The Beetle

by Shaikha Khalifa  

Original artwork by Adnan Samman.

Original artwork by Adnan Samman.

The act of being is sickening. Disgust like an overdue stench trapped in the skin. Self-imposed isolation from all that resembles my reality. Naturally, the distancing occurs, from culture and geography and all that is physical and sentimental. A composition of that and a nerve to think I can construct my own for reality was simply irrelevant. 

At twenty-four, my vanity caught up with me. My world became unbearable, shrunken, as tight as skin, even smaller at times. An ill-fitting turtleneck, closing the throat up on itself, is how suffocating it all became. Reality was very present, books and films hard to enjoy. Habits of discarding my geography for a visually striking sequence in a film is an unacceptable mental state. I wake up some mornings longing to talk to Francis Abernathy or Alyosha Karamazov. Our conversations only last until the final pages, and I am forced to look elsewhere for solace. Escape is hard to realize. 

Agony came at the claws of a beetle making its way to who knows where on my living room couch, a cozy room with dark wooden floors and a glass door that takes you to a modest but beloved indoor garden. My beloved tends to occasionally invite tiny unwanted guests and usually, my annoyance would be immediately resolved with a flick of a finger or a tissue box. Lately, however, I have been aware of my tendency to disconnect. Burdened by the inability to sympathize or relate. Suddenly a reddish-brown beetle was walking on that dusty yellow couch I am so familiar with, and all was realized. I realized why my humanity does not feel whole.

That red dot unraveled a huge sense of suppressed obligation towards my own geography. I do not know the nature I inhabit. I do not know the types of moths that visit my living room at night through my garden. I do not know the names of the flowers I enjoy, for I am uninterested. The seething desert, the soft yellow sand, and the tall, lean palm trees in my environment do not form or alter my character. Instead, I sit behind screens, consuming endlessly, composing and assembling a character from all that I consume. Not making an effort to understand or engage with nature is where that rotten part of my soul springs. I understand this now. Deliberately ignoring all that is physical and non-human-made because it’s not modern enough. Not comfortable enough. Not compliant enough. 

So here I am writing this part in my garden, trying to connect, but the grass is green and stubborn. Silent and uninterested. I play music to it; some Lionel Richie. His voice awakens some urges, like the need to write letters to the seasons before the arrival of each one. Thoughts I would like to speak of to the sea next time we meet, about coping with the Abu Dhabi summer heat, and apologize if the process of evaporation happens to be painful. But even I know all these are romanticized ideas of the relationship I want to establish. So I decided to consume more vegetables instead. And as for the beetle on my couch, it saw the back of a tissue box.

Shaikha Khalifa: A human being with an orange soul, who desires to write for that soul despise what it seeks from writing as much as it enjoys it, the validation.