Lonely, he sits at the window looking at the bright blue sky. The sky might not be clear later when clouds or flocks of black birds pass by, but he got used to all that.
He doesn't change the position of his chair or move the small table on his right. Always he sits there in the same place smoking, drinking, and trying to remember many things that might take him back to the naked childhood. He would often hear his two children's words.
"Daddy, when I grow up, I'll marry and buy a big villa and you will live with my husband and me and I'll have many children."
His little girl would go to clean the feather duster and come back again saying:
"You smoke a lot daddy. The teacher tells us that smoking is bad."
He remembers the child's words, lights a cigarette, smokes it and looks at the sky from behind the window. Then he picks up some radish roots, which he likes very much, even though they also cause him some gas problems like belching and farting. Many were the things his daughter used to say, but her younger brother had a different way of thinking:
"Daddy when I grow up, I will be a doctor, and I will marry you to another woman because Mama beats me a lot and throws plates on you, and spits on you. Daddy I'll marry you a woman who doesn't spit on you or beat her cheeks."
The sky might be clear sometimes behind the window, and sometimes it becomes overcast with clouds and immigrant black birds. Everything changes behind the window except for the existence of two doves on a building's roof across the street. They might be a male and a female. Sure, it wouldn't be otherwise.
He picks up radish roots, takes a drink and looks from behind the window at the vases of flowers and the couple of doves flying together in return to their place over the roof. Maybe they have a nest there. Every couple above or under the earth builds some kind of nest for themselves, but it might get destroyed before they leave each other or after their deaths. Every nest is destined to be destroyed and people fight with all possible means to destroy their nests. But he is not positive what the two doves have on the roof, a nest, a hen, a cock or nothing. Whatever is hidden, no one else can know when it is hidden behind walls or barriers.
He smoked his cigarette quietly and looked at the two doves hovering nearby ready to return to their place. It seemed to him as if they were arguing and bickering as men and women do when angry with each other, and all the words of love and hypocrisy binding them together are forgotten. When each one of them finds out that love made between two in bed is in fact making love among four: a man and another woman and a woman and another man. The nest must be kept even when four live in it.
That's what he tried to do, keeping his nest so people could say he has a happy nest. He always hears about this proverbial happy nest. He read about it in books and magazines. People talk a lot in the streets and nobody really knows about what happens in their nests. They hide behind their clothes and cars as well as many other things. They try to give the impression that they live in happiness. They lie to themselves until the time people say God bless his or her souls. If they were well off, they would have a small obituary on a newspaper page written by a poor journalist reading: "The deceased (May he or she rest in peace) departed this world to be with God." But who gave them rest or peace? Only the One who can give rest and peace and grant protection to the human soul knows why the lie of grieving the dead is over few days after their death, just as the lie of conjugal happiness becomes revealed in time.
He was glued to his chair thinking of the beautiful words his wife used to lavish on him and he thought that he endured a lot and understood a little. His daughter playing with her rope once said:
"When I grow up daddy, you would live with me and I'd buy you a car and new things."
The son said:
"You went many times to Spain, Daddy. Now, you no longer travel much. When I grow up and become rich, I'd buy you travel tickets every year. You love Spain in summer and we'd go together."
He remembered only the title of a play by Samuel Beckett, a play he read in his youth and no longer understood, and said to himself:
"The good old days!" then added "in Spain."
He wondered how young kids remember everything, but when they grow up, they hide everything and do everything in secret. And every one of them believes that no body knows what they hide. He poured himself another glass of wine and stared at the newspaper in his lap. He could no longer concentrate on reading and could think only of his children whom his wife took with her to someplace in Switzerland. When they divorced, he didn't think she would do that, but he soon knew that a woman is capable of doing anything. Didn't she cause Adam to be dismissed from Eden and waged a war against Ali (May God be pleased with him)? 1
His wife was pretty, and he used to buy her glasses, pottery, sweets and rabbits slaughtered and live. And sometimes he even preferred her to his two young children. But she used to hit him, beat her cheeks and thighs [as some women do when they mourn their dead]. She would spit on him and shout that he is not a man. He would endure all. The voice of the young boy comes back crying:
"Please mama, don't do that."
The girl often would press her face against her pillow and cry loudly with a sob. When his wife would end her nasty words, which once used to be nice and sweet like a poem, he would leave home to the nearest pub and listen to the drunken men talking about their nests, their housewives who prepare them meals any time they come home, and the children who always get A's at their schoolwork. But he often saw women dragging a dozen of crying children before the pub's door:
"You are here drinking and leaving us without food! You son of a... "
And how often he wondered, how could these children who don't have anything to eat get A's in their schoolwork. It's interesting that man lies to himself before lying to others, and it's interesting, too, for men to dream of happy nests as he himself did for years. His dream, however, went away once he woke up to reality. He couldn't talk at the café about what happened at home. Why then? All of them were happy and he didn't want to be the exception. If all their women proffered them children who get A's at school, to whom would he say that his wife spit on him? If he said that, they too would spit on him and continue drinking.
The men claim that their wives washed their feet with hot water or took the children to their aunts to spend the vacation there leaving them feel like bachelors again. The women go to visit their aunts or grandmothers, but that's not important. The men come here and their wives go there, and the lying continues. Life is a big lie anyway. In any case, his wife went to spend her annual vacation in Switzerland as the other women went to other places. What matters is that the nest is believed to be happy. Cheers to all, all is well!
When he raised his head, he saw one of the doves flying and soaring out in the sky on the way back to her place and he said to himself: Luckily Switzerland is far away, otherwise, this she-dove would have left her nest and flown to Bern leaving her poor male companion on the roof slowly committing suicide, hitting the wall with his beak until he dies.
"You are really selfish and think of no one but yourself."
"We decided from the beginning to build our nest. I never lied to you."
"All men say the same thing. You are all liars."
"And you know all men?"
"Knowing one is enough."
"You changed a lot since we met."
"It is you who changed me, or you who changed. That's all."
He lit another cigarette and took a sip from his glass and kept thinking about what the she-dove might say to her male, but they flew together in the wide space and soon disappeared. As to when they would be back to their place, he was not sure. His ears picked up a piece of news transmitted by the radio close to him. The announcer said that an earthquake struck a place in the world and talked about a number of casualties, and he said to himself: "Oh my God! Even nature contributes to destroying and dispersing nests. Maybe these families had been happy in their nests, but nature kills and wounds whom she pleases as she perhaps buries cats, rats, dogs, and fish cooked or alive in aquariums. Nature so wills. How strange this universe is! If you don't do it yourself, somebody else will do it on behalf of you. And it doesn't matter whether you take precautions."
What if he lost his wife and children in an earthquake, what would he do? Would he still look at the two doves in his spare time while smoking and drinking and lifting his head every now and then from the newspaper? When somebody dies here, another is born there. He could marry again a new woman who might die before him or outlive him. A good idea indeed so long as we are destined to lose our nests at any moment. We also lose our lives without our choice, as we are born without our choice. Sometimes we even get married without our choice. Who knows? It might be Eros's will alone.2 He read about Eros but he doesn't know him. Maybe he exists inside the human body. How many strange things the human body carries without our being aware of them! There are two angels,3 for example, one on the right shoulder recording the good deeds and the other on the left recording the bad deeds. The human body may also be inhabited by devils, and in this body there is also a spirit whose essence we cannot know since it is from a command of the Lord.4 Many are the things that live inside the human body, things unknown to man who only knows something called pain and tries to escape it and protect himself from it by hiding inside a nest even one made of straw until a strong wind or a storm comes along and blows it away. Nevertheless, it is possible to try and rebuild the nest. That's what he, in his isolation, had been thinking about lately after his wife shamelessly left him to Switzerland taking the two kids with her.
Rebuilding the nest? He laughed hysterically, then suddenly stopped and looked around him suspiciously as if somebody were present with him. Maybe there was somebody present but he could not see them like those who inhibit the human body for example.
There was a woman working in one of the banks who would come from time to time to drink with him and clean the house, but she has nothing new to say except:
"A man should not trust a woman. They are all the same: when a woman feels that a man loves her, she does what she wants. You experienced that yourself, and you don't deserve all that torture. It doesn't matter that she went to Switzerland. When the children grow up, they will remember their father, and they will fulfill all his wishes. Consider me their mother. They are smart, aren't they? It's true that I didn't get married, but men never understood me. Can I drink another glass? Also if people want to build their nests, they have to be careful about choosing the right partner to live with. You shouldn't be sad. Look at this tree behind the window, look at these birds flying in the sky and landing on the tree. I don't know why you often look at the flying birds and the dove couple and not listen to what I say. All right, I'll cook you something to eat. You don't eat well, but when we live under the same roof, you'd see my love."
The woman would come later on to repeat the same litany and he would wish she would say something else or ask him questions, but she, too, is seeking to build a nest and it seems that her way of trying to build it for the last thirty-seven years didn't work out. It also seems that she used to say the same words to the men she met before.
For years he looked at the sky, cloudy or bright. This woman left as other women did, and maybe she built herself a nest somewhere else, and maybe it was destroyed as well. He went to the kitchen and started to contemplate the empty wine bottles, then went back to sit on the chair close to the window and some memories came back to him: "Daddy when I grow up, I will" and "Daddy, I'll buy you..."
"I'm about to go crazy." He said to himself holding his daughter's letter.
I've become a woman. You are my father in spite of everything, and I ask your permission before I marry a young man from Guatemala. I want to build a happy nest. Come to visit whenever you want so that I can introduce you to my future husband.)
He threw the letter under his feet and started to cry. How many nests were built and destroyed. My God! What can a man do with himself? He wondered and drank his glass of wine all at once. In a moment, he fell off his chair near the window bumping his head against the wall. The sky remained bright while he was grunting like a hog in a sty.
1 The reference is to A'ishah, one of Prophet Muhammad's wives and daughter of his first caliph (successor). She supported those who were fighting against the fourth caliph Ali in the Battle of the Camel 656 AD. Translator.
2 In Greek mythology, Eros is the son of the goddess of love and is believed to be a First Principle of the Universe, with total power over gods and men. Translator.
3 Surah 50, verse 17. "When the twin keepers [angels] receive him, the one seated on his right, the one on his left, each word he utters shall be noted down by a vigilant guardian". Translator.
4 An allusion to a Qu'ranic verse "They ask you about the spirit, say: "The spirit is from a command of my Lord and I have only given you (people) a small amount of the knowledge" [Qu'ran Surah 17 verse 85]. Translator.