It was the end of June, a hot and humid morning on the southern Dream Beach¹ of Tartous. I slept alone and rather erratically, having watched Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 in the FIFA World Cup Final the night before. A bunch of friends and I had consumed plenty of beer and whatever leftover bottles we could find in the secluded chalet. I had a terrific hangover and couldn't tolerate even the smell of coffee. Instead, I gazed at the endless expanse of blue from the western terrace then walked lazily on the warming sand. Only if someone could stop the goddamn spinning, I wished. I threw myself in the tantalizingly refreshing water and surrendered to the sensual fingers of the undulating waves. The salty breeze and the engulfing wetness brought me back slowly and without coercion to awareness. My muscles relaxed. The pounding in my temple eased off. What a glorious day ahead, I mused.
I had nothing to do or worry about. My immediate concern was to secure some basic form of breakfast. There were eggs in the fridge, Labneh, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. After filling my stomach with solid food I could return with a book, a beach umbrella and a towel to my favorite spot where the soft breakers came to rest at my feet. I needed a pair of slippers, I thought, for the round trip to the chalet. The sand would be getting hotter and hotter by the minute as the sun rose unblinkingly higher and higher. I would read for an hour or two then go back to the chalet. In some kitchen cabinet there were at least a dozen cans of various types of junk food and olive oil. I saw a knot of bread² and potatoes over the counter. I will throw in something with the potatoes and have lunch straight from the skillet. The plates were piled high in the sink, unwashed. Sure, the place was an absolute mess and in dire need of cleaning but it wasn't something I was willing to lose my precious time over. I would clean a knife and fork, yeah, that I would need. The telephone line was out, oh thank goodness for that. There will be no interruptions. No calls from anyone to join me or for me to join them. For the afternoon, I schemed, suspended on my back like a dead porpoise heaving up and down on the surface of the sea, I could fill the icebox with cold beer and fasten it to the inflated inner tube of a car tire. I would then tie the tube to the folding chair placed knee-deep in the water. I would aptly sit and the chair would sink down evenly until it settles firmly so that the water is at the perfect nipple level. Ahhh, I'm so smart, so efficient at minimal work, I'm a damn genius, I beamed with pride and delight. Two, three beers down my belly, I would contemplate the meaning of life and probably nap. I would need a baseball cap and my sunglasses to minimize the glare. Ooooh, what a glorious day indeed.
I ran back invigorated. It was time to execute this perfect plan of mine. My eyes caught the reflection of the sun in the mirror of the parked Yamaha. My brand new cherry colored 135RX beckoned at me: Come ride me you hunk of a male, she whispered. With less than a 100Km on the odometer, I couldn't resist the seduction. Should I have breakfast first, I wondered. I didn't think so. I couldn't keep her waiting much longer and I was getting very excited myself. Ok baby, your man is coming, I smiled at her like Clark Gable. I was wearing only my wet shorts, absolutely nothing else. They weren't even swimming trunks, just plain blue, cotton, sexy and very short shorts.
She purred at my first kick-start. She was too hot and bothered to be warmed. Take me for a spin darling, she begged, give it all to me. I smiled again, more idiotically this time, a little like Tom Cruise perhaps. The road down the Dream Beach strand of chalets was as close to a ¼ mile drag race stretch as we could ever have in Tartous. It was much longer and narrower though and offered plenty of opportunity to go wild on two wheels. There were only me, a horny motorcycle and hot asphalt as far as the eye could see.
I fore-played the petite Yamaha and watched her RPMs going up and down the green range of the dial. Her purring changed into whining then screeching moans of ecstasy. Oh damn you take me hard, take me all the way, red-line me now, now, now....... she screamed. I gave it all to her and her needles rose into an insane frenzy of speed, 120, 140, 156, 57, 58, 59, aaaaaaahhhh 160 km/hr, OMG, yeS, yES, YESSSSS. My tears flowed, hair pulled back, lips twitching, my nipples tormented with the rushing onslaught of pinpricks... and, and... up ahead in the distance, 50 meters or so, straight forward, a tiny dot was approaching from the opposite direction at an unbelievable pace. I could see it getting bigger and bigger while at the same time I was realizing fully that I could never take any evasive maneuver anymore. I remember that split of a second as if it was shot with an extremely slow motion camera. How could I forget.
I mentally surrendered to the fateful impact. A nanosecond before we collided, the maniacal Kamikaze took a vicious dive to maximize the damage. My recognition of the identity of my assailant and his death happened at the exact same instance. He was hideous, evil and yellow, an Asian giant hornet who flew all the way from Japan to avenge his honor. Evidently it was too much for him to digest the sight of a Japanese bike and a Tartoussi guy going wild with each other on a beach road. Goggled, bandana-ed and scarfed, he flew his last mission for the glory of Japan. He extended his 6 mm stinger, released his lethal cytolytic peptide venom as he was squashed into oblivion against the soft tissue of my balls.
The blow was so powerful I felt as if I were kicked in the crotch by a heavyset and ugly Russian soldier from one of the Bond's movies. I released the throttle instantaneously. I had to crawl on all four, take the fetal position and die somewhere on the shoulder of the road. The Yamaha finally came to a complete stop. I laid her on her side and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY I screamed, a demented soul rolling and turning in the dirt like a butchered animal. My first thought was how far the chalet was. A couple of hundred meters, I guessed, in heart wrenching agony. After what seemed to be an eternity, probably five minutes in real time, I summed what was left of my strength and limped back in the saddle of my bike to my hole in the ground. I stepped in the chalet, closed the door behind me, pulled down the shutters and shades, collapsed on the floor and lost consciousness in the darkened room.
The poison flowed in my bloodstream and my temperature rose dangerously high. I swam in a pool of sweat as my whole body was taken by a fit of shivering. Paralysis spread from my loins down through my legs and up toward my chest. I dosed on and off and suspected seeing the grim reaper at the edge of my vision. A long spell of hallucination followed leaving me clueless as to the passage of time. It was pitch black outside when I leaned on my elbow, crawled to the sofa and managed to switch the light on. I was swollen, all of me. An allergic reaction to a massive dose of venom left me like a useless lump. I could hardly breathe as I looked in dismay at my swollen shorts. The lump was the size of a softball and if you're not familiar with softball, suffice it to say that it's at least twice as large as a baseball and not by any means softer. My legs buckled underneath my weight and I lost my mind completely. Nightmares and delusions shone, flickered then dimmed like ignes fatui as the night and half of the following day consumed themselves. A little before sunset on the next day I was still in the exact same spot on the floor but my eyes regained focus and the fog in my mind began to dissipate. I removed the remnants of the martyr and his stinger off my left ball. He had a wicked grin on his face the sonofabitch. I was still pretty swollen and multicolored like an old Bollywood movie when I took off my shorts but I knew that the worst had come to pass.
A little before midnight, after a cold shower and a gallon of water to drink I sat quietly in the night enjoying the quivering image of the moon on the gentle surface of the sea. The air was moist and pregnant with untold secrets and I could hear the echoes of laughter in the distance. My temperature and heartbeats were gyrating closer and closer to normalcy. I was still weak and shaky but feeling much better. Will I ever be the same, I wondered. Twenty three years later and I still don't have an answer.
Dream Beach = Shate'e Al Ahlam
Knot of bread = Rabtet Khebez