The Poor Fatmagool
By Everth Sotelo |
This winter has been very cold and wet, it has been raining for the past few days. My furniture are stacks of books and the decorations are scattered old papers. There is barely enough room to walk, just enough to breath. The smell of mold permeates this place, it enters my nostrils and gives me a light headache, I sleep among humidity, but I am thankful for a roof over my head. My arms shiver from the coldness of this crowed room. I stare at the drops of rain as they fall to the ground but then I can’t control my rapid shiver, I feel as if my body is to collapse. I just inhale my nose and exhale with my mouth. There is nobody to keep me company, nobody to tell me how pale my skin looks from malnutrition or even how horrible my writing is. What is the real purpose of life? Why am I here? What have I done to deserve this? My fiancée passed away from pneumonia two months before our marriage. My parents and sister live in Turkey and my older brother has his own delightful family in Canada. I love being alone, my imagination is my refuge. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and William Faulkner are my friends because they have taught me more about human relationships than anyone else.
As a child, graphic novels were the only way I could teach myself to read and write. My only dream is to become a Nobel prize winner. Who am I fooling? My mind says it’s impossible, yet my heart feels as if the dream may come true. Which one should I trust? I do not give up on writing. I hate working at my office, the work is repetitive, and it is the thing that stands between my aspirations as a writer. Mario the office manager is such a disgusting nuisance. He has the habit of placing a stack of papers on my desk and expects to me finish at precise moments of the day. While I take my lunch in the kitchen, he attempts to seduce by serving me coffee and caressing my hand. It is not the first time I reject his advances; he threatens to fire me if I don’t accept him. I allow him to touch me but only because I need this job. My rent has been late for the past two months. One more late month and I am evicted. Nevertheless, creativity fills me with hope of one day changing this poor life. Without any interruption I and bleed. The world does not exist for me for I am a separate being. My fingers move across the keyboard 70 words per minute. My thoughts are flow like a river; too much fantasy causes us to suffer from the horrors of life and too much reality damages our will to do things.
It is now four in the morning and I must be at work at eight. I write so much my will is to write more. Darkness covers my eyes as I shut them, northern lights that change into the rays of the sun. Lighting and the ends of space. The cosmos, the mind takes me to the origins of life. The mind is the ultimate reality for without it life does not exist. Will I ever reach that place? My head falls on top of my books.
Mario drops another stack of papers on my desk. I snap out of my sleep. The two ladies that work in payables across my desk stare at me with deception. I turn behind me and notice Jane and Charlotte mock me as they glance at me. Mario looks at with a disgusting grin on his face. He walks away with a boastful attitude. My head hurts from the lack of sleep.
I walk over to the kitchen to pour myself coffee with three expresso shots. Mario walks in and pretends to wait for the coffee machine. I ignore him. Suddenly, he moves towards me and tries to rub his hands on my testicles. With his other hand, he grabs me from the back of my head and forces a kiss. I freeze and resist, I grab him by his shirt and slam him on a nearby table. The food and drinks spill all over the floor. But I can’t punch him! What have I done?! I injured the pretty butterfly! Gradually my hands detach from his chest, my range dies. Everyone comes to stare at the aftermath of this violent scene. I catch my breath and walk over to balcony by my sister’s old office. I look down, cars rush on the street and the wind pushes me to the edge. My body shivers, my stomach is nauseous. Throw myself! A little boy looks up towards me as he walks with his mother. I don’t know if he is looking at me. Maybe. I would not want him to witness the reality of death at such an age.
---You are fired Fatmagool!!, yelled Mario
His resonated in the walls and bounced in my ears.
The streets are wet and the ambiance humid, not one soul is present. I am alone in this world and only my stomach controls me now. I have not eaten in the past two days ago, most of my check goes into my high rent and my bills. My body is feeble and my loneliness binding to hunger. Any food or alcohol is nothing but an escape from sadness. The sadness of having to lose my job to do what I love. My legs do not respond. I might collapse but my will is to reach that place. A shade covers my eyesight again; will I ever reach that place? What is happening to me? Why does the world seem darker and darker?
I walk by an old bookstore, it’s the only light in this dark street. An old man sits at a table in front of the store. He has a modest tweed sweater with the most well pressed slacks I have ever seen in an elder man. His neat white beard and his glasses intact and clean. I can’t help but admire him. His eyes clash with mine.
“Are you really happy?” he asked.
“Do you like books?”, he asked
I look back at him with a confused expression.
“There is a café on the corner of Welsh and 11th street, they have book readings”
“Who are you”
“I work in the bookstore.”
I am bewildered.
He stares at me with a serious expression, but I sense gentleness in his demeanor. He is immobile, like a striking painting he elicits a cascade of emotions that make me think if I am happy with my existence. I feel like I must touch his face and kiss him. My body feels as light as a feather. Is this how unbearable the lightness of existence is? It’s beautiful.
“Be a candle, for by consuming yourself you light others”, he said.
I open my eyes and thunder rolls. He smiles and goes back into the store. What did he mean? Where is this coffee shop? My answers could be there.
There is the coffee shop the old man mentioned. The strong smell of brewed coffee penetrates my nostrils. A cozy and bohemian room filled with college students. The barista asks me what I would like to drink.
“Do you read books here?”, I asked.
“Talk to Dale the owner,” he points to him.
Dale sits at a corner; he types with diligence without any desire to be disturbed. There is a desire to share something important within me. Perhaps my imagination shall solve the mystery my reality has struggled in vain. His eyes looked up to me, but he did not stop typing.
“How can I help you?”, he asked.
“I was told that you read books every night is that true?”
“Yes, we support aspiring writers”
“How can I read something for tomorrow night?”
“Just take the stage when it is available, and we shall listen”
The crowd gathers around. People drink their coffee as they direct their attention towards me. I fix the microphone and look at my story. A hot flash runs through my body and sweat begins to drip from my head. I take a deep breath.
In a land now long forgotten and a long time ago there lived a king named Atef who lived with unimaginable riches. From the Iberian Peninsula to the Balkans, to the Sahara Desert, and to the orient king Atef would strike fear into the hearts of men. He had a beautiful daughter who was the apple of his eyes, Mahidebran. She was taught math, history, sculpture, hunting, and rhetoric. Although intelligent, Mahidebran was depressed. She would be knowing there was emptiness in her life. Atef became very worried about her emotional state. He consulted his advisors, his prophets, and her educators. The prophets foresaw her death if she did not recover her happiness, but they could not foresee what would make her happy. Atef and his advisors consulted for three days. On the third day they discovered a young man who had been rumored to gather crowds of people just to listen to his lyrical rhymes. He was brought before Atef and questioned by his court. Who are you son? What is this thing that you speak of that makes people listen to you for hours? What demon have you invoked? The young man stated that he was a poet and that the people would gather to listen to something called poetry. The king and his court were very confused. They had never heard of poetry before. They asked him to demonstrate a piece of his delightful poetry. The young man sang of the Nile river, praised Minerva, honored Jupiter, exalted Atef, and he finalized with a lyrical ballad for Mahidebran. The king and his court were completely astonished. Atef requested that he teach Mahidebran to recite poetry. If poetry can bring happiness to his daughter, he would promise part of his kingdom to him. The young poet was honored, but he instead he asked the king for such a humble request; food for his family. The king agreed. That day, the young poet sang and sang to Mahidebran , by the sound of his voice and his light skin in contrast with his dark hair and beard, she fell in love. The king was very pleased to see happiness return to his daughter, but her educators were not happy. Mahidebran no longer had an interest in math, astronomy, philosophy, history, and hunting. All she wanted to do is write poetry and recite it to the common people. Poetry made her happy. The educators and advisors suggested that the king hang the young poet for enchanting Mahidebran.
The king disagreed for he was delighted to see happiness in his daughter. The educators then planned to poison the young poet so that Mahidebran would forget about poetry. The king had arranged a large banquet with the court and other small kingdoms to celebrate her daughter’s happiness. That night, the math educator served Atef a glass of wine and the philosophy educator poured a sleep potion into it. The food and wine were so abundant that everyone was guilty of gluttony, Atef was no exception for he fell asleep. The young poet drank the poison waited outside the palace gates for a bit of food as promised. But the king was asleep, and his promise now broken, the young poet could no longer withstand the snow that gathered in his head. Tragically he passed away. The next morning Atef woke and could not find his daughter. His advisors and assistants searched until they found her crying over the young poet’s body. The king could not believe it. His daughter’s happiness had now vanished and her only true love was no more. The educators claimed that if they instruct her, she will forget poetry. The king agreed thus Mahidebran returned to her studies in the other subjects. The king however realized that poetry could warm the heart. Inspired by his daughter’s happiness he began to write poetry himself, but little did he know that his reign would come to an end because of the lack of poetry.
Everybody clapped and cried. My story touched many hearts. I got off the stage and a group of people gathered to shake my hand and congratulate me. The owner discretely approaches me and hands me a large cup.
“Please keep coming back with more of those”, he said.
I take the cup and notice that there is no liquid inside. I pay for my coffee and head outside. The cup is filled with money, there were several fives and ones. Goodness this must have been the tips the writers get from the audience. It seems to be enough to make up the rest of my rent.
Suddenly I saw this woman and her child in the alley behind the coffee shop. They were homeless. She teared my heart. Her face is languid, her skin wrinkled and chapped. Her clothes seem wet and her child is asleep next to her. The child is dirty and debilitate and their smell is abhorrent. Her child moved to hug and his cry made me cringe. The woman stares at me with her blue eyes and I am frozen in fear. If I walk away now I could never live with myself, knowing that I can help the poor woman. But how will I take care of me? No! Who cares about me?! My life is poetry! The woman smiles at me, the warmest smile I had ever seen, even more beautiful than my beloved Lydia. She hugs her child and falls asleep. My eyes become filled with tears.
I approach her and hand her all the money in the cup.
“For you mother, poets are god’s gift to mankind”, I said in a soft tone.
Her hand shivers as she takes the money. I take her hand and gently caress it; I close her fist with the money in it.
“Thank you so much, who are you”, she asked
“I am the poor Fatmagool”
The rain droplets tickle my face and moisten my eyes. The water refreshes my stiff skin and my muscles shiver. I walk away feeling happy with a certainty that I would never die. I close my eyes.
ENJAMBED | SPRING 2020