The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals
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The sun has already risen from its hidden silky bed behind the horizon since a long time. Normally, the sun of the of the month of April in the Middle East starts sending its bright and shining light and its refreshing and reviving breeze early in the morning. The actual month, that of April, is considered by all people of all ages and of all the social classes of the city as well as the best of all months of the year. Everybody becomes in a state of agitation before the arrival of this month. A lot of social activities are planned to be undertaken during the thirty days of this marvelous and joyful month.
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As usual, during this month of April, the blue sky becomes extremely clear, serene and undisturbed. The sky is always smiling throughout the day and full of twinkling and sparkling stars during the long night. To-day is the middle of the beautiful spring season. All the inhabitants of the city, the rich as well as the poor, consider this lovely and enjoyable month as the proper and the most suitable time for enjoying fully life in general.
On this delightful and beautiful day, the shining and the dancing rays of the sun penetrate freely and with jubilation everywhere in the residential homes of the inhabitants of the city, and without exception. The sun sends its rays to cottages, huts and tents of the poor as well as to the stone-built houses, villas and palaces of the rich and the well-to-do families.
No doubt, on this day, everybody enjoys with satisfaction and content the nice weather of the charming spring season. Certainly, the spacious and the luxurious bedroom of Amr is not an exception at all regarding the light and the warmth provided by the dancing rays of the Sun. The magnificent and spacious bedroom is conceived and designed in such a way that most of the time of the day it is invaded by the light and the warmth of the rays of the Sun.
All the passers-by, both neighbors and others coming strolling from the other quarters of the city, notice with curiosity and observe with interest how this special room is nicely situated and superbly located in such a way that the rays of the magnificent and shining Sun never left the bedroom throughout the whole day starting from sunrise and ending up by sunset. Amr, as usual is still deep sleeping since yesterday early evening and probably he is having at this particular moment his dreams and most probably he is having too very few frightening nightmares as it happens to most people of his age. Amr is never considered as someone who has the habit of getting up early in the morning. Most probably, the style of his personal and family life background does not create from him a man who likes to wake up with enthusiasm, keenness and avidity from his sleep early in the morning.
Furthermore, his life in the last twenty five years, as a diplomat, does not create from him a man who likes to get up early.
The rays of the Sun, since early in the morning and since the full sun-rise, have been penetrating the house of Amr in general and his bedroom in particular. The courageous rays of the shining Sun penetrate the bedroom and with neither hesitation nor shyness, but rather with determination. The rays of the Sun do not leave a single spot in the bedroom without gently touching it so that they would give life to all the components and contents of the room.
Nevertheless, the immortal Sun stands powerless because its warmth and its presence are not encouraging at all the sleeping already retired old man to wake up and to leave without reluctance and laziness his bed.
At a certain critical point, the Sun reconsiders its situation and its position inside the bedroom of Amr. Should the Sun withdraw its rays and light politely and leave this recently retired man deeply asleep? Should the Sun leave him to his destiny in an atmosphere full of obscurity and darkness, of laziness and sluggishness?
This man, who is almost an old man, has passed two weeks ago the age of sixty years, or has just started the life of retirement and idleness. Actually, Amr has just begun his life as a retired man after he has spent about thirty years of his life as a distinguished and a dignified member of the diplomatic corps of his country.
His life as a member of the diplomatic corps did not require from him at all to wake up early in the morning or to be active in his working hours in his office where officials, diplomats, are accustomed to read newspaper and to drink coffee and most of the time talk to each other continuously in the corridors and in the offices.
Yet, the most important aspect of the personal life of Amr is not his laziness and his indolence, but rather his being a single man, an unmarried man, or a celibate, or more precisely a bachelor. Actually, nobody knows up till now why this old and retired man has been living all his life as a bachelor, not married and without a family of his own. How could he survive all his life without marriage, without having a wife or a woman, in his life?
Celibacy or bachelorhood imposes on Amr, the man in retirement, so many restrictions and limitations in the domain of his personal social life. In spite of the fact that Amr is invited from time to time to some social evenings and receptions of well known families in the city that have some business or family relations with Amr's family, yet as a general rule, he cannot be invited, and a bachelor, to such social events, evening receptions, that are usually organized by rich and well known families of the city.
Normally, as a general rule, it is always preferred that any invited person should be accompanied by his wife. Bachelors are normally avoided. To be invited to such social evening party one should be married. Therefore, being a bachelor imposes on Amr several restrictions and disadvantages. He should live all isolated without coming in touch with real life in the city. Of course, to overcome the disadvantages of being a bachelor and to be able to attend some of those several evening activities in the city, Amr has found a solution long ago. Usually, and from time to time, he accompanies his cousin Sari, the famous constructor of beautiful edifices who is married to a gentle and a kind woman, to some of those evening social parties. Amr invites himself to accompany his cousin Sari in going to some of these evening receptions.
Amr is now more and more aware of his actual situation and the shortcomings of his new life of retirement and idleness in his own home-town. In seeing Abdu, his servant, standing in front of him, Amr puts on his face a simple smile to which his servant is already accustomed. Every day, Abdu, and in the morning, sees his master for the first time during the day with a smile in his face. Equally, Amr starts looking at his servant, the young man, standing in front of him. Amr likes to look at his young servant without having to speak to him. He likes to look at him while he is standing motionless like a statue of pure marble.
After looking at his ephebe, Amr looks around him in the wide space of the bedroom and for a long time. Always, he wants to be sure that everything is in its place as it was last night, as it was always. Amr gives special attention to this point. Any change in the general arrangement design of the bedroom should be carried out with his consultation, his opinion and his final consent and approval.
Amr again and for few instants thinks that he is still in Chilnega and not in his home town. For sure, Chilnega was almost like a paradise for him where in fact he had nothing to do. For some time, Amr thinks that Abdu is one of the young black men who were serving him in Chilnega. Naturally, it is not difficult for Amr to realize that this young man standing in the door is Abdu, the ephebe, and not an African young man.
Amr does not say anything for some time, some instants. Maybe, every day in the morning and since his final return from Chilnega of Western Africa, he behaves like this, in this curious and perhaps abnormal manner, almost lost for few seconds.
However, Abdu, the servant and the ephebe, after waiting for few instants in the door, decides to leave the entrance of the bedroom of his gazing master and to advance few steps recklessly, daringly towards the magnificent, sumptuous and splendid bed of his master, Amr.
Amr walks slowly, prudently towards his puzzled master. Actually, Amr counts his steps that separate him from his destination. He knows that the distance between the door of the bedroom and the luxurious silk covered bed of his master is only ten steps and it takes him less than five seconds to be in front of his master who is still in his bed surrounded by three or four pillows.
It is not known at all why Abdu, the young servant, behaves and acts like this at this particular time of the morning and during the first contact of the day with his master. Abdu in this respect of human behavior does not at all reciprocate with his master in matters of smiling and showing off the positive aspects of life. Smiling, to him, to the ephebe, is the right of the master and not that of the servant.
Abdu enters the spacious bedroom somewhat frowning with a visible grimace on his face. Of course, Abdu could make this non-threatening and even peaceful grimace visible on his face without having wrinkles either on his placid newly shaven cheeks or on his smooth and shining front and forehead. He is just clever to show an innocent face with a grimace on it. While he walks towards the bed he never raises his head so as to see, or to stare at his master. He bends and inclines his head a little bit just to let his master feel that he, the servant, does not see him and does not even see the bed. In other words, he knows by now the way from the door to the bed by heart and he can cross this distance with closed eyes.
Therefore, at that instant, the absolute silence becomes sovereign in the magnificent bedroom. But before arriving the large bed by almost two steps, Abdu stops for a while and speaks, says something, to his master in a docile, low and submissive voice. It seems, it is the custom, the tradition, between these two human beings, like all civilized people when they meet anywhere, to say good morning in the morning, good after-noon in the afternoon and good night when leaving at whatever time of the night starting from the time of sunset.
"Good morning master." Abdu said to his master, as it is the habit for him and for the master of the house. Of course, Abdu, the ephebe, utters this neutral and most normal expression in human life in a low voice, but yet giving the impression that he, the servant, absolutely respects and venerates his master, Amr.
"Good morning Abdu." replied the master who was still smiling and who is more or less feeling at ease and enjoying good health.
"What a nice weather today. It seems to me that it would be a very enjoyable day, a pleasant and joyful day. I think today, the spring season is at its climax, I mean at its best. All the inhabitants of the quarter of all ages would enjoy such a beautiful day. What nice smell you have in your room, Sir. I am sure that the morning breeze carries for you all of this fragrance, this nice perfume of flowers that are blooming in the many gardens that are found in the palaces and villas which surround your house. It is good that the two windows of the bedroom are open so that all the magic of nature would be easily carried into your bedroom." said the servant, Abdu politely and a docile way.
"Yes, yes you are right, I agree with you. What a nice day. Really, it would be a nice and an enjoyable day. Thanks to God, thanks to God, the Almighty. I am sure that all people would enjoy the nice climate, adults as well as children. What is the time now, Abdu? Oh! My eyes are still drowsy, they are almost half asleep. I wonder why they are like this. I hope that this has nothing to with age. I hope it is not, I hope it is not. At sixty years of age I do not have to feel like a human being who is about to die. O! Abdu, a lot of people, especially men, die at this early age. One normally hopes to live till the age of one hundred. I am still sixty years old; perhaps, I have forty years or even more to live although my father and uncles did not exceed the sixty or the seventy years of age. O! Abdu, I find some difficulty in seeing properly my watch. This is very strange. I think I should see an optician. There is no reason to wait like this till I become blind. I think that the first thing and old man needs is a good eye-sight. You know, I don't like to use spectacles." Amr said.
"This is normal, master, and very normal. You know from experience and observation that only human beings but also mature and all what the environment contains, get sleepy, drowsy. Tell me please if you prefer to take your breakfast now at bed? Or would you prefer at this moment of the day to take some coffee in bed, as it is the tradition and the custom everywhere in our community?" the servant said to his master who was still in his bed and surrounded by his four white pillows.
"Breakfast... What do you say? Breakfast… surely and certainly not now at this time of the morning. I tell you, Abdu, I don't want breakfast now at this time of the morning and in my bed. I would prefer to behave and conduct myself in accordance with our traditions and customs. First of all bring me the paper of the day, I mean the newspaper of today and also, if you please bring me a cup of coffee with a little bit of sugar. Please ask the cook to put more and more cardamom, as it is the tradition in the community."
"But I remind you, do not forget today's newspaper. Do not forget that. What is today? What a miserable life!!? I am not aware at all of the details of the passing of time. I do not know the day, the month, or even the year. I am just a lost man. What a miserable life? What happened to me since my return from Chilnega and the beginning of my life of retirement? I am not conscience at all of the elements and the dimensions of time. I am afraid that this is only the beginning of a new disturbing development in my intellectual, emotional and sentimental life. This is horrible." the master said to his servant.
"Today is Thursday. I am sure you know that this is the tenth day since your return from Chilnega, or in other words, this is the tenth day for your retirement, your tenth day as a pensioner. I realize that these days were very difficult for you. I think you remember very well that you have not left the house since your arrival from Chilnega. Isn't it so? Of course, with the exception of once or twice when you went to visit some of your relatives for short courtesy visits. Isn't it so? Master" Abdu the servant said in such a tone that looked to be fuller of astonishment."
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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals
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