Blurred by my tears, I looked up and saw a fuzzy image of him.
As I wiped my eyes, I couldn’t believe what I saw.
He was wearing the same white undershirt but with tight blue jeans and weird cowboy boots. The jeans had a large artificial rip above the left knee.
He had broad shoulders, well-defined arms, and what looked to be an admirably flat stomach. His hair was longer, oiled back and tied into a ponytail. His face was lined with a dirty stubble.
He looked like some washed-up Bollywood actor.
At the same time, he looked really beaten up and exhausted, as if he had ran a marathon. He had that same stench that was emanating from the rusted metal lining of the object in the dirt.
But his face really took me by surprise.
He’s got my face. Just a bit darker.
“Not darker, you moron. I’m the same shade as you. I haven’t for the life of me been able to get rid of your friggin’ dark skin.”
“Wha..wha..Who are YOU?” I stammered, unable to comprehend the situation.
“Let’s start with some ground rules, mmkay? First, no stupid questions.”
“What are YOU...I mean, what am I...no, wait, you are you and I am me. What the HELL is going on here?”
“I’ve had enough of your stupid soul-searching bulls***. Time to wrap it up bro. You’ve gone far enough.”
As he stood there looking down at me, he pulled out a box of cigarettes from his folded up sleeve and then a lighter from his pocket.
He lit his cigarette, put everything back, and looked up, squinting into the sun.
“I seriously never thought you’d get this far though. I must admit I’m very impressed.” He pointed at me, wagging his cigarette, firmly fixed between his middle and index fingers. “But you know, now I gotta kill you.”
“Wait, huh? You're gonna kill me?”
“Naaah, cuz that would be like suicide...haha. I just like f***in’ with your weak mind, you insecure little sh**,” he puffed in a deep breath and popped his lips as he blew out the smoke.
“Over the years, you’d come out here every so often”, waving his arms, flailing at the surrounding desert. “Wandering aimlessly, makin’ a damn fool of yourself. We’d all get a kick out of you. Very entertaining, really,” he chuckled.
We? Who is we?
“Hello? You think I work solo out here?”
This is all like some freaky scene from Superman 3, where good Superman faced off with evil Superman.
“I prefer the final scene in the Matrix where Neo and Agent Smith go toe to toe. And whats with you and the 80’s dude? You really need to get a grip and come join the rest of the world in the 21st century.”
He slowly walked around the edge, kicking some dirt back into the pit. I turned and followed his arrogant swagger, my gaze fixed on his every movement. I nonchalantly picked up the pick, not sure what this hyper-aggressive maniac was capable of.
He stopped on the opposite side, with the blinding sun now right over his head. I shaded my eyes with my free hand, squinting so I could continue looking up at him.
He took a smug puff and continued, “But you had to f*** it up didn’t you? You had to come out here with that stupid shovel and pick. Like some god-d*** super hero. You just couldn’t leave well enough alone.”
His face started to turn red, his anger visible as well as audible.
With his voice rising, “How long’s it been, huh!? Almost thirty years, right? Jesus, Naeem! Thirty f****in’ years and now you think you have some God-given right to come in here and start digging?! WHO...THE F***...ARE YOU?”
His last word ended with a loud scream, his veins visible on the side of his forehead and spit spraying from his mouth.
He took one last powerful puff, looked at his cigarette, and then flicked it at me. I looked down to see it land at my feet and when I looked up, I saw his dark silhouette lunging at me.
I immediately threw up the pick to fend him off as he simultaneously grabbed a hold of the handle. Both of us were standing face to face with our arms stretched above our heads, struggling for control of the pick.
“You naive fool! So weak, yet so persistent. When will you ever realize that you have no chance?” He pushed me back as he released the handle and flashed an evil grin with a sense of confident finality. And before I could react, he took a step and jumped into me, disappearing like some dreamy apparition.
I shook my head, blinked hard a few times to collect myself, and looked around. I was seated alone in my darkened living room, with the sounds of the arguing kids as well as my wife, who was busy trying to quiet the crying infant, piercing through the closed door.
I stood up, walked past my ringing cellphone towards the kitchen and decided to indulge myself with a serving of my wife’s deliciously decadent carrot cake – leaving that rusted, sullied container with its miserable contents and its crazy caretaker for another day, or maybe another year, or maybe never again.
Yeah, that would be so much more easier.
Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Discovery
Part 3 - Memories
Part 4 - The Opening
Part 5 - The Caretaker
Wednesday, April 22, 2009