Marwa – Part XXIIJun 19th, 2010 | By Lois Bassen | Category: Marwa, Series | 892 views
October, 2004 – January, 2005
“Does it seem like Spain at all?”
How gaudy Barcelona Gaudi is, whose Hotel Attraction he
long before designed to rise where our Towers fell.
What wild dreamscape is this now we call The City?
Upsprang the aboriginal name,
City nested in bays! my city!
More Oz than Oz, this is the world’s alter ego & other home.
In Kansas City, they’ve gone about as far as they can go,
but, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
Autumn in New York, why does it seem so inviting?
Autumn in New York, it spells the thrill of first nighting…
If James-Beekmans would agree to go to a play Marwa wanted to see, she’d go to the Yankees-Red Sox game on Wednesday night, October 20th.
“You don’t seem to understand,” James-Beekmans said, showing Marwa the precious pair of tickets, “what these mean.”
He had to sit down at her desk chair. He shook his head a few times.
“What play?” he asked.
“NINE PARTS OF DESIRE,” Marwa said. “A Midwestern blond Catholic woman with family in Baghdad wrote it, and I want to see it. An ancient hadith from a few generations after the Prophet says, ‘God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one to men.’”
“You sure that’s translated right? Sure, we’ll go, it’s no big deal,” James-Beekmans shrugged, looking down at the tickets in his hand. He looked up at Marwa, “In the previous 100 postseasons and the 138 best-of-seven series, no team has ever fallen behind 3-0 in the postseason and rallied to force a seventh game. This is the seventh game.”
“It is a big deal,” Marwa said.
“That’s all I’m saying. Why are you shaking your head?”
On October 28th, Desiree forwarded her girlfriend Bess’s email from Boston to everyone in her Address Book, THEY WON IT! THEY WON IT! THEY WON IT! It’s a great time to be in Boston! Last night we joined neighbors pouring out into the streets to jump for joy and high five and hoot into the night! What collective joy, when an entire city is thinking the same thought at once, savoring the moment and appreciating the suffering, the years of so-close, and almost, and maybe-next-year! But no more! Today, God rubs our Red Sox tummy!
Marwa did not share the email with James-Beekmans.
We’ll have Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, too,
It’s lovely going through the Zoo…
Even in a hurricane, New Yorkers don’t stay home.
Fastforward movie motion like maggots on a carcass.
I don’t have any reasons. I left them all behind. I’m in a New York state of mind.
But at dawn in Bryant Park, a businessman stops before work to play his bagpipe,
Amazing Grace, the Ode to Joy,and the Marine Corps hymn.
‘I get a lot of thank you’s,’ the bagpiper says.
After 20 years, he’d found an instructor on the Lower East Side,
and asked, Teach me.
The great big City’s a wondrous toy –
We’ll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.
James-Beekmans’s mother kept a boomerang on their fireplace mantel, he explained to Marwa, because she asserted its origin was African, not Australian, and because it represented her philosophy of life. “Which just ‘shows to go ya’ as my father thinks it’s a riot to say, that for anything, there’s always an irrational explanation.”
It was a golden October day, sycamore leaves scuttling in a cool breeze, made for walking home from school, which is what Marwa and James-Beekmans were doing, only it was Fordham they were walking from, to his parents’ home for dinner. It was plaid skirt and leather jacket weather, and Marwa was wearing the former as James-Beekmans was the latter, brown leather darker than his skin.
“That should be your 4th law, after Newton’s 3, for every action, there’s an equal and opposite irrational one,” she said.
At the Beekmans’ dinner table, his mother irritably forbade any political discussion.
“I don’t cook with stomach acid,” she said, and then to Marwa, “and just call him James.”
“Leave Marwa alone,” Mr. Beekmans said. “She can call him anything they like, it’s a free country with free speech.”
This was such a pointed reply to the anti-politics-at-the-table-rule and so currently ludicrous that everyone laughed. Then James told a strange story about a friend whose backseat had been stolen out of his car back in May.
“Four months to the day after the seat was stolen, this week, he walked up to his car to move it to the other side of the street to avoid a ticket, and right on the sidewalk almost touching the car was his back seat. He put it back in place, and it matches and fits perfectly.”
“James,” Mrs. Beekmans said, “did you mail your Gates application?”
James saluted. “Yes, Mom, a week early.”
New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town! The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down…
East Side, West Side, all around the town,
The tots sing ‘Ring-a-Rosie, London Bridge is falling down.’
Boys and girls together, Me and Mamie O’Rourke, tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York.
If I can make it there, I’d make it anywhere.
A little Moslem girl from Queens called ‘her most beautiful skyscraper’ (the Chrysler)
‘the Jesus Building’–
Autumn in New York, it lifts you up when you’re run down,
Jaded roués and gay divorcees who lunch at the Ritz will tell you that ‘it’s divine!’
Autumn in New York, you’ll need no castles in Spain.
In Japan, in October, 2004, a 10th typhoon broke a previous record of six-in-one year, coming only ten days after the strongest typhoon in a decade had hit Tokyo. The typhoon was named Tokage, or Lizard in Japanese. Much of Japan’s highly efficient transport-
ation system came to a halt; airlines canceled 937 flights, and bullet train service was suspended between Tokyo and Osaka, the busiest line. At least 66 people died and more than 300 were injured in mudslides and flash floods. As the storm started to swirl through Tokyo, Japanese members of the environmental group Greenpeace held an outdoor news conference in front of the Shibuya Train Station, asking Japan to meet its commitments to reduce emissions of gases blamed for global warming. The number of typhoons to strike Japan that year was the highest since Japan started keeping records in 1551.
Happy Hallowe’en, Marcus i.m.’d Marwa. You shoulda been at our Math Dept costume party, beauty pageant for equations.
What’d you go as? Marwa asked.
1 + 1 = 2 printed on a tee shirt. Tell Joey I won.
Joey had written a story in second grade, “The Power of Plus One.” It was very short, as suited its title. “Once upon a time there was a boy named Joey. He counted all his fingers and toes, his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth, his belly button and more. Then he couldn’t count anymore. Then he said, “1 + 1 = 2!” and then all he had to do was add 1 more, and no one could stop him counting ever again. The End. Plus 1.”
Lovers that bless the dark on benches in Central Park greet autumn in New York,
it’s good to live it again.
Aphrodite promised Adonis, There shall be an everlasting token of my grief,
and every year an imitation of your death will complete
a reenactment of my mourning; the blood of Cinyras will be changed into a flower,
but enjoyment of it is brief, for lightly clinging and too easily fallen,
the winds deflower it, whereby its name, windflower,anemone.
Brevis est tamen usus in illo; namque male haerentem et nimia levitate caducum excutiunt idem, qui praestant nomina, venti.
These things that happen in the particle of time we have to be alive,
these violations which almost more than any altar, ark, or mosque
sanctity by enacting so precisely sanctity’s desecration…
Autumn in New York, it’s good to live it again.
Marwa walked up the subway steps through a low cloud of fog clinging to the ground. It wasn’t Bleeker Street of the Paul Simon song, it was Wall Street where a primitive stockade barrier had been built 400 years before to protect Europeans from Mannahatta natives. Fog mixed with currents of steam that seemed perpetually to rise from underground vents throughout the City now that it was chilly mid-November. “I saw a shadow touch a shadow’s hand,” the song lyric whispered, “on Bleeker Street … a poet reads his crooked rhyme/ Holy, holy is his sacrament…” Marwa frowned, craning her neck up at the new building where her father now worked on the north side of Wall Street. It looked like something Joey would’ve built a few years before out of blue and grey Legos. One block north on Pine Street, looming over the ghostly shadow of the Wall, stood a mini-Empire State Building which Marwa knew as the American International Building. How easy it had been to tease freshman burros from the Outer Boroughs that it really wasthe iconic wonder up on 34th Street, and what a rite of passage that had been for Stuy students, to torment or be tormented. Another fragment of high school memory returned, out of context, without meaning: these violations…more than any altar, ark, or mosque/ embody sanctity by enacting precisely sanctity’s desecration. Oh, yeah, when they all had to bring in a poem after, C.K. Williams was the poet, someone actually said “hot off the presses” or “smoking” when Ground Zero still was. Marwa walked into the Lego skyscraper’s lobby of high, white, postmodern Romanesque arches, hearing the hard k sounds repeat, arK – mos(K)que – sanKtity – deseKration – .
She was welcomed by her father’s secretary. Marwa sat down in a cushioned chair facing his desk and the window behind it. She saw the new school photo of Joey as a sixth grader. “He looks so old!” Marwa said.
“Imagine how you look to me,” her father said.
“He grew four inches since June, according to Mommy. He looks more like you than Sharif does.”
Her father glanced at the photo. “Yes, as you do. Sharif favors your Aunt Fatima.”
“Without the fat,” Marwa said.
Mr. al-Hal smiled but said, “I didn’t expect you.”
“I’m not in for the weekend, Daddy. Mommy doesn’t know I’m here. I wanted to see you, and then after lunch I’m seeing Dr. Rawi. He had to change our appointment day this week. Maybe a patient felt suicidal after the election. I’m having lunch with some Stuy teachers, then uptown to Dr. Rawi, then back to Fordham.”
“You wanted to see me, not at home?”
Marwa took a deep breath. “It’s about the diamond. I had a dream about it, and I talked about it with Dr. Rawi, and it’s time to make a move.”
“So it needs to be appraised.”
“Then sold and the proceeds invested in something redemptive. It’s a waste to leave it in a safety deposit box, like the stupid ending of TITANIC when she throws the blue diamond into the ocean.”
“I hope you have a child like yourself one day.”
Then, Marwa saw her father’s expression change also as a color shift. But the colors were gone, like a dream she couldn’t remember.
“I am sorry,” he said.
“For what? What have I done?”
“This diamond, this shabka from a naked Colossus over Times Square. I don’t know what to make of it.” He got up from his desk and turned to the window. “I had no talent for religion, but I thought your mother –”
“Not naked, Daddy. It wasn’t an engagement ring or anything like that.”
He turned to face his daughter. “What was it like?”
“The diamond was…alchemy, something that could…change…a theft from him into a gift for me.”
“That makes no sense.”
“I believe it’s what Prix believed. When does belief make sense?”
“You believe, you believe, but you don’t believe –.”
“Oh, Daddy, neither do you.”
Mr. al-Hal sat down. “My failure should not be yours.”
A rose glow was around her father’s shoulders. Marwa saw it and felt warm. “I could just see they were fairytales,” she said. “The bubbles in one religion float like the bubbles in another, and all bubbles burst according to the laws of physics. There may be truth in stories, but not the whole truth. Will you return to Egypt when you retire someday? I can’t go back.”
“You don’t know where you’re going,” her father said.
“Choose ‘reasonable probabilities over unexaminable certainties. If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t.’ Isn’t that how you invest?”
“Money isn’t all there is to life.”
“No, it’s just ‘four thirds.’ Everything is everything elseand itself. Please help me with the diamond.”
“And we’ll dance at Sharif’s wedding next summer,” her father said wearily.
“Ah,” Marwa said, “yes, so he gave her the shabka.”
Marwa walked out into the cold November air and smelled chestnuts charring on a street vendor’s cart. Hungry for lunch, she pulled her coat tightly around her and walked uptown. The diamond and Prix’s face in her dream came back to her as she walked, and she saw them in her mind’s eye along with Dr. Rawi in his office, and the Indians looking up at the stockade barrier at Wall Street. James also grinned at her – there was no over-crowding in her mind as there was on noontime City streets. She could also hear James’s black voiceover, ‘Think of it, the first humans who ever walked on this ground, did they come from the south, crossing from Jersey, or from the north, crossing the Hudson at a narrower ford, 10, 13 thousand years ago?’ Then Dr. Rawi’s voice, ‘What do you think?’ and she felt back in the sensual dream, Prix’s placing the hard diamond into her palmas his deft penetration. Marwa walked up West Street, her heart huge and pounding. As Prix had given her what she desired, she would give back his innocence!
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep – He hath awakened from the dream of life –
He is a portion of the loveliness which once he made more lovely…The soul of Adonais, like a star,
beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.
On the rim of the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park,Prior Walter’s “favorite place in NYC. No, in the whole universe. ‘This angel. She’s my favorite angel.
I like them best when they’re statuary. They commemorate death but suggest a world without dying.’
For a ruined Heaven of bureaucrats, the playwright invoked San Francisco, but for ‘More Life,’
New York is the Angel you wrestle to win your name,
well worth a lifetime of limping thereafter.
‘You will always have to make choices, and finally all life can offer you in the face of these terrible decisions is that you can make the choices freely.
Recognize Hamlet’s ‘interim’? That’s New York.
Marwa read a Tom Wolfe story titled “Monday” that James had recommended, about a contractor renovating a Brooklyn apartment: Fitch was hungry. He wanted to get home and eat… But he wanted to leave with less abruptness that the sudden silence suggested, so he took a step toward the windows of the living room, his face lit by the skyscraper light, and said, “On September eleventh, we were working on Joralemon Street. When we heard that first plane hit, we went up on the roof. Everyone kept on saying, ‘Jesus, Jesus,’ and we stayed up there, and watched the towers come down. The dust on the windows is from the Trade Center. It will have to be washed down carefully, or the mineral grit will scratch and fog the glass. And it will have to be done respectfully, because the clouds of dust that floated against these windows were more than merely inanimate.”
When he turned back to them, only the father was there… “Her husband was in the south tower,” the father said quietly. “He didn’t get out.” Then he turned and went after his daughter, walking stiffly down the stairs, like a crane.
Marwa loved that the contractor and his men all decide to do this huge renovation at No Charge to the young woman because the contractor says, she needs “this gesture.” It had the most beautiful last line, when the young widow calls to thank the contractor because she understands what he’s done. She doesn’t say anything after hello, and Fitch waits because“he knew that she needed time to regain her composure.”
“You bought that?” They were drinking strong espresso in a café downtown.
“What?” Marwa dropped the lemon peel she liked to lick.
“No charge?” James said. “That’s why they call it fiction.”
Marwa got angry. “The story is Helprin’s gesture. His gift to the City,” she said and burned her tongue on too big a swallow of the hot coffee. She looked out the café window at the Village shops lighting up in November early twilight. “I loved it.”
That year, the last day of Ramadan was Sunday, November 14th, and an animated feature film, MUHAMMAD: THE LAST PROPHET, opened on Id al-Fitr at 93 movie theaters nationwide. Marwa’s mother wanted Joey to see it. “I’m not a baby,” Joey protested toward the kitchen as he bothered Marwa (who had come home for the holiday) by juggling minature blue nerf footballs around her.
“Baby,” he repeated as a beat for his tossing.
Marwa put down the newspaper. Joey caught the nerf balls.
“You still angry about the election? Mommy and Daddy double-cancelled you out.”
“You don’t know how Daddy voted. He’d never tell.”
Joey resumed juggling the blue footballs and dropped one on Marwa’s head. She grabbed all the spongy footballs, walked to a window, and threw them out, watching them falling and upswelling on cold gusts. She turned and saw Joey’s face.
“You fuck! Fuck you!”
Marwa remembered the little boy for whom “Metamorfick!” had been a curse. A week later, Marwa was pacing around the common area of James’s dorm room; his two roommates were in their bedrooms also studying as finals neared.
“What does it matter where Alexander’s buried?” Marwa asked.
James looked up from reading, distracted. “What?”
Marwa stopped pacing. “It doesn’t matter where Alexander was buried or moved to or anything. What matters is that if he was someplace, then he is.”
“Is that a new Law of the Conservation of Matter & Energy? Marwa’s Law of Human Dynamics?”
“I don’t know if I want to live in this country,” Marwa said. “My father left Egypt. People can move. We’re not trees.”
“People move for different reasons.”
“That’s a content-free statement,” Marwa said.
James tapped the text he was reading. “Nope. It’s fulla content. Why’d anyone ever go to a place they named Iceland? Lydveldid Island. Pronounced Lith-vel-dith, with Nordic t’s called ‘thorns.’ It must be a bitch,” James lisped, “to have a lisp in Iceland.”
“I’m not joking.”
“You could try.”
“We could leave this country,” Marwa said.
“They believe in elves in Iceland. ‘In Kopavogur,’” James read, “‘a section of Elfhill Road was narrowed from two lanes to one in the 1970’s, when repeated efforts to destroy a large rock that was believed to house elves were thwarted by equipment breakdowns. The rock is still there, jutting awkwardly into the road, but it is unclear where the tenants are…’”
“You wouldn’t leave the country?”
“I’m not moving. I’ve got roots which evolve to wings, then words. My City. We the People. ”
“You’re angry. I don’t think your father was afraid when he left Egypt, either. Or the religious fanatics that settled in Massachusetts or landgrabbers of Virginia.”
“Don’t tell me how I feel.”
“Jesus. Okay, I won’t,” James said, looking down at his book. Marwa left.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like Eskimos—
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style,
in the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. Children laughing, people passing,
meeting smile after smile, and on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear:
silver bells, silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the City.
Marwa and James communicated only by email as well, without mention of the breakup. Between semesters, they were not on campus and did not see one another. Marwa wrote, I knew this year’s Siemens Westinghouse winner when he was a freshman at Stuy.
What is that, $100,000? What’d he win for? James replied.
Yes $, he invented a gyroscope that converts energy fromocean waves into electricity. A practical energy source without fossil fuels. The ocean is the world’s largest energy storage system.
The day after Christmas, the floor of the Indian Ocean slid over part of the Pacific Ocean, releasing massive tension in the Earth’s crust.
Huge Quake Spawns Tremors and Tsunamis in Southeast Asia
A huge earthquake rocked Southeast Asia on Sunday, setting off tsunami tidal waves that killed more than 150 people in Sri Lanka, sent residents rushing to high ground in Indonesia and washed into the Indian city of Chennai and the Thai tourist island of … The quake of magnitude 8.5… Thousands Die as Quake-Spawned Waves Crash Onto Coastlines Across Southern Asia The world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years erupted underwater off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday and sent walls of water barreling thousands of miles, killing as estimated 12,000 people in half a dozen countries across South and Southeast Asia, with thousands more missing or unreachable. The earthquake, which measured 9.0 in magnitude, set off tsunamis that built up speeds of as much as 500 miles per hour. TOLL IN UNDERSEA EARTHQUAKE PASSES 25,000; A THIRD OF THE DEAD ARE SAID TO BE CHILDREN Toll Soaring, Survivors Face a 2nd Terror: Disease Dead Are Put at 57,000 as Bodies Wash Ashore – Many Missing
By January 2nd , 150,000 were estimated dead. January 7th,Tsunami’s Ripples, Unnoticed, Washed Along Atlantic Coast The tsunami that ravaged countries all around the Indian Ocean also hit the eastern United States, though only the tide gauges noticed… The tsunami was so powerful that it swept around the world over within 36 hours, with its last residual waves perceptibly jostling tide gauges from Russia’s remote northeastern Pacific waters to the North Atlantic…
A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise in an animal facility in Mombassa. The hippo, nicknamed Owen, weighing about 650 lbs., was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean, then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on Dec. 26th, before wildlife rangers rescued him.The 100 year old male tortoise seemed to be very happy to be a mother to the baby hippo…
A nanotechnology expert who had discovered that a yeast cell produced about 1,000 vibrations a second, which, when amplified, produced a musical hum which sounded beautiful, theorized that his technique could be a unique tool in the war against cancer: to figure out if a cell is malignant, doctors could simply listen to its sound waves…
What was the sound of malignant cancer cells clapping, Marwa wondered. She continued reading The New York Times Science section. A January 10th report from the San Diego meeting of the American Astronomical Society, announced Vestiges of Big Bang Waves Are ReportedAstronomers reported that they had convincingly seen, in the patterns of galaxies scattered across the night sky, the vestiges of sound waves that rumbled through the universe after the Big Bang. Marwa walked shivering to the subway to meet Judy Yamaguchi for lunch in the Village. Windgusts at streetcorners were bitterly cold; Marwa tried to remember the heat of their summer tattoo & earring day at the Seaport at the end of August, 2001, just before her first time with Denim Prix. Then Marwa shivered differently, thrilled as she sidestepped dirty snow heaps and descended icy subway stairs.
Sexy ladies from the 80’s, who are indiscreet;
they’re side by side, they’re glorified, where the underworld can meet the elite,
42nd Street. Naughty, bawdy, gaudy, sporty, 42nd Street!
Hot town, summer in the City, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty.
Take the “A” Train. There is a rose in Spanish Harlem;
Me and Julio down by the schoolyard. I like New York in June, how about you? I like a Gershwin tune, how about you? Come on along and listen to the lullaby of Broadway, the rumble of a subway train, the rattle of the taxis.
(fromMarwa by Desiree Lipshitz)Help Support T21 with your Dollar Donation Today
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