THE HOLE IN THE WALL
by NIMA OMIDI
O had already forfeited his damage deposit after creating a head-sized hole in the papier maché wall, trying to cover it with a picture of himself, and merely producing a new hammer-sized hole where the nail should have gone. An attempt to repair the holes with newspaper strips dipped in flour-water seemed promising at first, but when he tried to paint the patch beige to match the original wall, the patch caved in and somehow took more of the wall with it. Throughout all this, Old Mozif, the neighbor, had been saintlike, given that this ever-expanding hole in O’s wall was a hole in his wall too, and constituted an invasion of privacy. With the patience of one who’s grown old waiting for death, and the goodnature of samesuch, he even suggested other methods of repair, insisting that cardboard and duct tape would do the job, but neither man had the materials. So a curtain was drawn, and only a few days later, as it happened, the curtain was drawn on Old Mozif. The hole remained—in the wall and, for a time, in O’s heart, but the one in the wall lasted longer, since it required human industry to repair, whereas the hole left by Old Mozif’s passing was swiftly sealed by Nature, through its palliative Time, all unnoticed by the patient O, who was, of course, mostly preoccupied with other matters. Not the least or most of these preoccupying matters was his new neighbor, Young Mozif, who was much less tolerant of the hole, and who, unlike Old Mozif, to whom he actually bore no relation, had not yet acquired the admirable patience of the world-weary. Indeed he was so impatient that he did not even take the matter up with O, but went over his head to the building manager, and demanded that something be done about the hole and especially the makeshift curtain which, being an old negligee, offended Young Mozif’s sensibilities. The manager inspected the negligee, studied the hole, examined both men’s heads, and concluded that the hole, which was now much larger than a head, could not have been created by a human, but must have been produced by the head of a much larger animal, perhaps an ostrich, as ostriches are known to shove their heads through walls to escape danger or merely out of frustration. O denied ever having had an ostrich in his apartment, however the large clumps of papier-machéd newspaper on the floor, which the manager mistook for bird droppings, proved otherwise. He thus informed O that his damage deposit would be forfeited to pay for the repair of the wall, the removal of the negligee, and any refinishing the floor might require due to corrosion caused by the ostrich droppings, which are acidic as a result of the ostrich’s diet and general anxiety. The hole was not repaired, however, the manager likely used the deposit money on some personal indulgence, and one day the negligee curtain went missing, though neither neighbor would admit to having taken it, nor for what purposes he might have taken it, had he taken it, which he hadn’t. Thus, O and Young Mozif became the most intimate of neighbors. Each saw much of what the other saw, smelled what the other smelled, and heard what the other heard, such that O would be awoken by Young Mozif’s alarm in the mornings, and Young Mozif would get hungry when he was trying to sleep and O was cooking his late-night curry. In time, their circadian rhythms aligned, they ate their meals together, grew accustomed to one another’s odors, and finally decided to remove what was left of the wall between them, which wasn’t much. Only then did the manager finally appear with his bucket of papier maché and his strips of newspaper to rebuild the wall, and did so when both O and Young Mozif were napping. When they awoke, to their dismay they discovered the wall rebuilt, each assumed the other had done it, and they stopped speaking to each other. After some time, O became lonely and considered smashing his head through the wall. Now he had nothing to lose, since he’d already forfeited his damage deposit and could not lose twice what he’d only given once. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it, and he and Young Mozif never saw each other again.