Out of a vague sense that she had crossed my path in order to make something happen, and without being able to pinpoint what would happen, why it would happen, or when it would happen, I followed her along the narrow alleyways that led around the old bastion. The closer you get to the bastion, the narrower and more winding the streets become. Her light tread made the hem of her long raincoat, which ended just above the ankles, dance around her calves. With every step she took on her imitation snakeskin heels, her playful hands invited me closer. The afternoon light was just starting to fade at the corners; a fat woman, toting big shopping bags, wormed her way through the streets with a woeful tread.
Closer. To her. And I didn’t even know what she looked like. What had possessed me? Madness. The smell of her.
All the years that schools and businesses had invested in making me rational and prudent were now cast aside. I was sick and tired of their vulgar conditioning. I wanted to be blind; all the better to catch the scent I was pursuing.
She brushed past me. We were the silent captives of the shopping crowds. Everything was squawking, whining, weeping, or crying out for attention. No trace of sheltering silence. I mingled with humanity so I could detest it once more.
I could smell her like the presence of someone that had taken freedom into her own hands, someone that would understand me. What was she doing here? Who was she? Because she had brushed past me and I was a fraction of a second too late (always that wretched fraction of a second!), I hadn’t caught sight of her face. She had taken me unaware, and then, in her mocking way, had rushed on ahead without granting me so much as a glimpse of her face. What entranced me most was the color her eyes would turn out to be. Please, I begged, just let them be gray with a tinge of emerald green.
A wild, defiant smell tickled my nostrils; a hint of her perfume mixed with the naturally emerging and arousing scent of her body.
I and a half-Syrian woman made love late one summer, she climbing on top of me, me holding onto her, she burying her face in my neck…
Fresh and sexy.
I wasn’t rich, but I was rich in freedom. Freedom I could share with her.
Her strategy, as I gathered from her affected demeanor, the way she discreetly turned away from prying glances, was not to flaunt her goods; but, beneath that tailored raincoat, did I perhaps glimpse the white and silk of a woman who was not easily surprised, and gave the air of being able to handle any and every surprise. Like a soldier preparing for war by girding up his loins and donning the jewelry of weapons, binoculars and a compass, she prepared for the battlefield of seduction by donning silk and lace. I felt dazed. She had dealt me a hard blow at the very outset by confronting me with a dream I could scarcely deal with. My heart was pounding in my throat, seeking a way out of this burning, beseeching body. It was as if my heart, ashamed of my foolhardiness, was trying to rebuke me: Go home, don’t let yourself be humiliated. But I wanted to be humiliated. I wanted to take this risk. Cowardice was not an option. My heart calmed down.
It was the hair that did it. You could see from its golden sheen that it had just been washed, rinsed through with perhaps more than an hour of water to cleanse it of dirt, grease, and worries, then rubbed with nourishing oils found in the Orient and brought here on pack-mules or Bactrian camels so that the full opulence of that chestnut hair could be reveald. The color reminded me of the time I and a half-Syrian woman made love late one summer, she climbing on top of me, me holding onto her, she burying her face in my neck, me looking out over the Bekaa valley from the empty house where we had been allowed to bed down and assuage our obsessive lust.
The longer I walked the slower my pace, and the thinner the shadow, for it was already late in the afternoon. Doors and windows were closing to ensure privacy. Apart from children at play, we had the city to ourselves. The longer we walked, the more I suspected she was walking just to arouse curiosity, not for the attention she was garnering, but to satisfy her need for freedom, the unpredictable, and the feeling that time was there to be wasted. Rather than putting herself on display, she was making love to herself. On the bridge between two canals she stopped. The time had come to introduce myself. To tell her I didn’t know who I was.