His coffee lasts. It’s what he starts his mornings with, early, and then he drinks half a cup in the mid-afternoon. It keeps him company. Maybe the smell of it fresh is the reason he keeps sipping it, even after it’s gone cold. Or maybe he has other reasons. Maybe he feels a certain duty, a responsibility toward it. His coffee, poured into a paper cup, changes in color, shape, and size each day, depending on the kiosk he buys it from. The man and his coffee spend the whole day together, and then he leaves it on his desk or the first ledge he sees. He abandons it without a last sip, or even a word of farewell. He leaves the paper cup of coffee and returns to his world, trusting that another one will be waiting for him in another kiosk tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that.
By EMILY CHAMMAH
I wouldn’t say that Omar is my best friend, because I like to think we are closer than that, that there is something bringing us together more than any friendship could. While it is true that he is my cousin, I never feel as connected to the others—to Muhammad or Nour or Ahmed or Anais—or even to my older sister, Sousan. They don’t know, for example, that I prefer to drink my orange juice without sugar, that I’d rather eat falafels straight out of a paper cone than smashed inside a pocket of bread.
We awoke one morning to news of a death. The person we had lost was the one we used to call the Village Idiot—that buffoon who used to make us laugh and cry at the same time, that leaping, dancing ball of energy who would hurl himself around, wild with enthusiasm, stomping on our toes and crashing into us as he went gesticulating by.
In the dark depths of this pit, I try to touch the light seeping in through the cracks. My hands clasp nothing but dust, while the silence carries its nightly promise of my everlasting confinement.
On the very first night, one thousand years ago, or… wait, why do we always begin our stories with the first night? There is absolutely no difference between what happened in that distant time and what is happening now. The same columns of men march beneath the sun’s rays in the afternoon’s scorching heat, the same tear-soaked supplications and hymns: “O God, make his grave a green pasture in the gardens of Paradise—don’t cast him into a burning pit of hell.” “O God, grant him a better spouse than the one he has, a better home, and better children.” “O God, forgive his sins and those of your faithful worshippers.”
My life would have been a lot easier if only my grandmother had not been a liar. Or, to put it more nicely, if she hadn’t been so imaginative on that winter night when she convinced me that she would never leave me. If she had informed me that she would die, then I wouldn’t have become so naïve. I’m not sure my story is all that important, or whether I even have a story in the first place—at the end of it all, I stand a defeated woman, one who has faced disappointment again and again. But that’s not important now. The important thing is how that woman spoiled me completely.
An extinguished cigarette is suspended between my fingers. I don’t know who put it there, but I feel worms moving inside it. When I look at them I imagine I’ve seen them before, tens of small bodies—identical, without any features.
The cigarette is a large worm ingesting and regurgitating the smaller worms inside it. They slither into my mouth, filling my lungs, and after a short, loud party there, they begin to flow with my blood.
I don’t know why I felt compelled to jump from the third-floor window. I don’t know where that tree shot out from on my way down. And I don’t know what made our neighbor go outside to hang her laundry at the moment that I fell. I don’t know why I imagined that I died when I collided with the ground. I was happy at that moment of collision; I closed my eyes tight and slipped into something like a delicious nap.
It took only a few moments until I heard our neighbor scream and realized something was wrong. I hadn’t really died; I could still hear the honking of cars driving by.
When I stood up and dusted off my clothes, the crowd surrounding me started to back away. Maybe I scared them. I heard one of them tell another, with fear in his voice: “There are worms coming out of his nose.”
“They are not coming out,” I corrected: “they are spilling.” I left them and walked up to my apartment.
In Aqaba City, on the Red Sea, between the stretches of swanky apartments and big names hotels is a tiny squeeze of shore called Shatt Ghandoor (Ghandoor Beach). On Fridays and holidays, Ghandoor is a picnic ground, amusement park, beach, and public bath all in one.
Lying suspended over a lake. She can see her entire self on the surface of the water. Every now and then circles appear and expand, distorting the image. At times she looks at her reflection with sadness, at times she chokes with bitterness and tries to escape, to turn over or stand in the air. But it’s no use, she is totally fixed—as if fastened with unseen ropes.
Thick fog passes underneath. When it shrouds the view below, she feels euphoric, she feels herself turn inside out, revealing attractive short hair and two ears with seven rings in each, revealing her perfectly feminine form. She is fragrant with the scent of lemon.