the short story project


Sheikha Hussein Helawy | from:Arabic

R.A. Looks for his Eyes

Translated by : Basma Ghalayini

(From Letters to the Editor)

We chose this letter amongst hundreds of letters that the newspaper receives. The reader preferred to sign his letter with R.A.; he asked for it to be published in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the newspaper. It wasn’t your normal letter; it didn’t follow the regular pattern of other letters, not least because of its mysterious and erotic details. I’m not belittling it at all, it actually sheds light on a moral dilemma that will provoke a big reaction and controversy. I am sure that this letter will confuse you the same way it confused me, a journalist with decades of experience.

We will publish your comments on this letter in the next issue.

The Editor

This is the text as received by the Editor a week ago, it’s exclusive to the newspaper

R.A. searches for his eyes

This letter is for me to vent, nothing more. A bit of verbal diarrhea if you will. I am not looking for understanding or tolerance from anyone, I have never cared much for such things, and nothing has changed. I am burdened, that’s all there is to it, and I don’t trust the mumbo jumbo of therapists nor can I find any of my friends to confide in who wouldn’t think I’m a babbling lunatic the moment they looked inside my head.

This letter is a temporary alternative to my pathological habit of staring at myself in the mirror constantly checking to see what’s left, of my face, my hair, my athletic physique, my ripped muscles. It’s all there, all the same except for my eyes, I can’t see them in the reflection, but how can I see my reflection if my eyes aren’t there? All I see are two hollows, two deep black caves drowning in a deep darkness.

I am simply looking for my eyes.

No one had pointed out that I had lost my eyes, it seems that only I can see that.

I will not apologize for anything I say in here, except for my ineloquent language, I’m not a writer nor am I a journalist, so I apologize! Other than that I won’t apologize for anything I have done, it’s my business which I will handle myself. Why am I writing then? I don’t know, maybe there’s someone out there who is also searching for their eyes like me.

Where should I start? From that moment when I noticed a woman in her fifties watching me from her verandah and again another time watching me while I trimmed the trees, ever since I noticed her looking at me intently and watching me until she lost sight of me.

She didn’t leave me much room to doubt her intentions. Two days later she was standing in front of me to invite me for coffee at her house to make a proposition. I knew she didn’t want to ask me for help with her garden, she wasn’t checking my gardening skills, or my buff muscles, she was looking long into my eyes, so lingeringly that I felt she would never look away.

After a few minutes of awkward silence she suddenly said, “My daughter is 25. A few years ago she started suffering from atherosclerosis. She’s now in the room next to us, neither dead nor alive. I have grown used to this state of limbo, between life and death. Her eyes used to speak to me, they said a lot. I used to listen well and understand, but a month ago she went silent; I mean her eyes stopped somewhere. Do you follow? Do you know what it means for eyes to be silent? For a whole month they haven’t said anything. She will be gone soon, I know it. She will be gone without saying a word and that hurts me. Would you agree to spend a night in bed with her?”

I nodded in agreement, but my head was void of any other thought or intention. Was I aware of what it meant to be a mother’s last gift to her daughter? No. I was empty of identifiable emotion.

Her 25th birthday is tomorrow and it might be her last, what do I give to a girl who has been laying in an open grave for years. A man and pleasure?

No it wasn’t the pleasure, it was the warmth that could possibly break the coldness in her eyes. She was entitled to the experience of real warmth from a life that she was imprisoned in under false pretenses.

“Do you follow me?”

I didn’t follow, but I nodded again.

In the next room, I read her eyes and saw my reflection in them, so clear and miserable. I saw my face, my hair, my nose, and two big black caves. I saw my reflection in an icy mirror cracked down the middle, I saw my whole life.

I know the question on everyone’s mind is whether I made love to her? Did I enjoy it? Did I feel her pleasure? I also know that each one of you wishes that there were a camera recording the whole thing from beginning to end, along with the ability to remotely control this camera, have it zoom in on the intimate parts and their mechanistic movements.

I only know that ever since that day I have been searching for my eyes.

One question mercilessly replays in my head: was she the only dead alive person in the room or was it both of us.

Alive and dead.


9 thoughts on “R.A. Looks for his Eyes

  1. Mahmoud Saeed says:

    could you please provide me with Arabic version?

  2. Hana Nidbach says:

    Sounds strange and and beautifulat the same time

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