SHISHA

Shisha

Could there be anything more annoying than shisha?! Hold your horses! Don’t start to list! But really… Our most successful export by far… How useful it is to humanity is a different story.

As I sit there observing people smoking their shisha, I really wonder what the big deal is. I am in a nice café by the beach. Tables are filling up quickly. It is a heavenly place, a heavenly view.

A couple sits at a table beside me. The woman looked in her late twenties, had long brown hair, parted in the middle. She wore natural make up, had the fashionable eyebrows, nose job and collagen lips that are very much in trend these days in the Middle-East. She was wearing a short black dress with flower patterns and light beige sandals matching the colour of the flowers.

The husband, a young man in his thirties, was wearing a light blue shirt with patches on the elbows in a stripy multi-coloured pattern,  royal blue shorts, and navy plimsolls. Effortless chic as you do in Lebanon. Mind you everyone around me is Syrian.

The couple sat down and did what everyone does nowadays, they picked up their mobiles and stared at their screens. A waiter came and took their orders. Soon after, a shisha arrived for the Mrs. She finally left her mobile and started hubbling bubbling and talking to her husband! Hurray! Shisha brings people together. She used the nozzle to gesture and emphasis what she was saying. It became an extension of her ego. The man listened quietly. A few minutes later, his shisha arrived and soon they were engaged in a dual of smoke and talk. They were now on equal footing. However the puffs took over the words and silence fell.

I looked around me, and everyone was doing the same. If only people could speak their hearts, but they can’t. What they can do though is smoke Shisha. Long puffs of smoke are let out. Most people are doing it, staring at some distant point, huffing and puffing, engaged in a muted  conversation, on the mind of every Syrian. Every exhale is an attempt to release all the frustration of those unspoken, heavy suffocating words. A litany of  smoke as powerful as the sound it makes, falling on deaf ears… I am starting to develop some empathy for the shisha now. I get it. It is a form of therapy. Death is so incumbent in the region. We are all going to die anyway so why die healthy. Die slowly… Smoke shisha! The extension of the battered egos and helpless souls. The voice of the voiceless and most of all, the killer of time. When the whole world is trying to kill you, and you cannot kill anyone, you just kill time… An indirect form of suicide. As I develop these deep thoughts about the essence of this trivial pastime, I can now say to all you shisha smokers, I now understand you!

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The “Everywhere” Chip

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Kinda’s medical report flashed on her retinal display, “Candidate Non-Sigma Compatible”. There would be no Everywhere Chip for her. You either had the right brain waves or you didn’t, and Kinda’s dreams of multi-tasking, of being “Everywhere”, were dashed. It meant she could only work in real time.

On the metro home, a stranger plonked onto the seat next to her though the carriage was empty. She shifted uncomfortably. He mumbled something and she pretended to ignore him. He mumbled again. “Excuse me?” she asked.

“Not Sigma compatible?” he asked.

“Why’s that any of your business” she snapped.

“Actually, it is my business” he zapped her his e-card. It simply said, “Omega Wave Inc.”

“What’s this?”

“My company handles a new, experimental technology. We don’t believe people should be shut out of the “Everywhere”, so our product focuses on Omega, and not just Sigma, brain waves.”

“Not interested in turning into a vegetable. Thanks” she said. The metro reached her stop and she got off.

That night, her sculpting session was another failure. Frustrated, she triggered an Orb search, “Omega brainwaves”. She was surprised. Ten years earlier the technology had been in its infancy, but there were startups across the world reporting positive results. She checked the testimonials of a dozen Orb users, and they all said it had changed their lives. Maybe she had been unfair, Kinda thought. She replied to the e-card, asking for an appointment.

Later the next day, Kinda was excited as she walked out of the clinic. The new chip was under her skin. It would be sore for a few days, but her long auburn hair covered up the bruise. That evening, the chip interfaced with her neural networks and virtuality headset effortlessly, isolating the distractions and anxieties that had affected her creativity. She felt the split as her “Selves” scattered into the Orb to handle hundreds of tasks.

The actual “Self” splitting process was the most controversial part of the “Everywhere Chip”. It was like watching different channels play in Kinda’s mind at once. She sculpted tirelessly in her lab for the first time in ages. Her concentration was only interrupted when she felt the sharp pang of hunger. She’d been in Orb for over a day! With the sculpture finished, Kinda sent a 3D image grab to Cynthia, her agent. Then, exhausted, she fell asleep after eating something her flatmate, Daryl, had left in the fridge.

It was Cynthia’s message that woke her:

01:35 – Darling! I took the liberty of forwarding the image to the gallery. I can’t keep them away. They want it! Oh, Kinda I’m so excited. Love it. XOXO

Kinda smiled and got up to make coffee, then the doorbell rang. At her door was a young man in a bad suit with a stern face.

“Miss Hibrawi?”

“Yes?”

“Detective Yossi Ormand, LAPD. May I come in?”

“What’s this about?” she asked.

“It’s your housemate, Daryl” he said, “She’s been murdered. Where were you last night, Miss Hibrawi?”

Odds and Sods from a Dreary Sunday Afternoon 10/30/2016

On a rainy Saturday the plan was to go Irene’s for brunch, then to the Ravens game. The club sandwich was $15, which I thought was pretty outrageous. While wolfing down the food, I watched the pretty women of the Glebe come and go. I don’t know if they were talking of Michelangelo or not.

I skipped the game, because even going to Irene’s in a car I starting sneezing and coughing. I dreaded the return of my chest cold, which lasted a month. Indeed, on returning to my apartment, I slept for hours.
In the morning, the phone rang. I groggily awoke from a dream. I was dead and going out a date with an equally dead woman. We were reminiscing about how it felt to be alive.
Later in the morning, a friend and I went to Ikea. A toddler was being taken by his mother in a baby carriage looked up at me. I noticed the intelligence in the boy’s eyes, and the wry smile he was giving me; like a toddler Buddha.

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Beware the fog on the eve of Hallows

There is a reason the fog’s there. It allows those that’re normally hidden to move more freely as their shackles of imprisonment are loosened for their night of power.

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The little flicker you thought you saw, that movement of shadow when you know you’re alone, there is a reason you thought you saw it, it happened.

It was like this a few years ago, when a friend, James, told me something he witnessed on a Halloween night taken over by the mist.

They had just moved and their neighbours a few doors down invited them for dinner. Things were going well; the family have a daughter which they talked about. Although she wasn’t at the dinner table. James didn’t want to pry as to why and thought nothing else about it.

After a couple of drinks, he needed to use the bathroom upstairs.

Once finished James walked out quietly to make his way back. He turned back to the hallway after closing the bathroom door but was startled by a young girl in her pyjamas. She didn’t say anything, just stared, then went into the room she was standing next to.

They started to tuck into dessert as James returned when the father apologised for their daughter not being able to join them.

James responded, “That’s fine, in fact, she gave me a bit if a startle upstairs just now and looked tired, is she feeling ok?”

Their neighbours fell silent, until the dad spoke, “What on earth do you mean? Felicity is out with friends, but should be back any second…”

The front door closed just as he finished his sentence.

“Sorry I’m a bit late, the fog outside was so bad the closer to home I got, Rachel had to drive really slowly.”

My friend said this Felicity looked similar to the girl upstairs but was definitely a different girl. When he said this, the neighbours all turned white as a sheet.

There was an incident in the family decades back; a family member, she was committed after it was discovered she murdered her sister. They were told that this family member had passed away earlier that day in the asylum, when the weather was all clear.

On that night of death, the fog, it was noted especially, due to the ambulance on route having an accident because of it.

James thought back, realising that the attire the girl he saw wearing was actually a hospital gown… Then the cold realisation dawned on all of them, the reason the girl ignored the encounter, it was not James that she was waiting for…

The neighbours called the night short.

James and his wife went back home and never heard from the neighbours again as they moved out the next day and put the house up for sale.

Every Halloween the fog spills in, they make it a point to keep a wide berth from that house.

So beware when the fog stays, you never know what’s hiding within it.

 

The Booth

He closed the apartment door and walked down the corridor. While he waited for the elevator, he put his hat on and buttoned his jacket. Inside the car, a man and a woman smiled sheepishly at him. The fluorescent lights flickered. The flagrant smell of sex, tangled with cologne and perfume, clung to the paneled walls. On the ground floor, they exited first and he followed. Whatever they had going it wasn’t enough to last. He shrugged and stepped outside the building.

The dull light of dawn hung like a netting above the city. He headed west, toward Fieldston, carrying a brown paper bag and limping slightly in his usual manner. A flock of pigeons noisily took to the air a second after he trespassed on their sidewalk. They left sticky feathers and diarrheic droppings behind. At a street corner, he picked the morning paper from a kiosk and a pack of sugar-free gum. His mouth tasted of stale coffee grounds. He cleared his throat and spat.

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Twenty minutes later, he entered the subway ticket booth. He exchanged a perfunctory greeting with the man he replaced. Five days a week, he spent forty minutes going to and fro, plus a quarter hour at the grocery store outside either apartment or booth.

Commuters with an attitude whizzed by. They hurried to their shops, offices and meeting rooms. He ranked them by the clothes they wore and pictured most in desolate, poorly lit cubicles. Some of them sat back and stretched their legs on mahogany desks in refined offices with large windows offering expansive views of the cityscape. All of them though, everyone, just like him, had nothing better to do but to go back and forth.

At noon, he pulled his lunch and a thermos out of the paper bag. He absentmindedly munched on a tuna sandwich. The lettuce was soggy and tasteless. He sipped the hot coffee. It was infused with a metallic tang that he had stopped to notice. Human traffic dropped from the thousands to the hundreds. The stress associated with his workload, that of accepting exact cash and dispensing tickets, went down a notch. He unfolded the paper and read, not paying much attention to the wars ravaging countries in other parts of the world. It certainly wasn’t his fault. Nor was police brutality, city-council corruption or vile presidential candidates. Once, some years ago, he read that anyone who was worthy of becoming president won’t run for the office. It stuck with him and made up the core of his political belief. That was the reason he won’t even vote. Disgusted, He shook his head.

Shortly before rush hour, when the second wave of humans flooded the subway, he punched his card and unlatched the booth’s door. A turbaned man nodded affably and took his place behind the thick glass. On his way up the stairway to street level, a discarded gum stuck to the back of his shoe. He cussed under his breath and limped east.

Blanket

wallpapers-320x240It’s just a blade of grass. That is all. But it is there, right next to you. The wind forcing it to bow down, but, even without this invisible conduit of pressure it would bow down freely if it knew; if it was able to take just a simple glance into your eyes, it would be over in an instant. All of its simple inhibitions, melting away into oblivion, and humbly not caring. Because it had you, just for a second.

I was much more fortunate of course, I felt your touch, your breath, your very warmth all over me. I carried this blanket in my memory on those nights when you were not there. I still carry it, no matter how heavy it gets. That warmth is still there.

And your long auburn hair, glorious, the smell caked my senses as each strand tickled my face, and our noses touched in the softest, sweetest of ways, moving ever so swiftly side to side as we mimicked the Eskimos and giggled ridiculously.

See what you did just there? Made me smile again, so why do I still cry? I have this memory of a kiss, this smell floating through my senses, never leaving.

June and Alex say hi, they keep asking how I am, how I’m coping. I lie of course, but they probably know that.

With a thought I paint the greatest façade, but no matter the colours I use, it’s still dark. The wind blows away my creation like sand being swept away by the tide, smearing the different coloured grains against the canvas.

It’s not great, and I long for when I can smell you again, hold you again… love you again. I know you can’t hear me, but it doesn’t matter. That blade of grass, it knows just as I do that it’s enough just to be here.

Your dad says hi, as does mum, seeing them helps, but this journey, it’s too damn long and it’s too damn cold! I want you to be happy, I want you to grow old, I want you to love, I want you to smile… even if I cannot. Wherever you are.

I do like what they have done with the stone, even if the acronym R.I.P. isn’t exactly a happy one, you chose wisely when you could… always the creative one.

Remember that old fool you used to tell me about? The one who used to have riddles for everyone, and used to dance everywhere he went? I met him too. He had nothing but good words to say about you, you are right though, he is definitely a little bit mad.

I have to go now, they’re calling me, they even gave me these wings, so at least I can come visit you now and then.

I’ll wait for you, but promise me you will live a long beautiful life, make a new blanket, and we can join them when we meet again. Love you always… Wife.

Moonly

The moon smiled on the wine dark sea. As we all know sometimes, there is a long moment every night when time stops and another kinder kind of temporal slow march takes over from the hurly burly of the usual tick ticking that measures the race’s race through the days.

It’s a moment when the celestial rowers whoosh by the satellites on high, and strange shadows appear on the radar screens to be murmured over by technicians who know better than most that beyond technology is a kingdom of night with its own rules and regs so strange we can only mutter weird little rhymes about space that curves into itself and black holes into whose folds galaxies disappear to emerge maybe as crumpets on Mars, who knows?

Actually, the moon knows. But she keeps her secrets to herself for now, while fishes with spirits come to the surface and with little mouths go gobble gobble they’re eating their flies and plying their mistress with questions.  Sometimes, if you stare hard enough you can see the moon shrug her shoulders and whisper a gentle “no” like a lady in love who is saying she’s sorry, things are not quite right, no, not tonight.

As for the breath of her yeses, so rare, it’s so sweet; it mingles with the air from the flowers and wafts among the crickets, who sing excited melodies that capture all that beauty in rapturous song. And this night, the notes of their hymns were so loud they caused goose bumps on the skin of the dolphins who cavorted just off shore with baby sharks whose mothers had left them in their care for these hours.

 

@Copyright David Clarke 2016

 

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