Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The End at the Beginning

The Levantine airs waft sombrely through my half-closed louvred windows, faded blue and peeling paint. I relight the fat stub of last night's bedtime joint and inhale a thick lungful of stale, noxious grey. My throat is croaking dry and the first swig of cheap vodka courses along the fissures and cracks like acid to hit my empty stomach like a fire bomb. Too bored to lift my sodden head from the sweat-soaked pillow I let my thoughts drift back to those days of bliss when all I had ever hoped for in life was mine, mine until I fucked it all up, that is. 

My sole guide to the passing of the hours is the call to prayer five times a day, and Maghrib, at the setting of the sun, is the only time I feel able to leave the apartment and then just briefly to grab the essentials from the twenty-four hour mini mart at the corner of the block, before returning almost unnoticed to the familiar warm gloom of my rented rooms. 

The young girl at the till watches me each evening, unsmiling and gravely serious, as I make my way around the store. She has only been moved to conversation once, to ask me why I wear my sunglasses at night. I told her I was a vampire and sensitive to bright light, and she, disappointed with the fatuous answer I gave, has kept her curiosity in check from that point on. I place my items on the counter and she tallies the bill. It is always the same. I hand her the money and as ever tell her to keep the change, which she does always without a murmur of thanks.

Is this the end? Am I really trying to kill myself? I no longer know. But this is going to be a long suicide given my propensity for drink and a liver that has taken a repeated hammering over the years from all manner of tropical diseases and bounced back on each occasion. I tell the doctors with a feigned smugness that a fondness for exercise is my saving grace and they  shake their heads and resign themselves to a lost cause. 

I could not have chosen a better location. The fatalism of Islam, coupled with an antipathy for all things Western provides me with all the anonymity I could wish for. My apparent lack of wealth, size and soulless demeanour deters anyone foolish enough to think of petty thievery, so I leave my door unlocked with utter impunity. I take no guided tours to touristy spots, neither do I seek the company of the local prostitutes. I keep to my rooms and pass the days scribbling down snatches of memories, venting my spleen in incoherent vitriolic bouts of self recrimination. 

This morning though, as the weed takes hold and my mind drifts off on the current of fond expectations, I think to myself how wonderful life is even when it isn't.

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