by Ali Hammad
I woke up feeling light. At last, I thought, the waist-trimming belt, the tailored diet, and the customized exercise plan were beginning to work: I was losing weight. I jumped out of the bed, stripped, and climbed on the bathroom scales. Still a 170 pounds. Not the loss of even a single ounce. Dammit. I pulled out another scale from the bathroom closet. Still the same.
For a man of 5 feet and 11 inches, a weight of 170 pounds made for a normal body mass index, I knew. But weighing 15 pounds less, I also knew, would stop in its tracks a nascent double chin. Lucky to have been born with a square jawline, keeping it trim was up to me. I looked at a few ripples of flab on my abdominal muscles. Those needed to go, too.
I heard a buzzing, a low-decibel buzzing, like a fly close by. I looked around. Nothing. Maybe my ears were ringing. I took a shower and went back into the bedroom to put on my new bespoke suit.
That day I had an important meeting. I had to dress carefully. A 12 million dollar contract hung on how I looked and spoke. As I was trying to select matching cuff links and tiepin, I heard the buzzing again. I looked up. There it was. Sitting directly in front of me, on the wall, a fly—fat, green-bellied, entirely repulsive. As I looked around for a newspaper or a book to swat it with, it flew away.
My thoughts returned to the impending deal. The business could not be entrusted to an assistant. I didn’t have any good assistants to speak of. All idiots of a varying degree. Not half as educated as I was. Not a quarter as smart as I was. The thought of the nincompoops made me angry. Why did I pay fools good money? Did that make me a fool, too? I resolved to fire a few.
As I was tying my shoes, the buzzing returned, this time an indistinct voice with it, creating a noise as would one of those out-of-vogue shortwave radios of yesteryears. Slowly the voice started to become more distinct. A voice in my head, I thought (I had had those before). But the voice was naïve, child-like—nothing like what I would hear in my head. My voices were much more suave.
Before the buzzy fly interrupted my thoughts, I was thinking of how to word the little lie that I had to tell to get the contract. I didn’t feel at all guilty about it. It was a mere fib, something that would allow me get the contract, yet not hurt the client in any material way. I just had to tell it with a straight face, without giving the slightest hint of it being a lie.
“Bzzz…You are thinking of lying, aren’t you?…Bzzz…Don’t do it…Bzzz,” came the shortwave-radio voice, quite decipherable now, even if still associated with a little static.
The fly? Was the fly saying that? I couldn’t believe that, but the voice couldn’t be pinned to anything else. “Who…or…what are you?” I said in a hesitant voice.
“Bzzz…I am you…Bzzz…You are me…Bzzz…We used to be one,” said the fly.
Because, heretofore, I had not had much practice speaking with flies, I was at a loss for words. All I could come up with was, “So how did we become two?”
“Bzzz…Last night, in a moment of meditation, I prayed for separation from my ego…Bzzz…You are my relinquished ego,” answered the fly.
“And who are you?”
“Bzzz…I am me…Bzzz…the real I…Bzzz…the free part of us…Bzzz…the soul.”
“Who did this? Who separated us?”
“Bzzz…The One who can…Bzzz.”
“My dear Fly,” I sneered, “I don’t know if it’s obvious to you yet but you got the short end of the stick.”
“Look at you. You are ugly, little, inconsequential.”
“Bzzz…I am beautiful…Bzzz…expansive…Bzzz…and consequential as the universe.”
“You’re a goddamned fly. Can’t you see?” I was angry.
“Bzzz…Your vision, your perception is distorted. Bzzz…You are the ego. Bzzz…You can’t see anything in its true form…Bzzz…Even to yourself you seem different than you do to others.”
The damn fly was getting on my nerves. A plan occurred to me. I started walking towards the kitchen. I thought the fly would follow me. It did.
“Buzzy, my dear, why did you ever want to separate from me,” said I, as I positioned myself between the fly and the center island of my ample kitchen.
“Bzzz…I wanted to connect with others…Bzzz…with the world…Bzzz…with the universe…Bzzz…with what is beyond the universe…Bzzz…I couldn’t have done it while you, my ego, were still attached to me.”
I opened the top drawer in the center island in which lay the flyswatter.
From the corner of my eye I saw the fly sitting on the kitchen table behind me. I was trying to keep the fly engaged. “Well, the question is this. If you were so anxious to get rid of me, why are you back to see me once you have won your freedom from me?”
“Bzzz…You, after all, were me…Bzzz…I wanted to help you…Bzzz…I wondered if an ego can metamorphose or merge into a soul.”
With the handle of the swatter firmly clenched in my right hand and with the lightning reflexes of a Bruce Lee, I turned around and zapped the fly with the flap. It died instantaneously, the buzzing halting abruptly. I scooped up the fat, ugly, green-bellied, repulsive carcass with the flap of the swatter and threw it in the garbage can. Then I cleaned the table surface with Lysol.
I felt lighter than ever.
From the kitchen, I opened the door to my four-car garage and strode towards my Lamborghini Aventador.
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