He slept peacefully, his mind in a world so unlike the place his body recided in that they just as well could be called opposites. He dreamt of a palace, where he and his pregnant wife lived without any hardship. Abundant food and rich, palacial decorations surrounded him, and the clothes he wore were of a dark forest green, his favorite color, brushing his elegant wife's swollen belly as he embraced her, whispering into her ear the words he had said to her a thousand times over, 'I love you'. He released her slowly, and she grabbed him back, holding him tightly against her body, and whispered back, 'I love you too,' before kissing him.
Baksheesh suddenly threw his eyelids open, and sat up, fully awake. He looked around his tiny, brown hovel, disoriented, for a few seconds, before squeezing his eyes closed, trying to stop the tears from escaping his eyes. As, one by one, they defied him and rolled down his cheeks, he gave up trying to hide them, and started sobbing, like he did every night now.
* * *
The dreams were coming to him more frequently now. His head would touch the thin, torn blanket he slept on, his grubby eyelids close, and his torture start. Every night, he would dream the same dream, hug the same woman, hear the same haunting words from the woman who had disowned him: I love you. He would be in the same house that he'd been in for the last few months in his dreams, but unfortunately not anymore in real life. Baksheesh had been deprived of his house, thrown out by his parents for untrue reasons. To his horror, the hatred for him had spread around the town, and no one allowed him to take up acommodation anywhere, and being moneyless, he had had to turn to thievery and begging on the streets to keep his body and soul together. The hovel which he lived in now was an isolated structure in the midst of a large expanse of farm land, which did not belong to him, but to two wealthy merchants, who had loaned their land to sharecroppers. Every morning, Baksheesh exited his flimsy excuse of a house and carefully took a little of whatever crop happened to be growing on the land, be it wheat, corn, tomatoes, olives, or anything else, just a little, so they wouldn't notice. Apart from his nights, when he was tortured by his dreams, this was his most hated part of his day: stealing from other people. But what else can I do, he thought. He risked taking a fruit from their fruit trees as well, if there was fruit, and carried his daily supply of food to his hovel. He got his water from a nearby tube well, and then went out to beg on the streets. Sometimes, he smeared ashes on his face to prevent the civilians of the town from recognizing him, and he would often get a few more coins on those days.
* * *
Baksheesh had been a wealthy goldsmith, one of the best in the country. His handcrafted jewelry had been exported around the world, and was a particular favorite in the country. No woman in his town was said to be properly in fashion unless she wore gold weaved and delicately worked by Baksheesh. He had taken over the goldsmithing industry, and many minor goldsmiths who had once had flourishing businesses soon found themselves with no customers and no money. One particular goldsmith could bear Baksheeshs success any longer. One day, disguised as an ordinary civilian, he made his was to Baksheeshs mansion and spoke with his wife, who was expecting their first child.
"My dear Lady Aziza," he said in fake shocked tones to Baksheeshs lady. "I have news that will grieve you."
"Yes, my good man. Please tell me," Aziza said, concerned.
"I was on my way to my workshop today," started the jealous goldsmith, "When I saw your husband. He was headed, not in the direction of his workshop, but down a narrow alley." And so, he began filling his rivals wifes head with a net of lies, a story about her husband cheating on her, having sexual connections with another woman, who was also married. With shocking revelations about her husbands character, how any man of such high status could ever do something like that, how a popular public figure in even the country could break the code of honor that he swore to at his marriage. How repulsive and shocking of a man to not be faithful to his spouse, especially when she was carrying his own child!
Lady Aziza was shocked. She simply could not believe what she was hearing.
"I thank you, my good sir," she said, her heart broken and her body numb. She dismissed the man, and sat in the same place on her sofa the whole day, her mind distraught, refusing to eat or drink anything that was given to her by the numerous servants working in the house. She contemplated about it, argued with herself, thought about her husband. As the day wore on, Aziza became more convinced that the gentleman who had come and given her this horrendous news was telling the truth, and, by the end of the day, she was convinced that her husband had turned evil at heart.
When her husband came home, Aziza confronted him.