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long as time shall endure.

“What else can I tell you? I don’t know if I mentioned it to you in one of the first chapters, but I always used to feel as though there was a thick layer of frost between my ribs. It would be there even in the height of the summer heat, and no matter how profusely I was sweating. After I came to love Youssef, I felt as though it had melted and been replaced by a tiny sun whose intense warmth seeped into my entire body.

“Youssef! How could he have erased himself the way he did? How could he delete the old Youssef and become somebody else? Turn from a spring into a turbid swamp? Commit murder in the first degree against his own soul? What scared me the most was that his eyes took on a lustful gleam that was more absent than present. Had he become like the bloody world outside? It was a question I was afraid to ask myself. I didn’t want to be unfair to him. Lots of other questions crossed my mind too, but I refused to answer them.”


“I’m going to tell you about something strange that happened to me. And please don’t think it’s some fiction born of my delirium.

“It was one in the morning as I recall, and I was thinking about Youssef. I noticed that the television was blasting, but I was so distracted that I couldn’t see or hear a thing. Then my attention was arrested by a fundamentalist preacher on one of the religious channels. He had a long, hennaed beard that came down to his belly. I was afraid of him. He looked like a wolf that had come out of some cave to prey on viewers’ minds, devour their lives and their bodies. All I heard was his last sentence, which was a fatwa allowing a husband to have sex with his dead wife. I was so revolted, I sank into a funk.

“I felt the need to read some poetry, the way I do sometimes after hearing and seeing reports on the appalling wars that are doing my body in.Turning off the TV, I randomly picked up a poetry collection by Mayakovski that had been lying on my desk. I had the urge to read something that would carry me away to distant orbits, where I could enjoy the fruits of a lovely astonishment, the kind of warmhearted delight that would bring sleep to my eyes. I imagined the lyrical words carrying me to bed and laying my body down to calm

BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021 85

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