Zeeshan Amit

Writer’s commentary: “Wall People” was inspired by my childhood visits to one of my relatives. It involved having to creep though this very narrow passage way and passing through it I used to always notice how there were people living in really enclosed spaces. I don’t remember there being any windows so there was no natural light and on most of my visits these people would always be watching television so most of the light came from it. I wanted my piece to capture the cramped and claustrophobic nature of the place which is why I structured the piece to look like the narrow passage way I used to climb as a child. I also incorporated some simple images into it to showcase some stark visuals for the reader. This was actually inspired by an author I had been reading at the time, Donald Barthelme. I’ve always enjoyed reading a variety of authors and styles of writing and when writers make use of unique and experimental methods of showcasing their work it makes it all the more intriguing. Experimental discourse is the type of writing and discussion that provokes the reader into following a line of thinking that is unusual and innovative in nature. Trying to come up with something that might be strange or left of field can be rewarding since it can create a powerful reaction in the reader, good or bad, and I think that’s what writers are looking for. My favorite experimental author would have to be Italo Calvino. A friend of mine introduced me to his novel “If on a Winter’s night a traveler…”. It’s probably the most unique book I’ve read. I felt really immersed in that book especially with every other chapter being written in second person. Having a book directly address you isn’t very common and I loved being drawn into it like that, feeling like you’re a character in it.

Wall People

Ocean Energy 10 by Gene Kreyd

I cannot
how old I was
but I was
I was definitely really young
but not young enough to forget
about it. But maybe
that didn’t really
matter. Maybe places
like this just stay in
your            memory
forever                well
at                        least
till now               it has.
Well here it is,
let’s go back.

We are standing at the front of a small, black gate. Even back then, or now since we’re actually there now, I questioned why the gate even existed. Gates are meant to keep things out aren’t they? But here we stand at a gate that stands at a mere two feet short. Pretty sure any able bodied human being could just hop over it.

As we find ourselves on the other side, there’s something you need to know.

You are going to need to take in a deep breath of air.
You’ll see what I mean when we go where we are going.
Things are going to get a bit cramped and it’s not a place for anyone claustrophobic.
There’s the door.
Let’s enter.

It took a moment
or two for my eyes
to adjust to the darkness
but when they did all I
saw was the narrowest,
longest hallway I’ve ever
come across. The light bled
through the door but as we
shut the door behind us
nothing but a dim haze and
constricting walls lay ahead.
We are here to see someone,
I do not remember who,
but we know them or the adults
I’m with do anyway. This
is just a scary, intriguing adventure
to little old me. As we step forward I
notice how if I stretch
both my tiny arms
they almost span the width of
the passageway. I am scared,
or I was scared, and I held on to
the arms of my parents.
The walls start to widen
but the pathway does not.
There are people here,
living along the walls.
We can see them now,
our eyes have completely
adjusted to the dark.
Maybe it’s my childhood
memories playing tricks on me
but they do not look completely
human, they are misshapen,
they are sunken in,
they look tired, so very tired.
Their eyes barely register us passing
by. Some of them are transfixed onto
the tiniest televisions I have ever seen.
Most of them are in beds, propped
against the wall.
How did they get a bed in here?
It was built in there, I answered
myself years later.
We stumble through.
There’s a man lying on his
back, his mouth wide open.
His sarong lying in disarray.
The shadows hide any shame,
I suppose.
You have questions?
Where are the toilets?
Where do they make their food?
Why are these people here?
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
This is their home.
Am I telling you this?
Or was it my mother,
whispering to me in the dark?
We walk on, there are stairs now.
Just a few.
And there are more people.
More than a few.
There’s a mother nursing her baby.
She looks exhausted.
Her face looks pale.
There are no windows here,
Some of those that live along
the walls have dim lamps,
the ones with the tiny TVs
have the tiny TVs.
The corridor finally widens as we see another doorway
bar our way. It opens to the outside.

O      U     T     S     I     D     E.

The world seems foreign to what I’ve just walked past.
The place we are going is just ahead. But let’s take once last look back. The passageway looks even more ominous looking back into it. The sunlight isn’t flowing in from this end.
I wonder how many people actually live in there.
How many have died?

The person we are meeting lives in a small house just across the exit door of the passageway. I ask him about the passageway and all the people living along the walls. He says it’s difficult for them but they’ve grown accustomed to it. I ask them what happens when someone dies in there.

“The same that happens to
all of us.”

“So it’s wide enough?”
I hear my father say.
He gets a nod.
Yes, I wondered
the same as you do.
What was it wide
enough for?


About the writer:
Zeeshan Amit is a 24-year-old Sri Lankan writer of fiction and poetry. His favorite authors and influences include Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro and Arundhati Roy. He is currently a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai where he’s majoring in Computing and Information Technologies and minoring in Creative Writing. He hopes to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing in the future.

Image: Ocean Energy 10 by Gene Kreyd. Oil on canvas. 70 x 70 cm. 2017. By permission. Gene Kreyd is the O:JA&L Featured Fine Artist for April 2019.