Tourab Amsheer

(the following is an excerpt from an unfinished story)

…and so Ramadan approaches, and the forthcoming Night of Nights still too ill-defined for words, too wrapped in its own insecurities, and Frustration is not being able to read the full version of Life, given how we only float through excerpts, a good excerpt sometimes, yes, but still only an excerpt…

but we can’t leave it like that, raw, bare, like bread without hummus, we have to explain it we have to update it we have to give it a back story we have to show that things have happened since it all started, that we are still relevant, still plugged in, still aware most of all of  our own inconsequential nature, like a scribe wrestling with a Muse that never comes

and so we think of  a particular scribe again as an even older man now too stunned as to how it all turned out after the latest revolution or coup or restoration…

we see him walking over the Bridge of Lions and stepping past the rubble of  dreams almost being hit by toc tocs and motorcycles whizzing by as he solemnly walks every day he walks the same route while remembering the glory days when trams used to run in streets that are now only potholes and broken glasses

to get to the Main Square he has to go through a hole in concrete walls erected by the army to block the demonstrations but the scribe must squeeze through without falling

sad but the scribe has spent that last few decades since his one glorious moment, which he no longer remembers except vaguely, something to do with a reworked version of the story of Keiss and Laila, but he has forgotten writing it, he has even forgotten where it is in his library, his own book, and so wandering about his large mother’s apartment looking for something but it has slipped his mind what was it again was it the book he once wrote?

and so he goes on, sleeping in the very bed his mother died in, looking out the same balcony window from whence she saw him carted off to prison, because he dared to say that something which he can’t quite remember now as he sits and orders a beer at some sidewalk café and rests his old legs

all that was long ago and now he mostly wakes up at 4am and shuffles between his various fridges, obsessed with moving unneeded kilos of once fresh spinach, still with dirty roots, and wrapped securely in plastic bags, from one fridge to the another, not to mention all his other foods, which he reboils regularly late at night, and which have been so long in the fridges that they are quite difficult to identify

but now he is sitting watching the passersby as he has always done

he tried recently always trying, helpless, to make sense of the animated murals, and the roving bands of thugs, the prostitution and drug selling, the boys who attacked him in front of the French Lycée where he studied long ago

but he couldn’t

and not being able to do so, not being able to say anything coherent, except occasional ruminations that no one understands or can relate to:  he has become the fraudulent anti-hero of a story never written

it’s getting late

the scribe is beginning to worry that his time is rapidly slipping away, or maybe he no longer cares, as he holes up each wasted evening in his hermetic apartment, the elevator of course broken, the apartment he has lived in for almost all of his 81 years, except for that garçonnière he once kept in a posh part of town just before the war, when he still drank whisky and had an affair with a famous dancer at a famous nightclub she who liked to put henna on his prick before they made love in the sahara

ah those were the days

and then later after the war for him always the marking point always when he put aside the whisky which was always Johnny Walker Black and began smoking hashish only, not forbidden that, and commiserating with all the other intellectuals, most now long since dead and then of course he made that careless remark in his café after drinking only those harmless beers not even the Johnny Walker maybe it was the hashish, at any rate he found himself dispatched to the dreaded prison in the desert where they beat him and stuck batons up his rectum till he became unconscious

and now he ambles with difficulty now on fallen arches from the bastonades walking every afternoon past the Main Square to the same places every the afternoon, he is usually at the cafe by 1pm, when the place opens unless there is some problem

and so he sits in his favorite wicker chair, chain-smoking his cigarettes, and only able now to drink two or three bottles of beer in the afternoon — but still worth it! — and reading , always reading, not the vulgar new things but the old novels he knows

… and so still he drinks but without exuberance at his café, every afternoon, and the days are aimless and long and he has lost track of them and wonders if Ramadan has come and gone is it already next year or is still some other year some other time he is remembering, until a young foreigner sits next to him and he thinks this young man is sitting next to him because he realizes who he is, a famous writer from the Old School, but the young man does not seem to be aware of this at all.

it is a yellow day and the ancient city is again filled with dust from the desert so thick you cannot see the revolution anymore and the young foreigner turns to him.

“Isn’t it too late for the Khamaseen?”
“What month is it in Arabic?”
“Amsheer, in Coptic.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” the scribe replies with some finality. “The dust you see is called Tourab Amsheer.”