Photo by JOHN VATER
A MAJESTIC MAN
When the Majestic Man stood up, we stood up. He was indeed majestic, but also smiley, friendly, firm, corrupt - and a butcher. He looked at us and in a tone full of affection said:
“I have come to reveal to you the truth”
He sat down, we sat down. We were in a ballroom, at one of the hotels in Madinat Nasr owned by the Armed Forces. There were many attendees and the Majestic Man sat on the most majestic seat. We were all looking at his face with wonder, it had acquired a warm and endearing red hue from the red masking tape covering the spotlights turned on him.
I had heard many things about him before attending this meeting. I knew that for some time now, he had been engaged in the task of washing Egypt’s bills. Once he received the dirty bills, he would take off his clean, official suit and put on his washing suit. He would then set out to wash all the bills that had been sullied by each and every accountant on Egypt’s pure lands. The bills all looked the same when they left the accountants’ drawers: as though they had been printed only seconds earlier. The Majestic Man’s job was to wash the invoices in a way that lent each a unique age and color.
Try and imagine with me this man’s incredible washing powers. Oh, I forgot to tell you that the Majestic Man has eight arms; a frontal view reveals six, and a back one two. He also had four eyes and three feet. Most extraordinary about this man was his ability to spout a green cleaning solution from his mouth, as though a hose connected that beautiful mouth to a minty ocean. Because not all the attendees knew just how majestic the Majestic Man’s powers were, he decided to put on a quick display by washing half a million fake invoices.
He got up, we got up. He said:
“I imagine you understand now”
He sat down, we sat down. We weren’t entirely sure what he meant, but we all felt he was using majestic words, and our belief in his powers grew.
The woman sitting next to me leaned over and whispered in my ear:
“This is a man I respect”
I looked at her and saw that she was truly dazzled. She then added:
“Don’t you see how beautiful and enchanting he is?”
I nodded in agreement.
An army of young people all dressed in pale blue entered the room to place food and drinks on the tables. Another woman sitting at my table announced that she wanted to know how many bills a year the Majestic Man washed.
One man, as tall as a palm tree assured her that the Majestic Man was one of a few in the world who could clean up all its filth.
The all-pervasive treachery and deception had to be concealed from the masses and this is where grand figures like the Majestic Man came in, their role was to clean up the surface of life and to give the impression of law and order. Thanks to this man, the world glows more brightly on camera screens.
The human palm tree stood up and still addressing the same woman pointed to his suit and said:
“Do you see how shiny it is?”
No one responded and he went on:
“That is because this Majestic Man spat on me as I was greeting him”
He raised his arms to display his armpits, and accidentally hit a large lamp that was hanging from the ceiling. Its sides broke releasing blue detergent over our heads. As though that were a divine sign the Majestic Man struck a lantern placed before him releasing the same liquid. Then, with all of his eight arms he struck all the lanterns in the room, transforming it into an ocean of soapy froth. At that point, the majestic arms turned into wings, and he flew over our heads, declaring in his kindly voice:
“You shall drown and die in the name of truth, and to eradicate evil. You shall die so your homeland can live on”
His words sent us into ecstasy. The dazzled woman hung onto me so she could raise her arms in support of the Majestic Man and cheer for his life. I swallowed a liter of the blue liquid, and turned into a red man. Strange fluids came out of my nose. The thought that I would die with a clean nose brought me joy. Before the final curtain was drawn the Majestic Man landed on one of the swimmers in the pure ocean and sang the national anthem: “Bilady, Bilady, Bilady” (My homeland, my homeland, my homeland). Every set of eyes in the room was dampened by tears of emotion.
Translated from the Arabic by Nazli Ali