Hair

I wake up with my fingers tangled in my thick, coarse, wavy, hair. I groan softly as wakefulness takes hold of me, and I rise from the bed. A low chuckle escapes my lips as I recall the complicated relationship I had with my hair, of all things. A few curling dark brown strands cling proudly to my fingers, reminding me of their existence. You are uncontrollable, aren’t you? I whisper to the stubborn tendril with its silver streak.

I think back to the punishments I inflicted on this writhing, living being atop my head. I tied it down with tight ropes until it bled. I burned it. I bit it. I tugged at it. Here, there, every which impossible way. Until fat tears of frustration and turmoil poured from my eyes. And the bristles were sheared.

But it never occurred to me- when I finally set this creature of burden free- that this wild crown framing my head would protect me. With its length, strength, and luster. It kept my thoughts and dreams from flying away to the sky. It kept me balanced on reality’s plane. It caressed me when there was none to do so. It kept my sanity in check.

I sigh and run my fingers through the dancing curls once more, and fall in love all over again.

The Bearded Nomad

I wonder

I wonder what secrets

He hides in his beard,

That wandering nomad

Of a thousand years.

I wonder

I wonder at the worlds

He carries in his eye.

Each one different

Yet all divine.

A Rewrite of Marquez

As part of our MA program this year, we have the opportunity to rewrite a short story of our choosing in the ‘Short Stories’ course. I chose to rewrite Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” from the perspective of the drowned man himself. And it goes like this:

Part I: The Drowning

I cannot breathe. Crashes of waves upon waves engulf me, tossing my flailing body over and around itself. Seawater rushes into my mouth, seeps into my very pores, my ears, my nostrils, and my eyes. It burns, it burns, it burns! The crush of water consumes me. The wrathful rain from the abysmal skies push me against her morose sister, the sea. It seems that Nature is not in my favor on this cursed day, as each of God’s fuming wonders try to push me against the other. I am tossed into the thundering, angry skies, my body thrashing like a whale’s slain meal, then dropping again like an obsolete star out of heaven. Over and over, I am thrust against the furious embraces of the sky and the sea. As if neither the burning heavens nor the ocean’s snatching grip wanted me, nor do they let me be. I inhale almost half of the water into my abused lungs, causing them to collapse under the weight they carried. When will this end? Is this how I am to conclude my life’s journey? A mere floating piece of flesh that horrific sea-creatures can shred me up as they please? The Fates mean to punish me for falling into the maw of the churning sea? My limbs are numb now. My body relaxed, floating amid the chaotic crashing of the waves. As I swirl in the eye of the troubled sea, I wonder how the sea creatures that we thought were dumb, endured the mass of the blue world atop their scaly shoulders. My limbs ceased to move. My breaths bubble and rise in front of me. I hope to join my love soon, and the two of us can share the same existence once again. For I love no other. And I loved none, other than her. Even after she was gone, and there was nothing but constant pain. It is getting dark. Too dark to think, to move, to feel, to be. Suddenly, a crackling flash! Lightening? Zeus’s wrath? Did heavens’ gates open to receive me? Or did the doorways of hell unravel to collect me? My body convulses with the electric static that runs through my stiffening limbs. Falling from the skies, like a wingless bird, struck by lightning, I am finally hurled again to the merciless arms of the vast, infinite deep.

I am sinking. I am screaming. I am praying. I am crying. I am drowning. I am dying.

This is it. This is what it means to finally die. I will see you soon, my life’s blood. I am gone. I am no more.

Part II. The Discovery

I can feel my body bobbing between the rushing waves. Rising, sinking, rising, sinking, over and over, again. Distantly, I hear screaming seagulls and the clattering hubbub of land. How long has it been since that terrible storm, since I’ve been submerged in that hellish, watery grave? An hour? Two hours? A day? A year? My mind is too muddled to think straight. My body feels both weightless and heavy. Is that the sound of children, I hear? Am I in heaven, and those are the sounds of cherubs, playfully calling out to me? Or am I to be tormented by the cackling of dancing, gleeful demons from the belly of the underworld? My useless lungs are floating inside the cavity of my torso. My body moves, with the help of the stirring waves, closer and closer to the sound of children’s shouts and laughter. I can feel tiny hands on my cold, briny body, grabbing and lifting the seaweed and drying jellyfish that have entangled themselves around my arms, legs, chest, and face. By some otherworldly power, I can somehow see and hear what is happening around my slowly decaying body. Without opening my stiff eyelids, I can sense myself seeing what is happening around me. Is this another one of destiny’s games? Is my soul condemned to live in this rotting cage for all of eternity? Plodding footsteps approach. I can see and vaguely feel four or more small, brown-skinned children prodding me with a stick. It didn’t hurt and I didn’t mind their curiosity and make-believe enactment at this imagined enemy ship that has invaded their shores. They start burying my thick, trunk-like legs, my rigid, swollen arms, and then dig me up again, laughing and pushing at each other all the while. A brown-skinned older man walking along the shore witnesses what the children are doing, and with a shout, calls for assistance from other strange looking men across the hill.

I am found.

Part III. The Village

Through the grunts and huffs of the men carrying my heavy form, I imagined they were hauling a deceased horse, swollen and engorged by death’s fluids and mortality’s juices. My sight detected the small number of houses, clustered about a desert-like cape, and I counted about twenty-odd wooden huts. I heard the men’s deliberations amongst themselves regarding the state of my putrefying body. They wondered about who I was, where I was from, whether I had been in the water for long. They knew I was not one of them. I wished I could jump up and tell them who I am. Who I was, before I died, before the curse of consciousness after death befell me, before everything. I wanted to tell them, to ease their curiosity, their questions, their suspicion and doubt, but I cannot. My body continued to be a motionless lump, held in their straining arms. I was carried into a small, wooden hut, that barely fit grown men, let alone the rest of the villagers and a drowned man between them. After gently setting my body on the ground at the women’s feet, the men left the village to ask their neighboring parishes if they were missing anyone. I felt helpless. And somewhat guilty. These poor men were giving up their day’s work at sea to look for my previous life. To search for the village that is missing a man. To tell a worried family that the ocean has taken another victim into her pitiless clutches. That they have found a son, or a father, brother, uncle, or a cousin, floating on their barren shores. My thoughts crashed back to the reality of my situation, as the number of women increased. With more and more entering the tiny cottage, they began to wash my face and body. They took the mud off with grass swabs, they removed the underwater stones entangled in my hair, and they scraped the crust off with tools used for scaling fish. Their calloused hands were gentle and quick, and they worked with a proficient speed that indicated their skill at this task. Softly, and then one by one, they began to whisper about my watery journey to their lonesome beach. ‘He looks as if he had sailed through labyrinths of coral, and he bore his death with pride, for he did not have the lonely look of other drowned men who came out of the sea or that haggard, needy look of men who drowned in rivers’, they murmured among themselves. The collective sigh that escaped their lips when they cleaned the vegetation and brine off my face took me by surprise. Some had their hands against their mouths, some had them against their hearts, and I could sense their wonder and admiration they felt towards my overlarge, lifeless frame.

Part IV. The Name

They could not find a bed in the village large enough to lay me on nor was there a table solid enough to use for my wake. Ashamed, I could sense the women’s struggle as they tried to contain my bulky size with tattered shirts, pants, and shoes they had within their sparse possessions. I wish they never found me, and rather left me to the birds and waves that consume the sea’s plunders. I unexpectedly heard talk of sails and bridal linen. Their looks and touches rapidly became greedy; nipping here and there at the rags that cover me. What are these simple women on about, I wondered? Do they not know that I have been tormented enough by this cruel trick of the universe, now I must be part of their bizarre jest and be their plaything? I am tired, I am tired, I am tired. I want my mind to shut off forever, stop the incessant thoughts and feelings and sights and emotions from roiling inside this deadened corpse. Two women walked in then, carrying between them pieces of an old sail and a gauzy-looking cloth; they set it down in the center of the circle the seated women have made in the middle of the small hut. Why won’t they let me die with dignity? Maybe I am finally getting the punishment I have wrought upon myself. God has finally sent the furies to torture and punish me, as I well deserve for throwing my life away as I did.

The humming began.

One by one, the women joined each other in harmonious singing. Of foreign songs I was not familiar with, and yet they called for a distant memory of a life before mine. So, my penalty is to be surrounded by the grief of unknown faces? Is it to hear the resonance of ancient songs echoing in my dead ears? With fleeting gazes at me, as if worried I might rise and walk out of the hut or maybe dance a jig, they began to sew the old sail and the linen to form pants and a shirt that would fit my fetid, hulking figure. It carried on, the motion of the hands holding the needles, the humming, and the low female chattering. “He has the face of someone called Esteban”, sighed the eldest of the women. Esteban? What a strange name. Do I really look like such a man? Why would they fit another man’s name to mine, when I was called… alas, but my own name is gone, reduced to wind and foam. Oh, what a loss. What a terrible, terrible, loss. It does not matter; it never has, and now it never will. For these seemingly harmless villagers, I will be their Esteban. After dressing me, combing my hair, cutting my nails, and shaving me, the women shuddered. I do not blame them. For the stench of my decomposition is rising as the waking sun makes its ascent to the purple curtains of the sky.

The sound of the roaring waves call for me.

Part V. The Burial

Sunlight pours like liquid gold over the hills, the valleys, the small clustered houses, and the sea winks her shinning eyes at me. The women covered my face with an old handkerchief. I could sense the disintegration of my organs, the spoiling of my flesh, and the slow crumbling of my body. It is a strange feeling. Experiencing your own decay, your mortal shell letting go of its base composure, of what tethers our souls to this world. I surrender to the idea that maybe I am not like the other drowned, dead men. Maybe I am meant for something more. Maybe I am left in this cruel world because I tried so hard to leave it. No, no. That cannot be it. I knew many men that have released their ties to this harsh universe, and they never merely… stayed; living, rotting, awake, aware, in the corrosion of what remains of their physical form. Is this what happens to our souls after we die? Do we still remain hidden in the bones of our former selves? Or is this because of what I have done? A drop of water splashes against my neck. I hear sniffling, whimpering, then the unmistakable noise of sobbing, and the sound of wailing. “Poor Esteban”, I kept hearing, over and over, upon the lips of many women, young and old.

Yes, I will be your Esteban.

The men have returned, and I heard them tell the women that I was not from their neighboring villages. If only they knew. “Praise the Lord!”, the women sighed, “he’s ours!”.

Yes, I am yours.

The disgruntled mutterings of the men ensue when they hear the incessant weeping and the scurrying of the women. The exasperated men called me, ‘a drowned nobody, a piece of cold Wednesday meat’, and that I, a simple dead man, should not cause such a stir. The women loudly gasp. Suddenly, the handkerchief covering my face is removed, and I was blinded by the rising sun and the confusion of faces staring down at me. A deep silence befell the inhabitants of the village. Even after we die, we are still a burden to those around us. I felt sorry to have caused this much strain and tension on these simple people’s lives. I wish I landed on an abandoned shore, instead of troubling and upsetting them so.

But wait.

Is that a glimmer of tenderness I see on their brown, generous faces? Do I detect a trace of affection, sympathy, and compassion? Have I, a drowned nobody, instilled these benevolent emotions within them? Looking around me, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I am not to be punished after all. Maybe the flowers the women were carrying towards my body were meant for me. I let the thought form in my head that maybe their tears were for me. Their grief was for me. As one, their caring hands raised me up onto their shoulders. I am lifted higher than I have ever been during my time alive on this earth. Like a resurrected saint, I am elevated. The village people nominated among themselves a father, a mother, and aunts and uncles and cousins until all the inhabitants of the village became kinsmen. My kinsmen. I am surrounded by family. Relatives that chose me to be a part of them.

I am relieved. I am content. I am whole.

As the men and women carried me, touched my feet, my arms, my head, I became aware of their bright, shining faces. Every single one of these faces that looked up at me had a prayer in their hearts. I could finally rest easy knowing that their boundless love and gleaming eyes will forever accompany me in heaven or in hell. They set my body down atop a makeshift wooden plank and let me go without an anchor pulling my weight down to the depths. As my body softly floats away, to slip within the warm womb of our unpredictable sister, the sea, I can see the arms of the village people lifting, one by one, palms facing me, as they slowly wave at my fading form. The sun high, the winds caressing my perished body, the white horses of the sea sway me to my last and final destination.

I am finally free.

In the Beginning, a Name

My name is Amani. In Arabic, it means ‘wishes’. A simple name, really, that collectively surmises my whole being in a word. I am nothing, if I am not made entirely of wishes, hopes, and dreams.

It took me a while to finally start this blog. Before venturing to this page, a good friend of mine recommended I keep a journal. A keepsake for all those images, words, and phrases that crowd and clutter my brain. I admit, it is not substantial, it is not impressive, or even new; and some of my writings are either too personal or too vague. But instead of keeping the contents confined to the pages of my little black book, I decided to share it. Instead of keeping the stories, tales, and random verses hidden away, I want to dust them off and breathe life back into them.

I implore you, dear reader, to bear with the many starts and abrupt endings, random posts and unfinished pieces, and sudden introductions to characters or ambiguous personas either real or imagined. This blog is meant to be a simple outlet for the creations of my scattered mind. Hello, and welcome to all.