Being Both

by Abubaker Zahoor

                                                          Being Both

                                                                                                                                   -A.Z.

In your mind there were more than four seasons, and you considered your life not a rosy day but a perilous night, neighing perniciously, in the deepening gloom of which fluttered the ghosts of unseen miseries. You always had a presentiment for all things horrible. Your head was a cassette of cacophonic drums. It was an out-of-order telephone switchboard: always misdialing, misconnecting. You were a disappointed man: you seemed incurable, your life unsalvageable.

Many years ago, having buried your iffy hopes to start a remunerative career, to create favorable circumstances for your creative life, enveloped in a morbid lassitude which ensues the hardest funerals, when drowning in the sea of eternal despair beckoning to you with fatal provocation seemed naturally decreed, you, the young artist, with a savior's optimism, consoled by the thought that the failed job search was a divine signal that you were 'meant' to be an artist, felt yourself flying above quotidian territories, as the wings of your newly-sprung hopes soared higher and higher with a vigor only a caged bird, unused to freedom, experiences upon an accidental escape.

Soon, very soon, you were enfeebled by the fruitlessness of your devotion. Your mysterious landlord, a silver fox, a Filf (if you know what I mean), who was often seen sneaking in and out of your flat in the night, netted a mazy web of favors around your mendicant soul: he let you live rent free, ensured you were eating your two meals a day, and smoking a packet of Gold Leaf. But then for reasons unclear-it was said that you outstayed your welcome-he subjected you to a coercive obligation of pulling in petty sums rather out of the blue. Initially, you found a way to satiate his greed: you begged money from the people you knew and from strangers in the name of borrowing it. But this disguise was doomed to fail. So you dashed on the sharp teeth of poverty, which unclipped your wings. You realized your score on impulsiveness was high. You did entertain the possibility of abandoning your art, but you were too timid to embrace death. But, hold on, didn't you have a family? None of us ever knew-you were a complete mystery to us in that regard.

...................................................................

Poverty made an artful thief out of you, desire a Don Juan. You would break into small shops in the night and steal things and sell them to pay money to your old benefactor and wake up on Saturday mornings with first-class sluts whom you paid for fucking and forgetting you. Your performance as a thief was only good on the home ground, the Nice Iron & Furniture Market, just a few blocks away from your flat-cum-studio. But you were a fool to start frequenting the market so predictably that they installed an absolutely foolproof security system.

A week had passed and you couldn't pull in anything. The money you were left with (356 rupees) wasn't enough to survive the formidable morrow. It was a Saturday evening when the big eastern wind, billowing up from behind the huge buildings, carrying deafening racket and noxious odors, stormed into your room and hurled insults at you. And then it moaned your misery. How motherly it was! You, like an obstinate son, remained idly contemplating your fate, lying on the floor, your arms folded and hands clasping your dense head of hair, your legs stretched and feet up wrestling with the wall, your crimson eyes, with an air of mysterious agitation, staring blankly into the nudity of a portrait hanging on the wall, trails of sweat flowing backward from your naval and dispersing around your ribs. The buns you were devouring with your eyes did something to you.

You decided to play a big shot, to run a home run. You were going to rob, you decided: your days as a thief were over; your inevitable new designation was 'Trainee Robber'. Though you knew you were going to wake up alone on the Saturday morning for the first time after a couple of blissful months, you thought it better not to let your penis suffer from ass-pangs, and to put your money where the penis was. So you set out to spend two hundred rupees in a brothel, and survive the night with the debris. Besides, soon you were going to have enough money to return to your original lifestyle.

You paid full money in advance, disarmed by the hooker's extraordinary profile: two bulging breasts, dangling placidly behind a loose black hoodie, the glittering layers of her hair reaching forward to her icy nipples, a fine nose, puffed up, adhesive lips, great mounds of buttocks neatly separated under her blue silk trousers, the wheatish skin of her bare distinct neck giving off a whiff of corrupting scent. You meditated over her. Your soul sang: she is the dwelling of luscious libertines, the dustbin of virile desires, the deluge of sodomic ecstasies.

Standing in the alcove, with his hands on hips, exhaling the salty odor of liquor and tobacco, the pimp assured you in a matter-of-fact tone that you would get your money's worth. But just when you locked the bare room, Reality slapped you in the face. This happened: You pushed her onto the smelly, wrinkled quilt laid over a big charpoy, and sank on your knees between her massive thighs, unbuckling your grey trouser, and the hooker told you to switch off the bulb. Nasty. Ridiculous. Didn't she know men's arousal feeds on visuals more than anything? You had never fucked that way, but your exploding libido gave in. Blinded by desire and darkness, you groped to fondle her breasts with mad resentment, restraining the impulse to tear her shirt open to eat those melons up, which had disappeared in a fraction after inflaming your yearning, straining your memory to save that image from fading. 'No boobs,' the hooker said shamelessly. '200 are just for the shot. Pay more for more.' As a corollary, there was no sodomy, which you would have taken for granted, without which love-making was a sacrilegious prayer for you. But you were vulnerable. You knew you would spew fire through the groins, if you had waited more; you knew carnality had swept over you, leaving you painfully incoherent; you knew the pornography of life was playing a prank on you, asking you to prostitute your real passion while holding a knife to your throat. Followed the coarsest shot of cunt you had ever got: neither your whanger set that pooped pussy ablaze, nor it engendered any screams from surprise, nor the random rubbing of your sweating chest against those secondhand boobs erected those nipples. Like a child who saves money to ride swings at the end of month but the ride turns out to be unforgivably brief and unsatisfying, you left disappointed, frustrated, and angry (chiefly with yourself for not having enough cash at your disposal, also with the preceding shot of dupe that had failed to prolong your intercourse, which it had always successfully done before), tears whirling behind your secretive, sleepless eyes.

The cops nabbed you on the staircases of the National Hotel. They questioned you as to what had got you there at midnight in the most notorious corner of the most notorious street of the city. Baffled by this fatally coincidental encounter-how the fatalism was closing in on you, how the universe was hideously conspiring against you-you, the young artist, defied surrender-you were defiance yourself now-and said in English, "Nothing . . . strolled up here to . . . to amuse myself, you know. Hope you doing well." And then you started walking away, your staggering gait feigning indifference, your pocketed hand feeling your limp penis, lips puckered up around the cigarette. Offended by your nonchalance, the cops grabbed you behind your neck, and decided to charge you with the possession of hash (though you had smoked the last hash-laced cigarette of the night while you were arguing with the pimp), and with buying sex. The cops took you to the police station, frisked your empty pockets, and ordered you to call someone from your family. You said you had no family. The cops pulled off your Peshawari chappal and wool socks and ragged jumper, and dragged you into the lockup. They left you biffed and bruised. Thinking how the destiny was bent on destroying you, you laughed at it, mopped the dust from the window rails with your hand, drew a face for destiny on the floor and spat on it. You remained squatted on destiny's face the whole night.

The inspector arrived early in the morning. Baqar was tall, bald, very dark, powerful, and lithe. His intimidating physical profile contradicted his unbelievably risible psychological profile: he laughed most richly at his own jokes; he addressed his father by his first name; he praised his mother for being hot; he partied with former prisoners; he was allergic to the cigarette smoke; he was addicted to the liquor scent; he favored exclamation points over full stops! Eloquent about almost all other subjects, Baqar remained taciturn whenever his comrades would bring sex and sexuality up for discussion, and appeared shyly lost. His comrades attributed this attitude of the inspector to a sense of moral maturity which marriage is supposed to bring in a person. He was, moreover, in his late forties, father of a beautiful daughter, Badia, whom the two policemen who had seen her on some occasion described to their fellows as 'a curvaceous goddess.' 'Just like her mother?' said one of the listeners, a one-eyed fellow who had met Bahar Baqar in the hospital where the officer remained admitted for two weeks for dengue fever treatment. 'Oh, Bahar . . . pale in comparison.' This had given the one-eyed gentleman perhaps a stronger adrenaline rush.

'We arrested him in the red-light district. Confiscated narcotics,' the inspector was told. 'Where is the confiscated stuff?' he asked. 'Jacks smoked it,' mumbled the cop. Baqar ignored him. Right across his table hanged your, the culprit's, shirt and jumper, and on the ground, at shoulder's distance apart, rested the chappal, in a way that your erect corpse could have been slipped into the wearables without changing their position. His eyes traversed towards the hanger, while the cop kept blabbering incomprehensively. Then his eyes followed the inspector's and he switched gears, in keeping with the solemnity appropriate for that time of the day. 'Now, shut the fuck up, motherfucker; you haven't nailed Uzair Baloch, after all.' They both laughed. 'He appears a . . . a young hunk looking for ass . . . that's all.' The cop daringly cut him short with, 'Narcotics, too.' 'Ah, narcotics, you bitches,' said the inspector. The cop had to take this as a joke and keep his mouth shut, for further arguing could cause him much trouble; since they arrested and tortured you because of the personal offence they took, a practice totally unacceptable to the inspector, who often said: 'Nobody should dare to make this uniform a mask or means for satiating his personal animosities.' However, physical torture-of course, without any trial-the petty offenders was no big deal; it was a notorious norm followed by all the police stations in the country. And Baqar was no revolutionist.

When the blabbering cop had left, the inspector stood up from his chair and saw the collar size: L. Then the shoe size: 9. He sniffed the armpits of the jumper, but there was no smell-perhaps, it had armpit absorbent pads inside-and then he nosed the collar, where the sweet smell of sweat was; it exhilarated him, or, at least, that's how he looked: exhilarated.

He went into the lockup. He pressed his heavy shoe against your frost-bitten shin, and you half-consciously recoiled, wrapping your bare arms around your knees, your face clouded in steam, your body shivering with terror and cold. 'Can I have a cigarette?' you begged, your bright teeth rattling. Curiously, the inspector lit two cigarettes, handing one to you. He gave you your shirt and jumper back. 'Wear them, or you'll die, motherfucker.' His unceremonial benignity helped you pull yourself together, and you, though still with bated breath, seemed ready to talk now.

Through the crisscross grill of the large window in the interrogation room, you saw life swaying like a cobra, barking like a dog. Vehicles cried like widows and screamed their fake screams like sly, expensive harlots. The sun glanced through the window like a motherfucker, its dispersing beams pierced you through every pore of your body. And the distant saucepans, with their butter and bread, with their toasts and eggs, with their sausages and jams, gave off the stinking smell that you could associate with the poisonous farts of dairy consumers. Yet, you were hungry and wanted to eat that shit. Yet, you wanted to nibble on the reeking rusk of life.

'So, Mr Baber...,' the inspector said, calling your attention, while you were staring into nothingness through the grill, as he stood up to draw the curtains together, whose receding swish you likened to sobs and sighs of the mushy spectators of a tragedy.

'Yes, Mr Baber,' you said, almost mocking the inspector.

'Like pussy very much? And dupe!'

'Nope, sir. Like the fragrance of the flesh. Like to meditate over the enigmatic sensitivity, which arrives at pleasures through the pain. Like to meditate over the absurd wisdom of natural design which assigns the apotheosis of beauty the task of cleaning up. Dupe facilitates meditation.'

'Ah, philosophical shit!'

Your dry lips drew back into a foolish smile.

'Well, let me make it clear: you be honest and straightforward, I let you go. You fuck with me, I blow your little, creamy ass,' said the inspector.

'I am honest when it's under my control . . . no matter if that means freezing to death in your filthy lockup. Got no son, no wife, waiting for me over the dining table. No mother waiting at the door, asking passersby about my whereabouts. No home, to begin with, missing me.'

The inspector kicked the table aside and dragged his chair near you. The inspector cupped your jaw and gave you a little jerk. He looked into your eyes, and he lost it. Your blue eyes pierced through his soul. What a mistake! Letting the uniform come to aid as a mask or means to satiate personal yearnings. What a mistake! But the man in charge, you, the first of your kind who was ever seen in the vicinity of the police station, the culprit of the night, seemed to have forgiven him. Here was the last hopeless attempt to preserve professional virtues, to hide the defeat that was etched on our inspector's face, who was now taking great pains not to look at your full thighs-who knows how lethal a weapon hanged in between them. He cursed his eyes that had subjected him to your gaze, the gaze of a snake, which had at one swoop handed him over to the rogue of the night. Shivering inside with wicked visuals-you chocking him with your Art, you crushing him Artfully between the pillars of your thighs-the inspector pretended anger, and said:

'Playing periphrastic games with me? I forewarned you of the ramifications. Didn't I?'

'I said I am honest when it's under my control, sir; it's under my control right now. Honesty. It's a sort of sublimated element of my being.'

The inspector shook his head, and his temples pulsated fiercely. The visuals ran in reverse, the world turned upside down, or so he felt-the servant transformed into the master, seditious sensations surging up through his legs, fostering an impulse to ravish you, the former master (a mistress now). He patted the back of his head in a dusting motion, and said, with his eyes closed:

'Okay, where do you live?'

'In a rented flat. In the Main Market.'

'Take me . . . there. I mean, take me there right now.'

It was a small room cluttered up with colors, brushes, newspapers, and cheap erotica books. A couple of paintings, featuring, with discernible imperfection, splendid necks and haughty breasts and glittering eyes and breathtaking butts, big and wide and curvy, brown and white and cherry-red, had been posted on the rear wall. A canvas was leaning against one wall, and, in the middle of the room, stood a small wooden table, on which rested hammers, bolt cutters, wrenches, screwdrivers, black gloves, a torchlight, and a small unzipped bag. Below the table was a jumble of your tees and trousers. (You sometimes masturbated inside your trousers, and used the shirts to wipe off your penis.)

In the ambiance of this audacious display of artistic nudity, a silent agitation had swept over the inspector. You were, in contrast, rather harmoniously soothed. You lied supine, filially hugging your blanket, sniffing the sweet smell of classics and colors, which meandered along invisible strips and mingled with the molecules of paint, spread out over the walls, still moistened with the dew of night. This copulation between the fragrance and moisture could have culminated into an orgy: there were, after all, portraits of soft things, so soft, hanging against the hard walls, so hard, as hard as a soldier's. . . . The Room avenged the wrong done to you. The Room metamorphosed you into its whanger and crushed those asses. The mingling fragrances served as dope and gave the walls the stamina to keep fucking those portraits forever.

'I am still here, motherfucker . . . and you are snoring already,' Baqar said, forcing himself to stop from ogling the portraits. Just then he looked at your face; it was an extended look this time, without the surveillance of the blue eyes. Your eyes, the pearls inside the oysters, fluttered. You clenched your teeth, which caused a moony ripple in your rosy cheeks. Through the gently parted soft lips oozed out warm breaths: a slumberous breeze. The inspector didn't move. Your heartbeat became more rapid; the breath gushed out of your mouth and nostrils: a beautiful storm. The inspector didn't move. You flipped to your left side, where the inspector was. Everything was happening so fast. Your body curled more tightly, knees almost touching your ribs, arms between your thighs. The blanket danced for a moment, or perhaps quacked, before you tossed it away, and you moaned ecstatically, or perhaps groaned, before you hopped in the bed, eyes still closed. But before you hopped in the bed, the inspector did move: he got down on his knees and kissed the oysters. And then he, the cowardly Baqar, ran out of the studio, afraid of your jutting horn, the horn of the hunk.

..........................................................

You left your studio in the late afternoon to buy cigarettes. (You still had 45 rupees, after spending 100 on the breakfast.)The shopkeeper was a pig. Dark, heavy clouds laid over the sky; they were monsters, those clouds. They were rapists raping the sky, and soon they were going to fecundate the earth, which was a slut. It rained in the evening, but it didn't mean anything to you. For everybody else, it was a winter rain which brings cool freshness to the air, without making roads and alleys impassable, and makes people want to go to the parks with their families, eat pakoras, and enjoy house-like causerie. Couples make love under the moonlight. Children play in the streets.

Earlier, while smoking hash, you had wanted to look at one of your old pictures, the only one you had kept with yourself for all those years. Innocently, you took it out from a small drawer and sat looking at it. In the picture, you were smiling, grinning, the front row of teeth transparent. That you were smiling made you cry, and you threw the picture back in the drawer. You sang, beading the line with your favorite alliteration of d-words: "My life is mopey, as mopey as a peasant's, whose dry fields are dying because of a strange drought!"

You lit up a cigarette, puffed and inhaled it, clenched the cigarette between your lips, sighed, scratched your head, closed your eyes, and sat facing the canvas, shuffling the brushes. You picked up a brush, dropped it down, and rushed towards the door, angrily cracking your knuckles-someone had knocked at the door. This was Baqar, wearing a police academy tracksuit, a small bag in his hand.

'You flaked out. I left,' he said.

'Am I supposed to thank you for letting me sleep in my own room?' said you.

'No. You are supposed to give me a reason for not arresting you again, and taking your case to the court.'

'Well, well . . . I am not very reasonable, but you can ask what you want to know, or give me a recipe to concoct some reason.'

The inspector had a real laughter after more than twenty hours, which felt like twenty years, marked by seasons of confusion, restlessness, fear, and shame. Breathing the breath of a fleeting stoicism, he sat beside you on the mattress.

'You draw asses like god.'

'Do I?'

'Your art pictures the flesh with its sensuality and spirituality, motherfucker, you are a master at imitating God.'

His words fell upon your ears like the first drops of rain after a long, long drought. In the meantime, he fetched out the bottle of whiskey from the small bag. Though you had limited yourself to hash for its affordability, the liquid was your real romance, and the mere sight of it seemed to have given you an imaginary high. You stood up from the mattress and staggered to the filthy kitchen and brought two stained cups. You drank slurpingly, greedily, sitting loosely abreast, a reddish glow issuing from your eyes and polishing the curves of your cheeks as if to coat your mask with the pigment of truth, of reality, some invisible master playing the sarangi noiselessly about your ears, blocking all the undesired noises, so that you could hear what your heart was saying.

'No. No. No. They, you know . . . everybody, everybody, tells me it's obscene, it's wicked. WICKED. An art exhibition in my Alma matter. I showed my work there. Nobody . . . do you trust me?'

'I do. I do. I do.'

'What was I sayin'?'

'Trust?'

'Oh, no . . . Oh so nobody looked at my things. As if Nude doesn't exist. Fucked. Up. Nation.'

Your eyes sauntered in tearful ecstasy; at any rate, you puled like a child. With his left hand the inspector wiped his own eyes, and his right hand touched you. He ruffled your hair, saying:

'Don't be a child.'

'You are crying, too . . . but why?'

You both laughed. Then sobs echoed in the room, as you men cried in each other's arms. Your long embrace bore pure honesty and passion like the embrace of estranged lovers, reuniting after many, many years: Baqar's lips, glued to your soft neck, were wet and his aquiline nose was drippy with tears; your hearts thudded irrythmically against each other; a permissive communion occurred between your fleshes; ineluctably, the heat of lust stirred in your groins, and your member became hard between the muscular thighs of the inspector, who, drunk with passion, started licking your cheeks. Wildly, you stroked his penis, and it grew big in your hands, as big as yours, and the two monsters wrestled against each other. 'Motherfucker,' he said in your ears, his tongue rolling on your stubble. 'You motherfucker,' you groaned. And you pushed him, with your wobbly arms, on the mattress, his mouth breathing hard as you widened his legs, and boarded him; in you went, mercilessly stretching the entrance, and lodged your youth inside the hut of his manhood, and he, twisting his head, promised, with his trembling, pale jaws, with his watery eyes, to give you ten times more pain. You discharged your gun on his big hips. Then he rode you, crushing you against the tousled mattress, slaking your mighty lust for getting crushed, for getting pushed. The kisses that followed were ballads, his was titled "A Promise to Return", and yours "Take Me with you".

.........................................................................................................

He forgot his wallet in your room. You checked it: there was enough cash to sustain you for two months. A confident thought cropped up in your mind: it could be a gift given by the ephemeral messiah. But then, as if you had heard heavy footsteps of a resuscitated goliath, who could prise the door from its frame with his claws, who could rape you with his maypole or chew you alive, you shuddered in fear and dropped the wallet. You hid the wallet under your dirty trousers, and stood in front of the door, extending your trembling hands holding the knife like a penis, trying to suppress your survivalist's scream. Nothing happened. Nobody came. The echo of threatening footsteps died down. You sighed and screamed. You fished out a cigarette, which supplied you with some courage. A relieving hope bloomed in your heart: he will come, not to take his wallet back but to fulfil his promise. And how could he forget you? But you were being greedy. Oh, very greedy. You thought: exploiting love is a crime. Your using the inspector's money without his consent will be such an exploitation. Therefore you will commit an unforgivable crime of love.

Humiliated by your own awry syllogism, you kept yourself locked up for an entire day. You were hungry and nicotine-deprived, and hence unfathomably frustrated. You cried every now and then. Every now and then, you laughed. You watched porn and masturbated, and masturbated and watched porn. Then, when the day had started changing its color, you felt as if you were racing against the time, and sat before the canvas. You sketched a penis for the first time. It was a splendid thing, the whanger-such length, such breadth. No wonder it awed you, and left you enervated. Your consciousness evaporating, you tumbled down round its root on the crinkly scalloped black lines.

The inspector came in the evening, two days later. There he stood knocking at the door shyly. Knock-knock. Knock-knock. Thumping-thumping. 'This is me, Baber,' said Baqar, with an uncertain voice, as if being him or someone else was irrelevant. Again: knock-knock. He was screaming your name impatiently but you were deaf. 'I know you are there . . . are you angry?' Then, 'Please, open the door . . . am I not your....' There were burning tears in his eyes, but, alas, you were blind too. The bedbugs that had kept roaming around your mattress all day now crawled up your inanimate face, perhaps hoping to amuse you with their ticklish games. The canvas, pressed under your arms, was heavily ruffled; it was in an otherworldly state of exultation before your beseeching prostration, the Thing sketched pridefully undulating.

.....................................................................

Rate this submission

Plot:
Dialogue:
Characters:
Wording:

You must be logged in to rate submissions