AuthorS. P. Razavi

A Life, Consequential

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6AM
A man and a woman, vagrants sat on discarded packaging. Covering themselves in branded canvas bags, keeping out the swollen drops of rain. I envy the warmth of their lit smokes and muffled laughter.
Scanning my thumbprint on their begging bowl device, I wave them a few spare credits as I pass. Our eyes never meet. A giver’s remorse fills me, wondering whether I’m abetting poor choices. Nervous, I imagine the worse possible cases: they may now wish to rob me. I pick up the pace.
Rounding the corner, disregarding the vestiges of my shame at such thoughts, I justify my fear. If not them, it would be me. The clear rationality of my argument lightens my burden, I forget them.
The tents outside the Courts of Justice are burgeoning with discarded people. The Unmeasurables. Their petitioning signs witness to claims of former lives now made redundant. They don’t know the value of education. I am confident in my own lifelong learning habits. What welfare did they expect now that the world is perfect?
The acrylic fumes intruding my air hint at their wastefulness. I spot markings on a few who have taken voluntary sterilisation treatment. A worthy act for the greater good. Not one of generosity on their part but pure profit motivation. All to fuel their wistful lower pleasures. Sleeping, carnal creatures sundered from the righteous progress of mankind. Lovers of folk traditions. Relics of the past, the state calls them detritus in the future that was Now.
“Nothing to give,” I step past more of them, regretting my charity. The feeling like a throwback to savagery. The huddled figures dangerous in the shadows. Waiting for me to slow down, to become distracted. My own primitive feelings may be my undoing. What if I am found out as an abetter? Called in for questioning. I rush to cancel the previous transaction but the credits are gone.
On the steps of the old neo-classical building, one of the vagrants has the gall to approach me. Too close, his rancorous musk aggravating, Scowling, shoving past. I do not dignify him with vocal recognition.
Past the jungle of canvas and refuse, I cleanse myself with a body-spray steriliser. Then I continue on the path of my flourishing, to my vocation space.

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Last Night in the Hale

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Waiting in the Shrub House, Ben rolled the black Afghan hashish in his palm. First into a sausage then into a worm, leaving its sweet scent on his dry palm. He was meticulous and gentle. Cupping a hand, depositing a supple cylinder of resin on see-through paper. Humming, he retrieved a cigarette from the makeshift table. A metal sign held up on two columns of cinder blocks. Licking to peel away the paper, lyrics on his mind. I’m feeling good, you know I’m going to work it out.

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The Crow and the Eagle

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Every Tuesday morning Katib sat on the bench opposite Chalkwell Hall, idling until his Dad went out to meet his clients. The park was teeming with baby strollers and dog walkers, scurrying like ants on the footpath under the late morning sun. The drifting smell of wood burning from the groundkeeper’s yard mingled with the uplifting freshness of cut grass.

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The Shahida of Woolworths

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Every Saturday morning, before the shops opened, mom set up a table outside the Woolworths on the high street. My sister and I covered it with pamphlets and booklets. Around us, the bin men cleared the street of broken bottles and half-eaten kebabs. We propped up a poster board behind us, pinned up pictures of blistered and blackened faces, scarred backs and burnt chests. The gruesome collage evidence on behalf of the victims of torture back home. Mom wore her socialist red headscarf and leaned on her walking stick, straightening her crooked back as best as she could. My sister, beaming a toothy gap, hung a collection jar on a rope around her neck. We always made sure the jar had something in it before we left the flat. After setting up, I went and sat on the steps of the office block on the corner. People just gave less when there was an acne-faced brown boy hanging about. Whatever the conditions, we were there every Saturday. Rain or shine. And no matter how bad mom’s feet or back ached. Better the beating rain then the granite-like anger of my father.

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The Cuckoo of Westphalia

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Skirting the Rothaar mountains, the BMW glided on the road like a prowling huntress. “Two kilometres from your destination,” the satnav told Lina as they approached the Achenbach estate.

The auto-drive in control, she gazed at the jagged canopy of trees. The tranquil moonlit silhouette worked with the neural blockers she had taken, making her feel dreamy. She embraced the trance-like state. Without the pills, she’d be in convulsions travelling this road again. The memories of that night eight months ago never far below the surface.

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On Feminism

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I used to say I was a feminist but I didn’t know what it meant. Worse, my behaviour was conditioned by patriarchy in the home, institutionally at school and in pursuit of higher education, in physics and computer science. Then reinforced in the field of work within software engineering.
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The Sacking of Io

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Vitya watched the speckled panorama, crowded tubes intersecting the domes of the habitats. Each blurred pixel a man, woman or child. Any one of them like him, once an ovum delivered to seed the manufactories of a new world. The spectrum of colours became coarse blocks as the ship rotated in high-orbit. Only the yellow dappled surface of the moon in view.

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Awakening

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I am alive. Soles of my feet are wet with fresh dew. The sun beams a pale yellow over the horizon. The dull light bathes my outstretched hands. My hands creased with callouses; the tips white with a new skin, old blisters fade into tanned lines.

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Essays and Stories by S. P. Razavi

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