بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

مرحبا بكم


May 7, 2012

'Gaze', a short story by Ayman Jaballi

Gaze (part one) A sparrow stood on the lemon tree under which I was sitting. I put my coffee aside and kept staring at the bird for a while until another one came along. I tried to watch both of them simultaneously but this proved to be practically impossible. Watching two birds at once is exactly similar to watching none of them. “It is hard to be democratic even with birds”, I murmured while raising the cup of coffee to my mouth so as not to lose sight of one of them at least. I perplexedly wondered whether I should keep on watching the first bird or, as a matter of change, focus on the second one. I tried to convince myself that a choice between two beings equal in position and character is not always arbitrary. As if it wanted to save me the trouble of it, the first bird flew away and my gaze moved automatically to the second one. Other questions came to my mind on whether birds like being watched and the reasons why they sing louder and more devotedly when no one is looking at them. I stood up as the hot rays of the quickly rising sun reached my head. My first contact with the sun today was in the early morning, about two hours ago, when I opened the window of my little room. I was still sleepy and drowsy and the sun was shyly sending its first rays and quietly trying to wake people up. I remember the deep feeling of gratitude to the creator which engulfed me as I was experiencing anew the reviving impact of nature upon human beings. I had just finished washing my face at that time so I waited until the sun dried it up then I headed towards the kitchen to prepare my coffee. That was in the early morning. But, when the sun's rays threatened the calm of my seat under the lemon tree, I felt, quite inexplicably, afraid of it. I was thinking that this gigantic star is so vital to our existence that we would look utterly impotent without it. The sun reminded me of my total dependence upon the external elements of nature and made me think, in a quasi-paranoid way, of my bodily existence as a manacle hampering my individual autonomy and keeping me vulnerable to external variations. I tried to keep these negative ideas away so I rushed back to my room and sat on my deliberately untidy desk. In front of me was a single piece of paper which had remained untouched for the last two weeks. I looked for one of my pens but I could not find any. I bought lots of new pens lately, not out of admiration for pens but because I kept losing them all the time. This time I decided to overcome my laziness and look for one of my lost pens. I checked under the table, behind the door and inside some of my books but in vain. I ultimately gave up and took the decision of going, for the hundredth time, to the bookshop to buy another pen. I put on my jacket and started fumbling for my keys in all its numerous pockets.“This jacket should have been bought by a far wealthier person than me”, I told myself. Luckily enough, I found a red pen in one of the pockets. So, I gave up the idea of going out and went back to my desk. I hate using red pens. They make me too nervous to write anything reasonable. But, I had no other options. The paper was so blank and so neutral that I felt unable to write any word on it. I tried to break its neutrality with whatever might come to my mind. I wrote “I” and kept staring at it as if I composed a whole text. But, I soon felt that I had made a mistake and that my white paper is no longer virgin as it used to be since it was made. Does a paper really die when you write something on it? Or does it get a new life? I had no settled answer. The only thing I was truly certain of was that I could not write anything more than “I”. I started drawing random lines on the margins of the paper. I like drawing lines which mean nothing. Meaninglessness is sometimes a bliss as it does not compel you to take sides and preserves the sheer neutrality of the paper. This time, however, I felt no pleasure in drawing such purposeless lines, maybe because the red color made me feel as if the paper was bleeding. I broke the pen and kept staring at the wall in front of me. The wall, too, was all white, neutral and virgin as the paper was ten minutes ago. And I felt deeply impotent and regretful for having broken the pen. I stood up sluggishly and went to the lounge seeking refuge from the mood of despondency that overwhelmed me. I switched on the T.V. and started moving aimlessly from one station to another. I was not really watching. I was rather gazing at the screen and thinking of a thousand other things. A multitude of different voices were flowing to my ears: “U.S. secretary of state … welcome to … bodies found at … Israeli leaders in … subscribe now…”. I was pretty certain that nothing of what I was hearing would make any difference to me. The same problems and the same unwillingness to find real solutions for them is what has characterized the world scene for at least half a century. I wondered if the people who were reading these stories – the T.V. presenters – were aware of the content of what they were saying. I took the remote controller and started lowering the volume until I could hear nothing. Then, I looked at their faces to see what was behind. It seemed as if they were saying nothing. The same face gestures were repeated with every news item delivered as though the detention of fifty young Palestinians were equal in importance to a collective wedding organized in Thailand. My phone started ringing so irritatingly that I hastened to answer the call. One of my friends asked me to meet him in the coffee shop. ‘It is important’, he said. I should avow that I would accept his invitation even if it was not so important as I was eager to go out of my desolate home and meet a living being. I put on my jacket again and started looking for my identification card. I usually don’t like the idea of taking it with me wherever I go but this time I was obliged to do so. I heard that, these days, the military is desperately chasing people who did not join the army for at least one year. I have already spent a year in the army and it was so lengthy and blatantly fruitless that it left me with no intention to revisit the barracks even for one single day. When I found the card, I kept looking at my photo on it as if I have never seen it before. The photo looked so lively and so expressive although it had no soul. The eyes kept staring at me directly and most insistently. I wondered why they put black-and-white photos on the IDs. Are they really afraid of life-like colors? The photo aroused many questions in me but I had no time for such speculations. I can’t help contemplating the minor details in life although most people deem such thoughts unnecessary. I think details give one a better understanding of his existence. Didn’t they say that the devil lies in the details? I sometimes feel an urgent need for my inner blather as it keeps me from falling prey to the arduous monotony of life. I received another call from my friend to ask why I had not come yet. I rode the bicycle but I discovered that one of its tires was utterly flat. I stepped down quickly and started striding to the coffee shop. On my way, I noticed some holes in the very middle of the street. Many ideas about the negligence of the municipality members came to my head. I started running to refrain from following these new thoughts and losing more time.

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