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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

This time Amr chooses for the purposes of his condolences visits the house of a family bereaved because of the death of their eldest daughter whose age does not exceed eighteen years. This victim, the young girl, was discovered dead on the top of one of the hills surrounding the city.

The girl was there on the small hill slaughtered like a small lamb. This summit of the hill is not inhabited and it looks almost deserted except from one or two shepherds with their small number of sheep, goats and lambs.

The innocent victim gave her last breath on this hill in extremely mysterious circumstances. Amr does not know any of the details concerning this crime. Of course, he has been told many stories about the crimes of honor that take place in the community and that are common especially in the quarters beyond that of the rich.

Amr was told many rumors concerning the slaughter of the victim, but as usual he does not believe in any of these rumors. In crimes of honor, the victim is always considered by Amr innocent. He believes that those who killed her are criminals and beasts.

Amr, as usual, puts on one of his many dark costumes. His neck-tie and his pair of shoes are also of the dark color. Abdu accompanies his master till the garage. There he mounts into his private blue colored car and starts driving slowly and carefully. His destination is the house of the defunct, the slaughtered young girl. This bereaved house is far by three alleys from his house. It took him only driving for few minutes to be nearby his destination.

While driving his car he takes the decision to stay there in the house in sorrow and grief for four hours, not less and not more and he would control the duration of his stay by looking very frequently at his Rolex watch.

He also takes another important decision. He would take only and only one cup of coffee and in no case he should take another cup. He does not want to fall sick. For sure he is not going to smoke, not a single cigarette. When Amr arrives in the area of the house of sorrow and sadness he remarks that the place is virtually empty, vacant. It is expected to see many cars parked around the house in sorrow as it was the case of the previous bereaved house which he visited. Only two cars are seen parked in front of the house. These cars probably belong to the members of the bereaved family.

Contrary to the general rule of having more than ten members of the family in sorrow standing in front of the house, there are only two persons. Here in this place only two persons could be seen standing to receive the consolers. Amr could not understand why. Why are there only two members of the family? Perhaps, these two men may not belong to the bereaved family. May be they are friends and neighbors of the family in sorrow.

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Amr was about to pass by these two men without looking at their faces. Anyhow, all of a sudden he looks at the two men standing in the narrow path leading to the door-steps of the villa. It was expected that Amr would see members of the bereaved family whose faces are engulfed is sadness and grief.

Amr could not believe what he witnesses in front of him. He is only amazed and astonished. The two middle aged persons are having on their faces a very visible smile of satisfaction, of pride and of conceit, and even of internal joy and happiness.

As expected, this scene of the two strange men surprise Amir, the consoler. How could this be true? Perhaps he is in the wrong place, the wrong address and the wrong house. It is most probable that this house is that of a family celebrating the marriage of either their son or one of their daughters.

Or is it the celebration of the birth of a baby boy and not a girl? Or is it the celebration of the circumcision of a boy or two boys? This could never be the house of bereaved family.

All of these possibilities which passed quickly in the tired mind of Amr and in his imagination could not bother or annoy him. He walks forwards courageously and dauntlessly and shakes hands with each of the two middle aged men. The two men reciprocated by shaking the hand of Amr warmly and passionately.

Before heaving them so as to make his way to the interior of the house, Amr looks at the faces of the two and he is puzzled to see both of these men having the astonishing smile of satisfaction and joy.

Amr leaves the two strange men and their mysterious and bizarre smile. Without any hesitation or reluctance he starts to make his way inside the magnificent house in expecting to see a house engulfed and submerged in sadness and sorrow.

The consoler, the visitor and the man full of curiosity, nosiness and inquisitiveness, makes his way without hesitation into the grand salon of the house expecting that many people would be there, only men.

The great and unexpected surprise is awaiting the consoler. The salon, which in normal ceremonious occasions and festivities could accommodate fifty persons, is almost empty. It looks like a deserted battle-field. Nobody is there in the salon.

Amr is not discouraged and he does not escape and does not try to withdraw. With a strong determination to fulfill his role as a consoler, he goes into the spacious and majestic salon and looks around again and again, as if he is lost or in the wrong place. Nobody is there in the salon, nobody at all. Why?

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Amr cannot detect any explanation for this strange phenomenon, this bizarre development of events. But at last, whatever is the case he chooses a seat nearby the main window and he sits down and commences to look around.

In spite of the fact that the two parts of the curtains in red velvet are closed, and thus the whole window is covered, light is penetrating through the velvet curtains. The rays of the marvelous disappearing sun are flooding the whole salon with light, brightness and illumination.

The four huge and colossal chandeliers hanged up to the ceiling are not yet lit because actually the time is not yet five o'clock, the time in which these sources of light are lit by the servants of the family. The sun would continue to send its light for two more hours and even more than that.

Sunny Day with Mom
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

Amr, a little bit bewildered and even stunned, is seated now in the chair he has already chosen. There is no certain definite criterion for his choice of the seat. He looks on his left and right sides and discovers that the two seats on both sides are not yet occupied.

In perceiving that nobody is there in the salon, Amr tries to discover, by himself, explanations for that strange development, that the huge and spacious salon is empty. Amr rubs his eyes for several times to be sure that what he sees represents the reality, the real situation in the salon. He wants to be sure that what he sees is not the mirage and that he is not in a desert.

Amr is still surprised, even bewildered and tells himself, in his effort to track down an explanation for the absence of visitors, of consolers, in the vast salon, that it is early now, very early. The sun is still there performing its last dance before it disappears behind the horizon to sleep.

This salon would be seen filled with visitors and consolers, probably after six o'clock or even somewhat before that. Amr looks at his watch and says that it is now hardly five thirty. He looks again at his Rolex; it is not yet six o'clock.

In finding that he is the only human being in the salon, Amr attempts to make, to draw a grimace on his face without wrinkles, just to show his sadness for the strange death of the family, the tragic death of the young daughter.

All of a sudden, Amr is relieved, eased and comforted. Two other visitors are seen walking in the vast salon. The other two visitors are smiling and sometimes laughing loudly exactly like two idiots, like two imbeciles. This strange behavior of the two visitors stunned Amr.

In seeing these two men behaving in such a funny way, Amr becomes in doubt whether he is really in a house of joy and happiness or in a house of sorrow and sadness. But so far nobody in the house seems to be in a state of sadness and sorrow.

Little by little, progressively, the number of persons in the salon increases and augments. Naturally, many seats in the salon are occupied here and there. The increasing number of the persons in the salon attracts the attention of Amr. There is no doubt, one fourth of the seats are nearly occupied.

To the astonishment of Amr, neither coffee nor cigarettes are serves till now. However, he feels relieved and comforted to notice that two servants enter the salon. One of the two serves coffee, black coffee, and the other offers the various brands of cigarettes available in the local market, including the American brands. It should be noticed that the packets of all American marks are visible on the low table. Five such low tables are placed in the various spots in the salon.

Two servants commence to serve black coffee and cigarettes. Amr normally, does not smoke especially in such occasions and in this particular visit he refuses to have coffee. In fact, he remembers very well what happened to him in previous condolence visits when he consumed black coffee excessively. Of course, the servant does not insist on Amr to have a cup of coffee. Amr incessantly remembers what happened to him in his last visit to the house of a bereaved family.

Amr looks vigilantly and attentively around him to examine with care the faces of the visitors, the consolers, present with him in the salon. All of them are supposed to be consolers and in sorrow. In seeing all this taking place in front of him, Amr is really bewildered. After looking several times on the visitors he comes to the strange conclusion that nobody is in a mood of sadness and sorrow. Nobody has a grimace on the face.

House in Clouds 2
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

More surprising is that all the visitors in the salon are divided into small groups of three to four members and all of them speak to each other and continuously. Those members of the groups smile from time to time and then all at once all of them burst into a loud deafening and thundering laughter. All members of any group participate actively in laughing and in noisy talking and discussion.

As it is expected and as it is customary and habitual, a number of visitors leave the salon and another number of visitors come into the salon. By now, the whole salon, as well as all the ten other spaces and places are full of visitors and consolers. The servants who are serving coffee are now extremely active. They continuously offer the cups of coffee, each filled with few sips, to each new comer or to those who have been already present in the salon of the big villa.

Amr witnesses watchfully all what goes on in the salon as well as elsewhere in the villa with interest and curiosity. The scene which he sees inside the salon does not change in its main features and characteristics. Basically everything stays there but in a dynamic way. He notices that what goes on before him is becoming gradually a riddle, something of a puzzle that cannot be explained.

Amr looks at his watch and finds that the time is almost nine o'clock. He has been sitting in his place for the last three hours and a half, since about five in the early afternoon. Still he has one more hour. At exactly ten o'clock, the whole festivity for the day would be finished.

With some difficulty and much effort, he tries to move his legs, to stretch them as much as he can, because he feels that he is somewhat tired because he has not moved them at all during the last three long hours. Amr does not remember that he went to the toilets at all, even once. He stands up where he is seated just to test his ability to move and walk.

Amr is satisfied because he discovers himself to be in a good health. With satisfaction and amazement he opens and closes his eyes several times. The hands are moved then raised till they are reposing on the back part of his neck. This was considered as something satisfactory and pleasing.

Amr opens his mouth and tries to put his tongue outside. Here, the tongue refuses to come out and Amr gets disturbed and confused about the frigidity and the unresponsiveness of his tongue. Nevertheless, he forgets the stubbornness of his tongue and makes some testing for his fingers. He comes to the conclusion that all parts and organs of his body are functioning well, or even very well. However, Amr forgets that he could not move and bring out the tongue out of his mouth.

At about nine thirty, when this piece of theatrical production would come to its end, this place would be practically full of people, only men of all ages. By this time, the place where Amr is seated and with no doubt all the other rooms and halls and salons, where consolers are received and seated, are all saturated by the suffocating smoke of cigarettes. All people suffer from smoking especially those who do not smoke. Due to the presence of the smoke of cigarettes many visitors are coughing and coughing. Coughing in the other rooms and salons could be easily heard from the place where Amr is seated. In reality, Amr himself becomes easily a victim of the smoke of cigarettes. He starts to cough, to cough in such a way that others are noticing that he is suffering more than others because of the cigarettes.

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At the same time, coffee continues to be served by the waiters. Visitors, the supposed to be consolers, do not hesitate at all to take what is offered to them. At the same time waves of visitors come and other waves leave the place. This is a continuous process till ten o'clock in the night.

But contrary to the regular tradition visitors and consolers here, instead of expressing their sadness and their sorrow, all of them show their joy, their satisfaction and their rejoicing. All of them are happy.

Amr looks around and becomes stunned. He could not understand at all why all the visitors and all the members of the bereaved family are joyful and full of satisfaction. Amr could not understand the events that are taking place before him.

Amr who was absent from the country for almost a quarter of a century and who was out of any contact with his community and its traditions, cannot understand and comprehend at all the events that are taking place before him for the last few hours. He discovers himself like a stranger amongst his people.

Why are these people happy instead of being sad and overwhelmed by sorrow and grief? Amr has taken the decision to know and to understand the enigmatic and puzzling situation. Why not ask somebody for some explanation of this complex riddle.

Of course, Amr cannot ask anybody for an explanation. No!!! He realizes that his two neighbors not to be the sort of people who could be asked for some explanation. They are too young to be asked for an explanation of the phenomenon that has social dimensions and implications.

Amr looks at the faces of his two neighbors. He realizes that the two do not encourage him to talk to them. Nevertheless, at last he decides to change his seat to be a neighbor of a visitor with whom he thinks he can communicate, talk and exchange ideas.

By now, he remarks that there are some chairs that are free, not occupied. He locates and tracks down a well placed seat. He goes then to this chair and seats himself. Amr feels himself completely satisfied because the two visitors on his right talk a lot in a way that allows him to hear everything and understand what is going on and what is said.

He lends his ears to what is said. He discovers that he could easily understand and comprehend the conversation and the dialogue that was taking place at that time. He is extremely anxious to know the reality, to know what is going on in this house which does not seem to be bereaved.

First and as a necessary step, Amr sits at ease, puts his two hands on his knees and prepares his ears to hear the conversation of his two or three neighbors. Now he is really ready to listen and to understand as much as possible.

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"Look at him, that young man, the eldest brother of the defunct, of the dead, of the victim and of the slaughtered. Look at him. He is the criminal who killed, slaughtered his sister with the sharp knife of the kitchen. He is the eldest brother of the victim, the young girl. He killed her with the complicity, the surveillance and the close observation of the three other male, masculine members of the family, one of her cousins, the uncle and the younger brother. These are the four criminals who killed the innocent young girl. What a tragedy! What a tragedy which is repeated continuously in our community." says one of the three neighbors of Amr whose seats were just next to his seat.

"It is said that the father of the victim was also present when the slaughter of the girl took place. He watched the whole criminal operation from a distance, from behind a huge tree. In fact, he was the guard of the whole act of crime, of the criminal operation. Look, the father is sitting there in the seat of the hidden corner." says another member of the group.

"However, and you should know this fact. It is the higher council of the elders of the extended family that has taken the final decision to slay, to kill the young girl by the knife. The final decision was taken the day before yesterday while the victim was sequestered in one of the small rooms of the basement of the house. The decision of putting the young girl to death was taken unanimously by the council of the family." said another member of the group.

"I wonder what is the crime committed by the victim, by the defunct. You know that nobody knows exactly the nature of the crime committed by girl so as to deserve the death sentence. There are so many rumors circulating now in the Quarter of the Rich but yet the truth is not yet known. Stories, false stories, are being fabricated about the life story of the deceased. However, still nobody knows the exact story of the defunct, of the victim. "

"All people know that the victim has good and an irreproachable reputation in the quarter. After she has finished with distinction her university studies she preferred to stay at home rather than work outside of her home. She was offered good employment opportunities in her field of specialization. Anyhow she declined to accept any offer and preferred to be staying at home. Several of her girl friends preferred to work as teachers in primary or lower secondary levels of education with the consent and approval of their families."

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"It is said that she, the victim, was under continuous surveillance, observation and control of the male members of her family. Once, late in the morning, her father noticed that his daughter was standing before the window of her bedroom in a very suspicious position while a young man, well known in the community and especially in the Quarter of the Rich for his bad reputation, was passing nearby the house. Actually, this young man, of the twenty seven years of age, is already married and has several children some of whom have started to go to school."

"The father of the victim had, since this window incident, the conviction that his daughter had some kind of doubtful sentimental relations with this young man of the quarter. The father after a strict surveillance of his daughter for at least three months came to the conclusion that his daughter had already profaned, tarnished and blemished the honor of the family as well as that of the community. The father imagined that his daughter has already had some love relations with the married young man. Of course, in such circumstances, the father could not keep this important observation to himself only. For several days, the father could not sleep at all. He used to imagine how his daughter arranged and planned her secret meetings with the presumed lover. He thought that his daughter met her lover when she claimed that she was visiting the house of her friend who was with her at the university and who was working as a teacher in a girl's primary school in the neighborhood. The father was even imagining some more scandalous possibilities in which the daughter met her lover in one of the houses of some friends of her lover."

"The father decides to discuss this scandal and its consequences with all the male members of the extended family. First he speaks to his three sons who are older than their sister, the victim. The father is surprised to discover that his three sons are already aware of the scandal that was going on in the house. They knew that the heroine of this scandal was their sister. The father left his sons and went to discuss this matter with his two brothers, the uncles of the victim. Also in this case, the father was surprised to discover that his two brothers believed that the accused has already profaned the honor of family. In few days time, the father of the victim came to know that all the male members of the extended family had the same conviction, that the daughter of the family, the defunct, was having scandalous relations and contacts with the married young man."

"So at the end of his consultation and investigation, the father has taken the final decision that the daughter has already profaned the honor of the family and that she should be killed. While in fact, the daughter was completely innocent and she was living an ideal and a virtuous life. For saving the honor of the family, the men of the family decided to punish the daughter by death. They argued that this young girl should pay for her crime by killing her by the glaive. She should die and at once and with no delay. Otherwise, the community would be wondering why this girl was still living since she has tarnished their honor and profaned their reputation. This is how this innocent girl was slain without mercy and for no reason at all, at all, except the rumors and the lies fabricated by the evil eye of the community." said the eldest of the three visitors who are sitting just near the seat of Amr in the main salon of the bereaved house.

"I don't think that what you say is true. These are not rumors and lies. The girl was seen misbehaving by the members of the family of the girl but also by others, several people have seen her in company with her lover. Don't try to make her now and after her death a saint. She deserves to die because she profaned our honor." said one of the three members of the group.

"I am sure that she is innocent, absolutely innocent. I think she never left her house without being accompanied by somebody from the family, like her mother. The girl has been accustomed to go out only with her mother after her graduation from the university. So, please, do not exaggerate. I think that what happened is a crime and all of those who participated in the crime should be sentenced to death, or least they should get life imprisonment. The four criminals have not been so far arrested till this moment. It is said that the father went to the police station of the quarter and reported the crime as if a cat was killed. The chief of the police station congratulated the father for having killed the daughter. Then the father was offered a cup of coffee and a cigarette. I think that such tragedies should be stopped. Men who kill their daughters and sisters on the basis of false pretensions and accusations, on the basis of rumors and lies, should be arrested at once and should be punished in accordance with the law of the country." said a member of the group.

Amr has been listening to this conversation with amazement. He could not believe what he has heard and imagines himself to be living in absurd world. Of course, he is shocked by what he has heard just now. He could not believe the story which he has heard about the innocent girl.

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What a crime!? What a horrible crime!!! How could such a crime be justified? Amr asks himself for several times. Amr wonders how the criminals could be free and proud of the abominable and loathsome crime which they have committed together in the name of the honor of the family and the community.

However, Amr decides to know more about this tragic and repulsive crime, this horrible event. For this purpose, he decides to ask one of the persons sitting near him a question.

"If you please my dear good neighbor, I would like to ask you a simple question, a very simple question concerning a strange phenomenon which I am observing now in the salon as well as in the other rooms and spaced in which there are visitors. Why are all the visitors, or most of them, the consolers, joyful and very happy instead of being in sadness and sorrow? We are now in the house of the supposed to be a bereaved family, a family engulfed in sadness and in sorrow because of the death of their daughter. Why are the visitors and the consolers happy and in joy? This is a strange behavior. Isn't it so?" asked Amr.

"I assure you that we are in the house of a bereaved family. Their daughter is dead. They have killed her. Therefore, this house is at the same time in a festivity. The death of the daughter who had profaned the honor of the family is considered as an occasion for showing their joy and satisfaction for the death of the daughter who tarnished the reputation of the family and the honor of the community. They celebrate their revenge, their vengeance for the tarnished honor. The shame, the disgrace has struck all the members of the family. The misbehavior of their daughter was to be punished by death and nothing else." answered the man sitting next to Amr in the salon.

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Of course, Amr was listening to the speaker with astonishment. Little by little and with the passing of time, the main salon of the house of the bereaved family is becoming deserted by most of the visitors. It is almost ten o'clock and traditionally this is the end of time for receiving visitors and consolers. The old retired consul looks at his watch discreetly and with nervousness.

Only few minutes are left for his final departure. Instead of fifty, seventy or one hundred visitors in the salon, he sees only two, in addition to himself. These two visitors have come just few minutes ago. May be they are not visitors but members of the bereaved family.

Strangely enough, the two men continue looking at him. Perhaps, they want to tell him that it is time to leave. He has been sitting in the salon since five o'clock in the late afternoon.

Indeed, in few minutes time he would be coming to the end of the fifth hour which he has spent so far in this house. This is the end of the day of sorrow and sadness in this bereaved house. Amr stands up and could not believe at all that he has been here sitting in the salon for the last five hours without going to the toilers at all.

He walks slowly to the main-gate of the house. He goes into his car. While driving the car in his destination to his house he thinks over and over of what he has seen, and more important of what he heard in the house of the bereaved but happy family.

Amr is highly motivated and interested to come to the same house tomorrow afternoon. He thinks that it is within the rules of the tradition to repeat the condolence visit for three consecutive days. Nobody would object. The house in sorrow and grief is open for all people without any exception.

In his house, Amr takes his late dinner at about ten o'clock, in a hurry. Of course, the meal has been already prepared and it has been waiting for him. Amr the master of the house does not talk at all to his servant who notices that his master is really in a hurry to go to bed. In his bed, he tries to sleep by first closing his eyes. Amr takes the decision to go to the same bereaved house of today for the second and the third day of bereavement. Every day he plans to stay from five in the afternoon till ten o'clock in the late evening.

In the morning and till late in the afternoon Amr looks through the daily newspaper to be well informed about the people who died recently. He finds out that a lot of people have died and of all ages. Anyhow, the most important thing is that the number of deceased persons is increasing from day to day. Yet, unfortunately, he knows very few of those who died lately.

Amr is waiting the coming of the afternoon. He does not see Abdu at all and just asks his servant not to try to see him throughout the afternoon. At five o'clock, exactly, Amr sits behind the steering of his car and starts driving slowly, prudently and cautiously. He drives his car towards the house in sorrow of yesterday.

According to his experience of yesterday, he does not find any car belonging to the visitors. He is the first one to arrive there. Therefore, his car is the first and he does not have any difficulty in tracking down a parking place nearby the bereaved house.

The same two persons of yesterday are standing to receive the visitors and the consolers who are coming to offer their condolences and their deepest sympathy. As it was the case yesterday, the two men are having a permanent broad smile on the face and they show a feeling of satisfaction, content and joy.

Of course, it is not difficult at all to discover that these two persons are really happy, very happy as they were yesterday. No sign of sorrow and grief could be traced on their face.

Of course, since it is early, very early, it is not strange that Amr tracks down the same seat of yesterday and it was not yet occupied. In spite of the fact that he is all alone in the salon, coffee is served and the waiter offers him a cup of black coffee. However, he is not tempted at all to take this cup of coffee. In refusing the cup of coffee, Amr says to the waiter, 'thank you'.

Few visitors are now seated, so they take their coffee and start to smoke the cigarettes offered to them. Consolers come and consolers go. Coffee is continuously offered to all the visitors. Cigarettes are also offered, but not all the visitors smoke. At six thirty in the evening and while Amr looks around and witnesses what is going on in the salon and in the other places where there are visitors, he already has the feeling that he needs to go to the toilet. This feeling of the need to urinate has never happened to him in the past.

This is the first time he feels he should go to the toilets. He does not have any choice. It seems, usually in such occasions where visitors stay here for only one quarter of an hour, nobody would need to go to the toilet facilities of the bereaved family house.

Amr feels embarrassed. He does not want to leave this house at once to as to go to his house and use his toilet facilities very freely. He is planning to stay here till ten o'clock. Therefore, he should use the toilet facilities of the house in sorrow, this house. Amr asks somebody:

If you please, my friend, do you know where the toilets here are, I mean the W.C. Tell me if you please, where are the toilets here? Amr asks an old man, who could be of more than eighty years old and who seems not to be able to hear clearly what Amr tells him. The old man is standing in the middle of the salon and he is about to be seated.

"What are you saying, my friend? I cannot hear you. Can you repeat what you have just said?" asks the old man in a loud voice which could be heard by Amr.

"Listen to me. I say toilets, where are the toilets in this house? I am sure that there are toilets for the guests, as it is the case in all modern villas. I do not know where these toilets are located." said Amr.

"I am very sorry my friend, I am like you. I am not a member of the family of the defunct. This is the first time I visit this house. For the last five minutes I have been asking people here where I could find the toilets. Until now I could not come across anybody who could give me an answer. You know I am an old man. I cannot control myself. You know if I am not helped urgently I could do it here on this spot, in this corner of the salon. You know I arrived here twenty minutes ago. I need to go to the toilets every ten minutes. I should have stayed at home." says the old man.

"You know my friend. My problem is very simple. It is not as complicated as it is in your case. I do not need the toilets as often as you do. I do not have a general or a strict rule for going to the toilets. I have come here at five o'clock and now it is eight. It is very normal for me to need to go to the toilets. But, I tell you, I am not in a hurry. I can wait. But since I will be staying here till ten o'clock, so I need to go to the toilets now and not later." say Amr in talking to the old man in a loud voice.

"Mr. you can leave the house just now so as to go to your house and use your toilets there. I am very surprised to hear you saying that you have been here since five o'clock and that you are planning to stay here till ten o'clock. I tell you frankly that this is foolishness Isn't it so? I never heard in the history and in the annals of the traditions of our people and of our community that somebody stays for five hours continuously for the sake of expressing his condolences and his deepest sympathies. It seems to me that you have nothing to do in this life except visiting the houses of the bereaved families for offering condolences. You are really a strange type of a person. I do not think that there are those who believe and do as you are believing and doing." says the old man to Amr.

"Listen to me, Mr. I am here to stay till ten o'clock. I am not going to leave this house now. Yes, I am different from all other men found here and elsewhere. This is an open house and I am sure that nobody would come and ask me to leave the house. You know my dear, I came here yesterday and I am planning to come here tomorrow, that is I am planning to come here for the three consecutive days." says Amr to the old man.

"You are going to stay here till ten o'clock. This is a complete waste of time. Any visit to this house in grief and sorrow should not last for more than ten to fifteen minutes. Can you understand me Mister? It is a complete foolishness, absolute stupidity, utter absurdity, total madness and nonsense to waste five hours here in this house. This is not normal, this is not ordinary. This is contrary to the traditions which all people should respect. I cannot understand you, my dear friend, when you repeat to me again and again and without getting tired of repeating the same thing that you are planning to stay here till ten o'clock." says the old man to Amr.

"Listen to me Mister, my friend. I am now considered as an old man in retirement. It is my right to choose for myself any way which I should follow for occupying my free time. You know I have all the time of the day available for me and it is my right to choose the way which I am going to follow for occupying my time. You are a very old man and very soon you would be ninety years old and you are quite aware of the problem of occupying the time available for the old." says Amr to the old man who seems to be very fatigued.

At last, the two discover that there is no use of talking to each other. They stop talking but they continue to look at each other. Amr looks at the floor in thinking that the old man could not control himself. Fortunately there was no yellow liquid on the floor. All is clean as before.

At last, the two went to a place not very far from where they are standing, where the toilets are located. Somebody told them how to track down these toilets. When they arrive there, Amr gives the priority to the old man to enter into the only closet available there. The old man stays inside the closet for few minutes, not more than two to three minutes.

Then it was the turn of Amr who goes inside the closet so as to urinate. He remains there for few minutes. It seems that it takes him a lot of time to dispense with all the urine which is present in his body.

Probably, Amr has some problems, of which he is not aware of, in his prostate, which might have been in a swelling process since a long-time. His prostate might have the present size of being four times the normal initial size. By consequence, Amr might have some problems in his urinary bladder. He cannot dispense with his urine freely like other normal human beings.

When Amr comes out of the W.C. he discovers that there is a long line of old men who were waiting to have the chance of using the toilets. The number of those who were waiting their turn is five persons.

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Amr goes back to his seat in the salon. He hurries up a little but as if he has the feeling that something is going to take place. But as soon as he arrives to his old seat he discovers to his surprise that somebody else, a new consoler is sitting on it.

The retired consul is astonished to realize that the person who is occupying his seat is nobody but his friend Monkar, the ex-ambassador. Amr rushes hastily to his friend Monkar. Some visitors are somewhat disturbed of the way the two friends receive and talk to each other.

"Where have you been? I have been looking for you everywhere here, in all the rooms and halls of the house in which visitors are received. You told me once that you do not leave the bereaved family house till ten o'clock. That is, you would be the last person, visitor, in the salon and may be in the whole house in sorrow. I am really surprised to have failed to see here." says the ex-ambassador to his friend, the old ex-consul while he is sitting in what is supposed to be the new seat of Amr.

"You know my friend; I went to the toilets, like all normal human beings. I am sometimes in need to go to the toilets. I have been sitting here for seven hours and therefore it is normal to feel that I should go to the toilets. I found there a number of old people, who were in need to use the toilets. You know my dear friend Monkar I noticed that some of these old people have an average age of eighty years, have already emptied their bladders before going into the W.C. I saw their trousers all wet with their urine and all were smiling like children."

"I wonder why such senile and doddering old men should be allowed to leave their houses and come to offer their deepest sympathy, their condolences and their urine to the bereaved family. But here I am, again in the salon, and I want to resume my duties as a consoler." says Amr to his friend Monkar.

"OK, I understand you. Please do not go into the details to explain to me problems which you normally face in going to the toilets. Every living creature needs to dispense with the liquid surplus that it has in its body. You know and I am sure, you have been noticing that even dogs and cats need to empty their bladders in nature." said Monkar.

Monkar looks around in the salon for a while. There on the other side of the salon he sees two seats, empty, not occupied. He tells Amr that they could go there so as to sit near each other. In reality, the two realize that they were approaching the time in which the family would stop receiving visitors and consolers. The two friends are now sitting near to each other.

"You know my friend Amr; I do not have enough time to stay here with you for more than few minutes. In this field of human and social activity, I differ from you. I have a different approach and a different philosophy in the domain of life and death. You like to make only one visit for offering your condolences to one family only each day. From what you already told me you like to stay in the bereaved house for four or five hours, from five in the afternoon till ten in the evening. This is your way and your philosophy for expressing your feeling of sympathy to the family of the defunct. You know, Amr, I am completely different from you. It seems we come from two disparate and contrasting worlds and social backgrounds. In this respect I am planning that by ten o'clock I should have completed the condolence visits of eight families that are in sorrow and bereavement. Imagine, starting from five o'clock in the afternoon I become in compete movement and in continuous activity. I go from one house to another. I stay in each bereaved house for a maximum of ten to fifteen minutes, not more than that. In between I go to my house to take some rest and to take some refreshment, soft drinks. I can from time to time make some use of the toilet of my house. "

"O! my dear Amr, my life is completely different from your life. You know that I have already finished visiting seven bereaved families. During what is left for me of time I might be visiting one or two more families in bereavement. Do you know that I have recruited recently a young secretary, a girl who has just finished her university education with a master's degree in public administration? This girl, blond and tall and intelligent, the secretary, is in charge of planning and organizing my daily activities in the field of condolence visits. This secretary reads, or more precisely, studies the daily newspaper intensively so as to prepare for me a well synchronized program of visits to bereaved families. The poor secretary is daily busy to update my daily program of visits on the light of new developments concerning the publication of new names of persons who died most recently."

"You know my dear friend Amr, I have discovered, at last, that we are different, We come from two different planets, from two dissimilar worlds and from two unlike galaxies. Isn't it so? We differ at least in our outlook to life and death. I know by now that you prefer to visit the same house in sorrow for the three consecutive days designated by the bereaved family to receive condolence visits. You prefer to stay for five hours in every visit, whatever the case is. I am very glad to tell you that we have still nine minutes to stay together in this house. We can talk to each other, freely, for eight more minutes. Mind you, you should notice that all people around us like to listen to us. All their ears are ready to record the substance and the contents of what we are saying. They would report about us things and events which we have not said at all. You just wait till tomorrow and you would hear stories about you and about me. Of course, all of the stories told about us are lies, fiction and falsehood. This is the nature of our society. It is a horrible atmosphere."

"Of course, I confess to you, my dear friend, that I am myself a main source of lies and rumors about the lives of others. You know, it is my married daughter who goes out in the evening and comes back before sunrise. And yet I fabricate, create scandalous stories about the daughters of our neighbors. You know my dear; this is a quarter of devils, of Satan. The quarter in which we live and which we call the Quarter of the Rich lives and nourishes itself on rumors and on lies. Each family creates false scandalous stories about the other families. At the final analysis, the whole quarter knows nothing but rumors and lies. Nobody knows what the truth is regarding any single family in the quarter. In this respect, you are the best example. Night and day you tell me fabricated stories and rumors about your cousin who is an ideal wife and a perfect mother of five children" says Monkar to Amr.

"You know, I have only three minutes left for your departure. So I cannot give you my reaction to what you are telling me just now. I have a lot of stories that could be told in thousands and thousands of pages. But anyhow, I agree with you that our quarter should be called the quarter of devils. As you know I consider myself one of these devils of our society. God is watching me and He considers me as the devil of the community who should be punished and be sent to Hell. Because of jealousy I am attacking my cousin, the ideal mother and the ideal wife. My dear Monkar, our worlds are different. Anyhow both of us prosper and live on fabricated lies and rumors concerning the private life of other families of the quarter."

"We differ, my dear Monkar in one main aspect of life. As old men in retirement we differ in the way of filling our free time. In your case, every day you visit about eight bereaved families and in my case I spend all the time available for me for three consecutive days in offering condolences for the same bereaved family." say Amr to Monkar.

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"Practically I have no time left for me to speak to you in this house. I am going to visit a family which is celebrating the killing of one of their daughters, thirteen or fourteen years old, because the father believes that this daughter has profaned the honor of the family. So I am in a hurry and have only three minutes (he looks at his watch). By the way, are you informed about the way in which the daughter of this family faced death" asks Monkar.

"O! yes, the victim had been killed on the basis of pretensions and accusations. She is accused of profaning the honor of the family. It is the usual pretence and accusation for the killing of all the females. This is a society ruled and dominated only by men. The females are being slaughtered only like sheep and pigs. Nobody can say anything when the father or the brothers slay the daughter, or the sister. A girl is created in our society, in our community to be slaughtered. This is the eternal heritage which we have received from social practices which were prevailing in our society three thousand or four thousand years ago. This is the heritage of the epochs of ignorance and darkness. These social practices have nothing to do with laws and rules of conduct that came to us from heavens. Each time a girl is slaughtered God shivers and trembles in his throne. God closes his eyes whenever he sees an innocent girl or woman being killed in the name of the honor of the family and the community." says Amr to his friend Monkar, the ex-ambassador.

"Listen to me carefully, my dear friend Amr. Please, do not quote me about what I am going to tell you. It is reported that the father of the slaughtered girl is the real culprit. It is said that he has been sleeping with his daughter for the last four months several times. You know this house is very big as you see it now. It is said also that before the death of the girl she was pregnant for some months. All adult members of the family know very well the incest relationship between the father and his daughter. The only solution to the problem was to kill the daughter on the basis of misbehavior and that she profaned the honor of the family by accusing her of sleeping with a young man." replies Monkar while looking at his watch with nervousness.

"What a horror!! I cannot believe this story. No!! It is impossible. Look over there. The father is sitting over there. It is possible that he is really a beast, a monster, a criminal, or what. Look at him. He smiles. What a beast!! What a monster!"

The ex-ambassador, Monkar, walks to the door steps while he is looking at his watch. He wants to go to two more houses in sorrow and bereavement and both of these houses are in the Quarter of the Rich.

On the other hand, Amr sits petrified in his seat. I t seems that he reviews all what Monkar has told him of lies and rumors about the head of the family. The ex-consul does not move in his seat at all. He keeps his eyes open in looking at the father of the family. Amr asks himself and repeatedly. Is it possible? I cannot believe it.

Before the arriving of the end of the second day of condolences in this house, Amr looks at his watch. He feels a little bit tired and may be exhausted and probably about to faint. For him, the recently retired old man, this is the first time that he could stay for four complete hours in a bereaved house. However, he tries to leave this house in sorrow at ten o'clock exactly. At about ten o'clock late in the evening, Amr finds the magnificent and the sumptuous salon virtually deserted, abandoned and renounced. He looks around but he finds nobody is there. Even members of the family of the defunct have totally disappeared. All people, the late visitors went to their homes.

So Amr wants, likewise, to go to his house. It is possible for him to leave this house in sorrow few minutes before ten o'clock. But exactly at quarter to eight, Amr, tired and perhaps exhausted is surprised to see the entrance of his cousin Sari.

The cousin is in fact in a hurry. Sari takes a seat and feels relaxed and at ease. The waiter comes to him precipitately and offers coffee to the new comer. So Sari takes certain sips and then shakes the cup indicating that he does not want any more coffee.

Sari sits in his place without making any movement. After few minutes, he looks around him in the salon. Curiously enough, Sari does not see at all his cousin Amr who is still sitting in his seat near by a corner of the salon.

Sari stays in his seat for few minutes and then all of a sudden he disappears. He is no more seen in the salon. It seems that Sari has finished his condolence visit without seeing his cousin Amr at all.

How could Sari miss seeing his cousin Amr who has been sitting in his chair for the last five hours? Therefore, Amr leaves the bereaved house and in his car behind his steering he drives his car directly to his house in the Quarter of the Rich.

In seeing himself, at last, inside his marvelous and splendid house, Amr unexpectedly feels hungry. It is difficult for him to stay without dinner till ten o'clock or more than that. He has to accustom himself to this new system of taking his daily dinner at ten o'clock. This is the first day he misses his dinner at eight o'clock.

He wants to eat whatever is offered to him. Fortunately, Abdu is there waiting patiently for his master. He informs his master that dinner is ready for him in the dining-room. At that moment, Amr looks around and then he says to himself that nothing is new in the house and that life is going on as usual. There, he sees in front of him his ephebe, the servant Abdu, standing afar but certainly seen by his master. The servant looks with satisfaction at his master. No doubt, before the arrival of Amr to his house, Abdu, has been worried as to the health of his master. Did his master have a lot of coffee in the time which he spent in the bereaved house?

There is nothing new. Life is going on the basis of the routine established in the house since a long time. Nevertheless, the delay of dinner for two hours from its normal and customary time is a real change to the routine which it seems has by now been accepted by all.

On the next day, and early in the morning, when Amr opens his eyes and sees the sun-light shining in the bedroom, he feels happy and full of joy and satisfaction. He decides at once that he should go for the third day of bereavement to the same house to which he has been going for the last two days.

Nothing is new for him in the atmosphere inside the bedroom. He carries out all the necessary and the daily activities as if he is a robot. No change can be observed in his morning daily life.

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In summary, Abdu comes and goes out from the bedroom. The morning adored coffee and the daily newspaper are brought to him at the proper and customary time and place. Breakfast is also brought to the bedroom which Amr takes while he is in bed. Amr takes while he is in bed. Amr goes to the bathroom and he does so many things there which cannot be counted or described. At last the master of the house comes out of the bathroom and he starts to dress himself.

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Till the coming of the lunch time and till the passing of most of the afternoon Amr occupies himself in reading the daily newspaper again and again. He knows by now certain pages in the paper, more than fifty, which he should read first and for several times. He is by now an expert in the art of reading the daily paper.

He discovers so many new developments in the Quarter of the Rich as far as the victories realized by death in the quarter. The number of those who died recently has certainly been increasing in as amazing way.

Baby Plant on Table 1
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

At five o'clock late in the afternoon, or the beginning of the evening, Amr is sitting behind the steering. After driving for few minutes, he stops the car in the street of the house in sorrow which he is going to visit for the third day.

As usual, the street is almost deserted at this time of the day, of course, with the exception that he discovers himself to be the only person walking in the street. Because of much curiosity and nervousness, Amr looks at his watch to be sure that it is five and not three or four o'clock in the afternoon. He is sure that the watch tells him that the exact time is five fifteen and not four fifteen. Therefore, Amr smiles furtively as he thinks "I am in the right direction. I have not made any mistake. It is almost the exact time for the visit of condolence to this family in sorrow."

Amr enters the house but nobody receives him. The two persons who used to stand in front of the entrance to the house are today absent. There is no trace for then this day. It is not known where they are now. Have they cancelled the third day of condolence?

Still the absence of the two men is a riddle to Amr. However, whatever are the new developments, the two men charged of receiving the visitors should be standing at the entrance. Amr does not care whether he is received or not at the entrance. The daily newspaper did not contain any announcement declaring the canceling of the third day of sorrow and grief and receiving the condolences of the consolers.

Amr ventures to enter inside the house and to direct himself to the salon. Nobody is there. All the seats are arranged as they were in the last two days. Everything is quiet and silence dominates in the whole spacious place.

The light of the salon is normal as it was in the last two days. Yet nobody is there. The servant, the waiter, serving coffee does not show himself at all. The boy who is charged to offer cigarettes does not show up himself at all.

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Takeoff 3
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

The atmosphere in the salon remains clean and refreshing. Nobody passes by the window from outside. Of course, something is happening or was happening which could not be explained at all. No movement could be seen in the other rooms and spaces in the house.

Perhaps, the days of sorrow and bereavement for this family are two and not three days in spite of the fact that this change is not declared in the daily newspaper. The absence of people in the salon, and even in all other rooms of the house is surprising and even bewildering.

Amr is the only man who has so far come to offer his condolences and for the third day. In the midst of this absolute silence the coughing of Amr is echoing like thunder everywhere in the salon and even in the other parts of the house. This high and loud coughing is repeated several times. Yet this coughing does not encourage anybody in the house to come to the salon to see who is coughing. The high coughing does not attract the attention of anybody. Amr discovers that there is no use to cough continuously. Nobody would come to the salon. The only visitor seated in the salon is still hoping that someone would come to him, although he is not in need of anything.

In spite of all these vague circumstances and confusing situation, Amr decides to stay in his seat. He is glad he is not in need to go to the toilets, to the W.C. Up till now no one comes to tell him anything so as he could be in a better position to understand what is going on around him.

The only visitor, consoler, in the house in bereavement decides to complete his third day, that is, to stay in the bereaved house till ten o'clock. In fact, it is about to be ten. By ten o'clock the only visitor in the house in sorrow would have stayed in this third day for five long hours.

Takeoff 8
Above artwork is by the author's son Nawaf Al-Bukhari... See more!
© 1980-2017 by Nawaf Al Bukhari, Amman-JORDAN and Dubai-UAE

For five hours Amr would have stayed motionless in his seat and he would not have had the chance of uttering a single word. Amr is surprised to see at last a human being, a man who looks for him, a person with no identity at all. What a strange phenomenon? Why should this person be without any feature on his face? Anyhow, the appearance of this person is totally unexpected by the only visitor in the house, Amr.

The strange person declares to the visitor, to Amr, that this is the end of the third day and the last day of sorrow and bereavement. But all of a sudden, this man who made the declaration disappears mysteriously. His appearance and disappearance could not be logically explained. Amr is left again all alone in the salon of the bereaved family house.

In realizing that he is all alone, Amr prepares himself to leave the house the soonest. He stops hoping to see anybody in the salon. For the last time he looks around him everywhere in trying to discover if somebody is actually hiding himself somewhere in the salon. The only consoler in the house realized that he is all alone in the salon and that he should immediately leave the bereaved house.

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© 1980-2017 by Najati Al Bukhari, Mont de Marsan, France

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