The Inshalla Manifesto

13 commentsDubai,Writing


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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