By Syed Haider Shahbaz
“On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.” Gabriel Garcia Marques, Chronicle of a Death Foretold.
“Before we had religion and other nonsense. Now for everyone there should be someone to whom one can speak frankly, for all the valour that one could have one becomes very alone.” Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Our lives are but the chronicles of a death foretold. Day to day, from birth, there is only one certainty: we will die. And so, like Marquez’s narrative, begins our journey; from the first sentence we know the end – the certainty of our death. Yet, the narrative is gripping. Life is compelling – in its own many small and mysterious ways. And what, after all, is compelling? How does Marquez make us read when he has whispered the end into our ears, casually, like the news of our death?
There are some things in life that they do not talk about in the classroom. One of them is holes. Not just any holes – bodily holes: assholes, vaginas, noses, sweat pores, mouths, ears, penises. Because of my friends, I became obsessed with holes. They liked peering in their assholes. At least, Martin did. He tried to write a poem about his asshole. The poem, well enough, made him fall in love with his asshole. Its darkness, its depth, its wrinkles and curves, the small pieces of shit stuck all over it. How manly, he said, he thought. Whenever he came out to drink whiskey in his ill-fitted plaid shirts, ginger hair, armed with an accent and a childish smile, he talked of his asshole. We all knew his asshole intimately and adored it as intensely as him. It became his muse. And we all peered into our assholes. Deep down, and smiled, privately.
Then, Nadia and her sari. I woke up to her putting it on. Round and round and round. All six yards of it, as she told me. All six yards. All of it to hide two little holes? All the mysteries, answers, that lie there, waiting. Her vagina was tasty. It smelled, strongly. A little mole, to the side, a reward for the curious. Soft, powerful, sad, funny: wholly hers to give, whomever she wanted to connect with. Her way to connect. Her way to speak. But before I started becoming aware of these bodily holes, I had completely forgotten about them.
I hadn’t been aware of my holes for a long time. I must have been aware at some point, maybe in the lost memories of my childhood, but I only remembered forgetting them. Slowly but surely, forgetting completely that I had holes in my body. When I was twelve, I started praying the Islamic prayer five times a day. I did not want to go to hell. Later, I found mysticism. Hell was not transcendence, god himself was. Later still, I found anarchism. I rejected all messiahs, all transcendence. I only needed truth, and it was in the utopia. But, I never gave up Truth. And it never pointed me to life. Truth never pointed me to my holes. There was always something higher to achieve. My body could not be the end. This world, my existence, these all too heavy molecules: surely, this could not be all. I became alone; I wanted to get to my inside, to my soul, my heart, my consciousness that would join me to the consciousness of all existence and all history and to the Truth.
But, finally, it was the trick of light midnight springtime floating air that reminded me of my holes, the holes that connected me to all existence. My friend, Carmen, told me to lie down, to close my eyes, to breath. And breath I did, with a stupid smile. But she shook her head. Breathe. Breathe. BREATHE. She said. She told me to feel the air as it went inside and came out. She told me to imagine it filling up my lungs, filling up my body, to feel it beat against my skin. Little by little, I did. I realized I had forgotten to breathe, forgotten my connection to the world: the writing process itself, the life of the narrative, the narrative of life. The air was beating inside of me. And I realize, only now, how stupid to talk of an inside, of a boundary, a barrier. That air I shared with all life and the world. A connection, so physical, so material, so present, it cannot be refused. There is no beginning and end to my body, only porous holes, reaching out to all else that exists. I am part of the world, so meticulously connected and mutually constructed. I had it: I keep living and I keep reading because I want to feel these connections. The pleasure is that of existence itself, of the narrative, of the word. Never of the end. I want to feel the world around me, breathing it in and out, asserting my existence but only through those of others. I had nothing more to look for; who needs a soul? I shared the gentle caresses and hedonistic orgies of existence with the physical world itself. It was the trick of light midnight springtime floating air. And, it was, the most satisfying trick of them all: to know that there is no trick, not even a magician.