We invent those circles or they are imposed upon us. Then we live within their borders. We rejoice them first, and then we complain. Or, we complain from them first, and then we give up ourselves to them happily. We try to break loose a lot, although the constraint, unconsciously, makes up happy. Or, we often look for a constraint to protect us from what our souls were created and imprinted to love; the freedom. We struggle with ourselves, others, and life; although we mostly don't know what we really want. Moreover, we do not dare to look for what we want. This is why most of us live in ... vicious circles.
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A Collection of Short Stories
By AYMAN FAROUK TAHA
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Ayman Farouk Taha
All rights reserved.
Rasekh woke up at seven o'clock in the morning. He hurried to the secondary school at which he had worked as an art education teacher for twenty-three years. At exactly half past eight, he started his first class. The theme of that day's lesson was "drawings inspired by nature."
Looking at the bored and tired faces of his students, he said: "Please draw landscapes with ideas stimulated by nature. However, I warn you not to draw any human beings, as that might be considered a violation of Islamic rules."
Most conservative Muslims believe that drawing human beings is prohibited by Islamic rules. He added: "Moreover, I advise you not to draw any animals as well for the same reason." Some very conservative Muslims believe that even drawing animals is prohibited by Islamic rules.
At the end of class, he asked the students to hand over their drawings. Having quickly examined their paintings, he noticed that they were significantly similar to each other. Furthermore, they did not reflect any creativity or distinction.
Also, they were completely devoid of any ideas. He could not show them to his colleagues, who proudly displayed their students' distinctive works. He thought for a while, and then he asked himself a question. It was a question he had been asking himself a lot. Why are my students' paintings always similar and lacking creativity? Maybe he was afraid of trying to answer it!
After school, Rasekh headed to his second job. He had been working at a small advertising company for almost a year. His job was in the design and creativity department. He helped to design new advertisements.
His manager was a thirty-year-old man. He asked Rasekh to prepare several alternative advertising campaigns for a women's hair-care product. Rasekh presented the initial ideas to his manager, who expressed his dissatisfaction. His manager found the alternatives too similar.
His manager briefly commented: "Rasekh, you did not present new ideas here; it was just one old obsolete idea!"
Rasekh replied, "I am so sorry that you are not satisfied with my efforts. Can I have a two-day extension to prepare better proposals?"
His manager agreed reluctantly. Then Rasekh left.
It was about ten o'clock in the evening when Rasekh returned home, exhausted. He took a quick shower and then had dinner with his wife and daughters. He was absent-minded and unable to focus. However, at the same time, he was unable to sleep.
It was two hours after midnight when he decided to go out for a walk in the silence and quietness of the night. He was very tired, both physically and mentally, after his overloaded day. So he walked at a slow pace, which helped him to enjoy the fresh breezes. Cairo's weather was usually great during October. Moreover, the dim light of that night's crescent moon added a sense of peace and serenity to the overall atmosphere.
Rasekh walked on the pavement adjacent to a park near his home. The streets were almost empty with no pedestrians or cars. He was walking alone, trying to retrieve memories of the day's events in particular and the main events of his life in general. He was thinking about how to make progress in his life. His performance in his teaching career was very flat and pale. Furthermore, his performance in his advertising job was within the lower limits. He tried to think of what he could do to develop himself and to improve his performance. He had always felt that there was an unseen glass wall in front of him preventing his progress and almost blocking his mind from innovation. Moreover, he felt that wall discouraged his mind from thinking and prohibited his senses from operating outside strict, tight limits.
While he was slowly walking under those dim lights trying to think of a way to move forward in his life, he found out that he had reached the end of the park fence. He turned left to remain aligned with the park and enjoy its pure air and refreshing breezes. After several steps, he discovered that this road had almost no lighting at all. The exception was some of the crescent moon's light leaking into the road and the park through the high-rise buildings, which were mostly dark at that time. He did not mind walking in that atmosphere. He considered dimmed lighting with pure air and night tranquility as supporting factors for him to relax and to try to think peacefully.
Several minutes later, his mind moved to a zone of more relaxation and serenity. Then he suddenly saw something very close by, almost colliding with him. He was not sure if he had really seen something or just thought that he saw it. It was as if something had come out of his head and mind. He closed his eyes and reopened them several times. He rubbed his eyes with his fingers. Then he moved two steps backward. After that, he looked at what he saw again. It seemed to him that he was looking at a girl in her late teens. She was of medium beauty and height. She dressed in conservative, long clothes covering most of her body. She was a very ordinary girl with no distinctive features. He was surprised to see that girl alone in such a place and such a late time. That was something that rarely happened due to prevailing conservative traditions and safety considerations. The political unrest in Egypt after the Arab Spring reflected badly on the safety conditions. Moreover, he was surprised by her sudden appearance, as he was sure that the road had been completely empty.
He looked at her. In return, she looked at him. He interestedly examined her. In return, she wonderingly examined him.
He reluctantly said to her: "Good evening."
She confidently replied: "Good evening."
He was silent for a while and then said to her: "Sorry ... I almost bumped into you, but I really did not notice your existence. Maybe I was absent-minded and not paying attention to my road. I was trying to think of several issues preoccupying my mind."
She replied him with a smile: "It is okay. You really look absent-minded."
He said to her: "Do you want me to take you somewhere? It is late, and I am afraid that you shouldn't walk alone at such a time."
She looked at him and replied with a question: "Are you going to a specific place?"
He replied: "No, I was just having a walk."
She said to him: "Well, you can continue your walk, and I am going to walk one or two steps behind you. This way, I will not be interrupting your walk, but at the same time, I won't be alone."
He liked the idea and agreed. Then he added: "By the way, my name is Rasekh. What about you?"
She replied with a wondering smile: "Do you want to know my name?"
He said to her: "If you do not mind."
She replied with a laugh: "My name is Fekra."
Rasekh continued his walk while she started to walk one or two steps behind him. Several minutes later, he noticed that she looked at nothing but him. She did not move her eyes away from him. He wondered about this. Moreover, he noticed a great similarity between his clothes and hers. They both chose dark colors and conservative, traditional styles. Suddenly, a speeding car passed nearby. She did not look at it at all, and she kept her eyes and focus on him. That made him more curious.
Rasekh felt that Fekra was highly attached to him. He thought that perhaps that was due to her fear of being alone at such a late time or her feeling safe with him. Perhaps all of that created in her a feeling of him as the one who gave her life!
Feeling lonely after a few minutes, Rasekh decided to walk beside Fekra, not in front of her. He thought that maybe having a conversation with her would break his loneliness. Also, this could calm her down and reduce her fear. She was of his daughters' age, which made him feel compassion for her and triggered his paternal feelings for her.
He directly told her in brief: "I will walk beside you."
She replied: "Okay, if that does not bother you."
Thus, Rasekh walked beside Fekra instead of walking in front of her. He started talking with her about her studies and family matters. He hid his surprise at the great similarity between them in circumstances, as if they were close neighbors or relatives. Over time, he started giving her some advice regarding her life, studies, and future plans. He felt responsible for her somehow, perhaps because of her strange attachment to him, her young age, his protection of her, or maybe all of that together.
Rasekh's feeling of being responsible for Fekra created inside him an unconscious desire to control her. Accordingly, he gave her many pieces of advice, opinions, and directives. Meanwhile, she was completely submissive to what she heard from him. She was agreeable to everything he said and obedient to everything he demanded from her.
The road they were on came to an end. In order to continue walking adjacent to the park, they had to turn left again. And so they did. The road aligning this side of the park was better lit than its predecessor. The lampposts were fully operating. Moreover, more lighting was coming from several shops, which were still open.
After they had walked together along that way for a few minutes, Fekra asked him about why those stores were still open at such a late time. He noticed that it was the first time she had taken the initiative to ask him something. Previously, he had been the one to ask questions, offer advice, give directives, and lead the conversation. He replied that this neighborhood had a lot of well-off Arab tourists who loved staying up late. Thus, the shops' owners delayed closing time to benefit from those tourists' purchases. She did not seem convinced by that answer. She asked him to cross the street to get closer to the shops. He was surprised by her reaction. The whole issue was not worth thinking about more than once. He was not happy with her request. He told her he found no reason for that and then asked her to continue walking with him, but she objected! Rasekh was surprised. It was the first time she had objected to anything he said.
He had mixed feelings for her: paternal, possessive, protective, and controlling. So he said to her: "You don't have the right to object to what I say. I am responsible for you and for protecting you."
She replied: "You no longer are. The road here is well lighted and not dark. Moreover, I probably do not need your protection!"
He was more surprised by her reply. He asked himself, What has changed? What has changed her? He had previously taken for granted his responsibility for her and for protecting her. Also, he had perhaps taken for granted his possession of her, at least metaphorically. He became more astonished when he found her crossing the street alone. She got closer to see the open shops. She wanted to know, by herself, why they were still open at that late time.
Watching her from the other side of the road, he did not believe what was happening. He found her entering shops and talking with the owners and customers. Half an hour later, she came out of the last of those stores. She looked older, more mature, and more confident. She seemed as if she grew up several years in that half hour. Also, he was surprised to find out that she had changed her clothes and replaced them with more liberal, Western, and modern-styled clothes. He was astonished by what had happened.
Then he watched her crossing the street and walking toward him. He was shocked and speechless to see her wearing a silver dress that sparkled under the lights of lampposts, cars, shops, and the crescent moon. She looked much better than she had looked half an hour ago when leaving him.
Having crossed the road and gone to where he was standing, she said to him: "The shops here do not depend on the Arab tourists. On the contrary, they stay open for the staff of the night shifts of the satellite channels and studios surrounding the neighborhood. Also, all the customers of these shops, restaurants, and cafes are Egyptians."
Rasekh was extremely surprised. He had been wrong, and that young girl had challenged him.
Fekra moved until she was next to Rasekh, and then they continued their walk in the same direction. They resumed their conversations as well. But that time she was discussing everything with him, opposing him a lot, and arguing with him in each debate dimension.
After a while, they realized that they had arrived at the end of that road. They had to turn left to continue walking adjacent to the park. So they turned left again.
That road was the best lit and was relatively crowded compared to all its predecessors. They walked several minutes together. They were talking about and discussing several issues. Then he was astonished when he looked at her and found her completely changed. She was different from when he had first seen her, nearly two hours ago. Now, she looked like a mature woman in her thirties: confident, calm, and serene, with a twinkle of hope and daring in her eyes. He was astonished by what was happening and stood stunned.
She led him by two steps, and then said to him: "Let us continue walking."
He tried to walk next to her but she disapprovingly forged ahead and said to him: "Starting now, I am the one who will lead!"
He sharply refused and said: "Are you crazy? I am the one who was responsible for you just two hours ago! I am the one who was protecting you! I am the one who gave you life in the first place!"
She replied: "You might have given me life, but since I have come into this life, you have been trying to control me. You did not realize a lot of things. I became an independent living creature once you gave me life. Your control kills me. Only my freedom gives me the continuity of life. My interactions with others and with the world surrounding us give me maturity. Also, my continuous liberal challenges to your conservative mind give me this beauty."
Again, he objected and said: "You will never lead me!"
She laughingly replied: "I may lead you or not. I may lead others or not. Maybe I will lead the whole world. However, I am totally free in all cases. Yet you will remain imprisoned forever unless you follow me."
He replied: "What makes you sure that the path you lead me to would be of the right direction?"
She replied: "Of course I'm not sure. But like a bird I travel from one place to another, one person to another, or one time to another until I reach a certain belief. If you do not follow me in my travels, your mind and brain will remain in their current place and time. Also, your body will remain in its current self-made, small world. You will have no certain beliefs except those you have been told. You will have no thoughts except those you have been taught. Look at yourself in your work to realize what I mean."
A silence prevailed between them for several minutes. At that point, she decided to move in order to put him before the fait accompli and to motivate him to make a decision. She walked several steps, but he remained in place.
She looked at him with pity and said: "Come with me. Freedom is priceless and incomparable to a fake mental stability."
He did not find a proper response but remained standing, glued in his place. She kept walking, progressing, and gradually moving away from him until she disappeared from his eyesight.
A few minutes later, he felt some regret. He was the one who gave her life and protected her, but then he let her leave. He tried to run to catch her. Perhaps he could convince her to stay with him and accept him as he was. Or perhaps he wished that she could convince him to go with her. Maybe he wished to join her on her travels to seek human experiences, time's wisdom, and places' secrets. However, by that time, she had completely disappeared. She departed and left him ... as he had always been.CHAPTER 2
Fear of the Dream
It was seven o'clock in the evening when Ahmad entered a hall in one of the largest and most luxurious five-star hotels in Cairo. He looked at the tables and found two adjacent unoccupied tables in a corner. He chose the most remote and sat at it. Then he called his partner to tell him that he had arrived and was waiting. His partner replied that he would arrive within thirty minutes. The road from the factory they owned to Cairo was crowded and totally jammed. Ahmad replied that there was no problem and that he would be waiting.
Ahmad had always been disciplined when it came to appointments. He didn't like arriving late for any appointment at all, whether he set the time or someone else set it for him. However, he knew well that the road from the glass factory in Tenth of Ramadan City to Cairo was unpredictable. It had caused him personally many problems with respect to appointments. Accordingly, he did not become angry. On the contrary, he considered the delay as an opportunity for him to enjoy thirty full minutes of quietness without work or thinking of work.
He decided to relax a little and ordered a cup of espresso. Then he thought of how he had lived his life. The major events of his life passed before his eyes as strong flashes among the other minor events, which he saw dimly.
Excerpted from Vicious Circles by AYMAN FAROUK TAHA. Copyright © 2013 Ayman Farouk Taha. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsAcknowledgment and Dedication, vii,
Author's Note, xi,
A Thought!, 1,
Fear of the Dream, 15,
Traveler to Soul Depths, 27,
A Day from the Past, 37,
Love in the Gray Zone, 49,
The Crime!, 62,
A Second Encounter, 71,
Suspended Friendship, 84,
Backward Steps, 96,
The Farewell, 109,
Two Eyeglasses!, 116,
The Shadow, 127,
The Impossible Love, 140,
The Truth and the Library, 161,
The Camera!, 183,
About the Author, 197,