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“He had an attractive, confident, sonorous voice, and a calm, balanced temperament, despite his wild and wonderful creativity.Then there was his flirtatious grin, and those shoulders that made me want to come at him full speed and leap on top of them.The details of his face, his entire aura – everything about him, actually – was familiar to me somehow. It was as if he wasn’t just close to my heart, my imagination, or my memory, but lived inside them. How had this happened, and why? I didn’t know. In spite of the ease I felt with him, I felt flustered and confused.Yet, it was an ease I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I realized, of course, that it was the spirit of my first love, Ahmad, who had led me to Youssef. But why to Youssef in particular? He said to me once:‘Who can say how spirits connect and why some are attracted to each other?’ Another time he said: ‘Don’t be fooled. The body is a person in its own right. It has a voice. It speaks. It goes silent. It loves. It hates. It cries. It laughs. It longs. It understands and feels confused. It accepts and rejects.’

“I kept thinking about whether Youssef was the man of my dreams, or someone I’d loved in a previous life.Then again, I thought: maybe he’s the headstrong force of love that tries to bind the present and the future to the past, including even the distant past, and, just possibly, to the realm of the unseen?

“When I told Anisa later about the questions that had my head spinning, she said: ‘Sudden passion generates all sorts of feelings. And they might all be genuine.’Then she added:‘Listen, girl: forget the questions, and just be happy.You’re lucky.There are people who grow up, marry, and become grandparents without even once knowing what passion feels like.’

“We were sitting by the seaside, and I was wearing a bronze-yellow blouse with a golden sheen to it, its top buttons undone. (I knew he adored this colour. One day when we were in his studio, he’d given it a number of different names, one of which was ‘the colour of ecstasy.’) I was sitting there jabbering away at him excitedly when suddenly I was seized by the gleam of desire in his eyes. They felt like a pair of wings that had swept me into an ardent embrace and taken me soaring. Without thinking, I reached out and took his hands in mine. Ablaze with the heat of passion, they gave me a sting that shook me to the core. So, hands have their own kind of embrace, one that engraves love’s tattoo in the beloved’s for as

84 BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021

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