Ali Zarbali ~ Sundays with George

It is on Sundays that I have a chance to lunch with George. If I don’t count the ran­dom vis­its from my agent, then for the rest of the week I am all alone. Only on this day, George is com­plete­ly free and tru­ly will­ing to ded­i­cate his time to me. If on this day, after­noon, you hap­pen to be walk­ing past the Varkert Bazar, stop for a moment to take a look up – at the unwashed win­dows of the adja­cent grey old build­ing. There on the 4th floor, behind the win­dows, you will notice a half-naked guy sit­ting with a type­writer on his lap and an old man gaz­ing from the win­dow at some­thing far and noth­ing near. After lunch, we dive into work.

If I believe what he says, he is a tall slim American ex-pat work­ing in Budapest. I have curly hair he says and takes my hand to explore his hair with instruc­tions, here I have a small scar. As soon as he arrives, he describes every­thing around us in detail, I don’t have to ask for it any­more and then he por­trays him­self, I wear ripped jeans today

He is wan­der­ing in my library. I hear him flip­ping pages cease­less­ly. You remind me of Borges, he says, blind in this huge library. Describe every­thing to me, I beg him, lit­er­al­ly every­thing, even the details that may have no impor­tance for you. You can imag­ine what a pain in the ass I am, blind and detail-obsessed. Sometimes we sit in silence for a while. Clouds are dark, George says. It will prob­a­bly rain soon. I am sit­ting next to your stained win­dow. I don’t have a shirt on. I am hold­ing a cig­a­rette pinched between my thumb and fore­fin­ger. I just flicked off the ash.

As I dic­tate he types. If the smoke both­ers me, he asks. I know I smoke too much. They say blind peo­ple don’t enjoy cig­a­rettes because they don’t see the smoke, is it true? Describe it to me, I demand. It is thick and tur­bu­lent, he goes on, it’s swirling around you.

Since the day I lost my eye­sight total­ly, my oth­er sens­es start­ed grow­ing sharp­er. Now I live it to the fullest in the realm of inter­mit­tent fre­quen­cies and dif­fus­ing par­ti­cles. I hear and smell bet­ter than you, I tell George jok­ing­ly. This made me smile, he says as he pro­ceeds with typ­ing. I love the sound of the type­writer, I exclaim. Click-clack. If I can tell how loud is it in deci­bels, he asks mock­ing­ly. I like him because he doesn’t feel pity for me. I feel bad when peo­ple feel bad for me. Let me tell you, I reply to him, it is around 70 deci­bels, the sound of the type­writer. How much is it? Average fac­to­ry noise, a heavy truck, busy traf­fic, garbage dis­pos­al, a noisy restau­rant, a vac­u­um clean­er, TV. If I will write anoth­er book after com­plet­ing this mem­oir, he won­ders. I am not sure. Do you smell a burn­ing toast, I ask him.

The words sketch vague pat­terns in the air as I enun­ci­ate them slow­ly, and he imme­di­ate­ly reg­is­ters them right before they are swal­lowed by time for­ev­er. We re-live my life togeth­er on Sundays, on the pages this time. If I have the start­ing sen­tence in mind for the next chap­ter, he asks. It is on Sundays that I have a chance to lunch with George, I nar­rate.


Ali Zarbali is a Budapest-based writer. His sto­ries have been pub­lished in Taedium Vitae, Terror House Magazine, Friday Flash Fiction, and elsewhere.