Genie of the LampKhaled Saeed
Before my grandfather died, he left me two parting gifts; his walking stick and an old rusted lamp.
The symbolism of giving away his walking stick was touching, but I could not ﬁgure out why he left me the lamp. Maybe he wanted me to light up my mundane life with it?
Once back home, I fondled with his gifts and wondered what went through his mind when he knew it was time to go. Absently, I looked at the walking stick, touched it with a newfound affection, and then picked up that dusty, rusting lamp.
Unlike the walking stick, it appeared barely used and I began brushing the dust away. I almost fell over in terror when in the billow of smoke a Genie emerged from the lamp.
‘You called, master?’ He said with groomed dignity.
‘No, no..., I’m sorry, it was an accident.’ I summoned up my courage.
‘But it is always by accident, master, that the lamp is used.’ He educated me with serene composure. ‘Your wish is my command.’
His ease of manner was comforting. His presence began to feel less intimidating.
He was so massive in front of me, I wondered how he ﬁt into that rusty lamp. I think I could feel a trace of sadness at his doomed fate of obeying anyone who possessed the lamp or happened to rub against it.
Standing solemnly, he looked at me with a polite expression that deﬁed his size. Yes, he was a bit uncomfortable by my awed scrutiny but obedient in his manners not to question it.
‘Would you mind if we talked?’
‘I am duty-bound to obey the wishes of my master.’
‘Can I ask you how you ﬁt in there?’ I pointed at the lamp. This was the ﬁrst question that came to mind. I suppose he wasn’t prepared for such a question, as his facial muscles did some funny twitching.
‘We, my master, are created from energy, not physical matter.’
My honest question could not comprehend his high-tech answer and I thought it best to change the subject. ‘How old are you, genie.’
I could swear he frowned at this question, but quickly composed himself. 'Thousands of years, master.'
‘You don’t look your age.’ I commented, meaning it.
He shifted uneasily, ‘Thank you, master.’
‘Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?’ I gestured in the general direction of the room. ‘It isn’t much, but I guess it should be better than the lamp.’
‘Perhaps the master would wish for a chateau or an oriental palace?’ His lips stretched into a pained, almost sarcastic smile.
‘Oh well, I suppose I’m an apartment dweller. Though I confess it’s a bit bare.’
He looked around, decided the ﬂoor was appropriate enough, and squatted down. Seeing him sitting on the ﬂoor, I felt uncomfortable in my only chair and sat down facing him.
The ﬂoor was cold, I could feel the chill seep into my spine. I reached for a pillow from my bed and sat on it.
‘Don’t you feel cold? I could get you something.’
‘No, thank you, master. We are beyond that feeling.’
‘Lucky you guys.’
He shrugged, ‘Lucky is a relative term, master.’
There was an uneasy silence. I gathered he wasn’t much for small talk. ‘
You sure you don’t mind?’
‘Mind what, my master?’
‘Our...my talking to you. I mean I might look crazy to you.’
‘I am to obey your wishes, master. And certainly, that thought never crossed my mind,’ he lied.
My mind was bursting with questions. I decided to get down to it.
‘What sort of things do people generally demand from you?’
‘Wealth, house, women.’
‘In that order?’
‘Not necessarily, master.’
‘And you can provide it for them?’
‘The wish of the master is my command.’ He stated modestly.
‘You’re so strong and able. You can perform all these miraculous feats, yet you’re barely covered in proper clothes. I mean, you actually live in a lamp!’
‘Fate, my master, has been empowered more than personal strength and ability.’
‘You believe in that?’
‘I have spent enough time in solitude to appreciate this reality.’
‘But isn’t fate another name for chance?’
‘Light, my master, doesn’t have to be from ﬁre.’
I couldn’t tell if it was a complicated observation or simple physical science.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Though on the face of it they may appear as one and the same, there is a deﬁnite distinction, master.’ He neglected to interpret further.
‘Is it fate that prevents you from living comfortably?’
‘By that I assume, master, you mean good clothes and housing?’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘To me, that is no longer a necessity, master. My needs are limited and so are my belongings.’
‘You deplore them?’
‘No, I just don’t need the privilege, master.’
‘So what is a necessity for you?’
‘Peace of mind, and heart’s contentment, master.’
‘And, do you have that?’
‘I found them, master. When I looked through the web, the way was there.’
‘Lucky you.’ I stated truthfully.
‘Thank you, master.’
Maybe it was the simple call of nature or perhaps my mind was envious of the serenity of his psyche, but I had this sudden urge to eat.
I excused myself and went into the kitchen to prepare some snacks.
‘Want a sandwich?’ I invited, after seating myself opposite him again.
‘Maybe the master desires a banquet?’
‘No thanks, but you’re welcome to join me.’
‘No thank you, master.’
I bit into the sandwich. The mayonnaise ﬂowed out.
As I wiped away the mayo, I asked, ‘Have you ever been married?’
‘Yes, certainly, master.’
‘Are they still around?’
‘Oh yes, master. The eldest son has come to look remarkably like me. I just wish him a better fate.’ Then he reﬂected for a while, ‘But I desire him equal solitude.’
It confused me. ‘Why the solitude?’
‘Because solitude, my master, cultivates insight. And insight evokes the realization of truth.’ He philosophized.
The reply was way above my league, I moved the subject back to more familiar grounds. ‘Do you get to see your family?’
‘Yes master, when I am sent to fulﬁll a desire, I drop by and visit them ﬁrst.’
It was incredible! To be able to visit his family only during errands.
Absently, I bit into the sandwich, the mayonnaise ﬂowing out again.
‘But you are so empowered, so superior, couldn’t you do better for yourself?’
‘Empowerment does not necessarily translate into superiority, master. You might notice that it is you who has the master’s role right now.’
‘Not by my asking,’ I responded.
‘Yes, but being a human has its inherent advantages, my master,’ he replied in a reﬂective tone.
He was dragging me into deeper waters again. I wanted to get back to my rubber duckling!
‘So when was it last you met your family?’
‘The last time someone rubbed this lamp.
‘And that was a long time ago?’
‘Time is relative, master. Sometimes even the seconds can last for ages.’
‘You miss them, huh?’ I bit into the sandwich again and dropped the oozing mayo on my shirt. ‘You mentioned the banquet? I imagine I’m not much for tolerating the mayonnaise today.’ I took him up on his offer.
‘Yes, master.’ He smiled gratefully,
‘And listen, take your time. My beat-up percolator takes much longer to brew coffee...’
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