Issue 1: Inaugural Issue

The Perfumed Garden

Raafat Majzoub

Excerpt from The Perfumed Garden

“You can’t be straight with these cheeks,” she says, “but I’m taking you in anyways.” That’s Zalfa, the tease that disrupts my constructs and the main reason why I’m only almost alone. A female Centaur of some sort, she belonged to two times, two natures, two places, and bore one name. Zalfa was not here to stay. The likes of her, if any, were never here to stay. Like God, she looked at me with mercy and held my prostate with angst. Like a good boy, I turned my naked back to the revolution and walked towards her. Like a good girl, I planted it within the hairy intersection of her thighs. Like a martyr, she asked me for forgiveness and stuttered my name with courage.

Zalfa never used my real name. She decided she would call an author by his penname. I had none. Anonymity was for others, so she called me whatever she wanted–variably suiting her troubled whims. I called them troubled, she called them hers. We fought. We fucked. I wrote. She watched. She made paper airplanes out of my original drafts and taught them how to fly. She threw my words off the balcony into the world of other people. Hell is other people. She threw my words to hell.

I hated her. I hated how I loved her. I was dependent on her like my addiction to my lover’s feces on my erect fingers. That smell of death–completely admirable, undeniable, intensely viable gore. I hated her. She maneuvered my esteemed literature, freshly inked on archival paper, with her eyes into the city. As she lit my cigarette, my verses tore down the apartheid wall separating East Romantic from West Dreamt. As they fought, we fucked. As I wrote, she made them watch. It was the closest time my words ever reflected off alien eyes.

With her paper airplanes, she made people read me and laugh. As they read, I made them die. As I killed Darwish, I wasn’t killing my father–I was killing everyone else. Little did they know that they knew too little. People will only comprehend what they already do. Lovers will go the extra mile, and only the whores would understand. Zalfa understood me perfectly. I hated her for that. I never completely understood her, “But that’s because you’re a lover, habibi,” she said. I was.

Incomprehensible, perplexing, unattainable, and distorted–to the sidewalk, I was all of that. I was never addressing the sidewalk though. I looked at the ceramic jar in the left corner of my room. I was addressing it. Its outside was painted by a seven-year old girl, a Palestinian orphan living in a camp up north, hailed as a genius of contemporary art. Its inside bore the ashes of Gibran’s Prophet. I was addressing it, a stroke of bourgeois-adopted circumstance pregnant with the brittle building blocks of a fungal nation.

A book you’re gifted on colorfully lit nights commemorating the birth of Christ is not a book you should read, “Except if it’s the Bible,” Zalfa doesn’t let me continue my sentences, “Come, let’s read the Bible out loud.”

“Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

“I wonder how I will know that you fear me,” Zalfa mumbled. She was talking to herself out loud. Unlike me, she preferred that her thoughts travel to her consciousness outwards and back in through her ears. She said everything that managed to reach the tips of her lips. She only thought of the ones she wanted to hear. I learned not to reply to her every remark–most of them wouldn’t yet be hers anyway.