Friday, 13 February 2015

storry by Hussam Taha
photography by nadsat orange


We took off some afternoon. We lost our way.

The sun was tired, the fog was shy. I followed in the footsteps of my companion across the chaotic streets, hopping from one pavement to the other, jumping over tiny piles of rubble, banishing away the smoke of cars. We passed by houses whose stones had aged well before their time, and buildings that intended to grow even taller.

Grass, rocks… and trash. A man in costume smiled repeatedly when asked.

We moved toward the sun, toward another facet of you. Hop, hop… we were there somehow. It was a field of considerable size, covered with grass, coated with temptations of the spring. Huge rocks prevailed, lifeless tree branches held private meetings in the corners, flowers flaunted despite keeping low-profiles, trees oversaw their kingdom, and eight dogs protected its wide, opened gates.

Each dog sat in a different direction. They were motionless for a few moments before the brown and white dog on the far right side tilted its head and barked once, yanking the other dogs from their deep meditation.

I chuckled, but my companion was more resourceful. We began to imitate animal sounds to get their attention. We tried to be dogs then cats, but only when we imitated horses that we got their complete attention. They all stared at us in confusion, sometimes barking randomly, other times just concentrating vigorously, possibly trying to make sense of what would lead a sane human to lose it.

The sun played games with the fog; often overwhelming with warmth, other times pulling away abruptly.

It was not long before the dogs got up, one by one, and started heading toward the same direction. They all moved in different speeds, but within moments they had formed a long line extending meters. This line, however, was briefly interrupted when one of the black dogs lost its focus and looked at me. Another black dog barked at it, seemingly scolding it, before they started moving again.

The eight dogs walked away and the line turned into a dot then ceased to exist.

We walked down the hill and settled down on a flat rock between two pine trees. Big turquoise windows flashed in the sun, and the old house they clung to instantly became the object of my intrigue.

Silence sunk in, and only howls of wind could be heard. The fresh air tickled my lungs, and for an instant I felt like I was finally with you. But you shamelessly stepped away, tried to run astray.

Less than a minute later, the ticklish sensation in my lungs turned into bittersweet bickering, as the smoke of a brightly-lit cigarette slid down my throat then fired out of my mouth as soon as I gave the command.

And just when we thought that this solitude was ours alone, we were reminded that news travel in the speed of light around this place. Needless to say, it was not long before this seclusion had erupted into jubilation.

Mosque speakers blasted adhan, greenish birds flew far over our heads, a dreamy young boy played his flute somewhere near, cigarettes continued to burn in two mouths… and as it turned out, eight dogs slithered away to the sound of a horse.

“Are we dead?” my companion felt compelled to ask.

The sun was sweating, the fog was getting scared.

The birds sing when the flute stops, noise and pollution are mere fragments of a memory, the cigarette ends and starts again… I think those birds are wild parrots, but who would believe me?

The sky could rain bullets at any moment, but what a distant possibility that seems. In fact, I see smoke between me and the sky, and my vision is blurred by the wanderings of my tireless mind. I’m lying on the grass and my mind is lying next to me, jumping around and searching for pieces to complete the puzzle.

My companion sits next to me, looking completely entangled in your web of temptations. You win. Is that what you want to hear?

The trees hold their own against the wind, and I can sense my longing bursting outside my body and flowing inside. I look at my companion and she is suddenly sitting with the man in the costume. He is still smiling.

I stare at the smoke as my companion smiles. She waves her hands and scrambles the cloud of smoke, and for a split second we see a big black tank spilling water on the ground all the way from the top of a six-floor building.

Time passes, and the smoke begins to clear out, exposing a cloudy, melancholic sky. It is a sight that instills jealousy in me to say the least... I want to feel what the smoke feels. What it would be like to exist then cease to in the strictest sense. What it feels like to have the best of me become a part of someone else, while all that is left just dissolves away… to be forgotten. And then the sky emerges, sad and eternal.

The sun had had enough, and was on its way out. It said goodbye with bursts of flames that lit up the bubble surrounding this city with shades of purple, and rallied up dust from the ground to rise and befoul the streets that smokers walk in.

A red light shone from one of the turquoise windows, and the silhouette of a woman appeared. She seemed middle-aged and alone… sad even. But then another silhouette appeared and the two seemed young and happy. Perhaps that was no puzzle after all.

It was nearly time to leave. My companion was sitting next to me again, while five cigarette buds lied between us right onto the flat rock, surrounded by small patches of grass and a few sprinkles of dirt.

We got up and climbed up the hill. Along the way, we passed by a rave of dead tree branches that probably had some kind of secret meeting going on. Perhaps they just laughed and exchanged inside jokes. Or maybe they mocked me for not knowing what they know.

Either way, be warned dead tree branches! I will know the secrets of this dirt and I will hear the stories of the eight dogs that guard you. For now, this courtship between you and I shall remain platonic… but never count me out. I may not have all the answers, but I have been watching you since the day I was born, and I have grown familiar with the strangest of your quirks and mood swings. My friendships and relationships may guide me through this life, but rest assured my timid familiar, your direction will be the first I sail to.

The birds move on, the adhan goes off again, the young boy puts his flute aside and goes to sleep, the dogs come back to dream, and passions burn like twenty million fireflies in a ceaseless furnace.

We took off some afternoon. We lost our way.
I do not know if we came back.


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