Intimate EncountersKhaled Saeed
They glowed in different colors, parading various moods.
Some came well prepared, wearing masks over their masks. Others ventured in blindly, instinctively; exposing everything but everything.
The women in his life.
Some came in assaulting moods.
Entwining their arms into his, dragging him to distant parts of the beach. Pulling and pushing feverishly, then ﬁnally sneaking away with a delayed sense of shame, ‘Oh I am so sorry, you’re all bruised.’
Not meaning the heart but just his body.
And in his life came performers too, disguised as spectators. Reversing the role, playing a secret game of two in the crowded gallery. Turning the performer into a spectator, caught unaware, held entranced.
And once in a while, they’d come back. To say that they wanted to see if all were well. But in fact, haunting him, like the dreams the night before.
He'd wish they kept coming back.
And he would pray they never returned.
As his soul, his metaphysical self, I was always within him, being him.
A vulnerable and helpless spectator, destined to live my worldly days in his body; the soul stranded within that frame.
The dilemma with being the inner-self is that you passively accept the deeds, having no authority to forewarn or foretell. The irony is, he needed me more than I required him. I was, in fact, indispensable for him.
You see, life would cease to exist for him if I left.
I would watch in desolation as he indulged in reckless adventurism with women he barely knew.
He sought intimacy through lust, an untenable objective, and I could feel him yearning to attain that inner solace that was never possible through mere gratiﬁcation of the ﬂesh.
I would try to reconcile with his situation, hoping to find a way to reach out to the man who was now my body. And I would suffer as he walked alone to his apartment, a long pensive stroll.
Then came the day I got my permission.
It was my daily routine to rise to the heavens after he slept and report on the day’s happenings. A sort of ‘Register of Deeds’, a log, that I was required to ﬁll-in every day of his life.
But this was also my opportunity to share my thoughts and submit my opinion. And I beseeched the permission to make my presence known to him.
‘In essence, he is a good man who needs to develop reﬂective understanding.’ I had requested.
My wish was granted. But only for once, never to be repeated again. I was allowed to replicate myself within and outside his body for a single day.
My presence in the room startled him. I could see the rising panic on his face as he instinctively recognized me to be himself but was petrified seeing me alongside him.
‘Don’t worry, you are not dead.’ I tried to calm him down.
He jumped out of the bed.
It was obvious that tact was something I needed to learn more about.
‘How...how are you out there?’ He slurred.
‘Long story.’ Without much more to say in explanation, I sat down on a chair that was cluttered with clothes.
After he had composed himself a bit, I thought it was time to speak, ‘I am here to tell you about the other side of the birds and the bees.’
‘Whattt?’ he blew his top again.
The human mind simply doesn’t work the way we do.
Out in the crowded cafe’, we were taking his breakfast. The worldview was entirely different from what I used to feel from inside the body. It was great to inhale the aroma of brewing coffee. It was brilliant to see the diversity of people, to look at the bright sunshine and the birds purposely ﬂying in various directions. It was a magniﬁcent world out there and I began to understand how easy it was to get engrossed with living the daily life.
‘So what exactly is it that you want to educate me on?’ He asked.
‘I'd say you wasted the trip.’ He chuckled, ‘I think I know a thing or two about it already.’
‘Do you really?’ I commented.
‘Oh, I see, the other side of the birds and the bees, you said?’
‘Yes, but without the physical metaphor.’ I replied calmly.
He gave me a confused look, ‘Are you for real?’
‘A good question,’ I acknowledged. ‘Listen Mr. Wiseguy, your acts and deeds have profound implications for me too, and its much beyond your lifetime here. I visited you as much for my own reasons as for yours.’
I let it sink in for a while, then seeing his solemn look, consoled him, ‘We are in it together, my friend.’
‘What are you, really? I understand you are my soul, but what deﬁnes you?’
‘I am the witness, and I am cognizant, of what transpired in the beginning, and of what is imminent at the end of it all.’ This was the simplest way to define myself.
‘Far out, man!’ He exclaimed.
‘You sound like a teenage junkie!’ I muttered.
‘You too would, if you heard what I just heard.’
An activity in the cafe’ caught my attention.
A child walked up to the waitress and asked for a glass of milk. She bent down to his eye level and asked if he’d like it warm or chilled.
He solemnly looked back and replied, ‘I have a sore throat and my mom says I can’t take cold milk.’
‘Oh, so we need to make sure that we do what mom says. Let me get you some warm milk then.’ She gave him a knowing smile.
The child nodded in agreement.
There was something very comforting about the way they communicated. I saw him looking at me with an interested expression. He too had heard the conversation between the waitress and the child.
‘That was intimate, without the physical metaphor.’ It was more of a question than a comment from him.
I could feel a momentary communion between the two of us.
He had a private room at the ofﬁce on the third ﬂoor.
One could hear the continuous ﬂow of trafﬁc on the street. I found it distracting.
The glasstop on the desk was strewn with papers and post-it notes. From inside the body, I had always been irritated to see so much disorder on his work desk. I walked around the table and still couldn’t make much sense of it all.
‘Why don’t you use the whiteboard on the wall to keep organized?’
‘People clutter their computer desktops, I do it on the real thing.’ He shrugged.
‘Both don’t make a lot of sense.’ I remarked
‘Why judge?’ He looked squarely at me.
One of his colleagues walked in.
‘Hi, she said, ‘I need to discuss the project insurance coverage before we go ahead with the contract signing.’ Because his desk was chaotic, they sat around the small round table at the corner of his room.
She had been one of his one-night stands but both of them were now totally impersonal; not a trace of lingering feelings, or even an acknowledgment of that raw physical experience.
‘Animals copulate for breeding,’ I remarked after she left, ‘humans can also do it for companionship, but how do you deﬁne this sort of non-relationship?’
‘Fun?’ He chirped.
‘Not much fun if you can’t even acknowledge it after it’s over.’ I commented, ‘next time you go to that café, you’d probably reﬂect on those intimate moments between the waitress and the child, but you can’t do the same for this lady. I’d say, ﬁnd a companion, not just some company.’
There was screeching of brakes down on the street. A car had hit a pedestrian.
‘Oh my God!’ He exclaimed, as we both hurried to the window.
I could see a rush of alarm as people jumped out of their cars and pedestrians dashed towards the fallen man. We could hear the sirens and see the emergency response teams arrive.
But it was too late. A lonely soul rose from the body and silently ascended towards the heaven, leaving the body behind.
While the crowd pulled away to make room, the medics tried desperately to revive the fallen man. They were all strangers to each other, yet so personally concerned.
Humanity has mysterious kinship when disaster strikes.
I saw him pensive for rest of the day.
He left his car in the basement parking and chose to take the long walk home. Probably out of habit, or maybe the memories of the accident were still too fresh, I couldn’t tell.
‘You will leave me tonight?’ He asked.
‘Yes. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.’
‘I don’t want you to go.’
Engrossed with my own fate within the body, this world had been hidden from me. I couldn’t help but reach over and hold his hand.
‘But I’ll be back in the morning.’
‘It won’t be the same.’ I could see a surge of feelings in his eyes.
‘When I die, will you too leave me behind?’ He continued.
‘Yes, but just for a while. Remember, I told you, we’re in it together?’
‘What should I do to make it worthwhile for both of us? Let’s not get doomed by the end of it all.’
‘Just remain conscious of it, and you’d be shown the way.’
I left him sleeping and rose towards the heavens. A soul, free from the body again.
But was I really free? It was so different this time. No longer impersonal, no more detached.
While I looked up ahead, my mind wandered back to his bedside. On how he clung to the words I said, how he absorbed what I meant. And how, out of desperation, he declared that he simply would not sleep that night, not realizing that it was a vain effort to delay the inevitable.
How come a part of me still remained down there? Does a soul, too, have a soul? I wondered.
My physical interaction with him, was that also intimacy?
But I was the teacher, not the student….
Was it that during this voyage, I lost part of my innocence, and left a bit of my purity behind?
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