Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bahrain Blues

For an enhanced experience, listen to this piece while reading the post below.

Sometimes it feels that things have changed when they really haven't. It’s still the same smokey foreground down at the shore, you were just away from its pungent, sweage-ridden aroma for a good while. On the other side of the island, the faithful continued to wail over a long-lost martyr, but you stopped believing in the old legends. Meanwhile, reality lay in the form of prostitutes loitering the length of Exhibitions Avenue, and they have only become younger and pricier, peddling pennies from patrons boasting hefty amounts of disposable income; the would-be johns usually hail from Saudi Arabia, where deprivation is rampant and money flows incessantly.

To Dishdasha, the only half-decent spots in that stretch of road were the National Bookshop, where she spent a good deal of her younger years perusing a multitude of titles—many of which were prohibited in her home nation—and the Kudu breakfast joint where she enjoyed pancakes and scrambled eggs without having to endure the sight of a thick wall segregating her from single-male citizens. Alas, that branch ceased to exist in recent years, and along with it, the memories.

That evening, she puffed clouds of smoke outside of the Hard Rock Cafe, a once-popular bastion of booze-hounding and New-Year’s-Eve parties. The customer base waned substantially, and was now limited to the few souls making the pilgrimage to nurse a drink and reminisce about better days; an ode to a dying franchise. Dishdasha was due back inside, though she preferred it out there in the street. The mixture of aromas and sounds transported her to another dimension. Too goddamn cold to stay out here any longer.

After a few minutes of quiet musing, she extinguished what remained of the death-stick under her the might of her boot, promising herself for the hundredth time that month it would be her last cigarette. It was her hundredth lie, a drop in an inner-pool of past transgressions. Her black trench coat was complemented by a wide collar protecting the back of her neck from frigid December winds as she made her back into the bar-restaurant.

All eyes were on her once more as she strolled between the tables en route to the bar counter. It’s not everyday that usual customers get to see someone donning a fedora without a single hint of irony, which set her apart from the tools in Ralph Lauren and Burberry polos who shared the same mistaken belief that money buys taste. The constant determined look she wore undressed the lot of them instantly, reducing them to infantile, pre-birth states.

Dishdasha re-took her seat, and the old-timey barkeep with a Clark Gable mustache rubbed a clear mug with a white cloth of dubious cleanliness, and the light emanating from a hovering spotlight reflected on his balding scalp. This, in addition to a well-timed, noir-themed event complete with a piano-jazz band, set up a nostalgic mood. She was living out Casablanca in Manama, personifying the best parts of Humphrey Bogart and Carmen Sandiego.

“Some more whiskey?” the Barkeep inquired as he readied a new bottle. She responded by lightly pushing her glass toward his general direction. He obliged by topping it off with freshly distilled Jameson, drowning the remnants of half-melted ice on the bottom.

“I can smell your latest attempt to quit smoking,” Barkeep snarked.

“I’m positive it’ll work someday,” she said before taking a soft sip. “Not that it matters, I might die tonight before the Marlboros can have a shot at doing me in.”

“I haven’t seen you in a few years, and I thought I never would,” he said. “I figured it was going be either the smokes or the ‘adventures’ you put yourself through.”

To be continued. Maybe...

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