A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
You realize you are not a boy anymore. That organ has announced its presence and early revolt. Is this happening because of the neighbors’ daughter?
In her eyes, you are only a little kid coming to play and study with her brother, and she would give you cookies and candy just like she gives her brother.
You discover the protruding in her body, and that particular rebellion against her clothes is a riddle to you. You stand in front of the mirror and search in your chest for that full-bosomed roundness protruding from her chest. Emotions of bewilderment crash into your tiny imagination, and you wonder:
– Why her and not me?!
You feel closer to her with every lesson. Your senses follow her scent. You try to understand the significance of that body. Every day, something makes you freeze in front of it: her sweet voice, her flowing hair, her dimples, and her soft fingertips. You have not been a hardworking student in your lessons, but you sure were excelling at tracking all those hidden aspects.
Years pass by, and your curiosity is burning, you desire to discover the deep secret of that body. You enter and exit her house without obstacles. You watch her from her brother’s room while she hangs the laundry. You stare at her, your heart is racing, those clothes call you to come closer to her, they pull you in her direction, yes – they are hers!
An idea floats in your mind. You wait for her to finish. You tell her brother you have to leave. With careful steps, you get closer to the laundry, and with trembling fingers you snatch her underwear. Like a first time thief, you run to your house, conceal yourself in your room and take out your loot.
You bring it closer to your nose, and breathe her body’s scent, which is mixed with the detergent. You place it against your cheek to see how soft it is, and you live moments of intimacy and closeness, fantasizing about that body, whose angles have been carved into your imagination.
Every night you play the game that you have mastered. When laundering your clothes, your mother realizes that her spoiled child has become a young man with wet dreams.
My mind has tendered its resignation and left work. Since then, I have been suffering and struggling everyday with the effort of finding a new memory.
Uuurgh, where did that memory disappear?! Should I have pulled it out before going to sleep?! Where are you, little dodger thing?
Oooh yeah, I must have forgotten it on top of my bedroom nightstand, or in my office drawer. I get up, having no history, like the moment I was born. Trying to pull something together, I see on the pillow traces of lipstick and a fragrance that invades my senses. To whom do they belong? Aaah, if I could only find my memory so that I can know the owner of the lipstick and the perfume.
I head to the kitchen where plates are piled up on one another on top of the sink. A mouse jumps out from between empty cans and bags, looks at me with audacity and shakes its tail. I stick my tongue out at it, not caring about it taking a tour in the cracks of my kitchen. I open the fridge. Nothing edible of value. Looking out of my window, my beautiful neighbor is singing along to a track by Tamer Hosni, which repulses me. I get closer to shut the window, and I see her playing with a lock of her hair, making circles with it, acting as if she does not see me. Her chest is about to bounce out of her very tight dress, clutched to her bountiful body. I close the window with such force, making its glass rattle. From behind the closed window, I hear the curses of my beautiful neighbor.
I resume the search for the memory. Useless effort with all this mess. In the shower, a Parisian perfume fills the air. Oooh, I wish I could remember. Who was she?!
Under the shower, I feel as if the cells of my refreshed body jump and move in a chaotic way, without restrictions or biological rules. My eye catches a tiny black plastic piece, the same size of a memory. I am rushed with happiness similar to that of someone who found treasure on a pirate’s island. I pick it up and quickly insert it in the small opening in my mind, which has been vacant for a while. I press the button to turn it on, then I am suddenly on the ground. A storm of chaos crashing between the memory cells. My mind cannot identify the data. I try restarting it. Such horrid images that the memory is carrying.
Aaaah, a beautiful lady with a body so rich thrown between the arms of several men, the last of whom is me.
Damn, this is the memory of the lipstick and Parisian perfume lady. Her scent surrounds the electronic fibers. I have no need for it, so its fate is the waste bin.
How can I go to work without a memory? How will I recognize my colleagues’ faces?! And where do I work? I put my clothes on, put perfume on, and stand in front of the mirror, looking at the scattered features of my face and rearrange them. I smile so I can find a new setting for my day, which started with losing my electronic memory. Yes, this now fits in with the sunken eyes after staying up late, a snub nose that does not match my face, similar to my African neighbor’s nose. Ah! Ah yes! I remember, yesterday he took my nose and installed it on his face to convince the plastic surgeon to make him a similar nose. My face feels stiff, maybe because of getting frequently stung by the sun. I wonder, what is my job?
I leave the house, and walk towards the memory shop at the end of the street to get myself a new one. The seller looks at me and yells: “Here is the man with the lost memory, Mr. Detective. Arrest him before he flees. He came to buy a new memory to clear himself from the traces of murdering his beautiful neighbor and slaughtering her in his shower.”
Intisar al-Serri is a Yemeni writer and journalist. She has published four story collections: Dancing on the Symphony of Pain (2010), The Holocaust (2013), One War (2016), and Prayer in the Embrace of Water (2017). Al-Serri also produced two further titles, 25 Male and Female Narrators (2013) and A Moment, O Time of Muhammad Al-Massah (2020). Her collection The Holocaust was translated into English this year.