Day two B
etween us were the salt cellar and the small peppermill, two glasses of wine, and a box of tissues. As the time passed, the silence started to swallow me up, while chit-chat swallowed up the whole restaurant. You were unable to offer me a helping hand. The autumnal sun was visible through the restaurant window, bathing the centre of the city. The dome and the faded ochre walls of the palace gleamed softly in the light.
“Let’s go out,” you said to me. “It’ll be lovely and warm soon.” I shut my eyes in surrender to a rare inertia. I was not used to taking it easy. “That’s a lot to ask, my friend,” I said to you. “Still, don’t be down. Remember the past. Go with it. It’s your only consolation. Pick up your bag and go with the days that have gone. What’s real is what’s gone, not what’s to come. Memory, my friend, memory is what has occupied me night and day since I set foot in Europe.”
Right then, I felt I had fallen into a big trap. Silence gaped. You started touching me, trying as best you could to prolong the conversation. I looked at your fingers as they stroked my palm. You talked with me. Your words sounded like grunts. Suddenly everything disappeared. I was elsewhere probing my wounds, plunging backwards into the past. After a short silence I said to you: “Something inside me sometimes makes me go over my mother’s life.” You heard me very well and put your hand over mine.
“Stop . . .” I screamed inside as I looked you full in the eyes. That moment I felt happy and confused, like a lemon tree standing alone in the middle of the garden, delirious under the brilliant rays of summer sun.
Before the appearance of the armed extremists, my mother did not leave the house much. In the evenings she would sit in the courtyard or some quiet corner of the house. In the mornings she would flit between the kitchen stove and the room preparing food for us. Only rarely would someone notice her presence. If my father did
12 BANIPAL 53 – SUMMER 2015