Written by Sam Vaknin
He looks at me with his single surviving eye and pleads: "Write me a letter".
I smile and remove the women's magazine from his hands. Under "Singles Ads" it says:
"165/33, feminine, rebellious, striking, looking for a man for serious relationship, Postal Box Office".
"Write me a letter" - he repeats and his lonely eye gleams.
"Soon, I am going to get my second, more beautiful one" - he adds apologetically.
We are in a residential caravan in a prison camp, whiling the time away. I am waiting for my inevitable, unnerving, early release and he is looking forward to that feminine, rebellious who will discern in his solitary eye that which he craves to witness in both hers.
I acquiesce and write to her, the mysterious stranger. My writing is calligraphic and Maurice convinces me that it, alone, should make the prospect meet him.
And when she does, it will all be different. He will demonstrate to her that there's a soul concealed in his awkward flesh and how his lonesome eye grasps colors and sun and light and shadows. Lots of shadows.
At night, he wakes, perspiring, stifling whimpering, panicky sounds, like beavers struggling to emerge, consuming his insides, driving the torture wheel called Maurice. He rises from his nightmare and shuffles to the slimy toilettes on the remainder of his leg. When he is back, face rinsed, he looks around, alarmed, climbs laboriously into the upper bunk, and tries to sleep.
But the sirens of that particular patrol car haunt him with red-blue flashes in the desiccated socket of his long-gone eye. He can't erase the gunfire sounds, the streaking bullets that carved his flesh with long, brown scars. The raining glass that gouged his eye erupts anew.
"I lost my eye in the showers" - he nags the dwindling numbers of his unwilling interlocutors. They heard it all before - the tale of Maurice and his magnificent porcelain ball that cost him 5000 New Israeli shekels.
"I was scared, so I pretended to be violent, so they became afraid of me. Everyone knew that I am not to be messed with!"
Maurice recounts to me his prime: replete with eye, a serviceable leg, and human form.
Now he frequents only hookers. He calls them "escort girls". They have been escorting him a long time now and he is a heaving cyclopedia of their addresses, official prices, negotiating tactics, and final offers. "Half an hour" - he lectures me - "and you can come but once. So you better masturbate before. But you can still strike a bargain with them even if it happens."
He finds them pretty. As far as he is concerned, they are all attractive and stunning and he keeps wondering aloud why they ended up in bed with him. He relishes his good fortune and frequents their cubicles and sweaty cots. "In Haifa, some of them do it for 50 shekels!" - he gasps incredulously.
Maurice does not neglect his physical exercises.
"Am I triangular?" - he demands to know, swerving on his healthy limb, a dented nakedness, we are in the showers, avoiding effluence.
I study him closely. He has a well-developed torso, like a miniature Schwarzenegger. He is trilateral both front and back. His shoulders a triangle, imposed on squarish chest and powerful hands. I tell him so. But Maurice seeks second and third opinions. He circles the muddy pathways of the camp for hours, only a towel to his loins, and pesters every passerby. They all confirm my observations.
"Your stomach is repulsive" - he tells me earnestly - "Stop eating so much. Work out!"
I give him the letter I composed and he ponders it gravely. Then he folds it carefully and withdraws an envelope from his peeling iron dresser.
"Write me the address, too" - he says - "It must be the same hand."
I do so obediently. He inserts the letter in the envelope and licks it. Thus opaque and sealed, he places it gingerly in a drawer.
It joins four identical epistles.
"Maurice, when will you send these letters?" - I demand.
"Soon" - he laughs - "I don't have stamps. Every time I go on detail I forget to buy them. Tomorrow I will remember. Tomorrow I will dispatch them and you will write me more. One of them will surely answer. Something will come out of it."
I suggest to him to address some his missives to the beauties on the TV soaps. He sign up to my charade enthusiastically and insists: "Write, write me a letter to them" - he doubles up in laughter.
Maurice carries in a moldy plastic bag a few fading and creased photographs of himself before. He is surrounded with minimally-attired knockout adolescent girls. These may be the "escorts". He confesses to wedding three of them and to fathering a brood.
I notice a sad-eyed kid, sprawled on a sofa, gaping at the camera. It's unmistakable: a tiny Maurice. You also can't misjudge the expression in Maurice's single, dewy, eyeball.
But Maurice the Cyclops never cries. His vising headaches merely reduce him to reclining on his rusty metal bed, turning his back to us, pretending to be slumbering. His shoulders quaver, yet we never dare approach him.
"All my women betrayed me." - he tells me every morning, awakened by the screaming wardens. I wonder what he dreams of that makes him reiterate so often.
"The minute I entered the pen, they strayed with another. That's why I divorced them, all three." - he elaborates.
Maurice places little trust in women. They hurt him so. "But they are so beautiful!" - he utters wistfully, as he measures a new pair of jeans he bought in his last vacation. They are too loose. I tell him. He spends the remainder of the evening refitting them and adding holes and buckles to his belts.
"How is it now?" - he anxiously enquires of no one in particular.
"Much better, Maurice" - I reassure him.
At night, when no one sees, he changes the soggy patch covering his missing eye. It's nothing but a gauze and two adhesive bandages, plastered directly over the shriveled, murky hole that's left of the glistening, jocular eye in Maurice's photos.
He is ashamed and doesn't want to nauseate us. Maurice has a developed aesthetic sense. He still remembers beauty and wants it in his life. But all he has right now is a dehydrated wrinkle above a hollow abyss in his skull. It's where he used to gaze at beauty from. But now it's dark. Only the muscles that surround it still react to absence. He mocks himself self-deprecatingly. There's nothing else to do without an eye, a leg, one's looks.
Maurice is suing the police. In his mind he has won and is already divvying up the reparations. He is going to buy a flat, a car, and then a girl. She is bound to adore him and they will live in happiness and wealth and many children and Maurice will grow with them. "This is my second childhood" - he hums along with a hit song on the radio. In such times, Maurice is no longer in jail but in the hereafter, in a world of warm and loving families.
"I spent fourteen years inside" - he confides - "My father says I am lucky to have been shot. Maybe this way I will settle down. Maybe I will have enough money not to work and only raise my children."
The offspring he has already had are held back by his women. The same females who do not visit him and force him to stagger on the steep hills of Haifa just to see his kids for an instant and give them gifts. Maurice saves all his meager pay and uses it to buy his children presents and himself more clothes.
"Some girls make advances in the cab on the way back to jail" - he brags - "I tell them that I am doing time for burglaries and this turns them on. When I returned from my last vacation I met one girl, she fell for me, she asked me to sit next to her, she twisted her face like this" - Maurice demonstrates a yielding, kiss-ready, feminine mouth.
He can't believe his luck: "she is so beautiful" - he moans longingly. He thinks this can't be true , something must be wrong with the girl, that this may be a trap. She must be married - he freaks. "We are so miserable" - he sighs - "The minute we cross the gate, they go looking for someone else."
Maurice yearns for the olden days, ten years ago, when a woman was a woman and he was a proper man with eyes to look dames over and legs to chase them. Maurice isn't good at expressing pain. He prefers to measure shirts or to ask me to write him letters.
That evening, when I come back from the detail, I find Maurice parked on his bunk, his ailing leg impossibly extended, weighed down by a bulky orthopedic shoe. He avoids me, dejected. And then:
"Vaknin" - he calls - "Come here, Vaknin".
I go and sit by him. At his request, I tie his laces: one cross, one over, and a butterfly. He shuts his eyes while people fuss around him. And now, the humiliation and the embarrassment - both mine and his. The intimate togetherness, a man, shoelaces, man, at dusk, a drafty room, in prison. The closest two can get - sometimes more than carnal. A kind of love.
"Vaknin, thank you" - he says, inspecting my endeavors critically - "Vaknin, what shall I do if someone answers my letters? What will happen then? I am afraid to post them, not to get a response. I only have a socket. My beautiful eye hasn't arrived yet. I am crippled, crippled ..."
Maurice breaks into a sob and I move closer and hug him and nestle him and wait for him to calm down.
But he does not. He is devoured by weeping. He crumbles in my arms, the tears engulfing both his eyes, ungluing the adhesive bandages and loosening the gauze. It falls. His triangular rib cage trembles, his inert leg twitches, and his absent eye, and all his offspring that are strewn across the city weep through him and the long years and his father, who is happy he was shot and the wall, the only witness to the anguished nights of Maurice.
And I weep with him. I, too, weep with him. Together.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He is the the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.