Thursday, December 13, 2012





The words tussle for prominence in his mind. This is what he would call it, were he to write about the slant of the sun through the bedroom window. The weight of her head resting on his chest. The tickle of her breath on his skin. One didn't enter into such alliances.

 One night stand.

 No. He shakes his head. Even that word doesn't quite ‘fit’. Mostly because it isn't night, a voice in his head chides. He smiles wryly.

Seduction is a two-way street, he reasons. She’d wanted this as much as he had. Contrary to past experiences - from so long ago, the memory had blurred edges – there was no awkwardness. Rather it had been as though he’d touched her before. Kissed her before. Lost himself in her, only to find himself complete when they lay, her head bent forward onto his chest, hair tumbling free of its tie, her body limp from the implosion she’d experienced.

She’d snuggled up beside him, head on his chest, hand splayed on his shoulder and drifted into a deep slumber. He’d lain there, drawing lazy circles on her back, watching the afternoon sun grown cold. Gold. Until it now streamed in the window, lighting a patch of wall. Sounds from below reached him in stolen snatches, spirited his way by a thieving wind.

 And no, the words ‘stolen’, ‘thieving’ hadn't come to him as his conscience’s way of reminding him that he’d stolen something this afternoon. 'Twas merely an expression, he reproves himself. One had to be practical. Divorce oneself from silly romantic notions. Besides there was nothing even vaguely romantic about fucking. And that’s what it had been. Two people giving in to their animalistic instinct. Finding release after being caught up in a sudden storm.

Just then, she stirs. Throws a leg over his, and he feels her press up against him. Still a little wet. His body responds immediately. This time they make love. Well, almost. Or maybe their fucking is just slower, he thinks, as he rolls off her, disentangling limbs.

They're both breathing hard. Ragged short breaths. Her face is slick. His back is too. They lay staring up at the ceiling until their breathing slows. Wordless. He marvels at how even now, the space between them, the silence, it is that of two friends. Lovers. That is all.


 She looks at him, smiles, eyes dancing. “Aah, but I have. Several times in fact,” she grins.

He's reminded of his twelve year old, in one of her more sassy moments.

 Still, no guilt. Perplexing.

“And for that, I thank you, kind sir. You were my knight in shining… Uhm, never mind. “ She laughs. The sound bubbles up from her, buoyant.

 They spoon. Like an old married couple. Bizarre. The hand he throws around her brushes the swell of her breast from time to time. And even then, she does not pull away. It all feels dream-like.


“Tell me about your dreams, “ he murmurs against her hair.

 “Touring. I dream of touring the world, someday.” The confession is childish in its simplicity.

 “I’ll tour with you,” he smiles. “Our dreams match.”

“I want to see the Northern lights…”

“I want to sleep beneath a cold Northern sky, so different from our Southern one. See the North Star and remember all the notable voyages that were taken under its guidance.”  He closes his eyes, sees an inky sky, glittering.

She continues. “I want to be a beach bum for a week.”

“Yes. Be burnt a rich, nut brown as you laze on the snowy sands and take in the blue, blue waters. The dancing palms.” He kisses her shoulder.

“I want to go to Central Park. New York.”

 “And feed the birds?”

“Are there birds in Central park?” she asks, turning to look at him. He steals a kiss.

 “I don’t know. Are there?”

She shrugs. “No idea. We’ll discover together, then.”

“I want to walk the streets of New York. Find hidden shops that tourists have never heard of. Shops where the aroma of coffee overwhelms me, like your perfume did today.” Suddenly he feels self-conscious.

“Silly. I don’t need pretty words and flattery. I wanted you the minute I saw you.”

 He relaxes. She continues. “I want to adopt a child one day.”

“From a country where pain is the only language they understand and wretchedness is routine?” As he says the words, he realises that neither of them know anything about the other’s life.

She nods. “I want to go to the Louvre in Paris.” She does a poor imitation of French as she says the word Paris.

He laughs. She swats his arm. “Sshhh!” she chides. “It’s a dream, remember?”

“Okay, I won’t laugh.” He clears his throat, rearranges his face – or tries to – a broad smile tugging at the corner of his mouth still. “I want to get lost in a painting. Imagine the artist’s hands as he painted his dream into being.”

 “Love that!” He hears her smile.

 “I want to walk the streets of Paris. See lovers and bask in the light of their love.”


She giggles. The sound is girlish. It sets something inside of him free.

 “I want to listen to an Arab man speak, with beautiful animated hands outside a coffee shop that spills onto a narrow Egyptian street. “

“You speak Arabic?” he asks.

“No. But I want to learn. “

He nods his agreement. “Take a boat down the Nile. Imagine life during the time of the Pharaohs. Be awed by the pyramids. Then stand on a dune, watch the wind mould them. Waves.”

“Take some sand in my hand and feel it trickle between my fingers.” She interlaces her fingers with his, squeezes. “You know what I've always wanted to do?” she asks.


“The Serengeti. Masai Mara.”

“Too much National Geographic, young lady,” He teases.

 “Yaya! whatever!” She feigns irritation.

 “Seriously though, I want to do that too. See the herds Migrate. Watch the Maasai do their dance in red African dust. And while we’re in Africa, you know what else I want to do?”


“Stand on a plain in the Free State. Watch the wind bend the grass.”

“Lie down? Find shapes in the clouds? Feel an ant crawl up your arm?”

“Yes.” He smiles, pulls her close. She moulds her body to fit his.

 “I want to lose myself in you over and over again,” she whispers.

 “I want to see the world, but right now, I’d settle for your smile. The flower in full bloom.” As the words leave his mouth, he recognises them to be the truth. For the moment.

 A week later, as he tucks a strand of hair behind his wife’s ear, watches her sleep as he’s done countless times in their fourteen years of marriage, his heart swells with love. He’s stopped questioning how a chance meeting could have enriched his life. How a stranger could have brought him so much joy. He no longer wonders how something so wrong could have felt so right. They didn't exchange numbers. She wanted it that way.

 He thinks of their farewell fuck. As they lost themselves in one another for the last time, she’d kissed him hard.

 “I’m a dream, “ she’d said. ”You were mine. Thank you…”

 He hears the words, like a song, over and over, until he sleeps, sees her in a dream.


formally insipid said...

Chance encounters no matter how long or short can change us so fundementaly. The shame is that the other mostly never knows the effect they had.

The smile that they still cause, the flutters that come at their remembrance, the regret over unsaid good byes.

Saaleha said...

Been thinking of your comment ever since it was delivered to my inbox.
Have concluded that if the other still gives you things to smile about, the crossing of paths has served its purpose. Continues to do so.
Its not every day that once chances upon a person who can give joy even when they're no longer around :)
Treasure that. Treasure the memories. Regret serves no purpose at all :)

Saaleha said...

*one chances* - typo! Ouch!

Azra said...

And I'm wondering, why is it that you haven't yet written a book? :)

Saaleha said...

Azra, I have. 2 in fact. Its the publishing that's been a schlep