The New Yellow Lighter
From My Beloved Dog, My Old Dog (2007), by Osama El-Dinassouri
Translated by Tarek Sherif and Iman Mersal
I finally found my blue lighter (to be honest, I found it this morning, but I guess I’m still in love with dramatic lines that grip the listener or reader, glue him to his seat, and ensure that he’s all ears).
It was in the mug with the pens, the pens I never write anything with, but make sure are always there. And if I happen to write, if it happens, it can be with any pen, and it’s usually with one from somewhere else.
I had put it there, once, when I was telling myself I would quit smoking. It was full, and I didn’t like the idea of tossing it in the drawer of empty lighters. There are a lot of them there.
I rarely throw anything away. I like to wake up and find it there (I was going to say: I like waking up and not finding it, rather than throwing it away myself). This is a long story, and I can’t get into this right now.
I went out today… no… I went out yesterday with a new lighter and a pack with four cigarettes in it.
For the past few days, I’ve been trying not to exceed five cigarettes a day, but sometimes I’ll be surprised to find I’ve smoked eleven or twelve. I love smoking, as I’ve loved many things.
It’s a full life.
What reminded me of the lighter was that I was looking for the new, thin, golden one I had with me when I had gone out, spent the evening at Hatem’s, and then sat till the end of the night with Hamdy in a café on Faysal Street.
We were stoned when we got into my green Polo, intending to drop Hamdy off first. His Mercedes was complaining of some aches and pains. We remained silent for a long while. He was listening to the music station. I was resisting a hurricane of words swirling in my chest and my head, and hesitating. I looked up at Hamdy, then lapsed back into silence. I was certain that if I didn’t speak, the words inside me would die and decompose. And I wouldn’t be able to write them down. I was doubting my ability to write again (I had stopped writing three years ago).
I didn’t know anything about the nature of these words, or anything else about them. Just that there were words, an abundance of words, and that somebody had to hear them.
I looked at Hamdy again. He’s my friend. I knew that wasn’t enough, so I began to reassure myself: he’s clever, perceptive, alert. Suddenly, my hand reached out and turned off the radio, and I was silent once more. And he didn’t ask. He just stayed silent with me (didn’t I say he was clever?).
Then the lid popped open, and words came out hoarsely and with an enthusiasm Hamdy had never seen in me before. I almost felt sorry for him. Because the trip was almost over, and the talk was just getting started, Hamdy suggested we find a seat in a café.
In the end, Hamdy took the yellow lighter, even though he owns one that could be its sister, practically its twin.
Every time I wanted to light a cigarette, I would look for it, and he would look, and then he’d pull it out. So I’d say: “Take it. I have one like it at home.” He wouldn’t answer me. One time, he pulled out two identical yellow lighters.
I’m sure when he empties his pockets at home, he’ll laugh.
But maybe not.
2008, Kalbi al-Habib, Kalbi al-Harem (My Beloved Dog, My Old Dog), by Osama El-Dinassouri. Banipal No. 31, Spring 2008.