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Written by Akram CHAHINE   
Saturday, 08 December 2012 13:55
C'était mon meilleur ami disparu au printemps 2012 à Alep. Il m'a offert ce texte à lire quelques années auparavent et il ne l'a jamais achevé. En le saisissant, j'ai pensé à chaque moment que nous avons passé ensemble à Damas d'abord puis nos rencontres se sont espacées après mon départ pour la France en 87. Je l'ai appelé souvent lors de mon dernier séjour à Damas en janvier - février 2012, il était rongé par la maladie. Il fallait que je prenne l'avion pour Alep, je croyais pouvoir le faire quelques mois après, mais la destruction de la Syrie s'est accélérée et js suis resté bloqué jusqu'à présent. Akram Chahine a toujours aimé son pays et l'a servi avec dévouement en construisant des barrages, les derniers étaient au nord de la Syrie, près de Hassakeh sur les deux fleuves géants l'Euphrate et le Tigre. Son ouvrage est écrit en anglais car il a effectué ses études à l'AUB à Beyrouth puis aux Etats Unis. Je me demande si je le connaissais assez, mais il était avec le regretté Antoun Makdessi, mes prinicipaux soutiens lors de mon séjour de 13 ans dans un pays où il y avait énormément de choses à construire. Cette construction a failli aboutir avec ses autoroutes, barrages, chemins de fer, hôtels, usines...Tout est réduit à néant aujourd'hui et ne sera pas reconstruit de mon vivant. A. Elsaleh

  Chapter 1 

               The other day when we went to Latakia, to see as my wife declared at the very start of the venture, ‘to see the majesty of the sunset slaughtering the suave waters of the Mediterranean’ – my wife has her ways with words and often she would forget what she has said right away after saying it and often she fails to explain what she means by that which she has just said, so never ask her to repeat or to explain unless you have the time for an extended monologue; yes, and as I have said, the other day when we went to Latakia I was still under the spill of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. I strongly believed the end had to come with the end of the second millennium and though paid for a few dinners in lost bets; there was no way to win me to the adversaries.

            True, the end of the second millennium is a few years behind now and that prophesy has not had any translation yet; still, I blame it on the accuracy of the starting date…You see, the fixing of the date of the birthday of Jesus had come about years after it actually happened. A margin of five percents plus or minus seems a reasonable accuracy limit when considering the almost four thousand years between the creation of Adam and the fixing of Jesus’ birthday. Fifteen to twenty years from agreed upon date would still be within the scope of virtual reality…within the scope of prophesy.
My wife call this topic the loser for it had cost us six dinner invitations on six consecutive days…We rested on the seventh.


My stubbornness concerning the inevitability of the coming of the four Horsemen seems to be reinforced by the coining to gather of once highly appreciated two terms, ‘modern’ and ‘democrat’.
‘Modern’ may not be the term in this context for the target in mind in the term ‘New Democrats’. Being new is in no way being modern and the American ‘New Democrats’ following the footsteps of the British Heroes of the Empire and the Global Organizations of the Americans following the English Eastern Companies can not be called modern in any sense…Let us not waste more time over this minor issue.   

Well…also, it appears that the other support for my stubbornness comes from the new turn which the expression ‘global’ has taken: Global communication, global expression, global interest, etc. All of these labels used to have some positive implications during the age of the good gays, Superman and Batman, which is not the case globally now.
And since we got on the ‘global’, we cannot but mention ‘National interest’. Some how each of these two, call for each other when ever one of them comes to any mind…

What the heck; let’s get back to business! Enough space for the loser…Let’s get on with the story.

Yes, on that day when we went to Latakia which came about almost five years and six months after the agreed upon date for the end of the millennium, something should have taken place to make me see definite light at the end of the tunnel; the nature of the light still escapes me…I’m sure it is there…I’m sure it is there and it is being bright enough to exceed the status of being mere hallucination.

        That something and in a flash of a second seemed to have revealed it when my eyes met my son’s while he was insisting on carrying two bags and leave me free of luggage handling…
I’m sure of my urgent need to know more about that something and about its nature, for I have three kids, a daughter and two sons and…and the worries about their future…Where do we fit in this unbelievable expansion of the Cosmo!  

Should I go back to ‘the other day when’ or enough of ‘the other day when’? Paco should not be the anchor man. Chasing a rainbow is hard enough let alone the case of chasing it with the knowledge that its non-existence is highly probable…Paco the self acclaimed champion of probability is the most ignorant of how to define membership or the meaning of belonging.

Making good guesses is a gift often attributed to sages and sears and Paco definitely is guided by the bright moon light.

Towards the end of November, 1973 I turned down Paco’s invitation to spend a few days vacation in his Ranch near the Salomon Fork’ North Carolina, for I would have been the only single in the group.

The night before scheduled departure for the Ranch he insisted and made an argument based on the availability of a single girl for me to couple up with. Having severed my romantic involvement some three months earlier, I found it an agreeable idea counting on his good intentions and his good taste.

I drove up to the Ranch from Saratoga across the Golden Gate Bridge, had Sea Food late lunch in Sausalito and then drove non-stopped second rate routes to the Salomon Fork. Stretched my legs for some twenty minutes or so and then continued to final destination.

The weather was nice and the few dark patches of clouds sped in the direction of the East forecasted rainy days to come.
It was the only place on earth where I did not mind rainy days. I counted horse back riding in the rain as one of the very few delicacies of being alive.  

Horse back riding without a hat and with wide shirt collar to allow for the rain drops to sneak through and tickle the skin of your back elevates you to other dimensions…In today’s mental disposition, I would have considered the dark patches of clouds as good omen…

What am I doing over there…this sequence should come up later. Does the ‘should’ refer to an apple falling from the tree? Should…take a short cut back to ‘the other day when’.

Yes, my wife often eludes at the fact that repetition and mimicking are signs of malfunctioning- she uses ‘repeat’ and ‘mimic’ as synonyms; her eluding at this always comes about when ever the conversant with her try to summarize or to recapitulate her contribution to a casual chat, by trying to drop out some of the peripheral topics she can not but inject into each of her conversations. All those who know her well do that in the hope to foster some respond to her thoughts. But, what the hell the difference could be…Let’s recourse to the story telling. Let’s start from the very beginning. After all, the story should be told…it should be told.

Again and to begin with we have the following to be involved with: I, my wife, my daughter, my youngest son and my wife’s brother who lives with his family in Lattakia. We will not talk about his daughter or rather she may be mentioned only when a topic would lead up to her. The reason for the possibility of dropping her out is her being away in Germany hoping to get herself a University Degree…But, her brother can not be avoided because he is going to be there in front of you all the time…We will come to the others including the remaining member of my immediate family later…and we should not spend more time chasing the beginning of the Story. We should get on with it.
You may think I should introduce the others now. A quickie would do, I guess. After all this is what structures a good beginning and makes a good introduction for the work at any hand.

Most of our Union Members think that introductions for Stories are written by Publishers, Publishing Houses and Critiques; often confronted with after reading the work itself and as a kind of comments, read in newspaper columns or heard in TV shows. So, the only reason it may be called Introduction is because readers often discover in this kind of literature or supposed to discover in it as far as the Critiques are concerned, something which they themselves, readers, did not notice before or did not read in the work itself. Thus a need to buy your own copy of the work becomes a must for you have to read and reread fishing for what the Critiques eluded at…such you also run into on the jackets of the hard covers or on the back of paper covers.

Critiques in general are bastard. They cannot but glorify their command and but exaggerate the limitedness of the Clients.

Some of them claim that they do not mean to hurt the readers’ feelings but rather to fulfil business objectives, business interest by stimulating a better sale. Challenge always brings out the best in others and the best is being educated to buy books!

‘Challenge’ should be defined…
‘The format of the essay is not applicable to stories’; Critiques insist. Yet, I say we have come to a time where all established businesses need reassessment and on the bases of this reassessment a new concept of structuring should be established if the work presented is to fit into the Global ness of today.

The habit of reading should be redeveloped in our clients too, if we are to survive the war with Movies and TVs…With this in mind, what in wrong with counting on some help from another branch of the Trade!

Think of it and think…of the infinite potential passes for an apple separation from its tree!

Yes, it should become a must or let’s say an accepted practice to require Novelists and Authors of stories in general to begin their work with an introduction that gives the characters discussed in their works in a form of a catalogue items, as a preface to their work. Thus creativity begins with an accommodating structure, a sort of a window shop a…maybe I should say a Museum…

Such an introduction would be multifunctional, permitting enough time and space to present the involved characters of the work  in the most agreeable fashion without Authors being worried about character development, the hardest in the business, granting the reader the chance to say “I have read the work” without having read anything but the introduction and this would cover the assumed need to insult the readers, and increasing the consumption of a wide variety of commodities generating better business for allied industries Ink, Paper and the like.

Also a new line of business with the welcomed creation of new job opportunities would become possible. These new job opportunities would come as an addition to the usual commercials and would function along the same line.

College students may be trained to become a sort of Coffee-Shops Hakawatees like what used to be popular in the Near East years ago and now are present there only in sophisticated Tourism Establishments.
Those young people may be used as title droppers and subjects and themes propagators…With this the buying of Novels and Stories on impulses becomes viable.    

Such an approach does have short comings of course but a close assessment will reveal that the advantages over weigh the disadvantages; most important is the increase in the volume of sale and the increase in the percentage of surplus money. After all, isn’t Globalise the art of catering to the whims and the needs of the majority of people; of their aspiration for money and pleasure or should we say for power?

Don’t laugh at the idea…I’m serious and aware of the fact that ‘the worst catastrophes that would befall the human race are those you can not but snicker and laugh at!’

I believe in introductions. Even though, and at the risk of leaving you {Hypocrite} wondering whether this is an essay or a story or an utter bullshit of a new genius. I say hypocrite because I am sure you know what this is…Therefore there is no need to provide any introduction…Would that be suspense enough?

And here I am on my way to Lattakia and what we are about to get into regardless of the awkwardness and the naïve simplicity inherent in this work, is not an account of a virtual reality nor is a Tourist Guide.


Chapter 2

Here we go…
Yesterday when my daughter interrupted my TV watching with    a kiss on my nose I knew I was destined to accept doing things usually I did not accept to do. This did not happen often. Yet, there we were following afternoon, there we were on our way to Lattakia.

The usual family routine for such occasions would be for them to go where ever they wanted to go, for vacation or visit or what ever the reason for leaving home might be called and for me to stay home alone occupied by drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and watching TV or behind my key board endeavouring to hunt for some of Plato’s Cave-images.

Yet the ‘Yes’ which came as a shook to my wife, fowled up the old routine and started us, the family, on a new tradition.

Of course they were other ‘Yeses’ before but what established the tradition was fulfilling the content of the ‘Yes’ by getting on the train as scheduled. Traditions often are established by mere at random occurrences.

Seconds after we were seated the Express Train rolled on its rails. I looked at my watch and almost made a ponderous comment. Only my wife noticed the opening of the mouth with the intention of saying something and the closing of it without any utterance. She waited for a while and when she heard no comments coming from me, her eyes wore that look asserting that the opportunity would still arise. Turning her head towards the window, she pretended dropping the waiting and showed an involvement with the framed views opening up before her eyes.

The train rolled on picking up speed, while my wife’s eyes turned to the inside inspecting the family members.

At that time and for a few minutes two notions struggled in my mind for supremacy. Not that there was a problem with the availability of time, plenitude of it, but rather each demanded supremacy over the prevailing moment and one prevailing moment was at hand. The first notion was of the good omen while the second was of my wife’s gaze that pinned me a blinking tableau sprawling to the train seat.

As you should have guessed from the evening before I was on the look for some good omen, to justify the trip. And since the train for a moment looked as if not Syrian, being punctual to the fraction of the second reminding me of the exactitude of the European Trains, I thought there was the good omen looked for.  

Yes, my eagerness to start the trip with an appreciating mind made me and only for a moment, made me forget that my watch though Swiss suffered the loss of a few minutes per week in hot weather and that I had not reset it for a couple of weeks then. And…if I had opened my big mouth and relayed the delightful idea of the punctuality of the train to the members of the family available at the time even in a mocking expression as I planned it to come out of my big mouth, my wife would have chewed my ass to pieces over and over, at least for the duration of the trip and only of the trip, if I were lucky. The chewing would come not over the subject of my watch and its handicap and my failure to take it to the repair shop or about my uncalled for symptomatic laziness; definitely not…it would come centred on what she would call my prejudice and my unqualified logic and about the ridiculous optimism in history to come; my conception of the future.

Working on resetting my watch, I thought the good omen probably manifested itself in the slow reaction to my thoughts which in a few occasions had lately betrayed, in a kidding manner, the numbness which the brain muscle exhibit when short circuited by access of alcohol. I had stopped drinking alcohols altogether over one year ago and my metabolism had completely recovered normality.

The good omen was definitely the slow reaction which lately became a symptom of…getting old…a better term would be ‘aging’…of aging…
‘Aging’ as an expression does have some agreeable connotations, not like getting old with all its negative aspect.
Wine, experience, wisdom, massive furniture, old potteries and manuscripts…among others like Persian carpets and China ceramics gain value with time; they’re better when aged.

Seated with my back to the direction of the Train motion near the window I remembered having seen two young train attendants at the start of the train motion…well…in their uniforms of light blue short sleeved shirts and dark blue trousers racing the train which was developing speed, trying to catch the handle of the carriage door; with a smile on each face no less than utter childishness: “Wonder if the Train Engineer has a side mirror…and shouldn’t their managing to get on the train be considered a good omen too even though in a negative sense!”

We did not loose either of them yet the second in line for the handle should have lost some blood when his nose hit the side of the carriage door. Inside the two attendants’ laughter and giggles though neither was visible, were louder than the rhythm of the train wheels hitting the rails…
Don’t you feel it strange how the episode of the train attendants, lived and survived even though it did not interrupt the sequence of the confrontation between the other two notions…   

So, What! And why there was a need for a good omen!
Lately or since forced retirement my at home hours increased to the extent that my not at home hours became very scarce. Mobility became limited to short walks from a shrine to another shrine and back to the first, once every few days: the walk from home to the near by mosque for Dawn prayers and back.

Aleppo evenings all through till little after sunrise, except for rainy times which made me feel heavy…provided a limbo between Hell and Heaven; provided ample space for comfort of mind and spirit when anxiety would better be termed bewilderment, lolled the soul to sleep walking.
Sleep walking while on the way to the Mosque and back home from it, had been the only contact with the world of the others except for TV; and TV contact was a selective contact…
The believers on the way to the mosque, in the mosque and on their ways back home from the mosque, including me, posed in snap shots like printings tagged to walls in saloons, corridors and pretentious living rooms: most of us in white robes, and white caps and plastic slippers in dry weather, with rosaries hanging over posteriors from the seemingly pious and worried fingertips hovered on the sidewalks like shadows with backs arched and heads that seemed heavier than what the necks could handle or as if each man’s vision was focusing on the tip of its nose…Nobody believed in socks…The peace of mind those moments provided was beyond description.

Yet the exception to that and the most enjoyable, was playing hide and seek with the full moon on the fourteenth of the lunar month. On these occasions I never participated in hymens after the prayers to have the street empty for me and to be able to catch the game with the moon from due south on.

Right from the open yard of the Mosque which gave an extended view of the southern horizon the game would start with my nod of acknowledgement.
The moon would open up in turn with a hearty smile and by the time I reached the gate which would be to my left, turned around in the direction of due east to go through, my friend would take the opportunity and would hide behind the up rise building that host the bakery and the sandwich stand.
Turning in the direction of due south there would be nothing but the comfortable brilliance sketching tilted tree trunks and elongated leaves on the street.All buildings to my left would darken their features slightly as if teasingly siding up with the moon.
Rolling with the street I would play unaware and begin counting the fallen leaves of the trees.

By the count of seven and after the seven steps, the moon would begin to reappear in the form of a packed part of a circle with the apex in the direction of the west. Then enlarging in size and coming out as if it were from the inside of the bakery building would soon loose its apex in the adjacent building to become an enticing radiance trapped between two buildings and out lined by an upper and a lower identical arcs.

At that point I always crossed from the right sidewalk to the left one of the street, loosing for a moment my dear friend.

Making my second right angle turn for the game, the full moon would slip into the form of a semicircle with an apex opening up on the east.

Seven steps and a count of fourteen and it would be completely hidden behind the Bull Man Hotel. Twenty one more steps and there it was pinned to the shoulder of the University Children Hospital.

At that point I always turned my neck almost forty five degrees to have my face in the direction of the south west and continued my way due south having a face to face with the full moon for forty nine more steps. And before straightening up my neck and making my third and last right angle turn leaving the moon behind my back with the certain knowledge that Mothers’ eyes with that full of sorrow looks, were grazing on the back of my neck, I always gave the farewell nod that was befitting my dear friend.

A limbo partaking of both joy and sorrow would down on me from the time I make my last right angle turn till in bed little before suffering the always disturbed sleep since forced retirement.

The Express Train scheduled to cover the space of little less than two hundred kilometres in three and half hours laboured through familiar fields. Places soon revealed their known skeletons. First recognition came to the old Station Concrete Structure. The sign for the Station was not readable; partly because of weathering conditions and partly because of the old growth of the branches of the parched tree in front of the sign.

Some forty five years before I laboured through the very same fields. I worked for the Rail Road Earth Platform and Concrete Structures for Stations Project. The Russians engineered the project, supervised the construction and financed part of the cost.

Engineer Jinadi and to be called by his first name only, all through this work because of the difficulty to remember or \and to pronounce his last name…Jinadi a twenty nine years old Engineer then and in the capacity of a Supervisor refused a private Mobile Unit which was prepared for him and shared me my Unit.

Mine, had a bed room, an office and a space between the two fitted and furnished to be a living and a dinning quarter at the same time.
He suggested turning the office into a second bedroom and to make use of the cupboard which looked better with Project Files and Drawings than empty.
We moved the office to the outside; a desk with a few chairs, a water cooler and a sturdy umbrella solved the problem.  

A bachelor, little younger than Jinadi, learned to skip the weekly visit to Aleppo and we got along fine. Soon I became on the cold shower, two kilometres sprint and the hearty breakfast for the sunrise routine.

For years before, I never had breakfast. Breakfast made me feel tired and sleepy by noon time which would necessitate taking an after noon knaps shortening by that my working hours per day.

Suffering for a few days with skipping lunch and lunch break and catching up with Jinadi’s routine for the evening solved the problem.

The cold shower, the slipping into shorts, the heavy dinner with lots of boiled vegetables, the light beer, the review of the work program for the next day, Korsakov or Rakmaninov with a game of chess and the hot vodka constituted the routine that began around sunset to continue through and in the given order till about eleven o’clock evening time.

All project employees soon learned to respect our privacy for the evening routine and except for a few occasions of what appeared then to be as top urgencies, we were left alone. Life was easy then and overloaded with being young, active delights…

The few times I tried to pull the Russian Engineer’s leg into discussions of political or economical nature survived not their moments; the same was true for sex. The pale smile and the shrug of the shoulders aborted any further attempts. Yet the Earth Platform for the Train progressed ahead of schedule and the Concrete Construction for the Stations maintained superior quality.

Very few of those employed by the Project Contractor spoke any European Language yet Jinadi who did not speak Arabic but a bunch of them European and non European Languages managed to communicate with the local employees when ever it was needed without the help of any interpreter. Thus the interpreter became a messenger boy commuting between the Project, The Rail Road Department and the Russian Consulate at Aleppo.

Within less than two weeks Jinadi began calling each one of them project employees by his first name and began to the dismay of Project Engineers, spending more time with manual labourers.

I had no objection to that for there was my Project evolving in the best possible shape with the least exerted effort on my behalf. Not that we did not work hard, very hard…It became a regular matter to see him going up the wooden ladder with a pale of cement concrete mix on his shoulder or to see him operating earth-moving equipment giving the operator a break time for a glass of tee and a cigarette.

One Friday and Fridays were a half of a day of work, to provide believers the chance for noon prayer, the Russian Council in Aleppo appeared on the Site with gifts for workers included working shoes and gloves, goggles and three bottles of vodka and a can of caviar for me.
Quite many workers, marvelling over the gifts and enjoying the partying with the Council over tee, did not seem to mind missing their noon prayer.  

Jinadi run the show. The young Russian would watch for a half of minute of a show where a few incoherent syllables uttered among gestures that came from heads, hands, feet and other parts of the human body, then it would take him minimum five minutes to articulate the information conveyed, to the Council.
I was astonished at the apparent joy of Jinadi and his energetic handling of the festivity. But I was way more astonished later on when I realized that what transpired that Friday was not at the Council’s order but at his.
Somehow, the festivity grew to be an occasion falling on the last Friday of every month during which a late lunch of barbecued lamb meat was served along with refreshments; a gift from the Russians to the Employees of the Project. Football and Volleyball games were introduced and became highly appreciated by the workers.

The Council attended the first two and then when Lady Engineer Nadia, joined her husband Jinadi, he stopped appearing on the site. Jinadi and later on he and his wife became the unofficial representatives of the local manual labourers of the Project. Not that there were problems with the labour but they did regardless.

It was on the second of November when the three of us Jinadi, Nadia and myself started, early morning before sunrise in my Land Rover pickup truck on our way to Beirut Lebanon from the site of the Project for a two weeks vacation…

The Jinadi of that time and I say of that time because I have no idea of what has become of him or his wife since the last time I saw them…that Man I say, is in all respects a departmentalized faculties radiating practical values like a walking University…How do you like this sentence…and…and a University that had no Professors and no students except Jinadi and his wife: otherwise, how you would explain the selling of the Bolshoi Theatre company for a hand full of American money!

I Tarik, educated and trained in the West in one of the famous or if you prefer notorious Universities of the American West Coast admit that I could not achieve the status of a reader in that Russian Engineer’s University…

Bullshit…may be or maybe not…yet, you may be right for what legitimizes such grand judgments and where are the jurors to justify the condemnation! Are you welling to become a juror…Yes…And…no more such spacing of three points.
Am I loosing control?
Is this a problem?
             Of course, that is not a problem; I am referring to the three points spacing.
Usually problems arise when vocalized statements attempt to order a flux into a meaningful state. Problems arise only when the vocalized statements assume the role of a divinity of some kind…Ass-u-me…
God bless Professor Tylor’s soul and keep the past away from us all. Let’s get over with weeping will…Where are we now? Let’s go back to the immediate family…But does it matter where we are! Let’s revisit the past and not just drag it along, a virtual face without an identifiable-course or an identifiable legacy.

            Chapter 3

The other day, my wife put her reading glasses on, held a cooking instruction Book high above her head looking like a helpless case of manikin in practise and assuming the professional gait with that funny apron covering no more than thirty five square inches of her skirt, declared that she was going to help us, family, to a very special treat for a change.
The family felt it could settle for the ordinary, but spared itself the monologue.
Out of sudden, a vision of the distant past visited me. I decided to shave and could not help smiling while moving in the direction of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on my wife’s back.
She heard my steps and turned around to give me the full view of her front.
“Father”; I heard my daughter’s comment. I stopped and measured my wife’s grimace.
“An old occasion came to my mind. Do you remember the evening when I jerk with Mrs. Hoofer?”
“No, I don’t”.
“You were less than two years old then; I am talking to your mother!”
“You mean the gentleman who used to call you GI!”
“Waleed used to call me G.I. and not Mr. Hoofer…Besides; we are talking about his wife and dancing and not about the gentleman.”
“You mean you’re talking about Nadia…”
“Who’s Nadia”?
“Ask your father about the story of this apron.” My wife said while pushing her tummy up front.
“Yes, father?”
“You tell her.”
“Regardless of how much effort I put; if it were not for the kids!” her smile was very coquettish. I cleared my throat and continued to the bathroom.

                 Inside the bathroom and looking through the mirror, my face of some twenty years ago visited me with a definite snicker which almost went beyond the limit of the mirror. Sharp Mr. Hoofer was there too with the red carnation in the button hole of his jacket sucking his lips lightly without leaving any moisture on either one…That unforgotten evening; so many things happened then and volumes can be written without giving that evening its due respect!
You can start with the TV Grand Net Bureau Chief, Mr. and Mrs. Hoofer and their Embassy, my brother in law Waleed and his wife, Dr. GHASSANI and his Syrian News Agency, my wife and her special cuisine or with my utter helplessness of that evening.  

It is easy to try to read the past at a present point in time. Yet, strange enough when the past is read and its skeletal constitution opens up before the eyes as it actually is, as a set of phenomena of angles of visions without any lineal dimension assigned to them – prismatic snap – shots in vitro, striving for the additives of survival, placing both viewer and viewed out of the aging domain in what appears to be a process of retrieval and re-retrieval, unfolds itself a sequence allowing for endless number of arrangements and rearrangements…the vicious circle of the “Word”. Thus the past is no more a tense. And hence, the past is a neutral creativity…an attribute of Divinity. As professor Tylor used to say “What you have seen you cannot see again.” I always wondered which Chinese restaurant he used to frequent and how much of them cookies he used to consume!

Rinsing the shaving foam off, my face came back with the furrows and the stretched skin of the chin. I crossed back to the living room that opened on the kitchen and was immediately struck by the unidentified fumes. I made no comments. I, with the rest of the family, we all waited for mother’s dinner; waited for the Mother’s face.

It is needless to explain what transpired then but to continue with the Chahrier symptom and to keep Scheherazade in business, the fact that the food served on the terrace of the Italian Restaurant at the Bull Man Hotel in Aleppo that very evening was very delicious and brought back good memories, should be clearly stated.
Wives pertain to the category of inhibitions that nature can not do without; the sweet and sour dishes of the Chinese Kitchen…Of course that has never been a problem.  

             We have been married for almost twenty eight years yet no routine has ever developed in our relationship except for the routine of surprises. Increased action…what made it easier was the nature of my work and having to spend most of my time up on fields at Work Sites. There the norm was regularity and punctuality otherwise it would be a case of loosing money.
Nobody likes to loose money and I had never been an exception in this respect.  

            Occasionally, you spend more than you make and some people call this loosing money. Personally, I do not know what to call it. My wife is among those who consider this as loosing. A few times I was about to catch her calling me looser but, she never did. I have ‘bad temper’. Her claim, which she had substantiated by circumstantial and often irrelevant evidences stem from her monologues and occasionally relayed to me through close relatives…And this had become more clear and frequent after I was forced to retire.

Through monologues you can create universes and by virtue of repetition they began to take substance and eventually mature into reality. Experience does not have to be visible all the time; I do not have bad temper.
To be honest, I should say that I have unaccountable for reactions to other people’s behaviour, some times. Not always; only when the party involved is somebody I care for or supposed to care for. In such cases, my reaction would be best described by the process of shutting off…the process of leaving the scene and it would not have to be a physical departure by must.   

Now, to go back to what matters, we should say first, that we have lingered in the chambers of the Limbo for long…It is time to go back to Scheherazade and her anxious manipulation of the time between sunset and the melodies of the cock…Now is not time for the story of apron.

Yet, Authors feel good when they stumble on a sentence that singles itself out by calling “Here I am…Here I am.” For such sentences consume a good chunk of time and space in problematic matters that do not call for any solutions, but rather pose, not in their essence but rather in their definitive occurrences, dilemmas of some sort or the other Dilemmas are substitutes for solutions – substitution for solution – and since solutions are hard to come by and thus dilemmas become the bread and salt of story telling…Good point!
For dilemmas and paradoxes belong to a rudimentary age when neither open nor closed matrixes existed; they can always be over looked, regardless of the sort or the type.
Definitely, it is in the nature of their constituencies…   

You hypocrite, sharpen your wits; after all, the flux has never requested any ordering.
You always add dimensions to subjects and to predicates too…Your added dimensions often are superimposed leading to dissipation and boredoms. You better be careful and not loose the fine third separating readers from sunsets.
Better watch for this trap or the joke of supporting Ink, Paper and Printing Industries should lend itself to serious business…
You may say what can be done if things follow this way, and my answer would be: “find a solution to this problem”!  For regardless of how well trained you may be, you still make mistakes.   

It is true…I do have problems with the word “Solution” and with its derivatives. Yet, sometimes and for the sake of clarity and decency, sometimes you cannot avoid using what you have problems with.
For example, you have been trained not to repeat a word more than one time in the same line or not to use subjective terms unless absolutely needed and only after qualifying the terms with some objectivity…   
Is your training fading away or should it be called getting old?
“Getting old…getting old…You shall wear the buttons of you’re’…so what…and is the nature of your time problematic…oh, what a word “Problematic”…It fills up the mouth when pronounced…
You passers among lost words, beware of the Dictionary days. ’Labor for your days as if you die now…Labor for your days as if you live for ever.’

Here you are going back to reading signs in a loud voice along the Free Ways for the sake of reading signs only…Occupying time and denoting spaces…Let us recourse to Lattakia and the savage sunset. Let us take refuge in being in the audience of the Sunset of Lattakia.
Can we do that now without taking care of the word “Solution”!
Can we recourse to Lattakia after all the tee glasses, the cigarettes, the working shoes and the gloves, the goggles, the hot vodka and the caviar: after all the evenings of bathing naked under the moon light in the suave waters of the Mediterranean or the suave waters of the Pacific and after the endless search for Mother’s eyes!
You should be a son of a bitch…And probably, you are. What else could you be?                       
                             Let’s bring the case before the Jury.
Gentlemen! The Indian apricot trees linger in the chambers of San Antonio Street…San Antonio Street will soon slide into De Anza Boulevard and there on the foothills Stevens Creek hypnotized behind the cement concrete Dam, awaits the rain fall…awaits the rain fall…
Tell me, is it coming or if it is not coming, shall we make it the case of children accountable for the Masquerades and Orgies of the Forefathers!


CHAPTER 4     

                    In Latakia houses were painted white with blue strips for the Mediterranean games. It happened years ago. How many years ago; he did not remember. It was during the Father’s regime, little before or little after Aleppo and Hamma incidents.
No; it should have been some time after the incidents for he was living in Damascus at the time and in his daily routine of calling on the English Pup at the Sheraton Hotel evening time, a substitute for the Brass Rail of Saratoga rituals, he met a CNN Correspondent who introduced himself as the Chief of the CNN Bureau at Cairo…Was it before or after…or should the question be what would be the difference if before or after. For among the mountainous blesses of this age stands out in bold prints the loss of the boarder line between the before and the after!   

This was among the things which Paco avoided discussing for though admitting the difficulties he suffered in keeping elements of diction separate from elements of structure, the before and the after of the thought or the idea {the history of the pattern of the thought or the idea} or still the mental frame-work that carried the mentioned aspects of the ‘Word’ – he ignored this kind of problems to the extent of refusing their operatives in his or others minds.
“No; no, this is purified bullshit”; he always insisted.
And in an implicit approach, he emphasized the truth of the empirical reality of the said “world”.
“In the beginning there was the Word” and that “Word” was a super Unit given as a Unit made up of the totality of all elements; the One and the Multitude at one time; subject, verb, predicate and all that was there and is possible to be here and there at the same time – grammar, syntax, diction, and all you name it, all in the One.
He insisted that all you had at hand or had to do was to dream of the matrix of potential aspects and pull out your selection from the eternal Hat of the Magician. And when he was asked about the empirical nature of the Hat, he replied:
“You’d better look at it in the perspective of the almighty Unit generating all, and in particular, other subunits {depending on the coordinates the designation of a unit or subunit can be attributed}, yet the Unit and the subunit are indivisible and inseparable from its milieu”, Paco articulated with reverence and admiration before detonating his bomb…” and that would be Fiction: Sacrible!” 
Arriving at that level of confusing, which rarely did not happened to or with Paco, and having admitted that he could not separate actions from thoughts or ideas, he would have had to have a problem with relating  Jinadi to Doukhobors through Kharkov like he would have the problem of relating Ku Klux Klan to <little Rock…Only Scheherazade could do that.

Scheherazade belongs to a different world, different “Word”; different history and different sets of matrixed realities. But, you…my antagonist, you can relate to Paco…So, If Paco would visit Scheherazade you will insist that that visit has the sexual manifestation of…
Bull shit; it could not be!
He had never been man enough to do that. Masquerading is the basic elements of his heritage, his alternatives come with the Unit that includes even the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; and since it has been the demarcation in their conception of time.
They can pass from three dimensional spaces to four and more than four without being worried about the inclusiveness and the divinity of Time Dimension…should the four or five points spacing replace the three pointer or they should all coexist together!   

He and they are no more than a piece of coin having one face, unconscious of our wondering if they could acquire the second face ever. They think of the passing from the before to the after and conversely as a must, sense it is conceivable in term of the Word, forgetting any existential limitations on the stage of action.

He could not make love to antiquities for though aging increase the market value of the antique object it could not but preserve the finger prints of the passing time. Beauty in this sense is mostly the value of exerted effort; effort to create and effort to preserve love, a sort of kinetic energy for them and they believe in the slow depletion of the Cosmic Kinetic energy. And here we rediscover ourselves as being back at their confused set of Time Dimensions. But, this is what they are!
All you have to do is to understand his problem, regardless of before or after and then translate it to dilemmas or a paradox; is to refer your self to Star Trek Ventures.    

Paco in the presence of her Majesty the JIOCANDA cannot but masturbate. He had been always the Hero of here I am. He could only think in terms of how much it would cost and where Francesco Del Giaconda would be during his audience with the GIOCANDA. Therefore, he could only humiliate him self at her Shrine.
The same would follow if he was to encounter Scheherazade. All he could do was to carry his penis on his shoulder and drive up De Anza Boulevard flirting with his Napa Valley red full body wine gallon; up to Steven Creek Dam and latter on instead of to the Dam, up to the El Gatos Estate.
Even when he visited Greece all he did was to exercise his penis; never managed to make love.
Paco copied the arch and the column but was unaware of the kidnapped Princess; was unaware of the solitude of the crowdedness of the inside of the Temple…unaware of the music of the Temple.   

He never admitted that, but from his descriptive account of what had transpired there, only exercising could be inferred.

Even marrying a woman of Greek origin did not help; he hardly got married before they divorced…His basic problem, it was believed to come from the designated attributes and from his double standard dealing with the “Word” which eventually allowed for the dimension of blue blood and the superiority of the Robust hunter…and from having opened prematurely on the Far East; prematurely, because he is still one face coin. And his Buddha was either a fake or too advanced for him.
Yet, to be fair with Paco, it should be mentioned that the renaming or let us say the translation of the names of all the members of the Mediterranean Kingdom of Botany and the names of the Geographic sites of this Kingdom demands great respect.

             You would fix a Land mark, designate it an adverb camouflaged in a barrowed simile which was deprived of the as.
Now…jumping, where would you land?
Would it be possible to land on either of the following and not make any difference: the nouns {the land mark, Europe, The Daughter of the King, etc.}, the verbs {to assimilate, to bomb, to mutilate, etc.},the adverbs {BC, after the Crusaders Campaigns, before Dir Yassin, etc.} or the barrowed similes {Pre-emptive Strike, Hiroshima Bomb, Aleppo and Hamma incidents,}?
Paco would have had a splitting headache over this; the usual for such problems even after being introduced to dilemmas and paradoxes as substitutes. His inevitable finality would have to end with “Sacrible”!   

Where are we now…are the occasions ripe enough for a new jump along the fifth dimension and should it be the fifth or the sixth…
Let us get back to Scheherazade…   

The story should be told if this gibberish is to make any sense. And it should be told as understood by those who lived it. Should not this be the case?
If told by the “Word” of those who lived it with the intention of communicating with those who could not be designated except as beholders a definite problem of communication would be in effect. For in a given community each lives his and theirs, and the I is in pure speculative mood; should his completely coincide with theirs, poses the problem of them not being there which should take the subject matter out of its context; not mentioning the dilemma of those who squat on the peripherals ready for the jump into another time dimension…Where does this lead to; Space Travelling or a dope trip?   

We had rambled on the shores of the seas engulfed by sea topless girls ‘crowned by sea weeds’ and watched the Sunsets slaughter the suave waters of Antiquities. We have watched sunsets that left their marks on the skies. We have seen so many sunsets…so many…count them…yes, count them…count the mighty sunsets. For, mighty as they were, sunsets…would be most appreciated fall time.
But, had we not lingered enough on vacationing shores and had not been there since then calls enough to resume the story telling!   

Let us go back to implicit Scheherazade; to the story telling and leave the sleepers one eye on one eye off; pretending they are awake!

            CHAPTER 5 

                  Yes, the Chief was very quick with his visit card and flashed it out of his peg skin wallet like a magician pulling a dry playing card out of the dripping nose of the kid.
He acknowledged that his trip came in the aftermath of the Games. He did not qualify the nature of the disagreeable content of the aftermath right away. He took his time and presented what he called ‘the facts’ garnished with carrots here, parsley there and occasional cherries else where.

Eventually it appeared that the file which his man presented after the coverage of the Mediterranean Games in Lattakia, boarded on the unbelievable end of the picture and he had to see the truth of it by him self.

Little by little he built up to the big bang and got to the fact that “Syria had no Akhenaton, no Moses Infancy, no Captivity, no Nativity and no Alexandria Library…I admit; lots appear much better and much different from expected, but still lots to be done.”…The dictated terms, expressions, instructions and actions of that encounter engraved the minutes of that meeting in Tarik’s mind…Akhenaton!

The Correspondent expressed his interest in giving the Local a chance for an interview which would be televised on the Grand Net World wide provided the Local would discuss the ruling clique openly and honestly and with the sense of responsibility expected from the elites.

“After all this is what Democracy which we all love and respect calls for.” He articulated and continued. “You understand me of course?”…

Tarik tried to read between the lines to maximise his understanding of what was released and then wondered how he could read between the lines as requested, in the absence of a written script. And though remembered what was said before in relation to IQ scores and the genes he made no gesture or comment.

               The Correspondent’s suggestion did not come up out of the blues bit rather came up after he pulled our friend’s leg’s in bites of chats punctuated by comfortable sips of aged Scotch whisky in the form of casual comments about the discrepancies of the ruling Class in Syria. The terms and the expressions which communicated the chat revealed the minimum of 145 score for the Chief and the maximum of 85 score for the local on the appropriate IQ tests. The genes remained in problematic zone for both were fair and blue eyed.

Yes…and further, the suggestion came up camouflaged in the loud music which was saturated with Arabic, English, French, German, Armenian, Kurdish, Turkish and God knew what other hums.

In fact, it came about after needless exploitations of potentials and skills. For, there was the Local all ready for the leg pull right from the moment he became aware that the gentleman was really a Grand Net Bureau Chief.

The assumption that the Chief should be well informed in the politics of the Middle East and would know more about the basic components of the matrix of determinants controlling earning daily bread, instigated a state of mind for the local permitting the utterance of statements otherwise would be considered taboos…Of course there was no way for the Chief to know that!

Yes and funny enough, the Local was ready for the leg pull but, he was not ready for a world wide televised show. All he wanted to know was some information which could promote his business. And then maybe some release of that pressure which had been mounting inside of him since Roosevelt junior helped making the first Cope de tat in modern Syria a historic monument…or may be since becoming self aware.
Tarik moved in a circle which can be called vicious because of the oddity of the elements of which it was constituted: Foreigners, Carpetbaggers, Civil Servants presented as Entrepreneurs and an assortment of Police and Armed Forces Officers.

Members of the group presented the typical portfolio of business anywhere across the Globe.

Our friend was not afraid of the local Secret Police as suggested by the Chief; at least it never occurred to him that he should be at that time. Yet the Chief numerating the advantages of living with the family abroad and the ‘should be expected help for good dough’ suggested by the Chief, sounded hilarious and brought piercing apprehension to Tarik’s mind.

All the Local was concerned with was to know more about what future was there for his work with the American Companies financing the exploration for Oil in Syria.

The fear of or the inhibition which occupied the Chief’s mind as our friend became aware of later on and on a different occasion, the inhibition with the idea of an almighty Secret Police and Intelligence Services in Syria had been central at that time. For our friend there was no way to guess especially with the prevailing conviction among the Syrians that the CIA was capable of pulling its Agents out of any mess they could get themselves into, like pulling a hair out of a sour bread dough patch…Ask any Movies which the Syrians watch on TV evening time and on almost daily bases too except on Fridays, ask these Movies whether there can be any fear that CHvizenger would not be able to get the job done.

Tarik could not see why the Chief should have any worries about Syrian or any other Secret Police or Intelligence Services.

The Soviet Union had been out of the picture for years and Israel is but a USA stooge regardless of whatever the Americans’ claim could be.

For our friend, the issue was the difference the interview would make! In this respect Tarik conjured no better case than what the Arabic proverb stated: “Taking refuge near a lit furnace to avoid the heat of the direct sun rays.”

Eventually, he had to give some sort of an answer.

Where were you when Hamma was hit?
Where were you when Hama was hit…of course, you’re not going to tell me that your National Interest did not call for such a visit then…Do not play the game of promoting Democracy with me…Not me…I lived in your Democratic Paradise long enough…True, my score is 85 only, but you need a fool, actually a moron for that game!   

A good chunk of time passed before any response from the Chief became noticed. Meanwhile, the hummed music leaked into beats of percussion instruments simulating the infinity count before bomb detonation in an American action Movies. Eventually the Chief of the Bureau paid his bell, grabbed his times Magazine issue, slid of his stool and leaving his whisky glass half full, departed with out uttering a word. The Local could not help but notice the straight back, the wide shoulders, the tall and the well built body in a suit tailored to show the outstanding muscles and the balanced steps that hammered the porcelain tile…”Here I am…Here I am” and then out of the swinging door.

Tarik wondered which Movies scenario was being played…Was it Casa Blanca Revisited, Covert Action in Damascus, The English Pub Conspiracy or better still…Democracy in Action.

The full moon had been travelling for the last few hours across Damascus sky. A soothing brilliance, it had been mostly unnoticed in its effort to bring Jabel-Al-Shake’s cofiah under focus.

Fall time; the light breeze was sousing people with confused fragrance and the moon shield away with each small patch of clouds. Tarik, unconsciously swept with his eyes that portion of the upper horizon accessible among the tops of al Mazzah high buildings; and so oriented himself that he swept the horizon with his eyes from due south to due west every time the moon put on the veil. Tension leaked away when ever he looked up to the sky.

From up on the top of Mount Harmon serenity and peace of mind would be wrapping the viewers of Damascus in a maternal blanket and would have appointed the full moon a baby setter. The newly planted trees as per order of the Father would be whispering sweat whispers and jointly with low volume settings on a couple of transistor radios would distribute at leaguer, drowsiness among the groups of full moon subjects.

Close to the rim of the abyss which over looked the reclining voluptuous Damascus, eyes saw but would not comprehend that subtle beauty which dilated the saliva of so many Empires and Fairooz’s chanting made that comprehension uncalled for.

The Umayyad Mosque would be clearly visible with his magnificently lit minarets. And the lit rectangular structures of the Military Museum which along the sides of its roof, the Turkish domes squat like pollution bobbles ready to take off to the skies, domes which lined up in a kind of regimental symmetry unique for the antique country side od Grand Syria, mimicked the cradle of a giant looking for its baby.

Farther to the south the Golan heights perched on its plateau fossilized into Druze historic sceneries as if not aware of the discovery of fire works yet…Absolute darkness; and if it was not for the white and blue radiance of the Shake’s cofiah, it would not have been detectable at all…not detectable at all; would not have been but an incorporation of the vast southern horizon, incorporation of the land with out people…people without land.

How did it happen and the full Moon did not make it visible!

Historians talked about Islam and how Islam skinned off the Moon out of its Divinity but nobody ever talked about Islam depriving reflected moon beam lights of the property of radiance in selected geopraphies…
Be careful; Is this about to become a topic?

The traffic noises muffled through from distant streets and occasional sirens seemed as if coming from distant stars, yet the group of pedestrians with Tarik somewhere on the peripheral of it was making enough rattling attracting the attention and often a little bet more than the attention of people on their ways back home or in their ways to their cars. A few commotions were evident on balconies over looking the wide street following the group performance of ‘here we were’.

He had to suffer the eyes; though invisible. It was his fault. He believed that the eyes could see through into him and into the other members of the group. As far as he was convinced there was nothing to worry about, nothing disturbing would be there to be seen in him; he did not shoot any plastic bottle and hardly said a word.

Still he could not help but feel that kind of apprehension which he learned to experience from in looking eyes whether imagined, virtual or real.

Men in short sleeves carrying their babies in their arms close to their bosoms speaking in whispers while older kids and mothers dragging the empty babies’ carts, moved like dreamers walking over water seemingly unnoticed by Tarik’s group which demonstrated uncalled for riotousness. Where the members of the group really unaware of the people they passed?

He allowed the foreigners the benefit of doubts…What doubts…and what about the locals!

For him there was no way but to react to the game with occasional guttural laugh. He lived in that neighbourhood. It was unavoidable to notice that the peacefulness of the wide back street was not disturbed except by foreigners or groups with foreigners among them.

Many diplomats and Europeans and American Managers of Firms operating in Syria leased apartments in that residential neighbourhood; and the group had just collected the Chief of CNN Bureau at Cairo from a Guest House located on the street. And the call for the walk in that neighbourhood was to be blamed on the unavailability of a near by parking space.

Damascus a fast growing city, just like everywhere in the Middle East…but, not as fast as in the Gulf Countries; Damascus the fast growing city just like all other Syrian cities, lacked the believe in built parking spaces.

The group included Mr. Hoofer, better known as the Political Officer in the American Embassy, the Officer’s wife, the Chief of the CNN Bureau at Cairo but the other five were Locals among them were two ladies. The notables were Dr. Gassani and his wife and then you may count Waleed the businessman and his wife and finally Tarik the Civil Work Contractor. Dr. Gassani was counted among the notables because he was then a Senior Officer in the official Syrian News Agency SANA, home on vacation from his European Office.

The group conversed in loud voices and the conversations centred mostly on the architecture of the new city of Damascus, and on how that each building in itself looked OK but not the street as it was.

The dirt on the street which even the night could not hide, along with the fusion of the sent of Jasmine brought over the old Town, with that of garbage were also topics which lead to one central theme: the manifestations of not yet developed or to leave the locals who when you talked with them and not talked to them did not seem to be much different from Western foreigners, yes those locals to leave for them the right to self. Respect regardless of being a true case or not, you’d better say not developed enough or use the nice term which some Magicians in a performance for UN Affiliate draw out of an empty hat…you’d better say developing people or communities or countries.

That evening and on the way to the cars, what the group could not get over was the super abundance of empty mineral water plastic bottles and the black shopping plastic bags of different sizes in that quarter of the city of Damascus. Almost all of the bottles had labels indicating foreign distribution companies.

Tarik found in the origin of the bottles a worthwhile topic to introduce hoping to find some body to lend a back to the blamed Syrians and carry part of the burden of being underdeveloped. He communicated his observation but only to receive the Political Officer’s loud remark about the challenge to come up with a single American label. Tarik could have named a dozen of Americans living on that street who worked for Oil Companies operating in Syria; but he did not. He hoped for a helping back and had no intention to overload the already suffering back.

The men in the group and to the dismay of the ladies kept shooting the empty bottles like soccer balls. The Chief of CNN Bureau at Cairo was the first to take it on the empty bottles; a practice which he indicated to be carried over from Cairo, introducing by that a new topic for discussion namely Football after instructing the footballers in the group to avoid bottles with water in them. The new topic did not hit any interested ears and hardly took off…’underdeveloped’, thus prevailed.

And you could hear more than two different dialogues going on at the same time and it seemed as if the same subject was passed from one subgroup to the other. The theme was always central.

Eventually, our friend felt very uneasy and began his search for a way out.

“Tarik” He gave a start to his brother in law’s whisper. He thought how fitting that name was for someone incidental and occasional like himself.


“Take us to a restaurant.” Again whispered Waleed but in Arabic.

‘Did I hear MATTAM’ the Political Officer broke in and continued: ’Tarik; is this all you’re good for?’

“Definitely…but still…not elite enough for a Grand Net interview”.
Everybody laughed but the Bureau Chief’s laughter revealed quite a lot of uneasiness. He assumed the face with the narrowed eyes and the strained brow. His chest heaved till the threads of the buttons of his jacket became strained in their holes revealing the stress exerted by the muscles on the textile. The eagle eyes in their sockets were full of promises; or so Tarik imagined.
“Not the Pub…Not the Pub.”

“Hell…Of course not.” Tarik responded.

From Harmon Mountain and on a clear night the Shakhe’s cofiah can be seen reflecting cosmic brilliance in light blue strips that dwarf the electric light sources coming from the few villages on the eastern shoulder of the Golan Heights.

You see…no more up rises and for a moment Tarik could not remember how they got up there on the mountain. He passed the cactus fruit over to the lady next to him.

There it was again the falling short of training and the begging of too many clichés and too many…Paco would have managed to find an excuse for him or rather would have seen an artistic value, a sense of beautiful and creative intentionality.

It had been always very agreeable to see through Paco’s eyes; always very confortable…Paco was very special; very special indeed, for many reasons and in many ways. Yes, he was very special and not only because he had invited his student to live with him free of charge in that Ikelar wood structure house that had a small back yard yet big enough to host the extended shade of the neighbour’s Indian Apricot tree all through the afternoons of that unforgotten fall of 1973, but for a host of other things too. Among the ‘other things too’ and the most remarkable was Paco’s eyes as imagined to look, behind the thick glasses and Paco’s vision.

Tarik did enjoy the few months which he spent in that wooden structure and especially his time in the backyard. Something was peculiar about the shade that visited the backyard and the way it teased the parched greeneries of that time.

It would crawl in as early as one thirty after noon time; shy and drowsy would lingered for minutes near the fence of the neighbours as if making sure nobody was watching and then rapidly extended itself over the whole yard and there to stay until sunset.

‘Good fences do make good neighbours’ but there is no way to keep the shade out and on its own premises only; especially when the tree is tall and the branches are substantial and impressive and often develop into Freeway signs for eyes to read. It took the Americans in California more than four hundred and fifty years to discover that the Indian Apricot trees have edible, juicy and tasty fruit…

Impressive creatures are scary and often impose their whims on others…Paco was six and six by two and a half…

Tarik used to take advantage of the shade of the neighbours and to sore high in the direction of the east.
“When did the fourth one come; “he thought and taking an inspective look around, said: “Let’s have late supper.”

“Welcome back.”

“Told you better eat or you’ll be hungry soon with nobody to prepare anything for you! All restaurants are closed now.”

“I’d understand this if you were a working wife…In your case I wonder what wives are for!” Tarik took his time saying what he said to gather the missed pieces of the evening.

“Your wife is Whisky. I’m only an attendant lady who’s good for pregnant moments only. Good for…”

A rowdy applaud seemed to startle the old man who was preparing the chilled cactus fruit for the consumption of the group.

“What a wife!” Startled, Tarik looked in the direction from where the exclamation came from and looked beyond the old man into the void.

Abdul-razakh, asked his friend to comment on what the brother in law had said. The answer was a smile that was rewarede with a kiss on the head.

A cheese sandwich was offered and then divided among the two friends. Tarik chewed his bites silently with his eyes searching the darkness. Silence sneaked in again, permeated by the sense of fatigue suffered after lots of drinking and lots of talking.

Tarik felt guilty for introducing this group to Waddah. He had been debating bringing his wife up to the mountain for some time now. He wanted her to meet his friend but not this way…the eternal story of the sails and the winds!

“Probably Scheherazade has a remedy for this.” Tarik thought while taking a look in the direction of his wife.

Seated between her older sister and Mrs. Hoofer, she looked like a baby protected by two grannies. She looked very delicate and fragile but he knew better.

“This is unbelievable…I bet you; you cannot have such an experience in any underdeveloped Country. Not even in Lebanon and its elite Christian Community.”

The chief’s out burst abided quickly.
Tarik’s wife looked in his direction yawning.
Tarik wondered what had become of the American Correspondents who covered the spicy part of the Lebanese War out of Beirut.

During the three visits which he had to take to West Beirut during the war in 1975 to salvage his shipment of earth-moving equipments out of Sin Al feel Free Zone facility, he remembered drawing a great similarity in character between the American War Correspondents and each of the Political Officer of AUB – Dean of Foreign Student, Professors Hawker and the Director of the American Studies Program, Dr. Howling. The Correspondents having served in the Viet Nam War were well built, well informed in the geopolitics of the Near East and as expected very handy with their photography gears. The Officers Like the Correspondents in all respect except for the War; theirs was the Korean and not the Viet Nam War…

Tarik’s wife brought him back from war zone to Mount Harmon with a hardly audible cough.

Of course, the Hakawatee knows the Scheherazade of the family…Further; he has known the impossibility of being the Chahrier and the Hakawatee at the same time.


                Chapter 6

                     Yes…’ Was it 1972 or 1973?’ Tarik is very poor when it comes to dates and names. You see he is not quite sure about the year and he can not come up with the name of the Chief Correspondent, the Head of the CNN Bureau at Cairo, for he would have mentioned it if he would have remembered it. Be sure of that…

He cannot remember whether the glorious October war took place in 1972 or 1973…still…’there is time to remember’.

Of course he has known the dates and has known the names; has known them all, known them all whether in particular or as categories. He had kept the Correspondent’s visit card and had in mind visiting him in Cairo.

Further, he has lived the experience of the October War minute by minute on the American Grand TV Nets which had direct and virtually non stopped coverage from the Israeli front…fraction of the second by fraction of the second…

Tarik likes littering with big names and the Correspondent seemed then and still big enough and the October War…how anybody could forget the year of the October war! It is human nature…and it has nothing to do with getting old. It is a heredity problem, a thing of the genes as he has been told so many times when in his twenties and definitely has been told that by what seemed then to be authorities…

Doctor Hawker, he wonders how long since dead…hell, could he be still a live: or should the question by whether such people die or not?
If people…it should die…Immortality is for the Divine; history can repeat itself but cannot be immortal. The same falls for time…
Dr. Hawker from little Rock and his close friend Dr. Howling who though his name does not show it, insist to be of Polish origin, preach one and only one concept of the Old Testaments, namely ‘Gentile-ism’…Tarik has great affinity and great sensitivity to ‘isms’…often can’t help but sneeze in their presence!

Here we are back at reading signs along the free ways for nothing but the reading of signs!

Time, the most important structural element of History and the eternally fought for commodity, looking for a manifestation of being there through reading signs; God bless; what a divine gift and would this mean that the brain needs a time off!

Mr. Hawker and Mr.Toddler…yes, here it comes. The name was and still, Mr. Kurt Toddler; the Chief of the Bureau’s name is Mr. Toddler…Reading signs often joggles the memory and shakes loose the forgotten end pits.

May be Mr.Toddler’s remark about the elite Lebanese was justifiable. For not only the Correspondents operating out of Beirut during the Civil War came across more informed, but you may say more professional, very much like the Hawker and the Howling type; full of alligator’s tears.


Chapter 7


                       Authorities have cautioned Tarik against over rambling yet it seems to be to no avail. He rambles about even when asleep. He rambles about penetrating worlds that stretch beyond horizons. He rambles about penetrating dreams and nightmares that lie beyond imagination. He rambles about and rambles about and still rambles about yet how strange it is: he always comes out of his rambling about like a hair pulled out of sour bread dough untarnished and all ready for more rambling about…It is due to the Olive Oil in the local dough or is this the stigma of the Age…the case of being true to his genetic nature!

The subject of genes has been discussed in many Movies and before that in most of the taught and read and over read master Novels of the past few Centuries…And not counting the notable Dr. Ghassani and his wife the remaining five locals in our group of the few chapters back, are fairer in complexion than the three Americans at hand then. Should this be attributed to Crusaders and Mongolian invaders or to the genes best suited for survival!

Abdul-razak as he liked to be called that evening carries such deep blue eyes typical of the North Europeans. The absence of hair on Waleed’s chest and his snow white skin has always embarrassed him when young and not sun tanned yet. And the five Locals do not seem to be albinos in their Country. Yet, definitely the analysis of their acids should classify them as Semitics: Semitics but not Jews. Try to forget and forgive the last remark…For Genes, where should the line be drawn?

When the subject of genes was brought to Paco’s attention he ignored it; and did so for the reminder of the week for the Class carried foreigners and a few coloured specimens and South Los Angelo’s incidents were still vivid in the memory of contemporary history of California.

Coming back on following Monday, he opened the subject giving an oral statement making it clear that the statement answered all possible questions that can be asked and that no further discussions of the subject would be tolerated in his classroom. The statement in rephrasing:

‘God has created the Word and the Word was with him since the beginning of time and will continue with him to the end of time. Nothing is new, all has been there hidden somewhere before.

There is no changing for the will of the Word. Since in time, there might be the case of some blue blood designated as minor blood but history will take care of the problem and make sure that the right blood should occupy the right place, should eventually prevail if fit for prevailing…Sacrible…’


               Chapter 8

                   The Poetess called Tarik ‘brother’ and kissed her brother’s lips. The taste of the Max Factor cherries should have anchored the ‘brother’ deep in the hostile soil of San Francesco Bay Area.

After the kiss many Professors stood in line to shake his hand. The Dean of Foreign Students shook his hand and patted him on the back too. Then the Lady Poet was called to the podium.

Behind the podium, she introduced the ‘Canopy of the Desert’ and handled the growing of watermelon in the wilderness in a bewitching poetic language…What else the language of a Poetess could be!

Honey skin, topped with chestnut hair and a face, somewhere between round and long, punctuated with wide brown eyes supported by a delicate nose conveyed genetic confusion in the family tree. No traces of the passage of the years were clearly evident and she looked the type who would appreciate a remark along this line. That remark was never given.

She talked about the ‘Black Concentrated Coffee’ as if it was her heritage and looked like those seeking a bartering bargain for her cherries…Was she after him?

Nil loosened Tarik a little by a camouflaged jealousy remark but did not free him completely. She shared him the heavy feet and the reaction of the mind to the split second splitting headache…Daisies were not beauty messengers, only for dope trips. He had partaken in the funeral procession to Ash Berry Avenue…Was the Lady Poet in the procession!

Lips first and then handed him a copy of her lover’s volume of Poetry. And in an evident fit of jealousy, Paco brought virtual reality to the scene by inquiring about whether the cherries tasted real or not.

Nil, failing to understand the sudden collapse of the serge of Tarik’s energy, stumbled on a notion to strengthen her grip over her man and rewarded herself with a pale smile. She noticed Tarik stupid stare at the southern horizon and promised herself lots of fun; “Soon it will be his time with ‘the Lyric of the Rain’ the proper geography for the inquisition.”

When Tarik stood behind the podium and introduced two poems instead of one: ‘the Lyric of the Rain’ and ‘the Weapons and the Children’, she wondered when he had the time for the second.

She had competed with the first and the second should have been translated some time earlier even before she met him. And when she got back to Tarik, he was about to finish with introducing the poor Iraqi Poet who was consumed by some chest disease in the sixties of the last century to die a relatively young man full of promises.

The second poem proved to be quite involving and Nil forgot the plotted revenge and toiled with open ears for learned questions.

The questions asked centred on the references to Myths and Legend in the Poems and seemed beyond her worries. Somehow she found herself, being a Catholic of the USA drawing analogies with her history.

Coming out of a Daisies’trip Nil became aware of her missed chance when she saw Tarik sitting next to her. “There will be other occasions.” She thought while noticing her man standing up, raising his hand and then silently back in his seat…He was ignored.

The Dean of Foreign Students was behind the podium then, talking about his becoming aware of the flow in the University Foreign Students program namely the need to teach those foreign students to translate what is there and not what is supposed to be there; for that supposed to be there belonged to other Cultures…Intellectual honesty!

Yes Mr. Homsi; what’s the urgent comment or comments in your bag that could not have waited?
The University Library has a few books about this poet. It is evident you have not been aware of that. If you have the time or the interest to read any of these books you’ll discover why I tried to interrupt you…It may be good in this context to remind you that the Olympic Gods have their retreat grounds in Deleon.
OK, I’ll do…Still, drawing analogies between Diets of different Mythologies does not justify changeability of names.
Europa was the name of the daughter of a Phoenician King.
You’ll have a chance on a coming occasion soon. Be well prepared for it.


             The white and the blue strips of Latakia have deteriorated into wash-white and wash-blue colours. Tarik has visited many times since the Games and the deterioration of the colours should have been gradual. Seated in the front seat next to the taxi driver, he is noticing it for the first time now. He should be sure that…”this is inconsequential and what matters is that here we are my wife, my daughter who is going to get married within weeks from now or so is expected, and my youngest son, here we are in the city which long since painted white with blue strips, about to arrive at my wife’s brother apartment on the seventh floor of a high building that overlooks the suave waters of the Mediterranean. Soon it will be sunset and soon we will marvel over the slaughtering of the waters of Antiquities.”
Yes, how much please; please?
In the city it is 25 Syrian Pounds regardless of the time or the distance; do you have change?
By the way, customers should specify destination from the start and I have the right to refuse service.
Makes sense; thank you…How convenient; regardless of time and distance! 
                           The family hardly got the luggage out of the trunk by the time the nephew was there. It was a warm welcome, warmer than the usual. From the balcony, the voice of the brother to leave luggage for the kids had a quick respond from Tarik and his wife.


Chapter 9

                          Her First visit to Solomon River basin coincided with the first time they celebrated Tarik’s birthday in California. Usually, the occasion past without much of a noticing or so he claimed. Yet as an expatriate and from the time he got on the habit of having girl friends, a tradition of receiving a green pot marked a flash reminder of the day and he demanded being left alone evening time through until the next afternoon. For some reason, he did not like to celebrate the occasion with any company or even to mention it.

First two Romances did not survive the year each, but somehow it did happen that for each birthday he had a girl friend lined up and ended in having to explain the peculiarity of the occasion and his not minding to receive a green pot without a notice.

From the time he turned twenty two he developed a special ritual which eventually matured into a routine.

Having been born, as he had been told by Mother, little after sunset, he spent all of that day in bed until early evening. Then, showering, preparing breakfast and consuming with it minimum four glasses of milk, he reclined for half an hour and then indulged himself with his fifth of Scottish Whisky to find myself on the morning of the second day in the living room with stinking tee shirt and stinking socks. The stench of being one day old had always been a must in the annals of his history from the time he turned twenty two until his daughter turned eight years old.

Lesley opened the window and allowed the transparent drapes swing back to relaxed position wondering why should sex demand so much time of people’s thoughts. She saw Paco and Tarik walking their horses, heading back to the Ranch house.

It was her first visit to the Solomon River basin and everything had gone her way and as she planned. The real challenge to her plot was to come evening time.

She stood in front of the window rubbing her tummy lightly and easily with her hand. It was hot and she debated jumping back in bed but, she also felt hungry; she could do without a few more calories. Bed won over food “And besides, Tarik should come soon to wake me up.”

The third girl friend in San Francesco Bay Area who was responsible for the long lasting friendship with Paco, drew the invitation by manoeuvring the beg man.
Nobody had any idea how conniving she could be until seeing her in operation in the Ranch.
An intellectual tease, with an eye on playing a man, not much worried about her looks, like most girls but exceptionally beautiful knew how to use available moments and how to manipulate people.

“I like people to notice me as a human being and not as a desirable fuck.” She often said with apparent savouring for the way ‘fuck’ pronounced.

It was the fashion for women to use suggestive diction in casual conversation then, often pronounced with lip articulation like that woman employ to make sure not to damage their lips makeup or when they try to employ some semiotic sex tattoos.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 July 2015 16:29

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