First part: “Stratos Dionysiou at Mount Sinai” http://sanejoker.info/en/2016/10/stratos-dionysiou-at-mount-sinai.html
Time is way more mysterious than space. Einstein blundered by placing them as roommates, turned them into twin brothers and most of all conjoined them in one body like Siamese brothers, then coined the term “spacetime” and thought he was done.
But time is introvert and antisocial, hiding from all and sundry. Some say it doesn’t even exist and occasionally time comes around to this point of view.
What is time? Past is gone, present is indeterminate (Now! No, it’s gone…Now! Gone again), future is yet to come.
So how on earth could you put time in the same room with the ever-present prosy space?
It is said that when Albert published the theory of general relativity, he received an anonymous note. The only words, with capital letters and threatening exclamation marks, were: STOP CALLING THE TIME CURVED!!
Something tells me that the sender was time itself.
When I entered the shed of Sinai, space was absent. I couldn’t see anything. There was only time that counted the minutes in 4/4 time.
There was also a smell, like an adolescent boy’s room from the boondocks, who never ate madeleine or read Proust.
My eyes adjusted to the semi-light and the space emerged through time. Timothy was standing nearby with his gaze fixed on the corner, on the spot where the counter of time was to be heard.
It was an old man, half-naked and bald with a swollen nose. He held an opened copy of Playboy with his right hand and with the other worked his dick up and down, desperately and indifferently.
On the cover was Pamela Anderson, the Baywatch lifeguard, who moved to the rhythm of the jerk-off while her inflated boobs were not affected by the gravity whatsoever. Her orange life vest was of no use to man or beast in a place where no one ever drowned.
“Aquarius”, it read beneath Pamela’s hand, “a short story by Don Delillo”.
Within seconds I thought that I would like to read Delillo’s story, I thought that many renowned American writers had sold stories to playboy magazine, I asked myself how much money did they get for doing so, then I thought that it makes no difference to sell your stories or the pictures of your naked body to playboy, then I wondered who was most exposed, Delillo or Anderson, I wondered who prostitutes themselves most, the writer or the model, then I came to the conclusion that everything is art and maya and nothing is worthier than this and then I stopped thinking because I got tired.
Timothy was standing next to me but I don’t know what was going through his head. Maybe nothing, perhaps he was tired, too. Maybe his eyes alone were still in service.
We didn’t talk. What could we possibly say to each other?
The old man carried on with his occupation, then he turned the page and began to read (perhaps Delillo’s story)
-“Do you speak English?” asked Timothy.
-“Fuck your mother’s pussy”, said the old man in fluent Greek.
-“Are you Greek?” I asked politely in plural form.
-“Do you see a lot of people in here?”
-“You mean Greeks?”
-“Are you a moron?” he asked me. “What is this, a new Attica dialect?”
As soon as he finished his sentence, he sprang to his feet and made strange movements, as if he was trying to touch the wall and something repelled him.
“Let’s make it to the Sinai Mountain”, said Timothy.
-“Sinai, magpie, bonsai, don’t cry” said the old man and laughed. “Sinai, goodbye”.
Timothy swilled around to look at me. His hands and face made a question mark, as if he was asking me what was going on.
-“There is nothing to understand”, the old man told him. You are used to measure the world with your words and their order, but they are nothing but words, horseshit.
-“Do you have a name?” I asked him in singular form, the way he wanted it.
-“I once had” he said. “When I lived in the world, they called me something. But it doesn’t matter. I didn’t choose my name”
Suddenly, like a lightning, I realized that I wasn’t talking to a man who cared one whit about the things that should be said, about all these typical words.
-“What did you choose?” I asked him.
He gave a laugh and came closer to me. He meant to touch me but withdrew his fingers when they were one centimeter away from my face.
“We choose nothing” the old man said. We are bound to be either slaves or servants or masters. But there is no freedom. You are already something before you even talk. You live in this world since the day you were born and you are recorded in the registry office. Freedom is an empty word, as empty as the person you must be.”
“Didn’t you choose to come here?” asked Timothy politely.
The old man relapsed into his strange movements and curses.
-“Singular, Timothy. He’s only one.”
-“Right, singular. Didn’t you choose to be a hermit?” said Timothy.
The old man laughed.
-“A hermit? Who told you that I’m a hermit?”
Timothy showed with his hands the shed.
-“I’m alone”, the old man said. “I’m not a hermit. But I don’t want to see people, I’m sick of you.”
-“Then what about this?” I told him pointing Pamela Anderson.
-“This is no human.”
-“Is it…a woman?”
-“No, you dimwit, it is a picture.”
He was barking mad, nevertheless he was right, too. The photograph of a human is not human, ceci n’ est pas une pipe, the painted breads don’t fall and the silicone lifeguard wasn’t exactly human.
-“How long are you here?”
-“It doesn’t matter either”
His gaze was fixed on a spot behind our backs and out of the shed.
-“The words”, he said. The words of the sand. That’s why you also came here, right? Keep away, don’t see them, don’t read them, no one can go on, nobody can take moving on once they read them.
The truth is, we were in Sinai to find trace of our grandfather, Dogas. In 1953, when CIA had conducted a coup in Iran, Timothy Seaman – his American name – had settled in Raitho, known as El-Tor, the port of Sinai.
Timothy, the grandson, called me and he proposed me a trip to Raitho.
-“Where is this?” I had asked.
-“In Sinai Peninsula.”
-“It sounds nice but right now the money I have suffice for a trip to Alexandria; I mean the one in Imathia of Greece, not the one in Egypt.
-“Don’t worry about money.”
-“I wouldn’t, if I had more of it.”
-“I will deduct the money as expenses for a research I am supposed to do about the Aramaic language and its impact on sociopolitical attitudes.”
-“And how do I fit in?”
-“You will be my assistant. You can speak Arabic, can’t you?”
-“Fluently. La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah.
-“You’d better not utter these words in Egypt.”
When you are offered a free trip, you just can’t let it go. Besides, I was dead keen to learn more about this weird guy Dogas, the gangster who became an agent and he is probably my grandfather.
I would see the monastery Kazantzakis described and I would walk on one of the most sacred mountains – for all three religions. I couldn’t find a good reason to decline the offer.
With hindsight, I’d rather gone to Alexandria of Imathia.
-“What are the words of the sand?” asked Timothy the old man.
He withered and sat on the floor.
-“I shouldn’t have told you. But…if you talk about these things, you can’t lie. You can avoid seeing them but I must tell you.”
It became quiet. Only the dog scratching itself could be heard and from afar something like the sound of angels’ trumpets. Then the old man spoke.
-“Jesus of Nazareth before become Christ, lived for a month at Sinai. He fought his demons, himself and triumphed. He defeated delusions and time. When he emerged from the cave, he was aware that he would be crucified and deified. He knew everything about the men. Before he set off to Israel, he wrote the only words he ever did. They are there, in the cave, the only words that God himself ever wrote.”
And he fell silent.
I felt like laughing and swilled around to look Timothy. He didn’t seem to be remotely amused.
-“Where is this cave?” he asked the old man.
-“Hold on Timothy, wait a minute, it just can’t…”
-“You have to walk half the day from the port towards the north. There is no road and the camels can’t go, something repels them.
-“The Sandistess will find you.”
-“Their Order exists since Jesus’ crucifixion. The first abbess was Maria Magdalene herself.
Only then he turned around to look at me. I asked him to go out for a minute. The dog was scratching itself and the sound of the angels’ trumpets was the bus’s horn. The damage was repaired and they waited for us. But Timothy seemed to be lost.
-“Don’t tell me that you believe all this bullshit the screwball says” I told him. The only words that Christ ever wrote? Christ, if he ever existed, never wrote a single word.”
-“How do you know this?”
-“How do I know this? Had he written anything we would know, it would be the best seller of archaeology. Is it possible?”
-“You became much too rationalist in the blink of an eye.”
-“I guess it is because I have to deal with irrationalists. I adapt myself to keep the balance. Give it some thought: Did he write something on the sand? Two thousand years ago? And it’s still there?”
-“Yes, this is odd.”
Without answering me, he entered the shed again. I followed him while the bus kept calling us.
-“How did his words remain intact on the sand?” he asked the old man.
-“This is the monks’ mission.”
He elaborated with an unbecoming soberness with regard to his madness. In Sinai it scarcely rains. Moisture is just above zero. The wind can’t reach the inner of the cave. The mission of Sandistess is to preserve things that perish. Maria Magdalene had selected right from the start women who didn’t know Aramaic. And so it is, up to this day. In this way, nuns can’t read the words on the sand, the words of Jesus, neither alter them.
To them, they are meaningless markings and they preserve them exactly as they found them; for if they did, they might modify them.
“If they could understand them, they would have eliminated them” the old man said. “So, that no man could ever read them.”
-“Did you?” Timothy asked him.
-“I wish I didn’t.”
-“What do they read?”
The old man turned his gaze towards me.
-“You have a boy, is that so?”
-“Yes but, OK, the 50%…”
-“Don’t go in the cave, don’t read the Words of the Sand. Go back to your child.”
-“Don’t worry, I don’t know Aramaic, neither I’m in the mood for…
It was Timothy who spoke. “I know.”
-“May God give you strength to endure this”, the old man said.
Then he lay on the straw bed and turned his back on us.
We got out again. Then sun was almost set, the dog was meditating and scratching itself and the bus was trumpeting. We walked speechless in its direction.
-“A little longer and I would leave you behind”, said Tasos when we climbed the bus and he started the engine.
We took our seats behind the driver.
-“Did you find the saint?” asked the guy who was in charge of the group.
-“Yes, it is not unusual somebody to be sanctified prior to their death in Coptic Church.
-“More like a madman in my book”, I told him.
-“A saint has no conscience of his holiness” said a fart behind me.
-“The mad of his madness, ditto.”
-“That’s why we are all mad. Mad is someone who can’t accept they live in a mad world”.
Tasos, the driver, greeted these words with a laughter.
-“Stratos had sung about everything”, and he put on the ninth song:
I ask “where do you take me, my heart?”
and answers “to your missing part”
Better off along with you, insane
than apart from you and sane
to be continued
Translated by Alexandros Mantas
Since we’re not native speakers, feel free to suggest improvements and make corrections
And some music by Residuos Mentales https://www.facebook.com/residuos.mentales/