بخش 32

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بخش 32

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Suleiman the Drunk


Before midnight I downed my last drink and left the tavern.

“Remember what I said. Watch your tongue,” Hristos cautioned as he waved good-bye.

I nodded, feeling fortunate to have a friend who cared about me. But as soon as I stepped into the dark, empty street, I was seized by a kind of exhaustion such as I had never felt before. I wished I had taken a bottle of wine with me. I could have used a drink.

As I tottered with my boots clacking on the broken cobblestones, the sight of the men in Rumi’s procession crossed my mind. It pained me to recall the flicker of loathing in their eyes. If there was one thing I hated most in the world, it was prudishness. I had been reprimanded by prim and proper people so many times that even the memory of them was enough to send a shiver down my spine.

Struggling with these thoughts, I turned a corner and entered a side street. It was darker here because of the massive trees towering above. As if that weren’t enough, the moon suddenly hid behind a cloud, shrouding me in thick, dense darkness. Otherwise I would have noticed the two security guards approaching me.

“Selamun aleykum,” I chimed, my voice coming out too merrily in the attempt to hide my anxiety.

But the guards didn’t return my greeting. Instead they asked me what I was doing out on the streets at this late hour.

“Just walking,” I mumbled.

We stood face-to-face, anchored in an awkward silence pierced only by the howling of dogs far away. One of the men took a step toward me and sniffed the air. “It stinks around here,” he blurted out.

“Yeah, it reeks of wine,” the other guard confirmed.

I decided to treat the situation lightly. “Don’t worry yourselves. The stench is only metaphorical. Since it is only metaphorical wine that we Muslims are allowed to drink, the smell must also be metaphorical.” “What the hell is he raving about?” the first guard grumbled.

Just then the moon came out from behind the cloud, covering us with its soft, pallid light. I could now see the man facing me. He had a square face with a protruding chin, ice blue eyes, and a sharp nose. He could have been handsome were it not for his lazy eye and the permanent scowl on his face.

“What are you doing on the streets at this hour?” the man repeated. “Where are you coming from, and where are you going?”

I couldn’t help it. “These are profound questions, son. If I knew the answers, I would have solved the mystery of our purpose in this world.”

“Are you making fun of me, you filth?” the guard demanded, frowning, and before I knew what was happening, he took out a whip, cracking it in the air.

His gestures were so dramatically exaggerated that I chuckled. The next thing he did was to bring the whip down on my chest. The strike was so sudden that I lost my balance and fell.

“Perhaps this will teach you some manners,” the guard retorted as he passed his whip from one hand to the other. “Don’t you know drinking is a major sin?” Even when I felt the warmth of my own blood, even as my head swirled in a sea of pain, I still couldn’t believe I had been lashed in the middle of the street by a man young enough to be my son.

“Then go ahead and punish me,” I retorted. “If God’s paradise is reserved for people of your kind, I’d rather burn in hell anyhow.”

In a fit of rage, the young guard started to whip me with all his might. I covered my face with my hands, but it didn’t help much. A merry old song popped into my mind, forcing its way past my bloodied lips. Determined not to show my misery, I sang louder and louder with every crack of the whip: “Kiss me, my beloved, peel my heart down to the core,

Your lips are as sweet as cherry wine, pour me some more.”

My sarcasm drove the guard into a deeper rage. The louder I sang, the harder he hit. I would never have guessed there could be so much anger piled up inside one man.

“That’s enough, Baybars!” I heard the other guard yell in panic. “Stop it, man!”

As suddenly as it had started, the lashing stopped. I wanted to have the last word, say something powerful and blunt, but the blood in my mouth muffled my voice. My stomach churned, and before I knew it, I vomited.

“You are a wreck,” Baybars reprimanded. “You have only yourself to blame for what I did to you.”

They turned their backs on me and strode off into the night.

I don’t know how long I lay there. It could have been no more than a few minutes or the whole night. Time lost its weight, and so did everything else. The moon hid behind the clouds, leaving me not only without its light but also without a sense of who I was. Soon I was floating in limbo between life and death and not caring where I would end up. Then the numbness started to wear off, and every bruise, every welt, every cut on my body ached madly, washing me with wave after wave of pain. My head was wobbly, my limbs sore. In that state I moaned like a wounded animal.

I must have blacked out. When I opened my eyes, my salwar was drenched in urine and every limb of my body ached dreadfully. I was praying to God either to numb me or to provide me with drink when I heard footsteps approaching. My heart skipped a beat. It could be a street urchin or a robber, even a murderer. But then I thought, what did I have to fear? I had reached a point where nothing the night could bring was scary anymore.

Out of the shadows walked a tall, slender dervish with no hair. He knelt down beside me and helped me sit up. He introduced himself as Shams of Tabriz and asked my name.

“Suleiman the drunk of Konya at your service,” I said as I plucked a loose tooth from my mouth. “Nice to meet you.”

“You are bleeding,” Shams murmured as he started to wipe the blood off my face. “Not only on the outside, but inside as well.”

Upon saying that, he took out a silver flask from the pocket of his robe. “Apply this ointment to your wounds,” he said. “A good man in Baghdad gave it to me, but you need it more than I do. However, you should know that the wound inside you is deeper, and that is the one you should worry about. This will remind you that you bear God within you.” “Thank you,” I heard myself stutter, touched by his kindness. “That security guard … he whipped me. He said I deserved it.”

As soon as I uttered those words, I was struck by the childish whining in my voice and my need for comfort and compassion.

Shams of Tabriz shook his head. “They had no right to do that. Every individual is self-sufficient in his search for the divine. There is a rule regarding this: We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No two hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.” “That sounds good,” I said, amazing myself by the ease in my voice. “But don’t you Sufis ever doubt anything about Him?”

Shams of Tabriz smiled a tired smile. “We do, and doubts are good. It means you are alive and searching.”

He spoke in a lilting tone, exactly as if he were reciting from a book.

“Besides, one does not become a believer overnight. He thinks he is a believer; then something happens in his life and he becomes an unbeliever; after that, he becomes a believer again, and then an unbeliever again, and so on. Until we reach a certain stage, we constantly waver. This is the only way forward. At each new step, we come closer to the Truth.” “If Hristos heard you talk like this, he would tell you to watch your tongue,” I said. “He says not every word is fit for every ear.”

“Well, he’s got a point.” Shams of Tabriz let out a brief laugh as he jumped to his feet. “Come on, let me take you home. We need to tend to your wounds and make sure you get some sleep.” He helped me get on my feet, but I could hardly walk. Without hesitation the dervish lifted me as though I weighed nothing and took me on his back.

“I warn you, I stink,” I mumbled in shame.

“That’s all right, Suleiman, don’t worry.”

In this way, never minding the blood, urine, or stench, the dervish carried me along the narrow streets of Konya. We passed by houses and shacks plunged in deep slumber. Dogs barked at us, loudly and ferociously, from behind the garden walls, informing everyone of our presence.

“I have always been curious about the mention of wine in Sufi poetry,” I said. “Is it real or metaphorical wine that the Sufis praise?”

“What difference does it make, my friend?” Shams of Tabriz asked before he dropped me off in front of my house. “There is a rule that explains this: When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearances. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed and instead opens a third eye—the eye that sees the inner realm.” Alone in my house after this long and exhausting night, I pondered what had transpired. As miserable as I felt, somewhere deep inside me there was a blissful tranquillity. For a fleeting moment, I caught a glimpse of it and yearned to remain there forever. At that moment I knew there was a God after all, and He loved me.

Though I was sore, sore all over, strangely enough I was not hurting anymore.

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