by Ares Demertzis (February 2011)
Dawn was streaking the leaden sky with a colorful palette. From a neighboring mosque the melodic cry of the muezzin summoning believers to prayer could be heard. Maed Inusa was not a Muslim; he practiced no formal religion, considering life the accidental creation of an indifferent nature unconcerned with the imprudent, self-worshiping idiosyncrasies of mankind. He was awake at this hour because he had once again been unable to sleep throughout an entire restless night.
Maed Inusa was an American far from home sitting on one of the exquisitely elegant, hand stitched camel leather stools that surrounded the empty, impeccably polished mahogany bar on the uppermost level of the hotel. This offensive, albeit condoned business was an unusual, deceptively indulgent concession to unbelievers by a despotic and obdurate Islamic regime, alcohol being strictly prohibited for the faithful by the Qur´an. It was in Jannah, the Muslim paradise, where martyrs would be permitted by a considerate Allah the pleasure of endless flowing rivers of wine among other, more lascivious delights.
Situating the bar on the highest floor of the hotel was not a deliberate architectural indulgence; its location was calculatingly intended to afford added security in the very remote possibility of a Muslim apostate gaining access, thereby incurring the unyielding wrath of Sharia law which could result in unwanted Infidel media exposure regarding pitiless, Medieval Islamic justice. It was not considered sufficient, as in that other authoritarian paradise, Castro´s socialist Cuba, to simply post intimidating guards at the elevators in order to prevent the common citizen’s access to the superfluous luxuries and flawed indulgences of a dissolute, capitalist western culture.
From hidden speakers the melodic, sorrowful notes of an Ud saturated the environment. Maed Inusa swallowed another shot of bourbon in one swift gulp with an unsteady hand. To his mind´s eye materialized the black and white iconic image of John Wayne standing in a dusty saloon, a single action 44-40 Colt Peacemaker hung loosely about his waist, a spurred, booted foot hooked on a lusterless brass rail, a soiled, sweat streaked Stetson pushed away from his forehead, drawling the scripted line: “Whisky.” He was referring to American whisky, bourbon; that harsh, robust liquor that differentiated it from its mellower Scottish cousin. Inusa grinned the sardonic Wayne grin, and as is expected of every boisterous, unsophisticated Ugly American, he noisily slapped the empty glass down on the far edge of the bar, signifying a refill.
“You are drinking far too much,” the bartender admonished in a low, accented voice.
“Just fill the glass,” Inusa retorted brusquely, annoyed by the bartender´s unexpected familiarity. He was a high-ranking executive of a transnational corporation working a minimum of one hundred hours a week and categorically rejected the counsel of all those he considered beneath his level of intelligence. In a belated effort to accommodate the contemporary fashion applauding indulgent multi cultural sensitivity, he pressed a large denomination banknote into the bartender´s hand before swallowing the amber fluid. The bartender promptly slipped the money deep into his pocket without the slightest acknowledgment; mutely irritated for being the recipient of this loutish wealthy foreigner´s generosity. He once again filled the proffered empty glass.
Inusa picked up his drink, but the spilling liquid obliged him to hold the shot glass in both hands; his tremor now more pronounced. He took pleasure in the fiery liquid flooding his mouth, scorching his throat and searing his esophagus as it plunged into his abdomen to spread a satisfying, warm glow. Out of the corner of his eye he verified that the young boy, the only other person in the bar, was still lounging in the shadows, intently observing his every gesture. He asked himself why a Muslim boy - his faded grey cinnamon complexion betrayed a Middle Eastern lineage, as did his Shalwar Qameez and smoldering, intense black eyes - be exempt from the universal Islamic interdiction? And why did he obviously harbor so exceptional an interest in him? Inusa attempted unsuccessfully to quell an intensifying paranoia that he reasoned to be offensively racist, and felt uncomfortable at having allowed himself a bigoted speculation. He failed to recognize political correctness as one in an insidious series of deliberate, incremental steps intended, as with the flawed concept of equivalence, to eradicate self-identity; a preamble indispensable to the formation of a homogeneous New World Order.
Maed Inusa´s mouth twisted into a wry smile as he mutely considered a contemporary political absurdity. He was seated in the most luxurious of surroundings erected on a vast wasteland formerly occupied by ignorant nomadic Bedouins living in miserable huts until westerners exposed the black gold hidden under the desert sands. It was reviled westerners and their technology that extracted the oil, gorging Muslims with petrodollars and financing a Qur´anic jihad beyond their most wantonly savage expectations; permitting the sword of Islam to be abjectly tolerated at Infidel throats.
His mind struggled to recall another ludicrous irrationality: the Nixonian invitation to China that obviously forecast an inevitable American economic eclipse. “Anyone with half a brain should have seen it coming,” he grumbled out loud.
“Were you speaking to me, sir?” the bartender inquired.
“No. No. It was nothing. Nothing at all.”
It didn’t go unnoticed that a respectful “sir” had been appended to the bartender´s lexicon, whether a result of the earlier aggressive verbal exchange or the tangible result of a disproportionate gratuity would never be determined; Inusa had grown accustomed to societal convention governing courteous demeanor not being generally applicable to traveling Americans.
Abruptly, his thoughts hastened to consider another conundrum: how America’s elite political class vigorously prosecuted the end of the American dream by fraudulently offering a utopian agenda for the creation of an unrealistic egalitarian global society; an equitable universal collective. The quest for what was euphemistically labeled a “guaranteed life outcome.” Social justice assuring an equal standard of living for all mankind was proving economically unsustainable as billions were being funneled to the exponentially increasing populations of the less fortunate; how much reached the impoverished after corrupt bureaucrats embezzled their share was not only an unanswerable question, but one that would not be asked.
“If all the treasure in the entire world was confiscated in order to accomplish this goal, everyone except the governing elite would live in hopeless, penurious squalor,” he groused, and added: “I have a novel idea, why don´t we attempt to eliminate our embarrassing poverty first?”
Maed Inusa was convinced that the undeclared goal was to construct a Brave New World, a new Versailles from which an elite governing class would be the only option for anonymous, conformist serfs. Individuality would necessarily be eradicated; uniqueness immolated on the pyre of fairness, of equality. An Animal Farm, a dystopian world government of Orwelian cacotopian proportion. It had failed before; it would fail again, with the habitual murderous chaos that always preceded the implementation of Communism.
More than two thousand years after an embryonic Greek democracy was shattered, a righteous experiment was introduced on the shores of a politically virgin land. The innovative concept of individual liberty and freedom from oppressive power was attempted, successfully demonstrating for over two hundred years that man could indeed govern himself.
“Never in the history of the world has a formidable military/economic empire deliberately pursued with such determination a withdrawal into anonymity for the Quimera of a New World Order,” he anathematized in a husky voice, impersonating Churchill. “A New World Order that is nothing more than a repetition of a historically proven fatuous recklessness.” The bartender ignored his unintelligible babble.
An alarming anxiety gripped Inusa; he was confused. Nervous. Sensing an imminent, irrational panic attack, he removed a transparent plastic pill box from the inside pocket of his jacket and chose a diminutive tablet from an array of brightly colored medications. An anxiolytic drug. A benzodiazepine that would assault the soft tissue of his brain; soaked in a drugged environment, the distressed neurons would be anesthetized. He was unaware that the medication´s catastrophic devastation to his intellect would be permanent. His doctors never warned him of the deleterious secondary effects provoked by these apparently harmless pills; in reality, they were miniature nuclear missiles affecting the central nervous system and impairing physical and cognitive behavior. He was obligated to take two of them daily, one with breakfast, the other at dinnertime; on this occasion he swallowed the tablets with yet another shot of bourbon, simultaneously entertaining himself bemusedly.
“Benzo…Benzo…Benzo…Benzo! Ah, bravo Benzo!
Bravo, bravissimo! Bravo! La la la la la la la la!
Benzo qua, Benzo la. Benzo qua, Benzo la.
Benzo su, Benzo giu., Benzo su, Benzo giu.”
Maed Inusa traveled the globe to oversee the operations of his company. He had sat in European bars disconcerted by the demands of employees unwilling to work arduously the necessary hours and years in exchange for a comfortable, albeit brief retirement. He primarily reflected on the Greeks who obstinately opted for Zorba´s dancing to actually producing something durable. Barely two generations ago, survival was the foremost concern of their grandfathers, as thousands perished to the ravages of starvation.
He had to admit that Latin Americans worked without complaint ten hours a day, six days a week, but the results were insignificant. And the Arabs, those perpetually scheming Arabs, simply refused to work, relying instead on hiring or preferably enslaving imported labor for their necessities.
It did occur to him on occasion to question the rationale for his uncompromising work ethic; that diametrically opposed societal value he summarized as painstaking, laborious achievement versus the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure. He didn´t dislike his job, his was simply a vague yearning, an unquiet feeling that there was something more to life that he was missing; he was more than comfortable economically, but he wanted to have it all. He asked himself once again that question to which he had no suitable answer: was he on earth for self indulgent pleasure or for accomplishment; could the two be made somehow compatible?
Maed Inusa was bewildered, fatigued; concerned that he was squandering his opportunities, having been seduced by what others obviously considered an obsolete ethic. Were his values misplaced? He needed a cigarette. In a practiced routine, he reached into that same pocket in which his sedative drugs were concealed, but he had forgotten that the tobacco was no longer there. Incremental regulations eventually obliged him to abandon a comforting lifelong habit; smoking was considered by his government to be harmful to his health.
Through a murky confusion provoked by medication and alcohol, his mind distressingly wandered to his daughter working as an exotic dancer in a vulgar and dissolute bar where she performed lewd table dances for paying customers; to his son who was a flamboyant rock and roll musician pursued by adoring, naïve and unsophisticated adolescent groupies hailing him as a philosopher of utmost significance; among the foremost in the world, reminiscent of the unrivaled Lennon and Dylan, from whom a previous, morally bankrupt generation received their discomfiting ethics.
With a gesture of disgust he pushed the empty shot glass toward the bartender. Once again the fiery liquid inundated his mouth, scorched his throat, and seared his esophagus as it plunged into his abdomen to spread a satisfying, warm glow. He glanced briefly at the boy waiting in the shadows, and their eyes inadvertently met. A seductive smile curled the boy´s lips; a greeting to which he did not respond.
“Gotta pee,” he audibly mumbled to himself as he unsteadily slid from the stool. The bartender wordlessly replied to his inquiring glance by pointing towards the far end of the bar, and Maed Inusa stumbled in that direction, amusing himself by singing.
“Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo; Ah, bravo Figaro!
Bravo, bravissimo. A te fortuna, a te fortuna, a te fortuna...
Ah, bravo Figaro! Bravo, bravissimo! Ah, bravo Figaro!
Bravo, bravissimo! A te fortuna, a te fortuna, a te fortuna.
Figaro! Son qua. Ehi, Figaro! Son qua.”
“Damn!” he exclaimed in a loud voice on entering an impressive, diffusely lighted, sumptuous marble and ceramic lavatory. He could be in New York´s Waldorf Astoria, the Ritz in Paris, or Hong Kong´s Penninsula; the exaggerated luxurious elegance that was provided for a brief, albeit indispensable biological function was indeed breathtaking. Fresh cut flowers displayed in elegant vases, long rows of sparkling sinks, gleaming faucets, and that long, immaculate mirror on the wall reflecting a faultlessly dressed, abjectly aging, effete gentleman; his hairline receding, his features creased. Disillusioned. Weary. Many years ago people whispered admiringly that he bore a striking resemblance to JFK; later to a less appreciated Ronald Reagan.
He remembered a time long past when visiting Japan meant urinating while sitting on an oval ceramic water closet with a semi circular guard at the far end to deflect any errant liquid. The reeking, malodorous Turkish toilets where one squatted over a fetid hole in the floor, feet spread wide over marked spaces on either side of the opening; no toilet paper, only a spigot for washing the left hand. It was regarded politically incorrect to insinuate that those facilities were primitive; they were simply different from the accepted chauvinist Western concept of toilet. A specious, presumptuous hypothesis of equivalence.
Those were the days when travelling to a foreign destination was stimulating, when all major cities were not identical glass façade skyscrapers and intersecting, elevated highways; when the remembered ancestral songs and dances weren´t spectacles that a government agency encouragingly offered for tourists and those natives who had disregarded their origins. Now, on occasion, waking up in the middle of the night in a hotel room identical to every other hotel room he had slept in, he would call the front desk to ascertain the name of the country he was visiting. The following morning, the concierge would look at him peculiarly as he strode out the front door to his waiting limousine. It never occurred to him that the persistent insomnia, the memory lapses, the confusion and the tremors resulted from his medication; he believed the fable that doctors practiced the Hippocratic Oath and weren´t, like politicians, also hypocrites; their profession having been corrupted by profiteering.
Inusa was perfectly cognizant of the existential dilemma to which he was hostage: a repetitive, mind- numbing, homogenous modernity conflicting with the inconveniences of tradition, which were frequently appalling. He did not have an answer.
The soft, sucking sound of the door opening on costly brass hinges claimed his attention. The young boy approached noiselessly, gliding sensuously across the floor, swaying provocatively, rolling and flashing black liquid eyes. He unexpectedly pressed himself brusquely against Inusa, who instinctively recoiled from the intensely pungent, unwashed human stench and the distinctive odor of camel dung. Inusa suddenly realized that the boy was no more than nine, perhaps ten years old; heavily kohl´d eyes and vermilion cheeks gave him a more mature appearance. The youngster was a “dancing boy,” a “bacchá bazi,” a Pakistani “pleasure boy,” almost certainly purchased from a family too numerous to provide for him, or probably kidnapped, from the untamed Khyber, Peshawar, or perhaps even the capital, Islamabad; a sex slave maintained by the hotel for the carnal gratification of interested guests.
The boy´s open, febrile mouth pressed against Inusa´s lips with impulsive passion; as famished as a chaste newlywed. Through the plastic flavor of congealed lipstick, Inusa could taste the spicy baba gannouj, hummus, qawwrama, kafta, jocoque. An unexpectedly bulky, scorching tongue slipped forcibly past his teeth and locked in a wanton, slippery embrace with his own. He was a learned man and therefore familiar through formerly accessible unexpurgated literature, poetry, and paintings of Arabic pedophilia and pederasty - the accepted, albeit controversial homoerotic practice of Islam. He jocularly recalled a Persian proverb: “Women for breeding, boys for pleasure, but melons for sheer delight.”
The boy´s hand swiftly lowered the man´s zipper, his hennaed fingers delicately fondling aroused genitals; he then knelt in a gesture evocative of obeisance.
In a thunderous voice that reverberated as a repetitive echo from the restroom´s marble walls, Inusa bellowed a ditty taught to his platoon by the drill instructor during his days in the military: “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for shooting, this is for fun!” He then rested his shoulders against the wall, moaning softly as he was being pleasured.
Maed Inusa felt a spreading, satisfying, warm glow in his abdomen. The short, curved blade of a Jambiya dagger, its wood hilt exposed, had been plunged deep into his bowels; an expanding crimson stain was soiling his trousers.
“Alahu Akbar,” the boy whispered, in a thin, effeminate voice, looking up into the Infidel´s incredulous eyes.
“Thank you,” Maed Inusa whimpered, before his body crumpled to the immaculate, polished marble floor.
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