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Life without Me

What hurts me in all this is that my parents will be forced to bury me before themselves.

I feel guilt gnawing at me.

I do not know who vomited out this hypothesis, in between the cheap maxims and philosophies that this world is full of, made out of them this red line, the  extent of how appalling fate and its like are capable of being in what they suggest to us:

How harsh it is for a father to bury one of his sons . . .

This is what Walaa, who worked the job of a “kobee ryter,” that is, a writer of advertisements in a large global company in Tel Aviv that specialized in marketing nutritional, beauty, and cellular products, mumbled to himself after he left the hematologist's, who had just informed him that cancer was spreading in his body at an unexpectedly high speed—a speed that exceeded the speed with which ideas for advertisements came to him in this demanding consumer jungle; so fast that it would not give him more than two months to live, or attempt to live or enjoy what time remained for him.

“All that’s left for me . . .”

Nothing is left for me but to pass through this air-conditioned tunnel, or the expensive supermarket stocked for the rich with very special consumerist requirements. Nothing is left for me except this corridor between the clinic where the doctor disclosed these new facts and the outside—an area perfumed with poisonous gases.

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These idiots. My skin, which will become like an autumn leaf, beseeches the earth to embrace its remains.

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Iced water is poured on my neck and gradually trickles down between the toes of my left foot; a shudder tosses me beyond the domains of desire and memory. Who am I?

Who am I now? In this given moment, on this day, in this month, in this moment fleeing from the deadly heat? Where did that mischievous, lustful one go, who just two days ago was writhing in bed at night, whoring?

Who am I in this moment linked between the entrance to a store and an exit that does not bear good tidings? This moment resembles those victims whose limbs were tied to two jeeps, which would take off at an insane speed so as to split the victim’s body in half. I read descriptions of this scene in a number of history books on the Lebanese Civil War. I will return to that moment. What is the point of having a penis-enlargement operation with silicone now? The cancerous cells may have spread so much that the silicone may not find any space to settle in there.

Make precision a priority. Your body deserves more attention from you. Keep up with your action-filled, freewheeling life. A one-time offer: skin tightening cream + dead skin cell cleanser + free spa treatment (terms and conditions may apply: Mondays after 11 p.m., only on a first-come, first-served basis). The entire package for 300 shekels only, valid today until twelve midnight without the possibility of extension.

The world buys and buys and buys, pays the same amounts and more, believing that it has gotten a deal, obtained three different products for the price of one. These consumerist animals—nothing can fill this well rotting with corpses. Dear God, I smell the odor of burning human flesh from here. All the world's manufactured concoctions will not get rid of that smell that nearly covers up the smell of fast-food restaurants . . . and of the heaps of people's shit.

This loss, of what, is unclear; this tunnel and its deadly clarity . . .

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The stars—those pure islands which I never allowed myself to curl up inside like a fetus for a single day. I feared visiting them, afraid of missing any of this. All this . . . it’s nothing but a naïve glimmer inside a fragile Tel Aviv café (its patrons unaware), waiting to be raided by cheerful cancer cells laughing boisterously and whorishly, as if inviting a customer to get intimate with them at an acute angle. The stars . . . that troubling clarity . . .

To the Esteemed People of Jaffa
God willing, we present a concert by the eminent diva from Egypt:
Layla Murad
At the Inshirah Orthodox Club, Al-Quds Al-Jadid Street
A matinee concert will be held for respectable families, and an evening concert for refined young men
Entry for the sons of respectable families only
A raffle will be held for a train ticket from Jaffa to Alexandria or Cairo
Please come unaccompanied by your dear children

My parents will be forced to bury me before themselves.

Father, Mother, I have spent my entire life doggedly and methodically pursuing what you never expected, or rather, hoped I would never do. I did not become a dentist, nor did I live near you, nor did I marry into a respectable and prominent family; I did not marry at all. I did not comb my hair the way you wished, Mother. I did not stick to being interested in car models and football teams the way you wished, Father.

Just as the nature of my sexual relationships turned out to be complex, artificial, individualistic, and alienated, just the opposite of what you searched for in my eyes every other weekend. Mother, Father . . . and our old neighbor, my partner in watching pornographic films and in mutual masturbation.

I am now able tell you the truth: something indeed has died in the depths of your eyes.

And I present to you the latest fashion in destroying hopes: my death!

At least enjoy burying me, enjoy concocting a history that was never mine, even for a day.

The air-conditioned tunnel ends: a large orange grove that surrounds everything, and whose smell occupies my imagination—a paradise of oranges that stretches all the way to the eastern coast end of the Mediterranean . . . and beyond.

Translation of   "al-Ḥayāt min Dūni. "  Copyright Raji Bathish. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011 by Suneela Mubayi. All rights reserved.