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Authors: Rabih Alameddine


BOOK: Koolaids
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Also by Rabih Alameddine

An Unnecessary Woman

The Hakawati

I, The Divine

The Perv

Grove Press

New York

Copyright © 2015 by Rabih Alameddine

“Israel Spurs Lebanon Exodus,” © The Associated Press, 14 April 1996, reprinted by permission; “Why Beirut and Not Damascus?” by Arthur K. Vogel,
, reprinted by permission of the author and
; “Yet pray even while . . . ,” translation by Lionel Saler of “Bete aber auch dabei” © 1997. Reprinted by permission of the translator; “Parliamentary Elections” and “What Is a Lebanese Anyway?” by Joseph L. Boohaker, reprinted by permission of the author; “Lebanon First,” ©
The Jerusalem Post
, 13 August 1996, reprinted with the consent of
The Jerusalem Post

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Scanning, uploading, and electronic distribution of this book or the facilitation of such without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated. Any member of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or anthology, should send inquiries to Grove Atlantic, 154 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011 or
[email protected]

First published in 1998 by Picador USA

Published simultaneously in Canada

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN 978-0-8021-2414-2

eISBN 978-0-8021-9097-0

Grove Press

an imprint of Grove Atlantic

154 West 14th Street

New York, NY 10011

Distributed by Publishers Group West

To my father,

May he forgive me once more

I wonder if being sane means

disregarding the chaos that is life,

pretending only an infinitesimal segment of it is reality.

Death comes in many shapes and sizes, but it always comes. No one escapes the little tag on the big toe.

The four horsemen approach.

The rider on the red horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth war.”

The rider on the black horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth plague.”

The rider on the pale horse says, “This good and faithful servant is ready. He knoweth death.”

The rider on the white horse says, “Fuck this good and faithful servant. He is a non-Christian homosexual, for God's sake. You brought me all the way out here for a fucking fag, a heathen. I didn't die for this dingbat's sins.”

The irascible rider on the white horse leads the other three lemmings away.

The hospital bed hurts my back.


Time. Time is what I need right now. I can't think straight anymore. I should not have said that. I try never saying the word
Let's say I can't concentrate. That describes my predicament accurately. I can't speak English anymore either. Really. I can't think in English. It's back to my roots. I now think and dream only in Arabic. I haven't done that for the longest time.

James was here the other day. Or was it today? I can't think straight. Time gets very confusing.

James says something to me. I reply. He has that look of utter confusion. He doesn't understand a word I say. I switch to English. It's really easy for me to switch between two languages. I actually can communicate clearly in three. French is my second language. English is my third. Most Lebanese can speak three languages. I can really speak only two. French has been completely forgotten. I have not dreamed in French since I was a boy. I spoke English when I was a boy. It actually was the first language I spoke. I had a nanny who spoke only English. She was from Liberia. She was black. So is James.

James sits on the chair in front of my bed. I lie down quite a bit these days. He always asks how I am feeling. Great, James, I am feeling great. I am not dying. He always implies that I am. James sits on the chair in front of my bed. James looks tired. He is slouching. His socks don't match. It isn't as if they don't match in the classic sense. That is, they do not match anything he is wearing. My father says a man's socks must first match his tie. If that doesn't work, they must match the shirt; followed by the jacket, if it is different from the pants. Pants should be the last match. If none of that works, one is supposed to wear black socks. But if you ask me, one should go out and buy socks which match. James is wearing white tube socks, and that simply does not work since he is wearing nothing else which is white. He is slipping. I tell him, but he doesn't understand me. I must have said it in French and he doesn't speak French. Most Americans speak nothing other than English. Hold on a second. I am an American and I speak French, so that statement does not describe my predicament accurately. Actually, French has been completely forgotten and that describes my predicament more accurately.

James sits on the chair in front of my bed. He looks tired. At thirty-nine, he no longer looks as young as he did. Neither does my father. There was a time when James was handsome. Or was he just nice-looking? I can't remember that far. I ask him why he comes so often to visit me. His mouth drops. I guess he understood what I said. I must have said it in English. James looks so cute when he is shocked. His eyes get so wide.


I open the door for Kurt. “Hi there,” he says cheerfully. I grunt acknowledgment and head back to my chair. He comes into the living room, where Scott and I are sitting. Scott puts his book down to receive a kiss from his latest boyfriend.

“What are you reading?” Kurt asks, picking up the book. He sits on the arm of the chair and tousles Scott's hair.
“Spanking the Maid?
That's a provocative title. What's it about?”

“Spanking the maid, of course,” Scott replies. He picks up another book. There are no less than eight books on the table next to him.

“I wish I could read as much as you do,” Kurt says. “This is such a short book. It's not a book. It's a short story.”

“It's a novel, or whatever Coover wants to call it. A book's length is irrelevant.”

I wonder how long this relationship is going to last. I continue reading the paper, trying to ignore both of them.

“I guess you're right,” Kurt adds. “Still, I probably would prefer books that are more substantial than this. Something which takes time to develop.”

Four weeks tops.

“Here, let me read you this.” Scott picks up a Calvino book. “You might find it interesting:

Long novels written today are perhaps a contradiction: the dimension of time has been shattered, we cannot love or think except in fragments of time each of which goes off along its own trajectory and immediately disappears. We can discover the continuity of time only in the novels of the period when time no longer stopped and did not yet seem to have exploded, a period that lasted no more than a hundred years.

“Do you follow this?”

“Not really,” Kurt says. “Are you ready to go to the movie?”


Two weeks. Not more than two weeks.


James took his friend's hand and kissed it. “I come to see you because you're my best friend,” James said.

“You should go out more often,” he said and burst out laughing.

“I know. I know.”

“I'm not your best friend, James,” he said. “I never was. I was Scott's best friend. We had him in common.”

“You're my friend, Mo,” James said. “You are my friend.”


March 20th, 1976

Dear Diary,

This day is without a doubt the worst day of my life. The shelling was getting closer to our apartment. My husband thought it was okay to go to work today. No problem, he said. They won't be fighting here, he said. The children were underfoot all morning. The maid was having another Egyptian anxiety attack. She was no help. When a loud shell exploded, she let out a bloodcurdling scream which made Joumana cry. I wanted to slap her, but didn' t risk it. Then it happened.

We heard the whistle long before it hit. It must have been only a few seconds, but it seemed eternal. The only thing I remember about those seconds was the look in Samir's eyes. He heard it. I heard it. We looked at each other. The shell exploded on a floor somewhere below us. The whole building shook. Every pane of glass in the apartment exploded. The children screamed. I screamed. The maid did an Egyptian pirouette and fainted. I yelled at the kids to get moving. We were going down to the shelter. I was proud of how calm I was. I had been expecting this for some time, but one never knows how one will behave until it actually happens. Samir slapped the maid, bless his little soul, and shoved her out the door. We ran down the stairs, which luckily were undamaged.

BOOK: Koolaids
2.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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