A Three-Page Fragment of an Autobiography

The dog that a moment ago pissed on the light pole next to my hut belongs to the lawyer who lives across the street from the mosque.

Now that I've put down a sentence on the page, I can turn to my real task. Getting something started has always been a problem for me. It was so, I remember, even in my school days. Used to take me hours to write the first sentence. Habits persist. That's why I hastily put down a sentence on the page. I must confess, however, it's not the first sentence that had occurred to me. That was something like this: I must put on this paper some goddamn sentence and get over this stupid obstacle that still seems to lurk in the labyrinthine galleries of my mind. A pretty sentence that one, but that's neither here nor there. What matters is: the first sentence has been written. The dam's been broken. Let's get down to business. Let ideas flow from the tip of my pencil. But bear in mind that the sentence at the top of this page has nothing to do with what I'll be writing now.

The real task... no, not exactly a task, rather the real desire that incites me is to write on these pages my autobiography. It's an old desire. They persist too, you know, the old desires -- like old habits. But I've said that already. Still, it seems to me that habits and desires have a great deal in common. Or am I mistaken? I may have a habit of desiring, but can I have a desire to habit? Yes, that is it. Put them in a single contextual frame, mutatis mutandis. First one, then the other. See what changes are required. Example: I have a desire to kiss my ass; I have a habit of kissing my ass. Probable, impossible, respectively. That makes it perfectly clear. There's a common element shared by both. By what? By them, the habits and the desires. However, though I'm quite willing to say I've always had a desire to write my autobiography, I can't say I've been in the habit of doing so. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I'm getting down to the act itself. The reason is simple: until today I never had the means to write. Correction: during one period of my life, the aforementioned school days, I did have the means to write. But then I didn't have the desire. By the time the desire developed, the means were gone. So how did I come by the means today? Through the negligence of a student who comes to see me frequently. Today he left behind these few sheets of paper and this pencil. Very careless of him, no doubt, but he's a fool. An imbecile too. Always scratching his crotch, he is, even while asking me questions about the nature of the Divine Essence. God, how I suffer! I spend hours explaining, but I doubt if he understands one word. In any case, he isn't really interested in such matters. What he actually wants from me is something else, and he isn't slow in making the demand. He wants me to take in my hands his copy of Palgrave's Golden Treasury, mumble a few words of Divine Wisdom over it, then open it at random seven times. Each time, he takes down the page number. That, he says, would help him prepare for his exams. I must do this ritual with all his text books -- Gems of English Prose, Jewels of Economic Theory, Nuggets of Political Thought -0 the whole hoard of them. How can I refuse him? He brings me food, and betel leaves, and tobacco. He also massages my legs and rubs oil on my buttocks, which are getting all knotty and blistered from sitting on this sidewalk. You see. . . no, I guess you can't. . . well, it so happens that my hut, or rather what I call my hut, is nothing but two pieces of straw matting put tent-like on the sidewalk. During the day, I sit outside; during the night, I crawl back under my straw tent. Sometimes I stay inside even during the day, for that doesn't stop me from watching the people come and go. I am indoors usually on Mondays and Saturdays. Often also on Wednesdays, Tuesdays and Sundays. To be more precise -- and truthful, which I should be at my age -- I come out only on Thursdays and Fridays. Thursdays, people go to my right, i.e. they come from all other directions than my right and go to my right -- to the cemetery. Many of them pause to greet and give me what their good wives give them for me. The next day -- i.e. Fridays -- they go to my left, i.e. they come from all other directions than my left and go to my left -- to the mosque. Again they stop to greet me and give me whatever they bring. I'm going to be honest and tell you right away, I don't like this arrangement at all. Left to me I'd have the cemetery on Mondays, and the mosque on Thursdays. Of course, there would still be only two days between the cemetery and the mosque and three days between the mosque and the cemetery, but that can't be helped. Not while we have this wretched calendar we work with. The problem will remain even if the days are changed to Tuesdays and Saturdays. Unless, of course, the government does something about it, which, again, is neither here nor there. Still the fact remains that these fine men, their good wives, myself -- everyone -- would be happier if the days were changed, say, to Wednesdays and Sundays. Wednesdays for the cemetery, and Sundays for the mosque. Or the other way around. The dead in their graves, I'm sure, can't care less what day of the week they get their visitors. Actually, who knows if they desire any visitors at all? They might enjoy more being left alone. However, if a tradition exists it should be respected. Who am I to take away from the dead their one day in the week? Further, that would mean a reduction in my bounty too, for scarcely anyone comes on other days. Except someone like that foolish student, the one who left behind today this butt of a pencil and these three sheets of paper. I've already written on two; this is the third I'm finishing. What! THIS IS THE THIRD PAGE? Oh hell! There's no more paper left. This was the last page. Only three pieces of paper, and I'd desired to write my autobio 


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