The Bullshitter

Ali Al Saeed

I always wondered how much bullshit one utters in a lifetime.

I thought about that at length, for a number of reasons. One of which is that I myself don't say much. I speak when it's necessary. I keep my sentences short. There are words that could be done without. I don't see anything wrong with that, but obviously it upsets a lot of people.

Not the least my parents when I was a kid. My parents always believed there was something disturbingly wrong with me. At one point they were convinced that I had a speech impediment. I told them it was stupid. They wouldn't listen. So they went on and spent thousands of pounds on doctors and sessions during which I sat on a leather couch across from the glass desk that greasy-hair Dr. Rajendra sat on.

They did tests when was still going to school. They found nothing wrong with me. Dr. Rajendra told mum and dad that it just might be that I didn't have much to say. It was the only thing I agreed with him on. Of course my parents clucked their tongues and shook their heads.

When I was thirteen, my parents sent me away to live with my grandfather. They didn't visit much afterward. Granddad lived far from the city, where both my parents had "important" things to do all the time.

As the years passed, I heard less from my parents. Until one day a strange man who said he was my mum's "solicitor" called and said that my parents got a divorce. My father ran off with some Far Easter lady and my mum got a better job across the Atlantic. Neither said goodbye.

I always wondered why they had to say so many things. It was as if they were competing against each other, whoever said the most and more useless horse-shit stuff won. They would talk about news and politics and Mrs Sommerfield. Sometimes they would be both talking about different things at the same time. All I wanted then was for them to keep quiet and listen to the winds howling outside. Now, that's something worth paying attention to.

At school, I didn't get in too much trouble, nor was I bullied or picked on. I didn't say much after all. Most of the other boys and girls seemed not to notice me at all. I didn't have to answer questions, I didn't have to beg to be picked for footy. High school was the quickest. I got on well with almost everyone. I just didn't build relations.

I suppose I was never a socializer. I don't usually start conversations. I end them.

Kimberly asked me to go to the prom with her. Kimberly wasn't pretty, but that wasn't why I didn't accept her offer. I just didn't want to go.

"Why not?"

I shrugged.

"You don't like me, do you?"

"I do."

"Then why not come with me?"

I shrugged once more.

"I'll make it worth your while?" she said, with sly wink.

I looked at her. "I think not."

I wanted her to go away and leave me alone, but of course she didn't. And of course I couldn't just say, "Leave me alone," or "Go away!"

"You ever had sex?"

I remained silent.

"I bet you haven't, and I bet you really want to!"

I sighed and said, "No."

"No what? You haven't yet?"

"No," I said again.



"Which is it?" She got testy then and stomped her foot on the ground, her fists clenched.

"I think I fancy a sandwich," I said.

She ran off. Maybe she didn't like sandwiches.

When my grandfather died, I had just turned eighteen. It was another useless day. When I came down from my room and sat in front of the tele, I was half expecting him to start off on yet another one of his insane yarns.

He was always talking about something, though nothing he said was of any true value. He would talk about ants, or rusty pipelines, or old newspapers. What he liked to talk about the most was sleep, or lack of lack. At least, I thought, you get something out of sleeping. But talking gibberish? That I could never understand.

What's the point of just talking for the sake of talking, for the sake of filling silences, for the sake of "entertainment?" Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

So when my grandfather died, I wasn't really sad. I was glad that his soul would finally rest and wouldn't have to go through the daily torment, that of the arduous, pointless task of speaking and talking. I wasn't sad he died, just as I wasn't sad when my parents dumped me, nor about the fact that they'd left without saying goodbye.

That simple small term made of two words, is one that actually counts for something. And with all those trillions of stupid, empty words they spoke, they couldn't bring themselves to say this little one. As if it would have weighed their tongues if they did.

I think they thought that leaving me with grandfather was "good" for me, taking that he was a true "rambler," always plenty to say and talk about. Of course they were very wrong. He was just a living proof of the futile human speaking skills.

This, however, remained a mystery to me. Why do people insist on it? Do they realize how much energy they waste, how much pollution they cause, with their words?

Anyway, somehow Kimberly found out about me, about where I lived, and about the demise of my grandfather and the disappearance of my parents from my life. She found out. It didn't matter to me how. I didn't bother asking. Because that wasn't important. That was the sort of thing that really wouldn't make any difference to the current situation we've become in, if I knew about it or not. So logic dictated that there would be no point delving into it.

Kimberly's facial features seemed to have stayed the same. Wherein I had facial hair and have grown somewhat taller, she was of the same size and built that I remembered when she was back in school. She was actually the only one I could claim was a friend from school that showed up. We didn't get to talk much during the day. But then again we never did.

Several months later, I was a wealthy man. Apparently, my grandfather had a large sum of money tucked away unknown to anyone else. I deeply contemplated what to do with that kind of wealth. I realized that I didn't actually need it. So, unlike most people around me thought, I kept my day job and didn't go off to start my own business. Besides, form what I understood, business involved a lot of bullshit talk.

One fine autumn day, on the second anniversary of my grandfather's death, Kimberly passed by the hardware store that I worked in. She said hello and I said hello back. It was my lunch break, so we went out for a walk. The puffy white clouds hung to one side of the sky. The sun was golden bright and warm. We made our way through Hucklebee Lane.

"You could have just said so, you know?"


"That you didn't want to come to the prom with me."

"Oh," I whispered. After a moment I reluctantly added, "It wasn't that I didn't want to go the prom with you… it's just that I didn't want to go." Which was the truth.


We found an old bench to sit on. The lane was empty of people, decorated on both sides by lines of trees, their branches and leaves dancing to the autumn breeze. I noticed that Kimberly's hair was just as colourful as the falling leaves; a wild, perfect mixture of light browns, dark yellows and passionate reds.

I'm not sure how we sat there on the bench for. But after some time, a remarkable thing happened. I actually felt an urge to speak, to talk, to this girl sitting next to me. The problem was, I didn't know what to say. I suppose Dr Rajendra was right after all. Then I decided to tell her my little secret.

"Do you know," I began, "that 73.8 percent of what a human being utters in an entire lifetime, is bullshit?"

She looked at me with her hazel, shiny eyes, a smile beginning to draw itself on her pure, simple face. Then she burst into laughter. It sounded… like spring, her face blossomed like roses do. Any other person and I would have felt insulted and would have probably stomped away in anger and shame. But with her, I found myself smiling.

"It's true," I added, "It is a scientific fact."

"Bollocks!" she said, her laugh subsiding. "You can't be serious?!"

"I am."

"How'd you figure that?"

"Well, firstly, that's not what I claim. A group of top-notch scientists came up with that result after a two-year study. They monitored people 24-7 and recorded all their conversations, then they compared what they said to the fact they had, about them, their lives, people they knew, just about everything they spoke of or about, and calculated the validity of that and its significance; if or not it actually has any relation to, or impact on, their lives. It is a very precise and grueling process." That was the most I'd said to anyone at one time in my whole life!

"I'm sure you would know better," she said, with a beaming smile. "So, does this count as a bullshit conversation?" she teasingly asked, nudging me with her elbow.

"I'll have to get back to you on that."

"You're mad!"

Of course, I could've told her that it was me who commissioned the study, using my grandfather's fortune. It seemed to me the right thing to do, it was appropriate. Besides, it gave me the answer I was looking for all my life.

But right then there was no need to say anything else. We sat side by side, staring at the colourful wall of falling leaves in front of us. Kimberly moved closer to me, slipping her arm under mine and resting her head on my shoulder.

This was exactly what I've always looked for my entire life.

Someone to share the silences with.

Ali Al Saeed

Ali Al Saeed, whose native language is Arabic, is a writer, journalist and filmmaker from Bahrain. His debut thriller was titled QuixotiQ, and his collection of stories, Moments, was published in September 2006. Short stories of his have appeared on numerous websites, including Lapsus Calami, Expose'd, FugitiveAuthor and Coffee Cramp Reviews. Ali writes: "No other Bahraini national has published a work of fiction before me. It has begun a new literary and cultural movement here with a number of local writers following suit. I write in English because I feel more comfortable expressing myself through it. I have always been fascinated by the language."