A conversing sexy goat would have imputed the same reaction in me.

I’m having a conversation with Zikar, a total stranger to me, whom I met in a cocktail party, and who looked disoriented, bored and as aloof as I was.

Zikar is similar to me on these occasions, unless a pretty girl takes the initiative to approach me in my corner, barely sipping on my glass and my eyes roving over this curious general audience and contemplating the schmoozing assembly.

Zikar said: “Do you think life is beautiful?”

My surprised silence sent him into an expanded explanation. Zikar resumed:

“You see, it is the feedback from what I see and hear in the movies and social platforms that give me the feeling that life seems to be beautiful and exciting. If I had to rely on my personal experiences, I think that this life sucks and was not meant for me.”

I asked Zikar: “Have you been abroad for some time?”

“Yes, I have been to many places and countries and lived there for many years.”

I asked: “Have you been trekking, climbing mountains, crossing rivers, swimming in oceans…”

“Yes. I did all these activities”

I said: “And all these experiences were not good enough to appreciate life?”

Zikar quickly replied: “All the emotions in these experiences were skin deep and never touched my inner core. You see, I have no talent in anything. And I’m not the artistic kind of person to appreciate work of arts in painting, music, acting, theater production and design…

I cannot distinguish the details and variations in work of arts and unable to discuss to give any useful opinion on work of arts. I didn’t acquire the taste for luxury and luxury items. Just the frugal type who is amazed that I could wake up and go about the day for so many years.

You see, without talent I couldn’t acquire the passion to love anything that counts.”

I said: “Zikar, have you ever fallen in love?”

The answer was ready and Zikar said: “No. I don’t recollect falling in love.  My level of sensibility is not high enough to encounter ecstatic joy and acute emotional suffering. My imagination in matter of feeling is negligible.”

I asked: “Have you been visiting places in company of friends…”

Zikar’s answer was fast: “Never. Most of the times I toured, saw movies, visited zoos and and attended cultural events and walked the streets all alone.

I’m basically a bore. I swim but I’m no swimmer, I ski but I’m no skier. I’m good in mathematics but I’m no mathematician… I cannot join group activities in sports because I wear corrective glasses and my experiences since the age of 12 was prohibitive in replacing my broken glasses”

I said: “Have you ever attempted Zikar to make an effort to learn a talent?’

Zikar answer was prompt: “Yes. I invested plenty of time and effort to learn a few talents: I knew that my old age will be catastrophic if I fail to get passionate about an artistic field. But it was too late. I didn’t feel I had any innate skills for any artistic field and was mostly the joke of the class.

You see, no one in my family was an artist or appreciated arts.  And there were no extra-curriculum activities in all the schools that I attended, not even end of year play or group activities.

Definitely, most of my emotional energies are pretty shallow and I didn’t feel a catalytic drive to love life as talented people seem to engage in…

You see, I’m mainly a mental person, though I don’t think that I am rational in my decisions.

I learned 3 languages because events and schools forced on me to learn these languages. However, outside verbal languages, I don’t know any of the other kinds of languages like sign language, music, body language…”

My conversation with Zikar took place 3 years ago, and I had completely forgot how he looked.

A joint acquaintance with Zikar who might have thought that I am a close friend of Zikar called me yesterday. He said: “Al 3awad bi salamtak. And may God be compassionate with Zikar. He passed away. He jumping from a three floor building”.

Zikar had left a short note before committing suicide that read:

“It seems that life is beautiful. It was not meant for me and for many billion human like me. The idea of ending my life was not the problem. I couldn’t figure out the proper method not to hurt my relatives, get people in trouble, or be a problem for people to collect my body and waste their nerves and energy on my final departure, like jumping in front of a car and let the driver go through many horror scenes and decisions on a stupid stranger.”

Note: The title jumped into my mind and I had to weave a short story around that idea.

Instead of an essay, however funny and loaded with humor the essay may be, a short story convey better the message and reaches deeper into the consciousness. Especially, when most of the story evolves around a conversation and the main external character represents the topic.

I like to call this genre of essays “Charessay“, from Character Essay, with an attached word association of  “I say caress me?”

“My eternal regret. I’m so sorry Ramis”

We were a bunch of close friends in my first year university at a university in Beirut. The guys slightly outnumbered the girls, and we were of various confessions, different Christian sects, Moslem sects, and even a Jewish guy.

I was the youngest and the age difference spanned 18 to 23 years. A few of us were well-off, had their own homes, a car, a girlfriend… many of us were barely affording tuitions, but we managed to meet and eat outside, and stayed together till midnight.

The civil war had started shyly in 1975, but people learned quickly not to venture out of their premises or to linger outside at night.

Murad was two years older than me and somehow he was tacitly imposed as our guiding rod: He was the only child, lived with his mother in a vast ancient home in the mountain overlooking Beirut, he had a car and a girlfriend Tania. He had lost his father (died at the age of 44 from heart attack) when he was 7 years and his mother chaperoned him to be the master of the house. His mother reigned as the regent to a designated monarch, sort of allowing Murad to give his opinions and decisions on daily matters.

I was under the impression that if his mother Aida had a single daughter, she would have treated her daughter as her slave. Murad would never tell his mother of the inevitable problems among the friends: She would consider the friend as an enemy for antagonizing Murad.

Samiramis was my classmate and she was the tallest among the girls, beautiful and svelte.

At one of our countless parties, I couldn’t stop ogling her and I was in a chatting mood from nervousness.

Around midnight, “Sami the beautiful” asked: “Who will accompany me home?” As a child I screamed: “I will”, no matter what she actually wanted, and I was ready to fulfill Ramis wishes.

I didn’t own a car and after 5 minutes walk I felt ashamed: “Ramis must have expected someone with a car to give her a lift, and here I am walking her all the way to her building, in dark streets filled with large holes…” It was too late to return and ask someone else to give Sami a lift: If I were in Paris, walking for 5 minutes would be very natural and normally expected, but not in Lebanon.

As we arrived at a large crevice in the street, I held Ramis hand to circumvent this obstacle and keep her hand afterwards. Ramis subtly eased her hand out of my soft grasp, and felt ashamed for taking this initiative: My gentlemanly education at home was a huge barrier in “taking advantages” of someone relying on me to care for… And thus, I failed to kiss her goodnight: It was not proper since she expressed not to be in the mood of being intimate with me, tonight…

A week later, Semiramis showed up holding hands with another one of our common friends. I was helplessly looking at the joined hands and surmised that this guy was bold enough to hold her in his arm and show her closer attention and affection.

We met again as a group, but walking Ramis home was not to take place again. The irony was that I had purchased a beige beetle car, and Ramis was not to ride in  it with me.

It was the regret of a lifetime: I blew a fantastic occasion to get intimate with Semiramis and starting a love story…

Twenty years later, I returned hurriedly from Paris and boarded the first flight to Beirut: Tania, now  the wife of Murad had call me and said: “Murad is dying and he wants to see you…”

For the last 20 years, I never returned to Lebanon and I was at odd with Murad for militarily participating in the civil war. My initial attitude was to refuse this invitation: “What are we to talk about? There are no grounds to apologize and forgive committed atrocities…”

My girlfriend pressured me to leave immediately because it is not permitted not to satisfy the wishes of a dying close friend…

I was in a hotel waiting for the morning to shine when Tania awoke me from a deep sleep. Tania thought that I was still in France and said: “It is not necessary to show up. Murad could not wait for you. He is dead”

I told Tania that I am in Beirut and she softened her voice, but repeated “he could not wait any longer. Anyway, I send a car to bring you here. You won’t be able to locate our new home

I was terribly uneasy: I didn’t want to meet any of our common friends and the mother of Murad Aida. I didn’t see Aida: She must have died before her son. I lingered another 10 minutes among the mourners, and the house was already packed with “strangers”.

In my hotel room, I began gathering the letters that I received in the last 20 years. During all that time I couldn’t bring myself to think and write about Lebanon and my recollections. I had focused my attention on the Roman period and published a few historical stories. When I am prompted to speak about Lebanon, I find myself a mute, but ask me anything on the Roman history and I am a chattering box, talking nonstop for hours.

The next day, the nephew of Tania called and asked me to say a word at the burying ceremony. He encouraged me by listing the people who will say something. I adamantly refused on the lame excuse that my students are waiting for me to give them the exam… It was a blatant lie: I don’t teach in this semester.

Tania called and wanted me to say a word. I declined. Tania said: “You may return to your new country...”

Tania’s confrontation decided me to stay longer in Lebanon, but I will not attend the ceremony.

I decided to fake that I returned to France and called Semiramis. Ramis had visited me a couple of time in France and she was running a hotel in a mountain resort.

Ramis welcomed me and allocated the best room she had. I had informed her of my plan to remain incognito in Lebanon, and that I was seeking isolation…

Ramis had prepared two dozen of small dishes, the mezzeh and a bottle of Champaign. I was not in any chatting mood that evening and she didn’t insist.

I started writing for hours and couldn’t find sleep: My brain and emotions were running full speed, trying to recollected my life before the civil war started.

The next evening, Ramis coaxed me to get up and had something to eat. I reluctantly obeyed and joined her at the table in the balcony of the hotel.

Ramis asked me if I remember the night I walked her home, and I told her that this is one event I could not forget.

After I told her what I recall from that night, Ramis said: “I cannot remember the many details of your story. I do not recall pulling out my hands from yours. What I know is that after walking for 5 minutes and wondered why you parked so far, and then I came to the realization that I’ll be accompanied on foot. You talks were very interesting and I was hoping that you’ll kiss me goodnight as we reach the corner of by building. It never happened and felt that we are just good friends…”

I said: “Not kissing you that night is one of my harshest regrets. And I am so sorry.”

At midnight, Ramis dismissed the waiter and we finished the Champaign, and Semiramis said:

“What of a walk in this clear and warm night?”

I said: “I’ll never miss this second opportunity in the world”

Note: One of the stories in the French book “The disoriented” by Amin Maaluf, translated into Arabic “Al Ta2ihoun”

“Em Hassan”: An ancient story from South Lebanon

My grandmother, Em Hassan, (her first boy name is Hassan) was tall and pretty. She married very young as was the tradition in south Lebanon and among the Shia community. She had four children from her first husband: Two boys and two girls.

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire was hoarding all the able male bodies to serve in the army or work for free. The locust and other calamities spread famine and miseries in Lebanon.  The husband decided to flee with his family to Jordan: He was familiar with side trails since he was a muleteer.

In Jordan, the family was robbed by a gang and all the saved gold money vanished. Two days later, the husband decided to lodge a complaint with the nearest “police office”. At night, the gang killed the husband in retaliation.

How Em Hassan managed to return to her hometown Nabatiyeh with her four kids with nothing? The Story does not dwell on that horror return trip.

The in-laws of Em Hassan refused to give back what they kept as safe-keeping. But Em Hassan had a house and she rented two rooms to make ends meet and work the fields as daily worker.

A young sheikh, a recent graduate from the religious university of Al  Azhar in Cairo, rented two rooms and started to teach the Coran to a few young kids.  This handsome sheikh was married to a beautiful woman, from Turkish origin, and the neighborhood would visit to appraise this “high-class” woman.

Eventually, this sheikh married Em Hassan who was ten years older, and he called her Khadijeh since the first wife of the Prophet Mohammad was ten years older. What happened to this smashing first wife? The story does not say a word: This side story could have been a great one.

One of the well-to do feudal landlords accepted to send Em Hassan kids to a Protestant boarding school in Saida for the orphans.

When Em Hassan remarried, she decided to retrieve her kids and live with their new father. The boys didn’t get along with this sheikh and they ended up working in Beirut and marrying.

By this time, Em Hassan had two kids: Kamel and a girl Kamleh (Perfect), and the new husband had eloped with a younger woman and divorced her and moved to a nearby town.

Em Hassan tried hard and frequently to demand alimony for the children, but the religious sheikh promised and never delivered.

Kamel and Kamleh spent their days searching their father in the souk of Nabatiyeh, hoping that he might buy them sugar, rice, and meat. This father hardly satisfied their demands and engaged in the fleeing game as soon as he heard of the presence of his children.

Kamel and Kamleh walked barefoot and their mother spent the night removing the thorns from their bloodied feet. They had a couple of cows and a few chicken and would hit the neighboring fields gathering wheat grains after the harvest. A day work would disappear in a blink after dinner was readied.

Em Hassan sold the cows and took the kids to Beirut to live with one of her daughters house. She worked in the house, taking care of the kids of her daughter. The boys went to school, but Kamel and Kamleh never had a chance to attend any schooling. Kamleh ended up illiterate, even though she demanded to go to schools, and saying: “In Beirut, even the pigeons go to school!”

Her older daughter died from the appendix. The second from a rat bite.

Em Hassan eldest boy Hassan played the lute and wanted to be a singer, but wouldn’t dare.

The second boy, who never smiled, was a tram conductor. (I caught up with the tram before it was put to rest in the early 1970’s. The electrical tram passed in the middle of the streets in Beirut, and it was always crammed and people hanging out of the open doors…)

Kamleh eventually was forced to marry the husband of her older sister after she died from a rat bite. Kamleh was 14 years old and she gave two kids to this older very devout man. But this is another story… The main character, and mother of author Hanan El Cheihk

Em Hassan, the tall and beautiful woman had a life a toil. Her youngest Kamleh won’t have anything to do with that tradition and followed her heart, whatever it took to live with her love-life.

Note: This story is part of the translated Arabic book “Kamleh (Perfect): An entire History” by Hanan El Cheihk.

What fruit stew “compote” has to do with old man George?

What I mean by “compote” is the slicing and dicing of all kinds of fruits and boiling the mix for just a minute, and adding a single spoon of sugar to the mix.

It does not stand to reason to stew fresh fruits, except if the members of the family lack this patience to peel a fruit or crunch on hard fruit…

In my case, I gather the fruits that are spoiling or on the verge of spoilage and retrieve and cut out the good parts and dump them all for a short cooking process. I can eat my compot over a week, with or without flakes, coffee, or anything else…

A week ago, I was throwing my trash bag in the public bin and noticed plenty of fruits dumped in the bin.  These fruits originated from the shop of George, an old grumpy man, and the husband of one of my aunts, my neighbors.

I decided to ask George to retrieve the “rotting” fruits, which cannot be sold in any case, from the assorted varieties displayed.  My aunt didn’t mind, and even refused to take money for my small bag of very ripe and spoiling fruits.  I suggested to the couple to try to emulate me in stewing the fruits. They mocked me on account that there are plenty of fruits and no one has the time or energy to stew fruits, and that no one will eat them anyway…

Today, I was not that “lucky”. This old grouchy person was alone in the shop and dozing around 3 pm. I read a daily and waited for him to wake up. I bought a pack of cigarette and told him that I intend to select spoiling fruits.  It went fine for a minute and then George changed his mind and got upset and refused that I go ahead with my selection…

To make matter worse, he compounded the refusal by creating a pretext to get verbally angry, like I am not a valuable customer, like the very few who “patronize” his small business…It felt like he wanted to kick me out…I said: “George, I know you are sleepy and tired…let’s cool it down”

It seems when George is angry he goes the extra miles into insanity and refuses to hear anything.

It happened that this month the library is closed for vacation and made it a habit to pay george a visit after siesta, knowing that he will be lonely and no one around to visit or buy anything.

George is voluble and I learned to be patient, half listening to the same broken records of those previous “customers” he hates, despises, he is not “hot” with…and they are so many that he didn’t manage to retain any neighbors to buy from him…

I do not reply or interject: I have never repeated or cared to retell these stories to anyone, not even my parents (who knows all these stories)…I simply avoid to spread these kinds of telltales…and I was not in the mood of becoming one of his target for his venomous tongue…

George has a good heart,is very helpful with manual labor and volunteer his expertise in civil works.  During my extensive absence from Lebanon, my parents linked to the public sewer system, but the local section was badly constructed and it was my job to clear and clean this portion at the beginning of the winter season, after the stench becomes unbearable and stuff oozed out in the parking lot…George would come and help me out with his labor and equiments…It was also an occasion of reminding me of the faulty system and its many deficiencies, and the urgency to reconstruct this section…

George married aunt Mary who visited Lebanon from Africa just to get married. Mary got a few suitors, but George was younger, handsome, healthy, hard-working, and malleable…

George and mary returned from Africa in the early 70’s a were the first couple to purchase a land in Kuneitra (a mile from the large town of Beit Chabab) and to  build their 3-story building in 1969. We followed suit in 1970. George opened his “Supermarket” and they were doing fine, even during the long civil war. These kind of trading is profitable: you increase the price over the inflation rate, and you receive cheap lots of goods, no question asked of how and where they were looted from…

After the civil war, modern supermarkets mushroomed in the area, a really modern mini-markets close by competed easily with George’s antiquated supermarket. Actually, george and my aunt do their accounts with pencil on  cut-out cardboard pieces. No calculators are used, and obviously, computers are not to be contemplated.  It takes too long to write the name of the product purchased and then double-check the computation, the old fashion…

George has no patience for these details, and his additions are frequently in errors: It is not that george is poor in math, he just does not align properly the relevant  zeroes…

When aunt Mary steps in the shop, and she is the main “patron and boss”, she has to double-check on the accounts of George, and George learned to do the vanishing act, out of sight and out of hearing range.  It is very painful when customers listen to the harsh complaints of Mary, and how profits disappear when George is attending the shop in her absence…

Customers, living a bit away from our neighborhood, (George had kicked out from his shop every neighbors and bad mouth every one of them), prefer to visit during the absence of Mary for excellent bargaining deals and satisfactory computational errors…

Kunetra is currently a very expensive Real Estates corner, studded with rich and varied kinds of villas…

George could be funny with swift quick replies, but what can you do when old age and sickness assault you and you are reduced to be confined in a shop from 6am to 8 pm, with only 15 minutes break for lunch, eating all alone?

My attempt at keeping George company ultimately backfired, as I suspected it will, sooner or later.  I had noticed that george manages to be upset with anyone around in the shop and most probably, he battles with his shadow very frequently…

Old man George looked slender most of his life and very healthy. In the last two years, he had to undergo a dangerous surgical operation and cancer therapy.  He is gaining a whole lot of weight and increasing steadily, and yet he claims not to be eating almost anything.  His family members know that he keeps eating, a piece of fruit here, fixing sandwiches, chips,…And George is getting irascible and very unpredictable when his angry moods surface…

I say: “If George can’t find anyone in sight to vent his rage, he frequently battle with his shadows…”

This is the story of an unassuming person who grew sick with age, and the virus of acknowledging that youth has gone and done with has seeped in his brain and he rebelled: “This is as good a time as any to assume my individuality…” in ridiculous and haphazardly ways, exaggerating his boasting statements that pierce the stars…

Old man George can be bought for a nickel, and didn’t have a dime to spare

Should this sad situation prevent me from resuming fruit stewing? I think not.

The humanity of old men (80 and over) in pain, in rage, confused, hard on hearing, short of sight, wondering why they were created, why they are still alive…

The good old-time was when the elder family members died in their 60’s so that the younger ones can go on with their natural life of struggling efficiently with their survival…

Note 1:  It was an inconsequential event, pretty funny when you think of it.  I am realizing that it is these small irrelevant events that constitute fantastic materials for good stories. George got his spot in my blog: It never occurred to me to write about George, until he got it in his head to “assume his grandeur“, a life of steady toil, from 5 am to 8 pm, since childhood.

Note 2: I suspect George is a highly impressionable weak man. A guy that I didn’t see for the last 35 years came to town to visit. His name is also George and he bad mouthed me in the morning in the presence of old George, kind of I might be injected with sedatives…and old George nodded in agreement. I refrained from retorting and read the daily as if this guy didn’t exist.  This guy has hired old George’s brother to take care of the electrical work for a house that his son is building. The departing sentence of old George was: “No one can suffer you…”

How come this event has to take place just in the afternoon? Sort of old George got it in his head that it is alright to attack me verbally, for no substantial reasons…as long as someone else dared to bad mouth me?

The skipper-type.  Jennifer? Jo-Ann? Not Linda…Though very appropriate

It has been terribly cold these past two weeks,

Lebanon standard of cold.

We do enjoy central heating systems…

I cannot afford the fuel.

It is 2 am, and I am not sleepy, but cold is creeping in my bones.

I got inside my “warmer” bed, and could not sleep.

Memories flooding in, dispersing haphazardly, converging, diverging,

Refocusing on a beautiful face, a beautiful face I met 37 years ago.

It was winter of 1976.

A Friday, and about 8:30 pm.  Alone, I am to watch a foreign movie,

Shown by the University Film Club at the Microbiology department.

She showed up with her girlfriend. She is blonde, blue/green eyed, not tall, not skinny.

For my candid eyes, just the perfect beauty.

I cowered. I should have made haste, join her, and say: “Fair lady, have a good look at my face.

I need you to remember my face.

I need you to recollect that this face once told you

“You are the most beautiful girl around…”

The microbiology department, a stupid two flat floors, a couple of microscopes, and an auditorium.

The second “complex” by the Main Library, looking south,

The South long lawn, ideal for mass student demonstrations,

I used to demonstrate around it twice a week,  with a couple hundred of Iranian students,

Scanding: “Down with the Shah of Iran”, “Down with US imperialism“, Down with the Savak”…

Three years later, the Shah fled to exile.

Only Sadat of Egypt dared give him shelter.

No, I didn’t chicken out: I terribly lack conversational skills, and still do.

No, I didn’t chicken out: I had never carried out a conversation with a beautiful girl,

I didn’t understand girls, or human interconnection…

And time never came to the rescue in any important skills: It aches,

And the aches are exacerbated with time.

A couple of months later, I met her in my apartment.

I was returning at midnight from the library.

It was a cold night, and I must have biked or walked, no other alternatives.  And I had to piss badly and profusely.

I stepped out and this beauty had vanished like a mirage.

“Where is she?” I asked my room-mate Fouad.  “You know, the one I once told you was the most beautiful girl around that I met?”

Fouad looked me up in total surprise. “You mean Jennifer?”…

That’s another story: She was taking a pharmacy class with him…

Twelve years later, I met her at Zanzibar, a night club in the town of Norman.

She was sitting alone, at the bar, waiting for her new beau serving drinks,

She didn’t change a bit.

Twelve years later, and another round of “higher education” stint,

A stint that grew me old:

My Ph.D advisor told me: “At your age, I had married my three kids…”

And he didn’t look that old.

Some people mature fast and very soon.

Maturity? I am waiting for this phase to take a peek at me.

I am  the skipper-type:

From everlasting naive kid to rotten wise.

I sat by her and whispered her name: I could still recall her name.

I introduced myself and simply reminded her of the name of Fouad, my former room-mate.

She “recognized” me instantly.

Fouad must have told her about the devastating impression she made on me…

Count on a girl to retrieve a guy’s face, formed in a split-second,

Many years later, a face attached to “You are the most beautiful girl around…”

We had no conversation: She didn’t contribute.

She was selling pharmaceutical products…

I could have said: “Has one of the two bartenders invited you tonight? Are you intending to invite a particular bartender…?”

Any small talk, the most outrageous talk would have been swell…

This cavernous silence.  She didn’t change a bit

I bet, if I meet her again, another 37 years later, this girl will still be the same girl,

Unchanged, not a bit:

The eyes register the first impression,

And it was good.

My eyes: setting on the most beautiful girl around.

My eyes, refusing to sleep a wink tonight.

Rainbow over the Levant: Latifa’s Regency. A Short story

Note:  This short story is set in 14th century Mount Lebanon.  It is a chapter of the novel Rainbow over the Levant

As soon as the Mameluk Sultan of Egypt received news of the First Emir trip abroad he downgraded the title of the Levant Ambassador to Cairo to Trade Consul instead of closing down the Embassy for the simple reason that the Egyptian noble class craved luxury items that should be kept flowing in through Alexandria. A trade embargo for all non luxury products imported from the Levant was strictly enforced. The total number of the Levant civil foreign servants was maintained for three months, the time for the Mameluks to sort out the potential agents among them that might serve their interests and only fifteen members out of 45 were permitted to remain in Egypt.

When news reached the Grand Vizier of Egypt that the First Emir had landed in Andalusia he masterminded a frantic backlash on the Levantine immigrants in Egypt.  The prosperous and those with solid ties with the noble class were forewarned and fled to Yemen and Arab North Africa.  A few ended on some European ports to resume their mercantile trades as best they could.  Only the dispirited immigrants returned to the Levant praying that Timorlank would not contemplate to devastate Mount Lebanon.

Latifa was conservative and shrewd.  She was not kept up to date with government details and did not follow closely the changes taking place in the kingdom but she retained a high understanding for the power struggle that was in the offing.  She knew that the power seat had shifted to Beirut because of its location for trade, diplomacy and industrial development but figured that with the First Emir’s absence the historic Capital of Mtein could recapture the leverage it exercised at the beginning of the insurgency through its symbolic power for the Nation.

Latifa ordered that the Capital during the Regency would be Mtein and managed to transfer branches for most of the government ministries to be established in the historic Capital and its vicinity.  Since barely 20% of the kingdom’s budget was allocated to the mountain regions of over 800 meters in altitude and only 15% actually spent there her second major decision was that within 2 years half of the Nation’s budget had to be allocated in her mountainous regions; in the mean time 50% of the budget allocated to education, infrastructure, health and agriculture had to be spent in the mountains, with priority given to its population in the civil services.

The work on the highway crossing Mount Lebanon from south to north at 1,000 meters altitude was rescheduled to resume with scares resources, and security garrisons interspersed the rest areas along the highway to provide comfort and help to travelers until private businesses bided for the facilities. The Christian Orthodox managed to secure a higher rate in numbers as civil servants commensurate to their proportion and that was partly due to increased pressure from the Regent and also because they were the most educated generally.

 Latifa had a tender passion and affection for the town of Zahle in the central Bakaa Valley that she visited once before the insurgency and twice afterwards; she also understood its central location for internal and overland trades as well as being the main town with a sizable Christian concentration in the Bekaa.  Consequently, the Regent exhibited determination so that Zahle enjoyed a period of investment in real capital which renewed and expanded its warehouses for agricultural and textile goods, resort facilities around the Berdawny River crossing the town and enlarging the main trade roads leading to town.

During her regency the Christian clergy regained most of their power through reduced tax breaks and a renewed zeal for religious beliefs; monasteries were repaired and embellished, religious schools increased and churches regained their luster with acquisitions and renovations.

Mariam finally set her mind to build herself a beautiful and large house in Mtein so that she could stay in constant touch with the Regent and keep close eyes on her associations and the political opportunists buzzing in the Capital.  Her main responsibility was to be the intermediary among Latifa, the Viceroy Gergis and the ministers in Beirut and Baldat El Mir.  Her male companion Ignatios Doumani was already appointed director of a new branch of the Linguistic Institute in Mtein and supervised the construction of the house which included a spacious annex for accommodating overnight guests and high ranking functionaries.

How Miriam enticed youth to join the Aram National party

Before Latifa’s Regency, most of the youth in villages and towns in the mountains were enthusiastic about the activities and opportunities offered by the Aram National Party and inflated the membership of that Party since there was no other political party to challenge or compete with.  The other alternative to attract and organize youth was the religious community services headed by very old people who lacked ingenuity and diversity in activities.

With the advent of Latifa to the Regency a new political twist was offered to the religious zealots who minded very much the relative secular principles of the Aram Party and labeled them as heretical.  With the support of Latifa the clergy endeavored to create another political party counterpart called “Mount Lebanon First” which emphasized the integrity of allegiance to the Metn and with some arm twisting extension to the regions of Mount Lebanon that had Christian majority.  The new party was thrust among the youth through key words such as tradition, allegiance to the Regent, Christian faith, mountain customs, and respect of and obedience to the clergy, respect of family unity and attendance at all religious events and ceremonies.

One critical factor for the sudden successes of this “Mount Lebanon First” party was the decree which ended the seclusion of the traditional noblemen in their encampments.  Many of the younger generations of former noblemen had been integrated in society, in the army, in the civil service or members of industries and trade without any feudal titles or financial or social privileges that they had enjoyed before the insurgency.  The older generations had managed to develop the lands assigned to them in the towns of confinement but many had nostalgia for their former villages and wished to be allowed to transfer there.

The clergy worked relentlessly on Latifa to rescind the old decree concerning the imprisoned noblemen because this political gesture would strengthen the validity of the new party as a staunch supporter of traditions. The government of the Levant reached a consensus with Latifa to free the old feudal classes with the following stipulations: first, the freed feudal persons would not be permitted to leave Mount Lebanon and second, their feudal titles could not be inherited and they could keep the title of “Cheikh”, if they wished, till their death.  A fresh period of forgiveness and unity was proclaimed by the Regent which was at best skin deep and would eventually harm the future of the Nation and wipe out the many political and social gains of the revolution.

Within two years every village was more or less split between these two political factions; a village was divided into parts with majority in allegiance to either Parties and local ceremonies were marred by conflicts and physical confrontations.  The traditional harmony of apathy and stillness in village life transcended the clan and tribal affiliation to encompassing fundamental political divergences.

Mariam had sensed early on that the source of that schism was less a religious recrudescence of faith, but rather a direct vengeance of Latifa for Mariam’s ascendancy in the heart and mind of the youth and, especially, the female renewed activities for their rights in society.  Mariam launched political counter offensives in the mountain and increased the Aram Party involvement in regions far from Latifa’s personal influence and authority biding time for the return of the First Emir from his exile.

Miriam invested on the children attending the boarding schools and expanded their activities by planning marching trips of a week long early on and at the end of the schooling seasons. The children were chaperoned by teachers and “Makerehs” the merchant guides.  The “Makereh” guided the caravan through well trodden shortcut routes by mules and donkeys and teaching the kids the tricks of the trade such as what to bring as supplies and where to select resting location and how to respect the properties of others and the traditions of what trees and fruits are permitted to eat as travelers.

The selected teachers were to instruct the kids on the geography of the land and encourage them to observe and note down the different customs, way of life, songs and folkloric dances in Mount Lebanon

The children were usually lodged in small groups with families in the villages bringing with them gifts of packets of fresh and dried fruits and seasonal staples. The guest families were given advanced notice of the arrival of the school convoys and they cleaned their homes thoroughly as hospitality obliged and they cooked abundant portions to feed the voracious kids. These trips were to allow social learning of the customs of other regions of Mount Lebanon and circumvent ignorant myths spread by isolation.  Mariam’s programs were successful in many respects, however, the seeds of confessional tendencies were planted and many religious sects tried to create their own “first allegiance” parties with slight variations.

Misha is the Idiot dog of the neighborhood; (October 15, 2009)

Misha is a gentle female dog that had submitted to surgery after twice giving birth to too many puppies.

We had hard time distributing the puppies.  Misha loves to be cajoled and seeks friendly touches; she never barked before; when she did, it was soft with a message.

One day, my nephew William returned from the university with Misha in his car; she was a stray puppy and scared.

Misha slept in William’s room and William got serious raising Misha according to Internet information and guidelines on the effective ways to train an “intelligent” dog.

Misha would not eat before the right order for “go eat” is given. Many other various orders and signals were peppered around that got us all confused, except Misha the smart dog.

Four years later, William had to move on and settle in an urban city to have easy access to clients and in order to bike instead of driving with a mask on. Yes, William is a strict vegetarian, almost an extremist in his conviction of the kind of food that can harm your body and mind.

Every now and then, the ingredients and varieties of food change according to the new “intelligence” gathered on the Internet. Definitely meat and milk based products are evil food; onion and ail are enemies to focusing and meditating. The varieties of beans vary depending on the latest “intelligence” and research.

I won’t talk of William’s white garment (after his retreat in India), a remnant of Mani’s in third century Persia.

Well, this post is not about William but is focused on the student Misha.

One night, a dark brown and sort of ugly male dog, with almost mauve eyes, paid Misha a visit. In the dark I thought he was Misha and the dog conjectured that we might be friendly people. “Browny” parked in our parking lot and befriended Misha.

Misha was the leader and Browny followed her. Browny might not be a stray dog: he wears a collar but he liked very much our company and Misha gave him priority at eating time.

Once, Browny took a vacation for a couple of days and Misha got upset and started barking at night calling after Browny, the ugly dog.  Browny vacations increased and his staying outside the parking lot extended for many days and then weeks.  Misha got the habit of barking all night long.

Mother is unable to sleep. Even the dogs in the neighborhood stopped responding to Misha.

Misha has become the idiot of the neighborhood at night fall.  Misha might have a prophetic message to disseminate, but we comprehend not her language. The neighborhood dogs are not encouraging us to take Misha’s message too seriously.

William is urgently asked to go back to Internet and find out what animal researchers have in their bags to resolve Misha idiotic period.

William had an “valid” excuse for Misha’s current behaviors, but I forgot the premises.

It is sad to say that Elie drove on purpose over Browny, claiming that he didn’t see it at the entrance of the driveway.

The loathing of Emilia: Encore; (October 6, 2009)

 

            Thus, in the first two years of my marriage I was happy but didn’t recognize my bliss: everything seemed in the nature of things and I took my situation as given and for ever to be perfect. It felt that our deep and complete accord of our senses mingled with this silence of the spirit; critics of our personalities were suspended; love was the sole judge of our partnership.  Our mutual defects seemed the benign and special quality kinds of shortcomings that enhanced our individualities.

            I recall that I barely got absent from Emelia because she always felt sad when I left her.  Occasionally, I had to be away for a day on business; Emilia would accompany me to the train station. Before I board the train her eyes were misty; many times I had to turn away my face to hide my wet eyes though I am not the sentimental type. My eyes were wet but my heart was light, confident in Emilia’s love.

            Emilia rarely laughed or smiled but managed to disseminate her feelings by body postures and the expressions on her face: she was barely educated and her world opinions were limited. She is mostly timid and shy. In bed, I was the prudish guy and she was the talkative partner, before, during, and after making love; she was the active partner though I was mostly the initiator.

            I frequently felt boredom in our happy relationship: nothing that special, like the air we breathe. People would envy me for my state of happiness and I would retort that I lacked the security of the morrow: I was in a tight financial predicament as a movie critic and we barely managed to go out see a movie.          

            Emilia came from a poor family and kept our studio constantly clean and shining.  She made my small study her exclusive care: my papers, desk, and books were arranged to lure me to work. At the time I was confident that I would become a famous person and acted accordingly in my gesture, attire, and behavior as soon to be this illustrious artistic personality.

            I could not afford to buy an apartment as I felt was Emilia’s deepest wishes: she wanted her own residence to furnish, maintain, and cherish.  I recall now that during our engagement her eyes got wet when I told her that I barely could rent a small apartment: she was longing for a place of her own and quickly. When we visited together for the first time our potential dusty and unfurnished apartment that I purchased with a deposit, Emilia joined me at the window and asked me to hug her; it was a displaced tender and overt behavior on her part.  We kissed passionately and then Emilia demanded: “take me now”.  She promptly removed her skirt and tops and we made love on the dirty floor.  I had never felt that passion in Emilia; it felt as if she was returning the gratitude for an extended expensive gift. Surely, I had the apartment in Emilia’s name.

            I have never felt that despondent and miserable as the first months after we purchased the apartment: I was permanently worried about the next payment.  Emilia did not help any: she increased her shopping excursion to buy furniture.  She was perfectly aware of my financial predicaments but she acted nonchalant and perfectly an “egoist” to me.  Gone was the period I was lording it as a potential famous intellectual; the feeling of the harsh reality that I was an utterly penniless person, a non-entity, overtook me. I started to listen to the opinions of the opposition political parties that lambasted governments, services, and the social inequities.

            Then the film producer Battista hired me to write the scenario for his movie; it was my first in this line of work.  I welcomed this opportunity which will help me pay the next three payments on my apartment.  After we finished dinner in a famous restaurant, Batista invited us to his house. Battista two-seater red convertible could not accommodate both my wife and I.  I nudged Emilia to get in and I hailed a taxi. Emilia felt totally embarrassed and out of place; I then didn’t pay much attention to her predicament. At Battista house Emilia lowered eyes most of the time and didn’t participate in the conversation.  Batista kept inviting us and Emilia would find lame excuses not to join me; she eventually came with me after a few coaxing but I felt that her heart was not in.

            I have been a scenario writer for two months now and I hate my job. The producer or the movie director would hire an assistant for me and I had to suffer this inexperienced assistant in my face for two entire months.  The director lacked imagination and behaved like an accountant.  I am the soul of the movie and the writer of the dialogues but everyone else get recognition and the fat check while I am paid a pittance.

            I have this deep sense that Emilia does not love me anymore. I got this job to make Emilia happier and I feel that I am losing both my zeal for my job and for Emilia.  She never refused to make love to me but I felt her body cold, an inanimate object.

            Emilia loved her new apartment and would not relinquish it; she never admitted that she stopped loving me and she encouraged me to take more screen writing offers. Emilia went as far as admitting that I am excellent in love making.  Emilia was bidding her time for the most convenient opportunity to break up with me.

 

Note:  This story is taken, with some alterations, from “The loathing” (Le mepris) by Alberto Moravia.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2020
M T W T F S S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Blog Stats

  • 1,441,039 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 784 other followers

%d bloggers like this: