Just Bad

March 23, 2010

I drove past the corner and got not more than a glimpse. Two pools of hardened and darkened snot played the role of eyes in an ash-like face that threatened to crumble at the slightest wisp of wind. She stared at each passing car,shaking her inhaler at the people inside. Her manner said I blame you!, her existence said please help me.

Even though I wasn’t rushing past her, wasn’t particularly late for my piano lesson in Dokki, I did not stop to give her money. Barely even tried. I reached out for my backpack on the passenger’s seat, gave the zipped money pouch a little pat as I contemplated wriggling out some money, but quickly (casually) decided that it would take too much time to do it with one hand and intermittent peeks. Traffic was pushing me forward.

She tapped on the back-seat window of my moving car and still I drove past her. And for the rest of today I felt uncomfortable. Bad even. Not wretched. Just bad.

Twenty-three minutes later I was at my piano lesson with Jane. Jane’s wonderful. She’s a British elderly woman with a zingy young spirit, white hair and big glasses. I play the piano but I lack the technical deftness that make a virtuoso pianist. I play with my heart though and it’s a constant rift (not full-fledged battle) between heart and hands. When I don’t play well, my hands win. When I do, my heart wins. Today my heart lost to my hands. And because there is almost always a reason when that happens, I wondered why.

I finish and we hug and I start heading back to Maadi. Somehow I manage to get lost and rather than taking the 30 minutes it usually takes for me to get home, it took me 2 hours. Acquaintances would remark that this is not necessarily a peculiarity to my general state of absentmindedness. Nevertheless, I thought to myself this is one of those days.

I get home and fall asleep as I read my novel and dream weird dreams that resurrect the much longed-for dead, only to send them and us down death’s aggravating path once again. And it seemed cruel and I woke up gasping. That feeling crept up again. Bad.

Later that evening, I’m talking to a friend on the phone and he tells me about how Vodafone blocked Skype and how this is preventing him from effectuating his weekly video-call with his (almost) two-year-old nephew. This happened at a time when a series of other unfortunate events transpired for him so I felt genuinely exasperated on his behalf. In an attempt to console and express my mutually reinforcing feelings of frustration and compassion I blurted “I’m very sorry for all the various reasons”. And it came out all wrong. Like I was saying a self-aggrandizing statement that was about me when it wasn’t. And I felt bad.

I am choosing to believe that my driving past that woman was what started me off on the wrong foot with myself today. This is not the first time that I have failed to provide a needy person with assistance. It is never an act of parsimony. Nor is it one of premeditated meanness..Excessive rationality coupled with momentary laziness are most likely the cause. And more often than not, I actually do assist. But it is those handful of times that I find haunting and nagging me now and I couldn’t really say why now.

I remember a certain Cuban Creative Writing professor/novel writer, who was a guest speaker for my Third World Literature class a year or so back. I remember her saying that at some point in her life she found that she was unable to write. Severe writer’s block. Long story short, she had some personal issues that she wasn’t dealing with and she didn’t feel good about neither her life nor herself and she couldn’t write because of it. She was clogged up and couldn’t transcribe her thoughts. So she decided to transcribe her feelings instead. And, according to her, it solved her problem.

I felt clogged up too. This morning, at piano. And all day after that. So I’m writing about it now. So that I can feel better and play better. And just feel better. And I made a decision that never again will I walk away (or drive away) from a person in need. If only so I won’t feel bad afterwards and I wondered if it mattered if I was doing it for myself. Doing it, either in part or in whole, to make myself feel better. Me instead of the needy person. Not instead. Perhaps in addition to. Does that strip the act of its inherent probity. Warranting it less merit. In God’s eyes. In peoples’ eyes.

I think of the woman with the snot eyes and ash face and her inhaler and I think…probably not.


3 Responses to “Just Bad”

  1. Yehia said

    That is really beautiful. We should know that we can make our selves happy or not. It depends on how percieve things

    • ben a said

      I agree, that was really beautiful and I missed this posting 1st time around. I think it will help me next time someone asks for help.

  2. julee said

    Dina, Just read this entry this morning. Yes, beautiful writing from a beautiful, inspiring young woman. On days gone/going bad I must sing/play piano/take walk to release the inner turmoil. In these moments of emotion I can find my connection to the “distress” of our world. julee

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