Arab Spring is Over
Why does it have to be tonight, I thought, walking up the stairs that led to my friend Hamid’s apartment. It was on the fifth floor of a slender building that did not have a lift. He was engrossed in a pile of tobacco when I entered.
“Man, come on over,” he said with a wave of his hand. “This shit is the cream of the fucking crop.” He held up a cellophane packet plump with oil, unfolded it and asked me to smell the contents.
“It’s good, it’s very good,” I said after a couple of sniffs; lately it had become something of a routine with us. I made myself comfortable on the peach coloured sofa and tried not to think about the job.
Hamid was scooping up the contents with his large thumb and running a flame over it. All the while he was talking about how much money he’d make if the deal went through.
“We’re gonna be reeech,” he said. “You and me, man. When we roll this shit, the whole town’s going to be after us. There’s nothing like this. You see how runny it is? The hallmark of good stuff. Shit’s pure as shit.”
“Look, Hamid,” I began. He glanced at me, his thickly bearded face cocked to one side, eyes crinkling. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
“You gotta smoke some first,” he said offering me a fat joint.
“See, Issey doesn’t…doesn’t want you to be involved anymore,” I said, gently brushing his hand aside.
Hamid’s face froze in a smile and slowly, almost imperceptibly, turned stony.
“He sent you to tell me this?”
“Look, I can’t defend you anymore Hamid. All that shit you said to those guys at the meeting the day before. That really pissed them off you know. And Issey too.”
“Oh, that?” Hamid mumbled flicking his lighter, the joint dangling from his thick black lips. “They were insulting the Prophet. You know how I get when people insult the Prophet.”
“They were talking about Arabs for fuck’s sake, not the Prophet.”
“The Arabs are the Prophet’s people,” he said blowing out a ring of smoke. “Insulting them is tantamount to insulting the Prophet as far as I’m concerned.”
“But those guys were our suppliers. They can say whatever the fuck they want. Do you realise how much we’ve lost because of you?”
Hamid leaned forward and inhaled; a hiss emerged from between his clenched teeth.
“This shit that you’re smoking is all we have left of the good stuff, Hamid. We’ve lost our contact. If you hadn’t lost your fucking head…”
“What’s done is done,” he said, sinking back into his armchair.
“I’m worried about you, bro. This shit isn’t doing you any good. You can’t be smoking and running a fucking enterprise. You’ve been off your game for a while now. People are talking you know.”
“Let them talk, what do they know?”
“That’s the thing man, you don’t listen. You’re too…how many times has Issey told you to cut down? You’re high as a motherfucker, tripping the whole fucking day away. You’ve got to clean yourself up. Go to a fucking detox clinic. You’ve got to get back to being a normal guy.”
“I am normal,” he exhaled in my face and grinned, exposing two neat rows of teeth yellowed with tobacco.
“You’re hopeless,” I said lighting up a cigarette. “Issey won’t see you anymore. You’re lucky he didn’t have you beaten up. He was livid. I’d never seen him like that.”
“Fuck him,” he said.
“No, fuck you. You’ve ruined everything. You’re hanging by a fucking thread and you can’t see that.”
“So you’re on his side huh? Fine, get the fuck out.” He stood up and walked towards the door.
I put my cigarette in the ashtray, got up, and stood behind him; he had a good six inches on me and was brawnier, but I had done this before. I reached into my back pocket, whipped it out and ran it hard and deep along the front of his neck. His legs buckled and he crashed to the floor gasping, blood spurting from the gash. I’d got the carotid. He was done. I stood over him and felt a wave of regret and nausea.
I dashed into the bathroom, puked into the toilet and flushed. I washed the blood off my arms and the knife. Then I went back into the living room, removed my half-smoked cigarette from the ashtray, opened the front door slightly and looked. There was nobody about. I ran down the stairs.
Down the road was a white Mitsubishi with tinted windows. I climbed into the passenger seat.
“Arab Spring’s over,” I said.
“Good,” came the reply from the front. “Most good.”
I got out of my shirt; cut it up with the knife and put both in a bag on the back seat.
“Dubai’s great this time of the year, eh?”
“Yes,” said Issey turning his tiny head towards me. “Time to go shopping.”
when in doubt, whisper non sequiturs.