Issue 1: Inaugural Issue

Untitled Dialogue #1

Raed Rafei

“What does it look like?”

“It’s dark and wrinkled.”

“Like a wild flower?”

“Like the mouth of a volcano.”

“Do you see colors?”

“I see red velvet streaks.”

“Like embroideries?”

“Like hints of rubies hidden under a gentle bush of entangled weeds.”

“Can you feel it?”

“It’s soft and moist like pudding.”

“Does it taste sweet?”

“Rather bitter like dark chocolate.”

“And the smell?”

“Intoxicating, like the narrow opening of a mysterious cave.”

“Did it hurt?”

“It wasn’t particularly painful, no…” (Silence) “I felt a deluge of emotions: panic, anger, a lot of anger, and then my brain surrendered to a stream of neutral thoughts, sweet detached memories. I remembered my first visit to the school doctor. It was my first memory of pulling my pants down in front of a stranger. He was tall, a tall doctor… very tall and slim. He was European and spoke French with a German accent. At least this is how I remember him. His clinic was in a small room with glass doors. I felt exposed.”

“Were they rude to you?”

“They were dry and bored as if they were repeating a familiar refrain. One was particularly sarcastic. He asked me if I took pleasure in having it ‘played with’.”

“I am sorry. I so wish I could have protected you from all this.”

“In a twisted, strange way, I am glad it happened.”

“I can understand the darkness you must be feeling.”

“It’s not really that. Ever since I’ve become aware of my inclinations, I was fatalistically drawn towards that moment. I constantly thought about it, about being caught and punished. It has even become part of my fantasies.” (Laughter)

“I am glad you can laugh about it… How many were they?”

“We’ve already talked about all that. Why do you have the need to listen to the story over and over again?”

“I don’t know. I guess the whole thing still sounds surreal. I need to listen to it every time from scratch, to know the details, more details. I want it to become real, like a memory, a shared memory.”

“But I was alone… Anyhow, most of the time, those moments slip into the realm of fiction. But then there’s the smell, a persistent smell. One of them smoked cheap cigarettes. It was a smell I was so familiar with. My uncle smokes the same brand of cigarettes. You know that local one you have to roll yourself.”

“Cedars!” “It’s ironic when you think how fresh and sweet the smell of real cedars is.”

“How many people were in the room?”

“At first, they were two. The cigarette-smelling officer. He was middle-aged with a bulging belly and a mustache. He was sitting behind his desk, he never stood up. I imagined the soles of his feet glued to the floor. He only used his hands. He didn't seem to need his other bodily functions. There was always someone to execute his orders: open the door, look through the files, bring coffee, return it you donkey, can’t you see it’s cold, bring another one, fast…”

“That was the sarcastic one?”

“No. The sarcastic one was the other officer, the young one… He had olive green eyes. Just like yours but with thick dark eyebrows. He was standing by a window. He moved around the room from time to time. I tried to avoid his eyes. But I was magnetically drawn to him.”

“It sounds like he could have been in one of those fantasies of yours.”

“Probably. But I would have picked a taller officer for my fantasies.”

“Stop, you’re making me horny.” (Laughter) “Sometimes, I don’t know how to react to this situation. I want to hold you in my arms and make you forget, just wipe the whole thing from your head.”

“I want to remember… I need to remember to make sense of my decision to leave.” (Silence)

“Did they bring in an examiner?”

“Yes. There was someone dressed in plain clothes who came in later. They called him ‘doctor’. He affected better manners. But it was all very fake. I felt an intense disliking for him. He reeked of self-righteousness. The officers were simple macho guys who judged us because they think a real man should be tough, like them, not a ‘tante.’ The doctor was different. He certainly believed in a bunch of pseudoscientific reasons against homosexuality.”

“Did he try to convince you to repent or seek treatment? Did he argue with you?”

“No, he just asked me to pull down my pants and turn. I did what he asked. In the beginning, it just felt natural, like being at a doctor’s clinic. But when the second set of instructions arrived, I blanked. He said, ‘bend and push.’ His words were crystal clear but I was baffled. I said, ‘I don’t understand.’ So he repeated the words again, louder, spelling out every letter. BEND AND PUSH. I still couldn’t understand. This is when, I guess, I started panicking. I was very clear-minded the whole time but at that particular moment, I felt helpless. I simply didn’t know what was expected of me. (Silence) Then the young officer came closer and laid his hand on my back and exerted pressure, making my body lean forward. He wasn’t forceful. My body showed no resistance. It was strangely comforting to be led through the process after that moment of panic. You know, like when you’re a child in the dark and someone holds your hand to guide you.”

“You were just protecting yourself from feeling humiliated.”

“Yes, I guess so, because from that moment on I was literally numb. I was transfixed into my new curved position. The doctor put on latex gloves and calmly said, ‘now, push’. I stared at a crack in the wall and pushed.”