Title: Substitution: A Short Story by Yahya Fadlalla
Author: mustafa mudathir
Date: 07-24-2013, 03:01 AM
TEMING AGAIN WITH YAHYA FADLALLA
Original Text by: Yahya Fadlalla
Translated from Arabic by: Mustafa Mudathir
It was an evening in Ottawa of unveiling clouds; stripping of copious rain.
She was walking ahead of me. lightly running, I should say.
With a nervousness ascertained to me when she hurled the Pepsi can and then kicked it with her left foot.
The can’s sonorOus rattle on the asphalt resonated well with the beauty in her tension.
I was hiding under my umbrella; a useful trick I had learned lately from watching the weather channels before I left home.
It also was a scheme that while I was hiding under my umbrella, she trotted her tension ahead, indifferent to the falling rain,
but soaked up to the extent of vague sexual invocations. Did I say vague sexual invocations?
I had probably envisioned such a wetly beauty while bathing.
She kept bouncing ahead of me; her purse oscillating from her left shoulder to bear the burden of absorbing the harmonic
elegance of her graceful tense body in its orchestrated intolerance of any discord. Her hair maintained its chaos in consort
with bursts of drizzle that fell on her face as they conspired with the blowing breeze from the opposite direction.
A breeze unlike the one old poets delegated to visit their loved ones on their behalf. We both walked against the rain;
apparently to the same destination; the Mackenzie King bus station from which buses were scattered in the four directions of the city.
I decided to abandon it. Was I not a creature of rain? I folded the umbrella to align myself with the bursts of rain;
hoping for a unity, even if only when it rained, with the blissful carnival ahead of me.
In the waiting area at the station Mackenzie King, I followed other umbrellas with changing colors as people moved in and out of the Rideau Center.
But I also followed her. She had entered the indoor waiting area before me. When I spotted her, she was shaking her hair left and right and in graceful
circles to rid herself of raindrops. She then walked to a dimly lit corner to examine herself in front of a glass wall capable of enduring the entirety of her beautiful body.
The waiting area swarmed with travelers. She moved to the phone hanging on the wall after she relieved the glass wall of her worrisome appearance
and of its being a reliable mirror. Red buses were coming and going. People entered and others departed.
She screamed insults at someone on the other side of her conversation. All kinds of modern day obscenities yelled out of her.
She became so mad that she kicked and punched the wall several times. She cursed and yelled. Shouted and cursed.
And when her voice got overwhelmed by her crying, she slammed the phone violently and hurled a high-pitched insult
to an unknown entity, double-kicked the wall and entered into a sobbing fit. In the middle of her fit and shakes she pulled off her pink shirt
declaring wild full-blown breasts over which a sleeveless top was loosely worn. With shaky hands, she wiped tears and rain drops from her face
and collapsed in a sitting position against the wall. Only her tears would reveal her silent crying.
I looked up at a wall clock. Seven thirty six. I shifted to the schedule board, scanning the charts for bus number 97 to South Keys.
Luckily, I turned when bus number 84 just came in. I saw her lining up to board it! Instantly I decided to take it.
Bus number 84 also went up to South Keys; only it had a lengthy itinerary in South West Ottawa. I had to desert the idea of a quick arrival
home and spend some time following her. Now there was only this old lady between us in line. She was holding high a big umbrella with the
colors of the Canadian flag. The girl appeared less tense. But a deep moan laced with, apparently, a history of losses;
a moan scratched by residual crying; a moan of unlimited pain propelled audibly through her chest and out when she stepped to board the bus.
The old lady insisted on keeping her umbrella unfolded until she was seated by the bus driver when I noticed that the girl had tied her shirt
around her waist. Down her neck and further down to the wet sleeveless top, raindrops slid from locks of her disheveled hair.
I noticed I was also wet. I was following her as wet as could be. I used my umbrella as a walking stick; held it in my right hand
and did not think of any purpose, other than a walking aid, for it! I might have been trying to ward off a suspicion of failure to appreciate beauty
or simply trying to preserve a relation with the rain! I might have had to know how beauty related to adversity.
Why was she so miserable to the extent of blatant disintegration that conveyed only to tears and confusion.
She sat on the last seat in the front section of the bus. I sat on the first seat in the rear section which offered a look from above
because the rear part was three steps higher. I was above but close enough to see tears in those green eyes.
In fact it was my first encounter with tears that belonged to green eyes! She wept in silence.
From my seat, I could see her facial features registering various emotions. Tears flooded her eyes and slid down her carefully
carved nose descending on her lips. Of course, I never failed to follow the receding raindrops from the tufts of her hair.
Of all the passengers, a mix of ethnicities and skin colors, and despite the clatter, I could hear that moan coming from a terrible disaster.
A moan allied to the rain that washed the city in that evening in Spring. A rain so inciting to a night unrestrained.
Only me could hear her. She did not seem to bother about her free-flowing tears.
I did not lose interest in following her from a distance so close; from an obvious yet a hidden place.
I thought about ‘what if she has to disembark in the next or any of the stops before South Keys’.
Should I follow her? Flipping through some possibilities, I came to realize I was totally biased to
the idea of a ‘loosening up’ as a unique feature of Saturday nights! A deep and distinct moan
of a sorrow-revealing nature, brought my mind back with a startle.She had nervously opened her purse.
With trembling fingers, she took out a photo album. I shifted my body to a ‘ready mode’ that would enable me
to see the photos in the album which she suddenly decided to keep in her lap for a while. She, then took a deep
breath and leaked a dispossessed sigh. She opened her purse again and took out an average-sized envelope.
When she opened the album again, I could see two photos on its first page. She and a young man whose hair was dyed a metallic blue.
The second photo showed her with the same young man but in a more intimate, close to a kissing pose.
Suddenly, she tore the first photo from the album and reduced it to pieces with her face abuzz with pain.
She took out the next photo, tore it and stuffed its pieces in her purse. Opening the envelope, she took out a bunch of photos, chose one
and placed it on the rectangular space previously occupied by the first picture she had destroyed. This new photo was for her with a dog.
The substitution was carried out with a clear expression of vengeance on her teary face. She took a different photo from the envelope
and stuck it in place of the second photo she had destroyed. The dog in this new photo seemed to have just finished kissing her on the cheek.
It was a somewhat black and brown German Shepherd with smart eyes.
It was raining heavily now. I realized I wasn’t paying attention to the bus stops.
She repeated this act of pulling out pictures, shredding them and stuffing her purse with shredded remains of photos.
She did it with changing emotional expressions on her face. From my seat, my place above but close, I could see that she
destroyed all photos that had that guy in them and replaced them with photos of a different friend.
More than ten photos in different places, fashions and poses were substituted. I noticed that the Canadian Parliament building,
destroyed in the first photo, was replaced with one that showed the Parliament in which the dog stood in an erect position
with his front feet rested on her breasts. Although many places did not survive destruction, other new buildings appeared on the dog’s photos.
Just before the bus reached South Keys, she looked somewhat relaxed and quiet. She noticed her tears, untied the pink shirt from around her waist
and wiped her face. I could still see a shade of sadness looming on her beautiful face.
At South Keys, bursts of rain were still identifying that Saturday night with an inherent call for non-restraint.
She disembarked, offering her slender body to the sting of raindrops. I left the bus behind her, as a follower.
I did not unfold my umbrella but sought refuge in one of those red kiosks. She stood for the rain to wash her and take full advantage of her shapeliness.
Before taking number 142 to Feather Lane, where I lived, I saw her walk to a litter box. She opened her purse, took out the shredded photos and threw them in the litter box.
She did this with what I sensed was like the most beautiful of all the tensions I had seen her in.
And while I was feeling my steps onto bus number 142, I saw her light a cigarette and take a deep breath.
Then I saw her shake her hair to free it from the bursts of rain, but to no avail.