By Myriam Amri
This short story won first place in the nonfiction category of the Sekka Literary Prize 2022.
I. The death of Khaled
Khaled was twenty-seven years old at the time. There were not many things known about him, not many truths, just rumours, and always vague one. That he was one of these men you could never quite get out of your head. That even years later, his face would still haunt you. Actually, no one ever said anything upfront about him. Rumours were just things everyone knew, cloud-like ethereal stories floating from wherever, that passed between mundane conversations and across words. People did not speak about him around us; friends of his we met years later would rarely mention his name, and when they did, they would whisper it to themselves while turning their gazes away as if they had been told to keep his existence a secret, a thing of the past that can never be uttered back to life.
He was attractive, with an angular face, a jawline that seemed to cut through steel, a slender body, nervous, long, and stretching without any disproportions as if it seamlessly came into shape with the world. He had slanted almond eyes that always looked smaller than expected because he laughed very often, and when he did, his eyes lengthened across both sides of his face until they became thin lines with black, brilliant rocks inside them. He laughed at everything, genuinely eating the world with his glee. There were old cassettes of him laughing by the beach, laughing at my father, laughing with children. In all the photographs of him, he laughed, his lips broadened, his entire face stretching from the edges of his mouth. In the videos, when he laughed, his large shoulders shivered, and at those moments, he was suddenly a bit out of place—too long, too lean, too brown—but it was an endearing out of placeness, as if he became more real with the shudders of his body. Yet, it was not his beauty that made him stand out. It was the way he existed around things, carelessly yet so carefully, how everything was present to him, how everything had to be touched, imaginedand enjoyed. He was reckless, but it was never a dark desperation but a recklessness for life, a desire to exist without compromises, fully in the moment.
Was it because he was already carrying his death inside him?
This story is part of The Power of Words Issue. To continue reading this story and to read the issue in its entirety, click here to buy a digital copy of the issue.
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