Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The loss

The car was in the midst of a crowded street, his friend was driving while he was sprawled on the back seat, drivers were honking their horns, angry people cursing at the bureaucracy of their Egyptian life, while others just surrendered to the hours of waiting. The radio was on, the presenter was trying to entertain people with his cynical, funny, part western part oriental attitude and his friends were having a very heated discussion on whether a revolution was eminent. He found himself too weary to participate in such a passionate debate; he had just finished a long day at work, which involved a tussle between him and his boss. He had decided to sleep on the way home, thankful that he had a ride for the day.
Little by little the world around became distant, the voices muffled, the vision blurry and so the path to silent and comforting oblivion lay ahead, welcoming his stressed out mind. He surrendered to its beckoning like a sailor to a nymph's calls.The infamous traffic jams of Cairo had promised him at least two hours of soundless sleep, and to such promise, they were greatly faithful.
He woke up to his friend poking him in the arm, telling him that they had arrived. Despite it being the dropping of point, it was not his final destination. He would have to walk for ten minutes or more till he would arrive at his blessed home. It being the season of fallen leaves, he found himself looking to the cool stroll, hoping it would clear up his troubled mind. He descended from his friend's blue car, thanked him, exchanged greetings and turned to face his journey. He had come armed with an iPod, his musical companion in his daily feat. Soft melodies relayed in his ear the most joyous of tunes, sending particles of joy down his hearing canal or the hallway of announcements, which in turn passed the joyous particles to his fastidious brain, which dispersed the particles of joy down every path known to it, so that all parts of his exhausted body were awakened to those soft melodies and celebrated them in accord. He had noticed that his left speaker was a bit muffled; voices didn't pass through in the correct form, he made a note of buying new speakers.
The melodies of the iPod came muffled to his left ear; unrecognizable, jumbled and discarded by his brain and memory. He ignored it and just focused on the melodies that slipped through from the right side. There was one particular track he had been hearing over and over again, it was the three tenor's "Because"; they had sung it many times over the years, back when they were still in their days of fame and glory, when people still held Opera as a wonderful art to be sought after. He had always been fond them and operatic music,even as a little boy; he was the only 9 year old who wanted to attend "Aida", back when it was still held in Luxor.
The tune was overtly magical, almost mystical; every time he'd listen to it, he'd get goosebumps. It opened up with string-instruments playing a few notes in a kind of an introductory melody. Almost as if paving the way for listener and melody to get acquainted; a sneak peak of what yet to come, riling in the listener, so that your ears would request more of the same. There is a brief second of silence, in which one is left to wonder in panic if the enchanting melody will continue. Yet before listeners fall into a sea of disappointment, the reassuring and bellowing voice of Placido Domingo brings them back to the hopeful world of this enticing melody. The tune takes a back seat to the wonderful lyrical concoction that hold this song together. The song told of the felicity and effect of the return of the lover. Placido Domingo's voice always seemed to represent the hopeful innocence and unavoidable humility that one gets to experience when first in love. Gradually, his voice fades, an instrumental melody replacing it, giving you a chance to ponder what was just sung, the melodies that seemed -almost-celestial. Just as you start to understand it, Jose Carreras' voice infiltrates your peace of mind, resonating the confidence and arrogance of a man in the midst of a love affair; you are drawn to his voice despite its condescension and when his verse ends, you find yourself craving, longing and wishing for more. You feel betrayed, left and alone, but then Luciano Pavarotti starts singing with his comforting, assuring and ever enveloping voice. His voice resonates the reassurance that lovers need when the affair becomes old and stale; no one is left, but welcomed and revered. The tune ends with a chorus of those enchanting three voices in unison. It was the ultimate song; he'd always listen to when his day was tough, so as to be comforted; it was almost as good as a winter soup on a cold day.
He walked and listened to his collection of music, humming at times, singing at times and silently smiling at other times. By the time he'd reached his home, he was in a much better mood, it was almost as if the remnants of day had completely dissipated. His mother had left him some food in the kitchen, he reheated it and ate while hearing the news; it was depressing as usual. The rest of the night was spent working on his masters' thesis, his discussion was in two weeks and he had to be ready. He studied, cramming all the information he could inside the crooks and crannies of his brain, listening to Miles Davis to help him concentrate. Every now and then a family member would come in for a little chitchat. At two in the morning sleep overpowered him and he surrendered to it, hesitantly.

Something pushed him, hard, he tried to shake it off, but he couldn't. What was it? "Stop it" he thought, "STOP IT". The pushing wouldn't stop, and it was accompanied with poking as well. He opened his eyes, the lights were on and he had trouble seeing. He shielded his blurry eyes with his hands, blinking hard and trying to see the person who had been poking and shoving him. The light shone in his eyes and prevented him from identifying the person, the shoving continued, he screamed, "STOOOOP". The shoving stopped, the person was still in front of him, a blurry silhouette defined by great light. His eyes started to clear out, the blurry effect started to dissolve, and slowly the face of the person in front of him started to materialize. It was his sister, but she was talking, or maybe screaming. Her face was mad, her lips moved furiously, she was angry. He could see her lips move, her hand gestures, her face expressions, he could feel the occasional shoving of his shoulders and the heat that radiated form her, but all around him there was silence, as if she wasn't speaking at all. He looked at her in bewilderment, he started to talk telling her to calm down. She looked at him strangely as if he just insulted her. She stared in his face and then she went away, he felt her running steps on the floor, something about her seemed to ensue panic.
He didn't get up from his bed, he just stayed there and tried to wake up, he thought that maybe all the studying had exhausted him; he had to allocate some time for sleeping. He wondered why everything seem so quiet around him, no cars honking, no annoying cooing of pigeons, not even the sound of his mother as she prepared her Friday breakfast for the whole family. He thought maybe she decided to cancel the whole thing and maybe it was still too early for cars to pass by and maybe it was too cold for pigeons to stand on the side of buildings. It was too early, his sister had woken him too early; he loved her dearly, but sometimes she could be annoying.
He forcefully put his feet on the ground, there was no heavy thud on the floor, he has to wake up, he put on his slippers and shuffled to the bathroom, the sound of his shuffling was nonexistent, he has to wake up, he entered the bathroom and opened the cold water, still no sound, he has to wake up. He put toothpaste on his toothbrush and started brushing his teeth, there was still no sound, he has to wake up.
Suddenly someone grabbed his shoulder, he jumped and fell, hitting his head on the sink. He blacked out.

He woke up again, this time, white light surrounded him, he blinked trying to clear his vision. He tried to lift his head, but it was too heavy and he felt dizzy as soon as he tried to lift his head a few inches. Suddenly, the whiteness around him started to move, three silouhettes appeared in front of him. His vision was too blurry to see who they were. He lifted his hand towards them and tried to lift his head, but someone held him down. In his mind he resisted, but in reality his resistance was too meak to be regarded. He felt hopeless, he cried out, but to no avail. He couldn't see nor move and it appeared as if the silouhettes in the room didn't hear him. His heart started to thump inside him, he knew that it might be the beginning of a panic attack. He didnt want to panic when he didn't even know where he was. He tried to calm himself down by breathing deeply; he concentrated on the motion of his chest and tried to recall an image that calmed him down; the mediteranean off the coast of Marsa Matrouh. His stressed and heavy heart steadily slowed down and the constriction within his chest started to lessen, leaving but a notion of its former existence. He concentrated on relaxing and slowing down his ailing body. He opened his eyes; the same blurry reality greeted him. However his disappointment was elevated when hand he knew so well touched his sweaty forehead, gently wipping the beads of sweats away. It was a touch so gentle, kind and loving that he could never forget it. He had grown up knowing that this mighty hand will never fail him; that it would always be there to reassure him when the world turned dark and eery. He shouted the word "Mum", but only silence responded to his yearning cry. On the other hand his chest detected a weight upon it, someone was hugging him. His nostrils picked up a familiar scent; it was of orange blossoms and jasmine. A scent he had often smelled in the hallways of their home, the bathroom, kitchen and living room, but it was cocentrated in the room that lied to the right of his own. A room inhabited by a girl he had cared about, respected and adored, a girl of whom he was protective as if she was his own child and not his sister. He tried to lift his right hand, but it was bound to something, and so he lifted his left hand and put it on her head, gently patting her silky hair, trying to make her feel better and assure that he was still there. He could feel her eratic heart beat, the drops of water that wet his shirt as his sister continued to cry, and the loving hand of his mother as she continued to wipe his forhead and face, and slowly wipping away his fear. He felt a coolness running across his right arm, and then his blurry world started to spin and soon he was sucked back into darkness.

The darkness persisted even though his brain was wide awake, he tried to open his eyes, but they wouldn't heed his command. He slowly lifted his left hand and put them on his eyes, he felt something underneath his fingers, some kind of fabric that clung to the callous parts of his fingers. He kept running his fingers on the fabric, trying to understand what it was and he remembered he had touched that type of fabric before. It was the summer of 5th primary, he was running on the sidewalk when he fell and hurt his arm. His shoulder got dislocated and after the doctor of the complex returned the shoulder to its proper socket, he tied his arm with gauze and clung it to his neck. The fabric on his eyes was gauze and it seemed to extend up to his whole head. Silence still dominated his life and darkness haunted his existence.

He slipped into sleep many times due to the effect of the cooling substance that ran up and down his arm. He started to count the times into which he slipped into darkness. By the 10th time he had surrendered to the utter darkness that ruled his life, by the 20th his family's presence no longer calmed him down, by the 40th he was wishing that God would take his soul and spare him this kind of suffering. However by the 51st, something changed, the darkness around him ceased to be that dark and slowly the layers of black started to unfold. The world around him started to transform from pitch black to dark grey to light grey to white and then to transparent white. The pressure of the gauze around his eyes lessened and then disappeared. His eyes started to involuntarily blink and after a while shapes materialized. A light whizzed by his eyes and made his pupils move. Somebody's face was looking at him; it was someone he didn't know, he had glasses on and looked really clean. He was the one with the light. The face looked at him intently and then started to move, he followed it with his newly blur-free eyes. More of the whizzing light, more of the moving and still the dead silence.

The face moved away and then a white surface appeared instead of it. Something was written on it. He concentrated to try and define the writing, but it was too hard, he needed his glasses. As if somebody read his muted mind, his glasses were placed on his face. The board read "If you can read this, blink twice." He closed his eyes once and then twice. The writing on the board changed to "Good Job" and the face with the glasses smiled. Then the writing on the board changed again; "Do you know where you are?" it appeared to be a hospital from the lights and the strong smell of antiseptic, so he blinked twice. "Do you know who you are?" twice he blinked. He tried to lift his head, but the doctor held him down. "When you hit your head, there was internal bleeding that affected your eye sight, so we had to operate to elevate the pressure," it read. "You will be fine, you just have to take it easy," the writing said and the doctor patted his shoulder and left.

To be continued...

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