An Early Morning Stroll

I woke up in the middle of the night

I peaked out of my tent and went to the table that me and the other campers sat on. They were all fast asleep and all I see were a bunch of dried leaves on a table from some late night experiment, four cans of hot dogs filled with nothing but slimy hot dog water and some odd bits and pieces, unfinished bags of frites – potato chips shaped like tiny fries – some of them were on a disposable plastic plate, a giant, almost finished bottle of vodka stood up in the dirt, an unfinished bottle of Cranberry Ocean’s Spray, and a whole lot of plastic bags, packaging, and plates. It was a fucking mess. It reminded me of how filthy we humans are – how we are no less animals than the crowing roosters at the break of dawn and no less savage than the stray pack of wild cats that roamed as we slumbered.

I roamed the area in my dirt-covered slippers. My toenails, outlined in dirt as they tiptoed around a seemingly abandoned campsite. I paced back and forth, up and down, around and around, with nothing to keep me company but my thoughts. They lead me to strange places and instil fears in me that I never figured existed. I imagined intruders ready to ransack and massacre us. My heart heaved and almost burst out of my chest – but I nonetheless continued to pace. I began to reflect on the whole experience: meeting new people, laughing and joking and gossiping, swimming in the pool, the road trip, peaking into each other’s tents and cockblocking the horny couple trying to get it on in the corner, playing “Never Have I Ever” and confessing our brief experiments in homosexuality, and trying to flirt with L., the beautiful, sexually liberated and free-spirited brunette.

She was a young adult filled with teen spirit. She laughed and joked the hardest. She was loud, she was fierce, she was bold, she was straight to the point, and she was also friendly and easy-going. I was undeniably charmed by her. I really enjoyed our time together. But I kept thinking about whether the feeling was mutual and it drove me to pace.

I thought about my drunken stupidity: my obnoxious laughter and speech, overuse of crude jokes, thoughtless interjections, etc…

In my silence, I shunned my laughter and banter and gossip. I thought myself a fool. I was compelled to apologize for my stupidity – for being too happy with myself. It was as if the Jinn crept up on me – harassed and insulted me. They hurled their everpresent hatred for me.

“You are an idiot”
“You are a burden”
“You are a nuisance”
“No one loves you”
“You are an object of hatred and pity”
“You will never know happiness”

Despite everything, they will never leave me. They want to smite me. They want to remind me that I am ephemeral – temporary like smoke. They make me hear conversations that aren’t there.

“It’s not his fault. He’s just not aware…”
Are they talking about me?

A wild cat appears. It’s more scared of me than I am of it. So I approach but it seems to almost back into a corner and no one wants a cornered cat. I fed it some leftover frites. It’s not like anyone was gonna eat it any way. It was a small cat with black and grey fur, and green eyes. I would pet it but it doesn’t to like humans very much so I kept my distance.

But I needed to get to my tent so I walked in and gave it some space to run. I tried to sleep but I kind of gave up. So I went on reading my Naked Lunch. It was an orange paperback…

By Omar Jamal

Originally written July 21, 2018

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