What we can say about K? I myself don’t know. It seems to me, as to all who might ‘know’ him, that K is a creature you cannot describe; a phantom, a phenomenon. Maybe he’s not a phenomenon. A phenomenon is a certain state which defines exactly the borderline between the usual and the unusual. Essentially, in terms of these borderlines, they do not know what K is.
Let’s try out luck, gathering from our naked brains what we can recall about K: he’s an oldie. That’s one. He’s living alone, and as we live in this modern luxurious compound, far away from history-stuffed downtown, there’s no old story to explain the reason why. That’s two. It seems that he keeps a lot of cats around. That’s three. (We say ‘it seems’ because we can’t figure it out precisely: does he foster them, or are they just unfortunate cats, which fate led to K to be eaten?). He prefers to eat canned food, as the supermarket’s delivery boy said. That’s four. He never leaves his condo, like a devoted priest. That’s five. We can assume, therefore, considering these five points, that K is not a sociable character.
Ok. Then, what we can really know about K? Not a sociable character? What’s so very unique about this?!
You know those mysterious figures you can find around, who gave us the privilege to stereotype them as poor crazy fellows who live alone, or notorious fugitives, or simply serial killers? Even if he was a poor fellow or a fugitive or a serial killer, what do the adjectives say about the guy?
Who is that guy exactly?
I must say that I am grateful: we are always surrounded by questions. It’s the very salt of life, and our dear K here is one of the greatest provocateurs of them, just as is a huge, fat rat passing by an Egyptian Mau.
Unfortunately, not all humans know of this marvellous wisdom so many of our street’s inhabitants cannot bear to hear about K. And while asking themselves in annoyance about that nasty guy who’s wandering from side to side behind his window, leaving his dark spooky shadow before their eyes, they do not acknowledge any meaning in the question, and they don’t appreciate how K helps them kill their time by questioning who he is.
In most of cases, people either hate the unknown, or respect it if they have to, but in our case, they don’t need to respect the mysterious figure, so they loathe him openly. Loathing which has no reason but that he does not prove to them his humanity, his deeper weaknesses, his hatred, his goofy excitement for a football team he’s supporting or his ravish fever when he had a sick son or daughter. He was never seen seated on chair, whining about losing erections or from an overshadowing wife. He never asked anybody to facilitate to him some bank debt, that they might have a dispute over how to pay the favour back.
Myself, I was aware of his great role in this empty life: he is the maker of those questions. I respected that about him. He could be simple and leave me to an empty, predatory life. Thus, I was ready to answer, or try to answer. I was ready to try to reveal something about K.
I sat down in my room and engaged with my brainstorms. What can I do to achieve this great aim? I spent days and nights thinking.
I know that K gets his supplies from the supermarket by a simple procedure; the grocer boy would leave a box filled with the merchandise before K’s closed door, then, after a fixed fifteen minutes, he’d return to pick up an envelope containing the money, no credit card or any shit. (Another good question arises here: from where K gets all of this cash?!). And as for the menu, it’s simple; K has never changed what he gets from the supermarket. Funnily enough, the supermarket boy mentioned that a phone call from a third person had set all of those rules and K didn’t even use his own voice.
Ok. I live three blocks away from K, so I can’t spy on him through his window, that legendary, ever-closed window, but I had a friend in that block, so, instead of calling him, or picking him up by the front door, I managed to make him take me inside the building, intending to spend a part of the night in his place. He was astonished that I insisted on using the staircase, and for sure, my sudden urge towards sport did not convince him. But I wanted to see K’s door, that dusty, wooden door, which isn’t that unique, either in its grace or its ugliness. It was a plain door, which doesn’t say anything about its owner and not like any door that has some respect for itself.
It wasn’t such a useful encounter. I needed a concrete, sure thing.
I was just about reaching a dead end, but suddenly, as I was buying a pack of cigarettes from the supermarket, and while the boy was passing me by, I was hit with a luminous idea. What if I could switch places with the grocer’s boy? Yes, me wearing his ridiculous blue shirt, firmly grasping the grocery box. I could hide in the corner of the corridor ’til our K showed up through his plain door. He’d look around suspiciously before leaning down to grip the box in an awkward smoothness for his age. Yes! He’d be a smart elderly man with long, silver hair and a trim beard, a sporty old fellow who can charm beauties either of the suitable age or unsuitable age as well. Thus I imagined K, and a driven desire took me over to prove that intuition true. Some folks from the luxurious compound would recount that he’s a tall guy, well built, with a nose that seems like a hook. But it was all imagination evoked by his nonchalant shadow passing by in front of their curious eyes through his closed windows.
I could then describe him precisely to our street’s folk. It would be a historic and interesting event, like a newly discovered island or a lost continent that fate has tossed in front of an adventurous sailor.
But wait! the one who discovers the islands won’t just photograph them, nor will he describe them from his seat on a distant boat.
I’d switch places with the supermarket boy. I’d ring the door. I’d wait behind the corner in the corridor. I’d see K leaning on the box with that smoothness which is strange for his age. I’d run to him, to push him with one hand, and in the other hand there’s a long, lovely, shiny knife, excited to be used in order to narrate long endless stories which would enchant the long summer nights in our luxurious compound, or in a quiet resort here or there.
So the mysterious K would be discovered, one story after another, and the adventurous and brave sailor would be envied because he was there to listen, and he is here to tell.
I was alerted by the boy’s disappearance into the supermarket maze. I ran after him, feeling my wallet within my warm thick jacket.
After a few words and lots of cash the boy agreed to what I asked. Why should he care about those lunatics’ whims? They have their own world and he has his, what’s important is to keep himself away from their resident evil. So the boy took my money and evaded my wickedness. He told me that he’d deliver the merchandise after a couple of days, exactly at 12:00 as he was used to. I’d meet him in front of the building, hand him some more money, then the good stories would be told at nearly 12:10.
One Day After, at 12 o’clock pm
I was excited. I kept walking around my street, staring at his block with a crazed excitement. Twenty-four hours only and your long stories will be mine, dear K. I was gazing at the absent-minded people going here and there; lost souls doing things they really do not understand or love. Deadman walking. Deadman talking.
I went to sleep with a wide smile on my lips. One brave guy out of your pitiful compound would do something positive. It would be the first time ever one of you would do such a thing. One of you would dare to answer the questions—some of the questions, to be accurate—that you all fear. It came to me that some answers wouldn’t be easy and some of them would be out of reach, so I got up, sat on my bed, and thought. A mask, gloves, and black clothes, all would be such theatrical touches to my elegant knife. I imagined myself in that costume and I looked as great as a fugitive from an American comic. The smile returned to my lips and I let my mind lose itself in long passages filled with lights, sounds, and darkness.
Morning, 3 hours left.
Standing before my mirror looking at my mysterious aura; I wear my black outfit, a shirt, pants, and shoes. I leave my mask, the gloves, and the knife in a neat black bag. It came to me that you could never explore a mystery by being mysterious yourself.
Morning, 2 hours left.
I am eating my breakfast, drinking my hot coffee in a slow enjoyable steadiness. I came to this nonchalant café in our compound for some relaxation before an exhausting trip. I saw a young woman standing before me, her brand new cell phone in her hand, and her blue dotted scarf—the latest fashion—resting dearly on her subtle, pointy breasts. It seemed like she caught my gazes behind my black shades, and a small smile took over her lips.
Morning, half an hour left.
The sun is moving confidently, pushing morning away. The warmth of noon is present and vivid. I am walking down my stairs. I’ll soon be hiding by the corner of K’s block. The boy will come, ringing the bell, entering the block, and he’ll leave the door open. What comes after that is known, but I enjoyed recounting it again and again, moving steadily towards my fate like an exploring sailor.
Everything seems so perfect and so in place: the sun reflecting on the asphalt, the quietness, and a runaway fresh breeze hitting my face while the provocative weight of the bag in my right hand gives me a childish whim to swing it upwards and backward, as if a teenager wandering off in half-an-hour of happiness.
One thing is not perfect.
I see an ambulance, and a police vehicle, both stopped before the block’s entrance. I see the boy standing by, looking at me. I shake my head and lips, like “what’s going on?” I can’t believe anything would interrupt my plan. Will I wait for another month? Nope, that will not happen.
Some folks are hovering around, either walking, or with shiny cars, their curiosity is so obvious, shooting their stupid gazes at the two vehicles. I want to go to the boy and ask him to delay handing over the merchandise. He’ll have the police and ambulance as an excuse, but then he’ll ask for more money. For sure he’ll do that, but I am not going to wait for another month. I’ll give him more money if he wishes. Either way, I will do this today.
I am about to walk to him, and then I see it.
A tall body was laid out on a trolley. The ghost of a smile takes over the boy’s lips while pointing discreetly to the dead body, in a way that could be shy or just ironic.
It was such a nasty odor, K’s neighbours commented. It wasn’t new that there’s something strange happening in K’s place, but it was the first time ever they’d smelled such an odor. One day, and then another, and the odor was still growing nastier. A phone call to the police and then they found the corpse of a neighbour nobody knew, but there’s someone who just called him K.
I’ve stopped, looking at the trolley. It was him. It was his corpse. I clasped my mask, gloves, and the knife resting deep down my pockets.
Noon, no time left.
Standing alone, peoples’ murmurs are hovering around me. Sweat, a chilly pattern sliding slightly over my nose. A burning ecstasy is playing roughly. I notice the supermarket boy talking to the cops, pointing me out. Sweat. The street’s asphalt is sending heat to my face. Sweat. Cops are gazing at me. Sweat. I really don’t know what I am going to do, because the sun’s beams of light seem like a sweet long knife, hitting me on a precise trajectory.
All artwork is courtesy of Reda Khalil.