Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Standing guard

"Jiggle, jiggle," he thought as the jogger passed him by. He couldn't really see her butt. Not really, on account of the baggy sports trousers she was wearing. He couldn't see her breasts either. They were flattened down somehow. He didn't know how exactly, but whenever he compared joggers' breasts with normal women's breasts, they were always flattened rather than perky. It was strange.
"They must think this makes it better somehow," he thought. In his humble opinion, it didn't; "breasts were meant to be perky. Otherwise, what's the point?"
Every morning, around 5:30 am, the first batch of joggers start to trickle one after the other. They were mostly men, but every now and then, there would be some women. He waited for them. He longed for them. Unlike the rest of his colleagues, he refused to sleep at that time. He knew that if he fell asleep he would miss them. They were, after all, the best perk of this job.
He was 16 when his father died. His uncle came to his mother one day and they had a conversation. Then his uncle took him away. As he left the small, rural village, he could hear his mother ululating and shouting: "my son will be an officer" between jeers and cheers. He took one last look at his seven siblings as the toktok took them further and further away from his home. They went straight to the enlistment camp.
He thought he would be an officer like his mother announced, but then after he was registered he found out, he was to be conscript.
He went up to one of the people in charge. "Ya beh. I was supposed to be an officer," he said naively. The officer responded with a slap that managed to floor him and unhinge two of his teeth from their roots. He spit them out with along with a small puddle of blood. "Clean up your shit, conscript," the officer said as he stepped in the pool of blood and moved away leaving bloody footsteps leading up to his office.
That night he was assigned the cleaning of the entire dinning hall floor. He spent all night scrubbing the floor while his mouth throbbed with pain. He was too afraid to ask for a doctor. All he could do was sob, his tears falling on the floor's muddy surface.
The rest of the year was a series of constant humiliation, abuse and torture. Any kind of thought that had crossed his mind faded away as his body sustained multiple bruises, breaks and bloody lashes.
"Do not think, conscript," they said.
"Obey, conscript," they insisted.
"Push the wall, conscript," they shouted. The wall? How can one literally push a wall? It doesn't matter. Just obey and keep your head down. Those who didn't obey, suffered. No one wanted to suffer. The emotional pain went away after a few months, but the physical pain was always too much to handle. He just didn't want to be hit again and again and again.
He obeyed. It was really his only choice. He could not run away. He wouldn't go anywhere. Whatever money he was given went straight to his uncle. He didn't even see it. He had a bed and three partially hot meals. What else did he want?
Every now and then, they would have to go down in the street "to protect the country".
"Those fucks in the street are fucking terrorists. Your only task is to fuck them. Do you understand, conscripts?" their training officer would say. Every time, they would drill that in their heads.
"Push the wall. They are all walls. Push the wall. Just push the fucking wall," he would remind himself, "then you can go back to sleeping and three meals."
It was on the way to these "missions" that he learned about staring at girls. He saw his fellow conscripts whistling and shouting at girls passing by as they were parked in the street, waiting to be unleashed unto the "terrorists". They sometimes waited for hours, packed in the truck under the sweltering sun. The smell of rotting flesh underneath their heavy suits made the truck reek for miles. The heat was unbearable but no one dared leave the truck, not until they were told. Staring at others was their only mean of entertainment.
He had an inclining that what they were doing was not right, but he also thought it was his right. These people who walked and jogged early morning were trying to lose weight while his whole village were starving. He imagined them stuffing their faces and then going for a run. He despised their ability to choose what to do with themselves; something he lacked.
It was his own way to seek vengeance upon an unfair society. He argued that if people did not want him to look at them, then they should not pass in front of him. After all, they had their fancy clubs to go jog there in peace, but instead they chose the common man's abode. In the street everything was fair game.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The realisation of a revelation

A revelation often occurs when least expected. It does not happen to you while you are searching for it or pleading with the invisible gods to send you one. A revelation is often the result of deep thinking and a random event that you witness or experience. It does not have to be a unique event. You might have even experienced it before many times, but it is this one time that the brain chose to create a pattern with that event as the central point. Hence, you start identifying with that event in a different method.

Unlike fictional work, a revelation does not equal an immediate state of relief and/or a known plan for you to execute. In real life, it might take you a long time to actually start putting this revelation into executable steps. While the thought might be ripe in your head, you could find that many internal or external factors hinder you from executing it. Therefore, if neglected, a revelation might continue to swim freely within the confines of your brain without ever seeing the light of day.

An unrealised revelation might be a dangerous thing since it could lead to overthinking, notions of depression and a sense of great failure. On the other hand, the execution of a revelation could lead you nowhere. Unlike fictional work, which tends to provide audience with linear paths of salvation, real life is more convoluted.The execution of this revelation might produce no significant results that you are left as vacant as before you had that revelation. In fact, you might find yourself even more hollowed out that before. This means nothing just as your life means nothing.

To summarise, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Please consult with your physician before attempting to create or execute a revelation.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Whole-grain muffins with almonds

I made this the other day and it tasted really good. However, I haven't been eating sugar for a while, so anything remotely sweet tastes good for me. It's definitely not for the sugar-fiends. Since I haven't been posting, I figured this might jog my brain a little. Also, I am not claiming it's healthy or anything, it's just tasty.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups whole-grain flour
1 cup warm milk (I used skimmed, but it is up to you)
1/4 cup honey
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 small chocolate bar (any kind, I used orange-flavoured sugar free one)
1/4 cup oil (I used corn, just make sure it's a neutral kind of oil, so it doesn't leave an aftertaste)
a handful of almonds (depending on how nutty you want it, you can add more)

Preheat oven to 220C.

1. Pour the honey in the warm milk and stir until dissolved.
2. Combine flour with baking powder and salt, and then add the sweetened milk and oil. Stir well until everything is combined. The whole grain flour sometimes has pockets of air inside it, so make sure everything is well-combined.
3. Chop the the chocolate bar with a knife (it's a very easy process if the bar is at room temperature) and then add to the mixture.
4. Chop the almonds with a knife or by putting them in a kitchen towel and hitting them with a rolling pin (good for exorcising demons).
5. Add almonds to the mixture and give it a final couple of stirs.
6. Divide mixture unto the muffin tins and then put in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is nice and golden.

This makes 12 according to my old muffin tin. 





   

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chance meeting

At first, you are not really sure that you have in fact glanced it. It is out of the corner of your eye...the left one. Yet, your brain instantly matches the face with a memory and something lights up. The person walking in the street, about to cross your path, is someone you know. Perhaps an acquaintance or a distant relative because your first reaction is to duck or run. It is too late to cross the street and so you jump behind a tree that proves to be too willowy for your pudgy frame.
Yet, they see you and instantly smile. They approach you with that smile. You know that the coming five minutes of your life will be completely wasted. You pray to a higher force to rescue you somehow, but they refuse to grant you that wish. The hug you. Your insides get squished. You haven't seen them in a long while and so they seem to believe the hug has to be a long one. You start choking and their hair is all over your face. You don't want to eat hair.
They finally let you go. The physical torture has ended, now comes the social or rather mental torture. They ask you a series of questions about your life to which you have to present an answer that is two sentences or less. Think of it as a pop quiz, only you do not know the answers to those profound questions even though you have been searching your whole life. You have to condense your whole existence in a paragraph to satisfy a mere acquaintance who you will never (hopefully) see again.
It's a harrowing exercise, especially when they ask you if you are happy. As if I am going to gush to a mere stranger about my joy in life. Oh, wait, that is what people do now. I am just not in on it. My bad.
They are always very "happy" to see me. Strange because I wouldn't be happy to see me. I am always left to wonder how happiness has become such an empty word. I don't think people know what it should stand for anymore. It is so overused that it has lost its value. Soon it will join its sister "love" in an untimely death.
The good thing about the chance encounter is that it ends, always, well at least if you are lucky. Then, you go about your business and thank the universe that you remembered to brush your hair that day. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

If

If we suppose that we were randomly created out of a spark somewhere in the vast, seemingly black universe. From this spark, emerged the earth, people, plants, animals, and all those other things. If we suppose that no one made the decision of creating us, that there is no one beneath or above us. If we suppose that we live suspended between two imaginary ideas.

Then, all our faults are our own, heaven and hell are on earth and we become responsible for everything. The randomness of the universe becomes a factor in the equation, but not a dominating one. Then, we stop seeking truth and all the rules we created become meaningless, insofar as the after. Then, only the now persists and nothing else.

Then, why becomes obsolete and how takes its place.

It also means that neither good gets rewarded nor evil gets punished. There is no guardian. Suddenly, the thoughts and conversations you have in your head echoes, unheard and unknown. Then, there is no one laughing with you or keeping you together. When you walk down that dark street, jiggling your keys, singing out loud and looking left and right, no one is looking with you.

You become truly and completely alone. The heavens become a dark, empty space in which nothing resides. When you look up, no one looks back at you, and when you shout, your voice dissolves within the layers of darkness above. Existence ceases to matter, and is surpassed by survival. The glory is all in the now and the more you wait, the less you get. Ambition is no longer contemptible, but admirable, or even sought after.  

We are the universe and it is us. 

Monday, September 09, 2013

On getting older

I am at that age... where people my age are celebrating their children's (more than one child) birthdays. Those younger than me are getting married, some are even pregnant.

However, that is not the point. When you are outside the trending curve, it becomes hard to set a perimeter for yourself. Add to this the fact that you haven't really decided on your life's path yet or even found a career to which you may eternally dedicate yourself. However, with all of these thoughts floating away in your head, at one point in your existence, a kid calls you "aunt" and it dawns on you. There is a 20-year difference between me and that tiny person. That is a whole other human life. In fact, between me and that small individual, there are many other humans. 

Yes, I am getting old, but not in a negative sense, just in the sense that years are in fact passing. Despite the fact that I have achieved some things in my life, they don't really seem substantial or more specifically relevant. The things I have achieved have not enabled me to get closer to the answers I seek. In fact, I may be as distant as I first started. I doubt I even left square one. I may be running in circles inside the square. 

It is a huge square. I don't think I can even see the outlines of it.

I have been doing the same thing over and over again. Like the definition of a madman, I have been expecting different results. However, I cannot -for the life of me- find a break in the loop. Everything I do is similar to something I have done in the past. I am stuck.

Also, I feel like I have squandered my youth away. I have barely done anything, really. I mean I just worked and studied during most of the past years. It's depressing.

I find myself jealous of any young person who has already found their passion or ideal career or whatever. It's sad, but true.

Yet, I can't blame anyone but myself. The country I live in is a hard place, but there are others making something out of themselves in that same place. Everyday, I walk in the street and I hate myself and the people around me, but it is not the worst street in which you can walk. There are both better and worse streets. Lamenting how bad the street is won't change anything about it.

The thing is I can't pinpoint the wrong and neither can I pinpoint the right when it comes to my own life. I don't know why. It is a strange trend, because with everything else, I can tell you exactly what's wrong and what's right. My lack of knowledge to the possibilities and path of my life has become a persistent symptom of an unknown disease. I am sick of it.

The one thing I can assuredly tell you is that no one can fix your life. You have to do it yourself and most of the time, you don't have a clue. I entertain doubts about everything and even though that might be my problem, I find it hard to be certain about anything. Well, except coffee.

My mother tells me that she never really thought about life, but just lived it. I think she is Hamlet senior and I am Hamlet. She is the person who does things and I am the one who over-thinks everything and gets six other characters dead instead of one. I think that reading this play at an early might have messed me up.

In my defense, my thoughts are quite convincing.

I wonder what it would have been like if I was bubbly and thoughtless.

Of all the lives I have lived (I am an ancient soul), I believe this might be the most boring one.  

So, I think I should do different things. I don't have a clue what these things are, but I know that I need to travel more and stop caring about making sense.

This seems appropriate:


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Living in the moment

For years, people have been giving me the same piece of advice: live in the moment. I never really got it. How was I supposed to do that? Recently, I kind of began to understand it. It is the same as yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a present. You know, just let go of things. I get it, sometimes I try to do that. However, my question is what if the moment sucks?

I think the whole point is getting past that moment which sucks and into one that does not suck. I know, so lame. Anyway, I do not have some great wisdom to impart upon you. I think you should live however you want, but the one thing that you really should avoid is stress. It's a killer, and I mean literally. It messes with everything in your body and mind, and I think if you persist in being stressed out, you get used to it. Then, you can not let it go. It rather sticks to you. So, the point is get mad, then get even (lol), no, then get past it. It is not glamorous and it does not feel great, but afterwards you are sort of in peace. I think striving for peace is a good quest.

Also, self-loathing is very much on my mind these days. I am starting to attempt to move away from that. I have been a customer of self-loathing since my pre-teens, and I can tell you it gets you nowhere. So, I am trying to change that image. I think it helps if you become really honest with yourself and vocal with others. Do not let other people's problems fog your thinking process. If someone tells you something you do not like, immediately tell them to back down. It helps. Also, trying to face yourself. For instance, if you don't like looking at yourself in the mirror, do that. If you hate spending time alone, do that. If you seek out distractions so you don't think about yourself, stop distracting yourself. Another thing is to do something you love whether it's a sport or a hobby or just playing with your cat. Be honest about what you like and do that. Then the last thing is if you do not feel like sharing with people or you do not feel like you want something that others want, do not freak out. Do not think that it makes you bad or wrong to just be different. Often we fake our interests to fit in and I think it's one of the worst things you can do to your psyche.

At the end, just make the best out of awkward or bad situations. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

History, on repeat

My sister comes back from the club. Laughing, she tells me: "You wouldn't believe what I saw."
I am definitely intrigued, so I sit up and ask. My sisters have this quality about them that make their stories irresistible to me. I think it stems from my early childhood when I wouldn't agree to go to sleep unless they tell me a story. They used to take turns, telling me bedtime stories, sometimes of their own creation and sometimes from books (they used to change sad endings so I wouldn't fall asleep unhappy). I loved hearing stories especially about the famous duck, Batboota and her offspring. Batboota had many intriguing adventures.

Anyway my sister tells me: "I saw two young girls, riding their bikes. The older girl was riding a normal bike and the younger one was riding one with training wheels. The older girl was riding the bike really fast, while the younger one was struggling with her slow bike. So, she is trying to catch up with her sister, shouting: 'Sara, wait for me' and then I realized history repeats itself. We used to do the same thing."

It's true, I spent many days trying to catch up with my sisters while struggling with my eerily slow bike, begging them to wait for me, which they -of course- ignored. It was never a happy moment when I would finally reach them only to find out that they were going to race all the way back. Like Sisyphus, I was forced to push the literal bike instead of the metaphorical rock.

Yet, when I remember it now, I can't help but smile.

 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Malls and other things

I have become incapable of writing. I have no reason for that except maybe the lack of life? I don't really know. It's not like I had a life before. I never really did.

I hate malls. I really do hate malls. I used to tolerate them in the past, especially when I had some fake friends with whom I had fake outings and a fake love-interest. It was a very fake time of life. I never liked them though. My relationship with malls was kind of a summer affair, it happened just because of availability and it ended when it served its purpose. There is no depth in a summer affair, not if you do it right.

Yet, lately, I have come to hate them so much that being in a mall causes an acute case of depression that only coffee and a night at home can fix. I think what I hate about malls is the people in them and how they go about life being very normal. These are the bourgeoisie, right? The ones who are neither too shallow to waste life, but not to deep to shun it. They are just in the comfy middle part, where life moves in a brisk pace and there are always many things to do. They are the ones who are always busy because they just don't have the time. They are also the ones who have steady jobs and families that contains children. They push their toddlers in strollers, thus eliminating the toddling (yes, that's a word) involved. They go to the movies and eat popcorn while genuinely laughing at some mediocre comic sketch of a life they don't understand. They even laugh in melodramatic movies and eccentric films, while asking "what are they doing?" in an obnoxiously loud voice. They are not self-aware, and they don't usually respect personal space. They are always looking for a bargain and would trample on you to get to it. They live for the latest gadgets and usually spend their money on things they don't need to make themselves feel "relevant". They are the ones that empty a shop of all its clothes when the word "sale" is written.

There is nothing particularly wrong with them, not really. They are, in fact, very good at life. They are the ones who are admired by parents for being sensible, reasonable and family-people. They are not eccentric and they actually like to socialize. They usually marry at a young age and spend the rest of their lives raising their children. They work at high-paying multinationals and love fast food because it is, after all, "fast" and they have no time, remember?

They are nice, well-adjusted people. They are well-adjusted to society's expectations and society loves them. They have a relationship with the community that makes them the envy of the shunned and the unfortunate.

I don't want to be like them, but they do remind me how I suck at life so much, and for that I resent them and hate malls.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Life

Arrogance, we all suffer from it and we all have it.

It's true. Somehow, superiority is written within our DNA. You can try to deny it, but then you will be lying to yourself. You can be arrogant in different ways. For instance, you feel like you are morally superior to your peers, or have a better physical appearance or maybe smarter or more accomplished. Whatever it is, there is always something that makes you feel like you are just a couple of steps ahead of everyone else. In the race of life, you are one of the firsts.

And you love it.

Who wouldn't? We live in a world where superiority is celebrated and in some instances, rewarded. First world vs. third world; upper class vs. lower class, religious vs. atheist, etc... Yeah, yeah, we all repeat the phrases that make us "accepted" in the overly generalized eyes of the collective: "we are all equal"; "God treats us all the same", etc..

Let's face it, God does not treat us all the same. Even in the eyes of the law, those who have connections and leverage win and even unfortunate people treat other unfortunate people like crap. The only reason people want to stand out is to have leverage over others.We are a race that values superiority, well, until it goes against us, that is.When we are inferior, the world becomes unbearable.

No one wants to finish last in the race even when are all headed towards the same ending. Imagine running and running towards the finish line, glancing behind and seeing everyone else tripping and you grin. Then you cross the finish line to trip into a giant pit.

Well, that's life for you.




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Good Thing

I am going to start this post with a sort of citation of one of the theorists I am using in my thesis. It's not a quotation, but just a rewording of what he wrote. I am not doing this for the sake of showing off my information, but I think it's relevant to what I am going to write.

Basically, John Stuart Mill said that a right action induces happiness and a wrong action induces sadness (or something to that effect). I am not going to discuss all of what he wrote or whether I agree with it or not. I am just going to take this sentence out of context and use it for my own sake.

According to the previous statement when a good thing happens, one should be happy, which is the best thing in the world, and Mill actually tied it with morality. The point is good thing= happiness. I think we can all agree on that.

So, what is a good thing?
  1. If you want something, and you get it.
  2. When you achieve something you have been working on for a long time.
  3. Surprise experiences that prove worthy.
  4. Traveling 
  5. Books
  6. Good movies
  7. Awesome music
  8. Friends
  9. Hobbies
  10. A nice compliment from a stranger
  11. A walk in cloudy weather
  12. An ART MUSEUM!
  13. Rain
Of course, there are more good things in the world, probably some of those things cannot really be put down into words. The point is when something good happens, you should be happy.

So, my question to John Stuart Mill, What is wrong with me? Huh?



Monday, November 05, 2012

Hollow

I wrote this a while ago and submitted it somewhere, but I guess it didn't work out because I never heard back. I figured I'd post it here since I haven't written anything in a while. 


“I feel empty,” she said out loud midst the pitch black darkness. She stared into oblivion, and wondered if anything out there stared back. She continued to blink, trying hard to see that which is hidden.

She fell asleep daring the abyss inside her to respond.

The morning shone, allowing flittering rays to enter through the flimsy curtain that hung by the window. The rays fluttered through the room until they landed on her face, urging her to rise. She felt their warmth on her face. Drowsily, she rose from her place of rest and sat by the side of the bed.

She felt different. For the first time in a long while, the hunger that she always woke up with was missing. She shrugged it off and proceeded with her morning routine. It was not until she started to change her clothes that she noticed a change.

As she pulled off her t-shirt, standing only in her bra, she fleetingly took a look at a side mirror and realized what was different. She would have screamed and fainted, but sadly she was not that kind of girl. She couldn’t scream, and to her horror, her body refused to faint.
She stepped closer to the mirror, staring at the back of the room, through her stomach, which ceased to exist.

She slapped herself.

It was still there, the gaping hole that somehow devoured all of her abdomen. Instead of her jiggly, fat-filled stomach, there was a square hole beginning just under her chest and ending at her belly button, which was no longer there.

She checked if any other part of her body was missing; only her abdomen.

She got a pair of scissors and cut through the tip of her thumb. It bled red blood. She was still alive as she still could sense pain. She wondered if maybe that was hell; some kind of manifestation of Sartre’s No Exit with a twist.

She tried the door of her room; it fell wide open at the jiggle of the handle. She stepped outside of her room and she could clearly hear the noise of her household. Her sisters discussing politics loudly, her mother giving directions to the cook, the crackling of newspapers, the clang of utensils, the doorbell…

“Life has not stopped. This cannot be hell,” she thought.

She put on her t-shirt and went downstairs. Her mother was the first to greet her.

“You are not dressed? You will be late for work. Would you like to have some breakfast?” she asked before she kissed her daughter on the cheek.

“Umm, no, thank you,” she replied hesitantly, “dad, may I speak to you for a few minutes?” she asked her father, who was hidden behind the newspaper he was reading.
“Of course,” he replied, “is something the matter?” he asked as he walked towards her.
“No I just need to show you something, in the study,” she responded as she gestured towards the study.
They went inside.
“I need you to stay calm and not panic. Ok?” she warned.
“OK,” he said nervously.
She lifted her t-shirt just a tiny bit to reveal the vacuum underneath it.
“Is that a new computer trick or something?” he asked suspiciously.
“No, my stomach is missing.”
“I don’t understand,” he responded.
“I woke up and found this hole. I think I need to go to the hospital,” she explained.
Her father still stared at the vacuum, unflinching, trying to understand.
“How is that even possible?” he asked the air around them rather than his daughter, “OK, just do not tell your mother. Get dressed,” he ordered.

The trip to the hospital was a silent one. Other than her father’s erratic driving and a few curse words here and there, no one said anything.
She was not worried, but rather amazed. It was something you read in fictional novels, not experience. Involving people in it made it materialize even more; it was more real and pronounced. She saw the dumbfounded look on the usually calm and collected doctor. He scratched his head, looked more intently at “it”, all while clutching the clipboard to his chest as if it was his childhood teddy bear. He excused himself, and when he returned there was a plethora of doctors with him. Medical professionals from every specialization, all looking dumbfoundedly at “it”.

The prognosis: they have never seen anything like it.

It was official; she was a freak, a hollow freak. She was also a case study: emails were sent, videos were shot and tests were done. In a week, everyone knew; someone leaked the video on the internet titling it “Hollow Girl” and the whole world was suddenly witness to her transformation. The public demanded confirmation that “it” was real. Some considered it a sign; however each person had a different explanation: it was the end of the world; she was the chosen one; she is the devil’s child; she must have sinned…

No one knew anything, but for a brief time, the world seemed to stand still as they all stared at “it” just like her father, the doctors and herself. “It” was hypnotic. Just like the Monalisa’s eyes, “it” drew you in and would never let you go. She often found it hard to stop staring at “it” in the mirror. Her mother was not fond of “it”, and she would often instruct her daughter not to lift her shirt and stare.

“It will all be over soon, dear. They will find a solution,” she would reassure herself more than her daughter as she straightened out the house. It was all she seemed to do ever since it happened; she would clean everything and anything, all the time. At one time, when the whole house was spotless, her mother got a bucket filled with water and started cleaning all the cars outside their apartment building. The neighbors were pleasantly surprised.

By the end of the month, there was a published medical study by the same group of doctors who first examined her and were now carefully monitoring her. An excerpt read: “the case subject has no stomach or intestines. The body seemed to have rerouted its whole circulation, bypassing the digestion process entirely. The subject is no longer capable of feeling hungry, and also no longer capable of eating due to the inability to process food. She is kept alive through glucose IVs and other intravenous drugs.”

The one positive, if one could called it that, result of “it” was weight loss. She had always been chubby, something she has struggled with her whole life. However, in less than a month, she withered down to a normal looking person. By the end of the second month, she was skinny, and by the end of the third, she was stringy. She did not look like her former self. No one was capable of recognizing her, but they still wanted to stare at “it”. No one could resist. Children poked through the space, adults tried to tell them not to, but it was too much fun for them to refrain themselves.

One unexpected twist was the branding. After a few weeks, she officially became “Hollow Girl”. No one seemed to remember her name, and she wondered whether she remembered it herself. Her former life seemed like a distant memory. Companies approached her to sponsor their products, and magazines wanted to take her photos, especially after all that weight loss. She was the dream of every fashion designer: no fear of a bulging stomach. She had an elegant spread of her modeling all sorts of midriff-baring outfits. In between shots, her nurse, who accompanied her everywhere, would hook her IV, so that she would not collapse.
It took a lot of liquid to keep her alive, and any extra effort would result in her collapse. The doctors warned her of slipping into a coma if she was not careful. So, she had to save calories by keeping as still as possible. At one time, she spent hours looking out of the window at a fly, whizzing around a piece of rotten fruit. She was mesmerized by the motion. She identified with the half-eaten, rotten fruit, withering away at the fly’s tentacles. Life was the fly.

She tried to milk the situation as best she could. She took any job that was offered despite her parents’ objection. They even made an action figure and a comic book based on her. Her weapons were safely tucked away in her hollow abdomen. Another rendition of the comic book figure allowed a life-sucking storm to emanate from her hollowness. A special compartment built by a brainy scientist made her capable of controlling it. “It” became a source of threat for the world as the storm could suck the whole universe in: she was a human-made black hole. This rendition was not very famous with the children, who would cry and scream every time they saw her, so it got cancelled.

By the end of the year, she was famous and rich. They wanted her to publish a book about her “ordeal”, but she did not have anything to say. She knew nothing about her transformation. She did not know why or how it happened, and despite everything that happened, she did not feel any different. The emptiness within her was even more pronounced now than ever. She saw it every day and “it” stared at her, reminding her of her dare.

After all, the abyss did respond. She became the abyss. She would forever be defined by the abyss, which happened to be the one thing she hated. She had nothing to say about it, and she did not want to explain it. She preferred that each person would make their own assumptions about “it”. She preferred them to think and wonder what “it” meant, rather than defining “it” for them.

Meanwhile, she was withering away more and more each day. A blog that an amateur writer kept about her let people know how she was doing. She had millions of followers on social media sites, and she received emails from everyone; some hated her and others loved her, but everyone knew that her end was near. Some posted teary videos about their sadness, while others rejoiced that the “abomination” would soon perish: a sign of the triumph of good.

She was confined to her bed most of the time, slipping in and out of consciousness as her body finally registered the loss. She often dreamed of strange fantasies while out of consciousness. When she opened her eyes, someone sat beside her. As the world came into focus, she realized it was him.

“Hi,” he said with a warm voice, stifled with oodles of pity.
“Have you come to watch the freak die?” she asked in a frail voice.
“You can’t give me a break, can you?”
“I don’t think you deserve one,” she answered with a smile, “why are you here?”
“I came to see you,” he answered.
“Why? To pity me?”
“I thought we were friends,” he said faintly.
She managed to utter a squeaky laugh, which made her instantly dizzy, “we were never friends,” she retorted.
“Did I cause this?” he asked with earnest concern.
“You always had a great ego.”
“This isn’t an answer,” he snapped.
“It wasn’t much of a question, either” she said, feeling dizzier than before and then she slipped out of consciousness again.

Her dreams that time was about him. She felt herself curse in her dreams.
When she woke up, it was morning and he was gone. She found herself hoping he would be there, but she knew that if he was good at something, it was departing. So, he departed.

When the nurse came, she asked for a bath. She could no longer move, but she was light enough for a normal weighted woman to carry her. She would not let any of her family do anything for her, but depended entirely on her nurse; she was also very compassionate and understanding.

She liked the feeling of water going through her. Although it reminded her of her emptiness, it was amusing to see the bubbles of water emerging from “it” as she began to sink to the bottom of the tub. It was also the only thing she could do without anyone bothering her. She missed diving in a great expanse of water, and sitting in the tub was the best she could do. She was able to dive in the sea only once since the beginning of her hollowness, and it was one of the most difficult and yet invigorating things she had ever done.
She could only sit in the tub for a short while so as not to upset her body’s temperature.

The doctors said it was only a few days away, the end, that is. She wondered what it would feel like, and although it would be very easy to end her life any time now, she refused. She did not want to make it easy for the universe. If she was to be consumed by her emptiness, then the universe was the one to do it. After all, it was its job.

He came again, this time during the morning.
“You left,” she said as soon as she saw him.
“Only after you fainted. I stayed for a few hours hoping you’d come around, but you didn’t,” he answered, limply.
“Excuses, excuses,” she said, smiling.
“You’re in a good mood.”
“I just had a bath.”
“You always loved the water,” he added, touching her hand.
“And you always hated it,” she said as she retracted her hand.
“Only when I can’t breathe,” he explained, an expression of annoyance on his face.
“Read to me,” she implored.
“I’d rather talk.”
“There is nothing to be said. Just read to me. Take the blue book and start from where the bookmark is.”
He unwillingly complied. The book was Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and the bookmark opened to The Daisy.
She closed his eyes as he read to her; she always loved his voice. His reading was flawless; he paused at every full stop, animated the text with tonalities and most of all, he made it seem alive. She could picture every word he uttered in her mind’s eye. It was as if she was reading the tale herself.

After he read the last sentence, he looked up to find her eyes closed. He panicked for a moment, thinking that she had passed, but when he touched her cheek, she woke up. His face was close to her own as he knelt beside her. His hand still rested on her pale face, and she was staring directly in his honey-colored eyes.
“You know it’s illegal to molest sick people, right?” she said.
He laughed, but said nothing. He just brushed her hair off her face, and continued to look at her.
“You are not the cause,” she uttered after several minutes of silence, “I don’t think there is a cause.”
He became teary eyed as he looked at her, and then he buried his face in his hands.
“Do you think I am the daisy or the bird? They both perish at the end, but I think I am the bird,” she said, trying to dissipate the situation. She was always good at comforting him.

“You are neither. You are you,” he said after rubbing his eyes.
“Now, you are just quoting Dr. Seuss,” she smiled, “the bird and I share the same emptiness, I guess.”
“You were never empty to me,” he replied.
“Just remember me like I used to be, whatever that was. OK?” she implored.
“Always,” he replied as he clutched her hand.

She passed away with him clutching her hand, with the emptiness within her, with the world watching and pitying, and with her never knowing why or what happened. She perished like the bird, neglected when whole, discarded when empty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dried Mint and Truths

My family are kind of obsessed with agriculture, or the art of growing things, mainly things that can be eaten or used. So, we have all sorts of things growing, and every now and then, we get something from a relative that has finished growing, and is ready to be used/eaten.

Mint happens to be very abundant due to the growing things addiction, especially in high summer when it is its season. Winter mint is the flimsy kind that does not flavor your tea right. Winter mint is the black sheep of mint. It probably plots evil plans to rid the world of summer mint, but then it realizes that the two would never meet. Then, it becomes depressed and wilted, sometimes it is so depressed that it forms frost and dies from the outside in.

Back to summer mint, then.

Mint also tends to go bad very fast, and by bad I mean it blackens and it becomes unusable. It is a shame, but you know what they say: good things don't last, and curiosity killed the cat.

So, in order to get through the whole it goes bad fast conundrum, my mother dries the mint and puts it in jars. Currently, I think we have two or three jars of  dried mint.

Dried mint is the concentrated version of summer mint, it is the distant relative that often comes at bad times and is loud and obnoxious. So, a small portion goes a very long way.

So, why am I telling you this?

I've been meaning to make small baggies of the dried mint so as to be able to put it in my tea without me choking on small flakes of dried mint. All I need is to get some gauze, a pair of scissors and string, cut squares of gauze, fill them up and tie them with strings. However, I am so lazy I haven't done any of that.

The second part of this post is about truths. Have you ever thought how sometimes we can take only one side/perspective of the truth and just live by it? In that particular case, we often refuse to entertain any other kind of truths. I wonder whether this is good or bad, but then I realize it really depends on the person and the life they want to lead. Perspective is a tricky concept.

There was a thought about mediocrity I wanted to share, but I am too mediocre to explain it *wink*

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cheesecake

Generally, I am not a fan of cheesecake as a dessert. I do not mind it, but I always go for chocolaty stuff. I have to admit that sometimes I feel my chocolate addiction hinders me from really expanding my tasting experiences. Yet, I always find anything without chocolate to be very disappointing.

Back to cheesecake.

I have baked cheescakes before, three times to be precise. All were received well and many tummies were satisfied. I did not try any of the cheesecakes I baked (I generally try to avoid eating what I bake, makes me feel like you are eating your children).

I have made an observation though regarding my taste in cheesecake. I always like the type of cheesecake that everyone hates. You know the kind, the one that is very lumpy, crumbly and yoghurty (that is not a word). Everyone would hate it and I would be going in for seconds.

I do not know whether I genuinely like those cheescakes or I just feel sorry that everyone hated them, and so I become their only benefactor. Yes, I believe food gets sad when it is not received well.

So, that was all she wrote. Pathetic, but it is still something.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Harassment in Ramadan?

Ramadan is supposed to be a month of spiritual development and internal reflection. It is supposed to be the month in which Muslims try to tighten their bond with God via fasting, praying, reading the Quran and doing good. The month is also supposed to be all about abstinence, not only from food and drink, but also from any harm-doing, this includes refraining from insults, lustful leering and thoughts, and gossip among other things. Harassment is definitely one of the no-nos of Ramadan.

This Ramadan to add to my spiritual development, I decided to include an exercise program so that I can improve my overall health. After all, we are instructed in Islam to keep a fit body as well as mind. I thought it would be the perfect month because mostly people keep to themselves and streets are empty early in the morning. My exercise program included biking early in the morning (after dawn) and power-walking with a friend before Iftar, that way I am ensured least water expenditure possible.

The first 10 days of Ramadan went smoothly with no harassment whatsoever, and then while power-walking, I noticed that people's looks have changed. They look straight ahead at us, leering in a disgusting way and making eye contact without any fear. They also linger and seem to be enjoying the fact that you took notice of their harassment. I shrugged them off to me being paranoid.

Then the following morning, I went biking as usual. A guy in a car tried to harass me. I quickly stopped the bike and started spewing insults left and right with the loudest voice I can manage. He sped away without looking back. I shared the incident with my family. My mother suggested that I go a little later in the morning so that people would have gone home after being up all night, and my father told me that this was a singular incident and that it would not happen again. However, for my safety, he bought me some pepper spray.

I decided to take my mother's advice and go a bit later and also I took a day off because my legs was tired. So today, I went biking and by the 3/4 of my usual lap, it happened. Two guys in a car verbally harassed me, they just came out of nowhere and insulted me while speeding off. I insulted them back, spewing all sort of dirty, barbaric insults and for the first time in my life, I used an insult that I despise and would have never dreamed of using. They came back again, this time insulting me and giving me the finger. I insulted them back and dared them to stop the car and come tell me in the face, egging them on with the words "if you were men". They didn't come back.

I was irked, not only because of them, but because of my reaction and the way I responded. First of all, this is the second day I lost my temper in Ramadan, something I am trying to avoid. Secondly, with every harassment, I lose a little bit of myself and my humanity. I am becoming as barbaric as those people and for what? They don't care if they were insulted, some of them even like it. So, all I am doing is losing my temper and messing up my own serenity, and for what? Nothing.

I asked myself, how come the first 10 days were harassment free?

And then it hit me, it is the effect of our media. Everyone of my female friends have commented on the amount of insults and abuse (emotional, physical and verbal) that are portrayed in this Ramadan's shows and commercials. Women are being hit, insulted and laid to the ground  by "macho" men, who are revered in those shows. In addition, commercials encourage the idea of treating women as "objects".

In this Birell commercial a guy is telling his girlfriend on the phone (in a "macho" tone): Do not go outside alone. He is giving her an order in a derogatory manner, and then when he is off the phone, his friend asks him if she is Mona, and he tells him "No, I am done with Mona, this is Hanaa". He shows him a photo of her and other guy's eyes widens and says "Auff!" Meanwhile, every time the guy says something "macho", he grows a beard and then when he doesn't he becomes a woman. The slogan of the campaign is "be a man" and this is their interpretation of manhood.




In a series of commercials, a communications company called Etisalat is encouraging customers to break away with their old companies and come to Etisalat by mimicking the breakup scene. Men (customers) call women (company representatives) and break up with them in all sorts of derogatory and offensive manners, while the women plead with them, telling them they must have done something wrong. Below you will find the worst of the bunch.




In another Vodafone commercial, actor Samir Ghanem is at the hospital being treated by a nurse when another actor Al Adl comes in. Samir Ghanem points at the nurse and says "my fiance" and then Al Adl looks at her in a leering way and says in a "come hither" tone "ahlan wa sahlan" or hello. This might be the least offensive, but it still promotes the idea of harassing women at work with negative attention, so not at all excusable.


Add to this a myriad of shows where women continually bear and suffer emotional, physical and verbal abuse by men who treat them like scum. However, the women refuse to leave them because they love them or whatever flimsy reason the show offers. In addition, shows portray women as bubbly airheads, who think about nothing other than getting married, and for that she would suffer anything. Sure, some women are like that, but as much as media is portraying a social phenomenon, it is also solidifying a social trend where women are abused and happy about it. In this area, media is supposed to be the awareness channel in which men know that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Yet, is there one single campaign against harassment in TV midst all those shows and commercials?

NO. Even though several women and reporters were harassed physically this year and the past year in different areas of Egypt, some escalating to group rape, and yet the trend goes unaddressed by media and government.

The way we are going, this will only get worse and barbaric men will find this a way to assert whatever dominance they lack at home or work or whatever. The media is encouraging this trend and add the fact the sweeping Islamist trend of considering women "unmentionables", who need to be locked up and treated like shit, well, then you have a recipe for disaster.

I honestly, truly, hate this country.
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