The Inshalla Manifesto

18 commentsDubai,Writing

DAY ONE

King Marshall rules his world.

On the first day of November, Marshall woke up feel­ing grand. He took a deep breath, stretched his arms, and jumped out of his cot. He tripped over his alarm clock send­ing the AA bat­ter­ies fly­ing across the bed­room but mid­way through the motion recov­ered into a grace­ful pirou­et­te, and land­ed square in front of his dresser. In the per­fect cen­ter of his mir­ror his unshaven smile beamed back at him. He flat­tened the hair again­st his bald-spot, straight­ened his paja­ma col­lar and saun­tered into his dim­ly lit hall­way.

A few min­utes lat­er, he repeat­ed the motion in front of his house. This time, the stretch wider, he embraced a brand new day. He drew in the wet after­noon into his lungs, and trot­ted down the steps of his walkup hous­ing project, first one, two, then three at a time som­er­sault­ing over the last five, and this time land­ing into a pud­dle with an enor­mous plot. “Eureka!” he exclaimed as he shook the droplets of water off the hem of his khak­is, mus­ing at the fact that the liq­uid dis­placed could not be close to his body mass.

He trot­ted past the “Do Not Walk” sig­nal and crossed towards the emp­ty bus-stop. He looked left, right, then left again, nar­row­ing his focus to each van­ish­ing point of the straight tree-lined side­walk, devoid of all human pres­ence. He took in a big gulp of moist air and sur­veyed the hori­zon. The world was emp­ty and he was king. The King of Nothing.

Over his right shoul­der, he watched the line of hous­es repeat itself almost per­fect­ly along his entire field of vision, gen­tly, grace­ful­ly reced­ing into the dis­tance. He scanned the hori­zon from right to cen­ter and turned to his left to see a half-covered face. She grunt­ed towards him in half-recognition, plant­ed her­self on the bench behind him, and resigned to wait­ing in silence.

Five min­utes said the tat­tered sched­ule on a post next to him. It lied. 16 full min­utes and 28 grunts lat­er, the wom­an shuf­fled to her feet and over his left shoul­der Marshall watched her cut ahead of him as the bus glid­ed towards them, speck­les of rain fly­ing off its wheels towards the side­walk.

Fish,” said the pneu­mat­ic doors as they clicked open, and he stepped in with one leg on board and one still on the side­walk as the wom­an (now a black blan­ket a foot ahead of him) con­firmed her stop with the dri­ver. When she was done, he heaved him­self on board, beeped his card in, and con­tort­ed him­self between the crowd into a stand­ing spot with­in the lug­gage sec­tion. His head swayed and bobbed as the bus made its way through his neigh­bor­hood and onto Sheikh Zayed road, the high­way con­nect­ing it to the east part of the city.

In his mind he was already there, play­ing the scene from the out­side of the bus, his head sev­er­al inch­es above the rest of the crowd nod­ding up and then down every time the bus shift­ed gears. From that posi­tion, he could play out his entire work day. He could even play out the fol­low­ing day and the day after that. He had often wished he could do that for an entire week in advance, so he didn’t have to go through the process of actu­al­ly liv­ing out the plan.

But today was dif­fer­ent. He was feel­ing grand and today had to be dif­fer­ent. He leaned above the head of the man stand­ing next to him, the lit­tle tufts of hair on his blad­ing scalp a mil­lime­ter away from Marshall’s nose. The wom­an was there, lean­ing again­st a pole. She let out a grunt as soon as his eyes hit her, either in reac­tion to a bump in the road or in acknowl­edg­ment of his exis­tence. Either way, there was some recog­ni­tion there, and per­haps some pity. Yes, pity. Perhaps it was his own pity reflect­ing back at him, but he decid­ed to let it go by look­ing past her. His eyes fell on a well-dressed twenty-something sit­ting behind the wom­an, and the moment they did, he jerked up and offered his seat to the wom­an. She took it glad­ly as the young man threw Marshall an apolo­get­ic glance, and nod­ded his head down­wards as he leaned again­st the pole.

Today Marshall was King, and this was his first inad­ver­tent act of kind­ness. If it reg­is­tered with its recip­i­ent, then it cer­tain­ly didn’t show on her face, most of which remained tight­ly wrapped in her blank veil. Though he could swear the grunt she let out as she plant­ed her eggplant-shaped frame into the vacat­ed seat did sound soft­er through the growl­ing diesel engine of the bus. The vehi­cle and the rest of the world out­side con­tin­ued to woosh by indif­fer­ent­ly. At that scale, Marshall craned his neck to con­firm, noth­ing had changed.

At least not yet, he allowed him­self to smile.

This is an excerpt from the first chap­ter of Meedo’s upcom­ing nov­el, The Inshalla Manifesto. Contact us to learn more.

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