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Excerpt from "Illusive Anchors"

Introduction  to "Illusive Anchors"

(A TV team, headed by news anchor Shaden, arrives in London for an interview with Kifah Ghalyoun, a Christian Palestinian newspaper editor kidnapped then released by armed militants. He invites the evasive Emarati program director Seif for drinks and dinner, and tries hard to get from him as much information as possible on Shaden's recent past. She is the Muslim woman he had loved years ago back in Jerusalem, but she refused to elope with him  without  explanation, and that   reason was still confusing him since 25 years..


-Have you ever tried Hashish Mr. Kifah?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Please call me Kifah, since I call you Seif… agreed?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-As you wish..

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Yes I tried it many times, and at certain intervals in Lebanon.. at Baalbak and the south. I frequently visited the camps of the Resistance there. I wanted to know its impact. I didn't like the bitterness the first time, then I didn't want my mind to be possessed by others, even if they were the Hasheesh illusions… My brains are my only asset, so how and why would I waste them? I tried it again with the comrades and it took me outside and above the nature of things… and when I woke up I realized the "big deception". You know Seif, this feeling of flying over and above everything, and separation from the beautiful world, but only for a short while, because when you come back down to reality from the world of illusion and distraction it becomes more difficult to bear. I have borne the responsibility for my family since my early years, my father was a simple painter whose work halted for most of the winter. The point is, after one such night where  had liberated myself from all oppression and broken my own shackles of restraints, I danced atop the table, and stretched my tongue out in defiance at the imagined face of my mother, forever disapproving of my Bohemian whim. I kicked the reasonable boy in me in the ass, I sang, screamed and laughed, and when I came to I asked myself: where to, Kifah? What is it you want to break? Is there anything left to rebel against? You've had enough Abu Ghalioun. You'd better stop. Thus I conquered myself irrevocably. What about you, Seif?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I gave it up forcibly when I couldn't find it. The dealers squeezed the last Dirham out of me! I had to borrow money to buy it, I smoked ravenously when it was available. I have now become an addict of two things, women and cigarettes, discarding all else. I decided to give it up if I returned safely from Kabul. I traveled there with the intention of eventual repentance if I succeeded in smuggling it. I was broke, in-debt, and threatened with imprisonment. But God saved me, and I thought that what happened o me on the plane was a divine warning and an inspiration commanding me to settle my debts and start over.  I thought of my wife and children and how they might be sent astray if I were caught. So I stopped.

There was no distinct separation line between fact and fiction in the narrative of this man whom he met in casual circumstances, so enchanting were his tales that he, Kifah, was distracted away from his initial intention to ask about Shaden…

-And what happened?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Ohhh, by God it must have been my parents' constant blessing… I tremble whenever I recall what happened. Sometimes you feel like a certain power provides you with protection, I was scared and lonely, my suitcase and overcoat stuffed with small stashes. The only thing I could do was give it a try come what may in order to bypass the usual dealers' and middlemen's cut and to settle my debts… The airports back in those days were small, and inspection was manual and did not include dignitaries. I was a well-known figure and had friends at the airport. Try, I thought, and if you succeed, repent… I had asked the leader of the Afghans and other Arab fighters for some Hashish and they gave me plenty and told me to "sort it out at your country's airport and we'll take care of sending you off at the Karachi airport". You know that the government of Binazir Bhutto  and the Americans backed them up. I myself saw them, moving in and out of the airport like they owned the place. My Hashish filled suitcase boarded the plane without inspection, me and my pockets filled with the rest of the stash were left in the VIP lounge.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-They still grow and sell it to finance the arms trade, it's a well known fact.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Would you believe? I asked one of their leaders about this and he said: Seif, only the sons of infidels buy and use Hashish. They pay for it out of their own pockets and we use that money to buy weapons to kill their people and their own kind… the holy Quran says "Prepare for them what you can of might!"… This is what we have to fight them with. His answer upset me, foolishly I said: But the sons of Muhammad's Ummah smoke and pay for it too!... It was as if I had uttered total sacrilege, he screamed: if they did then they are blasphemous infidels … and deserve to die… they leave the ummah's causes and lose their mind to Hashish… this is exactly what the infidels and Christians pawns want. I'm really sorry again sir, his words not mine.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Don't worry, we hear it a thousand times on TV screens.. go on.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-He said: a true Muslim's faith and religion protects them from temptation, they only think of Jihad and fighting the infidel. Between us Kifah, I was a little afraid to challenge him with the fact that some of his men are users of Hashish, and when they are high some of their comrades are afraid to bow down in daily prayers lest they attack their asses! I though maybe he knows and doesn't care as he thinks of them as the Mujahideen's boys! Ha ha ha ha…

The rest of them, when passion takes them, run to their caves where their women are to have sex in a hurry, in and out in minutes! Shame that wallahi, they are animals, women are dolls, foreplay with a woman is a holy joy, you get dressed up and perfumed for her, you shower and get dressed up before you touch her, you kiss, smell, hold and drink her, drown in her silk and its warmth. These asses forgot the Prophet's orders of foreplay! Seriously, when it comes to women, I am a thousand times the Muslim they are.

Kifah laughs so hard tears run down his face, but curiosity gets the better of him:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-but how did you smuggle this disaster you were carrying?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Aaaah how that happened! It was unbelievable!.. My saviour came unexpectedly, an answer to all my pleas and prayers, I had seen him often in the News, a man of stature, from a well known family of great standing in our country.. I approached him as he entered  the VIP lounge and introduced myself, he greeted me with great warmth, and told me he knew of me and was a fan of some of my programs. We started to talk… I steadied myself and said: by God's mercy and my parents' prayer! If I get through this I will repent. I was lost, petrified, and maybe he felt that I was tuning to him for protection against something, his kind does not turn away someone who reaches out to them for help or refuge, whether from his people or be they outsiders. I told him I was returning from filming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, so he sat me next to him in the plane so as to entertain him, he was laughing and passing time while I drowned under the weight if the disaster I was carrying until we reached our destination… I had to act wisely or I would’ve been lost… I told him I want to be seen walking out with him so as to become a sheikh by association, he laughed modestly, and insisted I accompany him in his car, it was waiting for him at the foot of the plane… he gave my passport and luggage tags to airport staff waiting and we passed trough the VIP lounge and from there left the airport. Within the hour my luggage arrived home, I was still in shock.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Unbelievable? All its contents intact?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-It's different now, everyone is searched thoroughly, and they imposed the death penalty on smugglers and returning addicts right after this incident. I said to myself, God forgave you for the sake of your children, so stop.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-And what did you do with your cargo?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-sold most of it, smoked the rest, and gave some to my friends, then I repented forever.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Do you love you wife Seif?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Oooohh, I worship her, but what does she have to do with hashish?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-No, just a question. I, like you, weaken in front of beautiful and smart women, but I stopped my Don Juan ways when I got married.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Wrong sir! Marriage is one thing and love is another completely, only one woman in your life can have both, all the rest only get one or the other, love or marriage. Do you know what Madam Shaden says about me? My heart is big enough for a group of women: one in the left ventricle and one in the right; another in the left atrium and a fourth in the right. My friend, the heart is elastic and women are malleable and easily stuffed into only a part of it.   

Seif's eyes were two red coals, his speech slurring… but he insisted on holding it together :

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-and you? ever been truly in love?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Only once.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Is she your wife?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-No, it was in Jerusalem, the only love of my life, but it failed, the loss was painful for many years, I was with many women after, but I stopped when I got married. You know Seif: I lived in Beirut and then London, and sex and girls were easy to come by in both, but I imagine it would be difficult in a closed society such as yours!

-that's what you think!!!! A long time ago getting a woman was a problem, today the country is filled with blondes, brunettes and Asians. The country has opened up to takers, it's just business, I swear they come in hordes…a market of women my friend, but that God damn AIDS… we're scared.. and the Bangkok trips have lessened after their hay day when they used to have special flights for young men, hop, everyone's in Bangkok, they borrow money to try, but this disease is no joke.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Then you gave up women out of necessity?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-No no sir.. I was never a Bangkok costumer, I don't slum it and am not one for cheap thrills. It might be more difficult, but I cater to the lonely and depraved.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Are there lonely women where you work?

"This is an evil man who has led him down a slippery slope".  Alcohoul broils in his brain a fiery wind… Who the hell does he think he is?  He wants to frame him and her with the price of dinner? No one can set him up even if he were all liquored up…

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-No no… not all lonely women are east prey… no no.. women are categories..  some can't bear to live without a man, that's your target. Others you don't dare approach.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->And Shaden? Which kind is she:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-No, please. Shaden is one of the guys, she's not a woman.

Kifah laughs and tugs on the line:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-You mean she's butch? Really? All that femininity? Unbelievable! Or do you mean she's a third sex?

-No please, she's a thinker, a cultured brain, beautiful yes, but different. Shaden is of a category unlike others, just like that, a group onto her own.

-but she is divorced and alone?

He was rattled, his voice rising:

-Shaden's divorce was her own choice… and so what her marriage failed? This is a women content with her success.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-don't be upset, I meant no disrespect, but it's a shame for success to rob a women such as her of her life and beauty, advise her if you two are close.

When  kifah  agreed to see her a ghost that has haunted him for years attacked with such force, his sky rained down with moments of innocent love and longing, personified in a bitter story he tasted often. She walked into his office another woman, confidant and bold, his effect on her unknown to other.

This alcohol is getting to me, it burns the veins making my mouth run off, Seif decided to strike while the iron was hot; he leaned forward and whispered:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-You mentioned that your first love failed? .

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-She was young, she wasn't mature enough or up to the challenge and she let me down, maybe all the complications required more experience, or a woman of a different nature, she sadly surrendered.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Why would her parents turn down someone like you? weren't you a famous journalist the?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Different religions.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-But you were ready to convert for love.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I told her father I would become a Muslim, that made him more adamant in his refusal.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Really?

Humor prevails in an unbearable situation:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I swear he's crazy… he could have gotten a free ride to paradise on your back, increasing Muhammad's Ummah by one.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->- <!--[endif]-->A fool really, you were absolution for his previous and upcoming sins… you find the right path because of him and become his passport to an eternity of virgins and rivers of wine.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Do you know this verse of poetry Seif:

"Hannoun has neither added a tiny bit to Christians, nor taken a tiny bit from Muslims!"    

He explained to him the back story on the verse… some of the clientele around them turned at their loudness, so Kifah lowered his voice:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-do you know why he said no?! I bet you can't guess?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I give up… why?

Kifah whispered the answer to him.

Seif and his friend burst out in load roars of laughter, he lay back in his chair and put his feet up, they both were laughing so hard they cried, he screamed out:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Son of a bitch! Where did he get that idea?.

Seif, still laughing, said:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I remember the day we were circumcised as children, my God that day… I was around eight, and it wasn't performed in hospitals at birth like today, they gathered the children of relatives and neighbors of the same age, and they started going at us in turn… oh my God, he would just cut and throw away and the drums would get louder. Damn him, he didn't wink, so mechanical, he would praise God and cut as our screams mixed with cries of joy and the drums…  then they made us wear our new Kandourah, and taught us how to wave the fabric in front of our wounds to cool it down… and we would scream, and the incense would circulate the yard, and we would walk with our legs spread… those days?! But did Sha… your beloved… know of her father's request?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I don't think so. I don't think he had a barrier free relationship with his children… I don't think she knows to this day.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Why didn't you elope? I would have!

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-She was young and refused.

His voice laced with sorrow, he added:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I don't think she's rebellious by nature. Confrontation and going outside the norm and tradition requires a certain psyche and a natural disposition for adventure. She didn’t have it, or maybe she was young and immature! I don't know,

He's shaken by the uncertainty of a man once broken by love… he lit his 20th cigarette, crushed his empty pack and rubbed it.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-do you still love her?

The question dragged him away from himself, he hesitated:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-I don't  know, for many years I would imagine her walking out towards me from alleys and I would think, what would I do? Then I got busy, my work doesn't allow a lot of time for reflection and staring at the moon and stars for many nights… then I met my wife Nihad, beautiful and educated and I proposed the next day…today I have a beautiful hope, impressive wife and a child that embodies all I ever dreamed of… do I still love her? Maybe! But to put my life in one end of the scale and love in the other?! I don't think so.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-What about your son?

His face lit up like a boy on his birthday surrounded by all his presents:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-if you only knew, Seif… everything I ever wanted and never had I gave to him… He speaks three languages, knows computers, rides horses, plays the piano, swims, plays football and bowling, we go to the theatre together, eat popcorn at the cinema together… I'm sending him to the University of London… you know, it’s a well established university, world renowned ad respected.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-God bless him

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Thank you… and you Seif? What about you?   

Seif beat his chest several times:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-There's only her in here…Nour, my love and my wife… I met her the day the TV station advertised jobs for local women, few applied. I saw her and knew she alone was my destiny. I saw no one else… I married her to stop her from working. My father went insane and my mother slapped her own face…. Holieh. Ah, yes, Howal are second class citizens in the Gulf. They say the are Arabs who were turned into Howal. The Arab tribes say that they are Iranians who migrated from the other side of the Gulf, but they are some of the richest, most educated, cultured and open-minded families in the Gulf. My parents refused because she is a Holieh and I am a pure bread, my foot as far as I'm concerned… I married her against their will so they cut me off, my mother still doesn't visit me or host my wife to this day, only I and the children visit… Nour is my life.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-how can you cheat on her then?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-Transient lust I cannot resist, if I stop these adventures I die. It has nothing to do with my love for Nour, my problem is beautiful women! My friend, the holy Hadith say: If one of you looks upon a women in the form of the Devil then let him go be with his wife as that will curb his passion, I can't carry Nour on my shoulders wherever I go, because all women come to me in the form of the devil! What am I to do?

<!--[if !supportLists]-->-You're right, it is a problem!

He agreed laughingly