I Remember – #910

I remember FitzChivalry and The Fool.

-19 March 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

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I Remember – #909

I remember my father loaning me a book called ‘Odd Bits’, which was full of recipes using offal.  He loved, the book, and offal, and I remember him asking me a couple of times if I had made anything from it.  And of course I said no, and of course, at the time of this memory (and of this post – 17 July 2018) I have never made a thing from it or for him.

-18 March 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

Short Story Review – Mortada Gzar – While He Was Sitting There (trans. Claire C. Jacobson)

I don’t think someone is beautiful unless he attracts the eyes of onlookers and passersby

He’s a student.  Most of the time he studies.  He eats and he sleeps, and the months pass by.  But then, oh then, he’ll make his way to a certain bar, the bar he calls his ‘Tuesday bar’, and there he’ll find an American soldier, there he’ll give them a name, there he’ll listen to their stories, and there he might – might – have sex with them.

My Tuesday bar is open every day; it’s cheap, and has filthy bathrooms, walls scribbled with insults and expletives. These are their memories and stories, their questions and jokes, their truths and lies. One of my made-up names is written on the wall in congealed grime, and what looks like my face has been sketched on the door beside a series of badly written Arabic letters, a soldier’s memory of the last thing I had tried to teach him.

What is he looking for?  It isn’t made clear.  He’s confident in himself and his sexuality, and he sees the American soldiers as both men to teach, and men to learn from.  What he teaches them is pretty clear – he is a sexual, educated, confident, coherent, entire person. A personality.  An individual.  How strange, to kill all of these people, and then find out that they have names and thoughts and stub their toes.  That’s what he teaches them.

They show him, I suppose, the gamut of America, part of what he calls his ‘curiosity jinn’, and he enjoys being the centre of attention when he is there.  And why not?  He’s a handsome gay Iraqi man.  Revel in the fetishisation, friend.

He’s the third white soldier I’ve met this month. If I went every Tuesday, I’d meet a whole battalion of them, all soldiers from the occupation. I don’t give them my real name, but say something like Jibran, Miran, or Uftan, starting up my mental crane and pulling out easy, musical names. If they ask what it means, I say Jibran is a mountain in the south, Miran means “happy boy,” and Uftan is the heavenly angel who comes down to rub the bellies of married couples to spark in them lust for a night of passion.

The soldiers talk about him, too, which we know he likes.  He gives a different name depending on who he is with, letting the word out into the world, and when the name returns to the bar, when someone comes looking for this or that version of himself, he knows just how satisfied his soldier has been.  And there’s power in that.

The first half of the story provides us with this overview of our narrator, who is frankly pretty charming.  The second half, though, zeroes in on a single interaction between him and an American soldier who seems cold.  Other people in the bar seem to avoid him – why?  It’s a challenge, but also somewhat repellent.  He knows there must be something wrong for the others to shun him, and in his voluptuary way of thinking, he recognises that if a person is incapable of raising lust in others, then they can’t in him, either.

My ardor wavering, I forgot the issue of the Arab beast trapped in my pants.

Oh yes, and he’s rather fun to go along with the charm.

We discover by the end, after they have coupled in an alley, why the soldier was avoided by others.  Let’s avoid moralising – because the author, Mortada Gzar, avoids it entirely – and instead appreciate the stylistic flourish of the ending, with the repeated, I said, “Yes. I liked it.”, which brings home the strength of the narrator’s ardor, passion, intellect and, oddly, humility.  He’s touched by the encounter, with the simplicity of the four words showing us, the reader, that even the most outwardly confident lush is, at times, sensitive and in need of tenderness, from wherever it may come.

While He Was Sitting There is a short story by Iraqi writer Mortada Gzar, and was translated by Claire C. Jacobson.  You can read the story online at Words Without Borders.

Author Mortada Gzar
Title While He Was Sitting There
Translator Claire C. Jacobson
Nationality Iraqi
Publisher Words Without Borders – June 2018 – The Queer Issue IX

Please visit the Short Story Reviews page to see all of the available reviews.

I Remember – #908

I remember purchasing Portal 2 for full price in 2012.  Full price!  I didn’t break a sweat or care much about the cost and it was the first time I noticed (later) that I had used disposable cash without really worrying about it at all, which signifies, obviously, a certain level of material comfort.  So, for anyone who is interested, I suppose 2012 was when I became comfortably middle-class.  Lucky me?

-17 March 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

I Remember – #906

I remember my father making us chokos with butter and salt for dinner (along with the rest, which was invariably mashed potatoes, unseasoned, along with boiled carrots, beans, and cheap beef sausages).  As an adult, I don’t think I have seen them at all in supermarkets, though they could be, I suppose, hidden away along with the turnips and parsnips and other root vegetables nobody seems to use here in Brisbane.

-15 March 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.

I Remember – #905

I remember going to Rockinghorse, then in the Queen Street Mall on the ground level and not very large (actually my vague, vague memory suggests it might have even been on Adelaide Street at this stage??), and asking to listen to Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People.  The first track was instrumental, and gauze, but I enthused about it to the staff member and bought it on the strength of the Pitchfork review.  I was trying to seem sophisticated and musically aware to the staff member, and was disappointed that he had no idea who they were.

-14 March 2017

This post is part of the I Remember series.