RECAP: “What is worse than your heartache…?”
“I don’t know.” She would resign sadly. “I’ve begged God to tell me.” Then Pain would smile at her cruelly, like a child with a gob-stopper gumming his jaws in lurid colours.
“You have more morbid ingenuity than Death himself…” she would sigh.
Then Pain would beam from the compliment and leave her right side gleefully to put sticky fingers on the soft fabric of the sofa.
One day however, when some small beams of sunlight dappled the room in a transient sweep, her heart had been strong for some time and her soul praised God for this small reprieve: she stopped wandering. She stopped to feel the air out and felt no warning of her two ethereal companions. This was almost a shame for she wanted to ask Death:
“Did Adam feel anything like me… what words did he say to God before God heard him and made Woman? Did he feel as I feel?”
Then she opened the door, ever so slightly. She did so each day a little more, until she could see the ironwork spindles that made up part of the staircase outside in the hall.
The next day the woman put on an old denim shirt, wrapped a scarf into her hair with quite simple prettiness and was poised with a Chinese brush and tar-black paint to paint the elegant line of an alif (ا ) on the white wall.
It is time. She thought. None but these walls shall know me. Still, that is better than nothing.
She had made a proper beginning. Then someone in the hall said:
“Hello…? Sorry. You left your door open. I wanted to check that you were okay.”
The man stood framed in the doorway with his eyes as quick and bright as a blackbird’s, intent on perceiving everything in the space. Her hand inexplicably started to shake and so she put the brush down.
She too glanced around the room nervously, expecting Pain or Death to appear, but looking guiltier, as if she did not have a right to the space as her own.
“Whom do you represent…?” She asked with an even voice.
The letter alif on the wall behind her form was like a feather of Gabriel, a holy beginning and a sword of truth to ward her. She put faith in the mark and its meaning.
“Represent?” He asked, still not entering as he had not been invited. “Is this some sort of legal practice?”
“No. This is a place I try not to visit too much.”
“I don’t represent anyone but myself. My name is Handsome. Or Noble. I suppose it was the Noble part that wanted to check that you were okay.”
“Well I’m fine.”
“Pleased to meet you… Fine.”
He noted the long line of her very thin earrings and how the small faceted emerald tear-drop bead at the end of each one was beautiful against the line and colour of her neck, and also how the beads drew attention to the sweeping almond curves of her eyes. Eyes she was now averting.
“No I mean…” She began.
“Should I come in?”
“Is it alright to come in please?”
“You’re asking… to come in?”
“Sorry, I was only trying to be polite.”
“No-one’s ever asked before…”
“I’ll sit on the sofa. You sit by the door in that chair if you’re afraid.”
“I’m not afraid of you.” She smiled, thinking of Death and Pain. “Come in.”