Editor’s note: A hakawati is a Lebanese storyteller, a holder of tales. “Listen,” Rabih Alameddine invites in his 2008 novel, “Allow me to be your god. Let me take you on a journey beyond imagining. Let me tell you a story.” Here is a small piece of that story, one that I couldn’t resist. -AER
Once there was and once there was not a devout, God-fearing man who lived his entire life according to stoic principles. He died on his fortieth birthday and woke up floating in nothing. Now, mind you, floating in nothing was comforting, lightless, airless, like a mother’s womb. This man was grateful.
But then he decided he would love to have sturdy ground beneath his feet, so he would feel more solid himself. Lo and behold, he was standing on earth. He knew it to be earth, for he knew the feel of it.
Yet he wanted to see. I desire light, he thought, and light appeared. I want sunlight, not any light, and at night it shall be moonlight. His desires were granted. Let there be grass. I love the feel of grass beneath my feet. And so it was. I no longer wish to be naked. Only robes of the finest silk must touch my skin. And shelter, I need a grand palace whose entrance has double-sided stairs, and the floors must be marble and the carpets Persian. And food, the finest of food. His breakfast was English; his midmorning snack French. His lunch was Chinese. His afternoon tea was Indian. His supper was Italian, and his late-night snack was Lebanese. Libation? He had the best of wines, of course, and champagne. And company, the finest of company. He demanded poets and writers, thinkers and philosophers, hakawatis and musicians, fools and clowns.
And then he desired sex.
He asked for light-skinned women and dark-skinned, blondes and brunettes, Chinese, South Asian, African, Scandinavian. He asked for them singly and two at a time, and in the evenings he had orgies. He asked for younger girls, after which he asked for older women, just to try. Then he tried men, muscular men, skinny men. Then boys. Then boys and girls together.
Then he got bored. He tried sex with food. Boys with Chinese, girls with Indian. Redheads with ice cream. Then he tried sex with company. He fucked the poet. Everybody fucked the poet.
But again he got bored. The days were endless. Coming up with new ideas became tiring and tiresome. Every desire he could ever think of was satisfied.
He had had enough. He walked out of his house, looked up at the glorious sky, and said, “Dear God. I thank You for Your abundance, but I cannot stand it here anymore. I would rather be anywhere else. I would rather be in hell.”
And the booming voice from above replied, “And where do you think you are?”