A Man

A strange man was staring intently at something on the pavement.

I stopped to see what he was looking at.

He glanced at me, and in his eyes, I saw something that I didn’t care to examine.

Then he lifted his hat, put it back on his head, and walked off, lighting a cigarette.

His footsteps sounded gravelly on the pavement, which was slick with the drizzle that had rained down for the past hour.

The heavens were grey.

The houses huddled together.

A faint haze clouded the world, just so you couldn’t make out what was in the distance, but you couldn’t be entirely sure it was a fog.

‘What were you looking at?.’

The man vanished into the not-fog.

And there was nothing on the pavement.

I hurried along, feeling self conscious, somehow. Why did I stop. I don’t know.

I was expecting to see a dead rabbit, it’s body ripped apart so the insides spilled out and plastered onto the elements.

I was expecting to see a hole leading right down to the other side of the world, assuming the world was round, that is.

I was expecting to see the secrets of life in an open book. Why else would a man be so fascinated?

I don’t know.

Why was the strange man staring at the pavement?

When I got home, my roommate told me that sometimes people have private thoughts which the world has no business trying to get a hold of.

‘You can’t just pick up the phone, Penny, and ask what’s up.’

But you can, that is what phones are for.

I really wanted to know.

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Love Letters #24

The place was flooded with oranges. It was orange and red, the sand a deep rusty hue. Orange trees lining the pavements wherever you go. Giant cacti and prickly pear plans replacing the ivy on house walls. Markets everywhere, carts piled high with citrus oranges and greens. Vendors handing out orange juice, orange peels by the thousands, piled up by the gutter, along with fish spines and bits of brightly coloured material. Alleyways filled with empty, shuttered shops and tall buildings springing up everywhere by the month.

Oranges and fish. Markets and spices. Haughty prideful patriotism. This was Casablanca.

I did not see the Casablanca that tourists see. I was sucked right into everyday family life, because I was visiting distant relatives.

The White house. In Arabic, ‘Addarul-Baydhaa’.

It was not as beautiful as it sounded, when you got down to the nitty gritty. There were far too many people and way too many cars. But there was beauty if you dared to explore. If you waded through the traffic of spluttering cars and cantering horses, the odd mule and innumerable donkeys, you would be greeted by beautiful red desert plains and sunny, sandy beaches.

There was a magnificent white mosque sitting on the water, with the sun reflecting its pristine architecture and the deep blue sky behind forming a serene backdrop to its beautiful image, waves crashing behind.

I did not fall in love with the city at first. In fact, I hated it. I hated the way everything was such a hassle, and how the government did not cater to its people. I hated the cockroaches that teemed the streets, scuttling confidently over the white powder put there to keep them away. I hated the way vendors shoved their ware in your face.

But those were shallow, unimportant things. As I spent more time there, the people began to find a way into my heart. They were so generous, and eager to please and inform. They loved to show their home and their city off to you. They had such pride in their hearts for their beautiful homeland, and gave so very much when they had so little themselves.

They had love in their hearts. A deep, warming love that unfurled its leaves through the earth and spread like ivy along the cracks in the roads. Neighbours were like family and the sense of community was fiery. People went out of their way to make you comfortable.

Soon the little peeves became things to smile about, in fond recollection.

Casablanca.

I didn’t feel as though I belonged there at first. I felt isolated and too western. I didn’t feel like I had roots there at all, but they welcomed me and treated me like I was one of their own, even though I was very different from them. I fell in love with Casablanca and her beautiful sunsets. The way the calls to prayer rose gently to the sky, the wide smiles and friendly shouts from complete strangers, the warm, rough hands of thousands of aunts, kneading bread and combing hair.

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Reflection People

So once I had a dream that there were two of us. I mean two of me and two of you.

Hey that’s interesting.

Yeah. It was weird. Like we had parallel lives in the same houses and we just accepted that there were two of us. Like you would say, ‘oh the other me went to the shops today. I’m so glad she did because I really needed knickers.’

The two me’s share knickers? That’s weird.

Well not really when you think about it because it is you, just another you. You’re the same, though. Same person.

How can we be the same person if we are two different people?

Think of it this way, imagine your reflection stepped out of your mirror.

That would be awful.

Hear me out okay? She stepped out of your mirror and then she started just being you but in a non threatening way. She just did the things you didn’t like doing, like, I dunno, buying knickers..

I love buying knickers. They are so pretty. I want to buy my own knickers.

OK, ok, how about taking the bins out or cleaning the litter tray?

Yes, that stuff.

And going to work for you when you really don’t want to and doing your taxes and all that. And she doesn’t complain because she is YOU, just the reflection version. So you are still doing all of that only now you have double the man power and double the brain power and double the hair and nails and feet and fingers. So, really, you would be at an advantage. Imagine cooking dinner, you could just relax and read a book and you could also chop onions and fry vegetables.

What about if the reflection turned against me?

Hmmm, yes. That could be a possibility. You have a real whole functioning brain that is pretty much a spare brain so why WOULDN’T you want to become your own separate person?

Exactly.

Well, I must think about that and get back to you.

Can’t wait to hear about it.

Ok. See you tomorrow.

Same place?

Same place.

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They Don’t Laugh

I met a girl yesterday who didn’t laugh. She didn’t smile either, not once.

So I made some jokes and inserted some funny bits into conversation, but they seemed to go right over her head.

Well, thought I, I must be an exhaustively un-interesting person. I didn’t retreat into my shell, though, I persisted in trying to engage her, since we were travelling together.

I offered her some mango pieces. Who can say no to mango pieces? She declined, and carried on munching her pasta. I told her a funny anecdote that always makes people laugh, but she just stared at me, solemn, and said,

‘Oh, that’s funny.’

Then she proceeded to talk about her uncle’s wife’s marital problems and how her uncle is an awful person.

Huh. Okay. I am not interested in any of this, and I do not see the necessity of this conversation because it adds no value to my mind, in fact it just pollutes it and makes me feel depressed.

So I tried to steer the topic away and towards something we had in common, i.e. our university course. Hallo. Maybe she has some interesting insight on Dubliners. I for one, while recognising its significant political and literary value, thought it was boring at first. It still wouldn’t be a book I would pick up on a fanciful whim. I was also having troubles analysing it properly in a fashion that my examiner would find scintillating. She just said,

‘Yeah, it was okay.’

‘So which stories would you chose to compare with Langston Hughes’ New York poems?’

‘Oh, I don’t know.’

Silence.

So our conversation petered out because she didn’t have opinions on things I found interesting, and I wasn’t interested in gossiping about her adulterous family members. And she did not laugh.

In fact, the whole debacle depressed me immensely and I greatly regretted agreeing to travel home with her just because we live in the same city. That, and the fact that we are on the same course, is the only thing we have in common with each other.

Who are these people, that do not laugh, folks? That like to gossip and not much else? Who shun conversation unless it is about other people? Where did they learn such behaviour?

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Oh, hello, stranger.

There is a woman next to me eating a tuna sandwich. Well, I think it is tuna. I can’t be too sure. You never can, with the wide variety of sandwich fillings these days. What happened to good old cheese and tomato? That washes down well with coffee.

This lady is sad, folks. Her face is flushed, and she pulls a tissue out of her coat pocket to wipe her eyes and nose. She also stares vacantly out the window for a while, and her shoulders slump as though the weight of the world is settled on them. She holds herself close to her heart, her knees inwards, her chest bent in on herself, as though she is curling up like a desert leaf to hold herself in and protect herself. Her posture suggests she might be nervous or uncomfortable.

She has a slim notebook in front of her. The cover is black, with green drawings all over it. She is left handed, and writes with her hand bent over her sentences. It is not a way I could envision writing. Her bag is purple, like space, dotted with stars. Her hair is shoulder length and curly, and she wears glasses.

Her eyes are sad, and I want to go and sit next to her and sprinkle some joy upon her day. But I don’t know how to. What would I say?

Hello, I noticed you look sad. Wanna talk about it?

Hi! I’m Lenora. I love your diary.

Oh, hello. Look at these pictures of cute squirrels I found on the internet.

Good afternoon. Do you think you could take a few moments to talk about our Literary Lord and Linguistic saviour John Ronald Reuel Tolkien?

Hi, I really like your hair.

Hello, ….

The possibilities are endless. But none sound remotely right.

Oh. She has put her coat on, and off she goes. Mayhaps she wrote all her sad thoughts in her diary, and now feels relieved to carry on with her day.

Perhaps she wasn’t sad at all, but had hay fever.

I wish I talked to her. I want to know what she has to say.

I don’t know how to talk to strangers though, without seeming like a creep, or uncommonly odd.

Well. Maybe next time.

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