The heart is hanging on the wall where he works. It has a suede strap. If he changed jobs tomorrow he would take it to the new place and hang it on the wall the same way. When he looks at its pink surface he sees her putting the charm made of quartz around his neck all those years ago. He would never consider wearing anything like that before. He was already a big man then, though not fat, his frame contrasted with her fragile figure. She felt safe in his embrace and he knew it too. The sooner he let her go the easier it will be but that was a lie he has been telling himself. First, he couldn’t get enough of her body and then her soul crept up on him like a tie dye. Today he is a man of authority, he advises presidents and high officials on matters of state but he can’t do it without the pink charm.

‘The quartz clarifies your emotions’, she used to say. Little did she know he had none. He has lost them in the ocean between Europe and Arabian peninsula. No emotions in him, no courage either to tell her he was already married. After lovemaking, all kinds of thoughts entered his mind but the lips didn’t move. In another place, in another time, we would have been husband and wife. He stared at the ceiling. Love is a myth, steeped in endless longing. Longing for a stranger that’s beyond your reach. Isn’t that what Arab poets wrote about, the unrequited love? They drunk some more of the nana tea, the minty flavour trickled down their throats and he wanted to kiss her again. She never made any noise when she dosed off, her breath touching his arm. Traffic picked up at Kings Road and Sun started to melt into the Sea like a bowl of honey. There was a man doing Tai Chi on the beach. It would be a perfect moment for Time to stop.

Last time she saw him they ordered two sugar sprinkled croissants. Almonds scattered on two mountains of pastry like camel backs. ‘One, two, three’, he counted them to avoid eye contact. Somehow, he knew what she wanted to say. Maybe he’d seen it before. When did she turn her back on careless lovemaking? His nervous body wanted to gag her. Put the pastry in her mouth and smother the icing around her lips. Wipe it off. Kiss the porcelain skin. She’s always been a doll! But you can’t compel anyone without looking at their eyes. It was too early in the morning to talk about love but she spoke of it from the bottom of her heart. The bell rang every time a new customer came in. It was the final countdown and she knew it too. Her voice dragged through the Costa bar full of lazy Brightonians and eventually evaporated into the sea air. It’s still wondering about to this day. Lost-love.

15 years later, wind & rain sent little grains of sand down on Britain. The car was covered by thin veil as it shimmered in the morning Sun. ‘Did you know that sand is actually quartz stone very finely ground by the ocean?’ Her daughter had a knack for curious facts. Or maybe the teacher has mentioned it in the lesson. She remembered the quartz heart and felt the suede strap between the fingers. His neck, where the shirt met his flesh, used to be so warm. She used to slip the heart underneath it. Of all the things they said and did, it was his chest that lingered in her mind the most. She checked for the mirror. Her daughters’ brows, as dark as his, were always brooding. She saw his purple lips in a woman’s face, so full and soft. ‘I had no idea, never thought about sand storms’, she pretended to say casually.

He found her on Twitter last year. Direct messages came every now and then, she called them ‘tweets behind the tweets’. Secret tweets. Tweets hidden from his wife and 4 daughters. When was the first daughter born?, she wondered. We also have a daughter, she wanted to tweet back. Or, we made a daughter together. Or, I had your daughter. You gave me a daughter. God gave us a daughter. The man could only make daughters, it seemed.

And that Tuesday, she put a photo on Twitter: ‘she is clever like you’.

One thought on “Saharan sand (flash fiction)

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