IcanseeitI’mhere…Oh woooooooooooow. I was trying to get some shut eye when I felt the plane start to descend so I opened the window shade, eager to see what Al Simhara really looks like and wow! Just wow! I’ve never seen this much sand before in my life! I’m just thanking… Who do I thank? Never been big on religion, I guess I’m just really glad that this plane is air-conditioned ’cause I can see the heat rising off the desert. Look at that pyramid! And the oasis of Al Simhara! This place is so amazing, I think I’m in love with it and I haven’t even landed yet!
Ugh. So when I left home I was dressed for the weather but here? It’s just HOT, not muggy or humid, just hot. I think I sweat my cardigan into disintegration between the airport and my camp ground and the heels I was wearing? Every step I took in them through these dunes made me sure I was going to break my ankle. Luckily I had some more appropriate attire but I’ve had to totally ditch an outfit I love. Oh well! I’m in EGYPT, no use crying over frayed hems, am I right?
I have one question: Whose bright idea was it to give me, Rosie Clarke, a scooter? ‘Cause I wanna hug them and squee with excitement. I’m probably going to kill myself riding around these packed sand trails this week but I can’t wait – it’s the only way to get a breeze out here. I could spend hours just zipping from one place to the next and back again, there’s too much scenery to take in and it’s entirely different from home. Nothing’s the same, not even the plants! It’s exotic and alien and beautiful and I can’t wait to see more, but first there’s business to attend to.
The idea of meeting this foreign man who was interested in my art enough to fly me half-way across the world had turned me into Violet on the plane. I don’t mean that I actually, like, turned into Vi… Never mind, all I’m trying to say is that this weird romantic part of me I never knew I had took over and I couldn’t help but day dream that Helmi Hosni would be this handsome, debonair man who would sweep me off my feet. I’m not overly disappointed, he’s the relic vendor here in Al Simhara and he’s pretty easy on the eyes but I’m not sure I can use the word debonair to describe him.
He loves the painting I made for him, told me that he’s going to hang it in a ‘place of great honour’ in his house but all I’m seeing is the sculpture in his store. I’m sure that any man who collects things of such beauty and wonder must really have something going for him. I can’t believe how old this is! He says that it’s over 2000 years old and I’m stunned… I could never make anything this grand even with modern tools at my disposal. I think I could stand here all day and just take in the majesty that is this one antique relic and I know that there are so many more around for me to see. I’m in awe of this art form I’ve never even considered. All I can say right now is that Egypt is one inspiring place.
I reached in to feel the curves of the ancient stone when Helmi’s voice brought me out of my daze.
“You! American!” Am I? “Don’t touch! It’s not for you, you could never afford. Leave alone!”
I’m astounded by the malice in his voice, he was so pleasant while I was handing over his commissioned work and now he’s treating me like just another tourist! I try to stammer out an apology, I wasn’t trying to hurt anything, I wouldn’t break it, but words don’t come out the way they should and he’s looking at me like I’m the sand beneath his feet.
“Silly tourist always want touch touch touch never buy! Go now, out of store! Not. Welcome!”
Before I know what’s taken over, I’m seeing red and yelling back at him.
“How dare you?! What if I did want to buy this Helmi? Then what? Would you tell me I wasn’t good enough for it? Would you kick me out? Some customer service you’ve got going! When’s the last time you sold anything at all with that kind of attitude? You know, you could show some appreciation! I spent 15 hours on an airplane sitting next to Chubby McSmelly to deliver you a painting that you asked for! YOU Helmi! YOU brought me here and now I’m not good enough to look at what you have to sell? Fine!”
After an appropriately dramatic storming out I find myself in the most beautiful marketplace I’ve ever seen! Maybe it’s the only marketplace but that hardly matters to me. I can’t believe I missed seeing all of this when I first walked in. The quiet splash of water in the fountain, haunting and unusual music drifting out of the storefronts, the exquisite smells of foods I’ve never tasted, plants I’ve only ever seen in books and more – so much more! I can hardly take it all in and I walk around the fountain maybe a dozen times, trying to memorize ever detail from the feeling of the sand in my sandals to the tool marks embedded in the stone that everything is built from. I’ve never loved anything so much so immediately.
I follow the sound of music around a corner – it’s the sound of someone playing and not a radio repeating some recording made hundreds of miles away – and find what I know will be my first purchase. A woman sits cross legged on a mat, a cobra dancing to the sound of her pipe as if it’s been mesmerized by the sound and for a while, I am too. Then all of a sudden! Rattle! Hiss! Eeek! The woman took a moment to breathe and the previously docile snake snapped out towards her. My heart’s beating a mile a minute and I think I’m going to pass out from shock.
After the scare we both had I feel some strange sort of camaraderie with the woman and in my broken Al Simharan I manage to ask her where I can buy a snake charmers basket. I just know Violet will love one and I can’t help but want to bring home a souvenir that will do more than just sit on the shelf or hang on a wall… Not that I don’t intend to get a bunch of those too! She points me towards the general store in the marketplace and returns to her work, keeping a very wary eye on the waving cobra head this time.
After a day of exploring Al Simhara’s marketplace I am absolutely famished so, like a toucan, I follow my nose into this little cafe set off to the side and it turns out to be where every last one of those delectable scents I’ve been smelling all day are coming from. I order a local specialty, falafel, and sit down at one of the small tables inside the building as opposed to outside. Why? Because the storekeeper is quite nice to look at. He’s just got this warmth coming from him but that may also just be my full belly speaking.
Either way, I can’t resist introducing myself to him under the pretense of wanting to thank him for the delicious meal. Farouk Rashid. His hand is soft and warm in mine and his eyes have such a nice light in them but I’m tired and jet lagged and I just don’t have it in me to get to know him right now. All I want to do is get back to camp and get off of my feet and sleep! I feel like I’ve been awake for three whole days and I’ve taken in sights to last a lifetime. I am exhausted.
The next morning I’m up bright and early and excited to get going with some proper sight seeing. Helmi may be a jerk but he did spring for this artist to have a weeks worth of vacation and I plan on making the best of it. The big board outside of my tent is full of things to do – sight seeing tours, tomb explorations, meeting the locals, collecting… stuff… there’s too much here for me to look at so I decide to set out on my own. Just me, my scooter and a map of landmarks. I can’t wait!
My first stop of the day is the giant pyramids. So far they’ve only been in the distance but they’re so big that they’ve always been in the distance. No matter where I’ve been I’ve been able to see them and now I’m jumping at the chance to see them up close. I honestly didn’t expect them to be this big. They’re enormous! My guide book says that each stone was laid by hand and I can’t imagine that that’s even possible. How did they get them all the way up there without a crane? Slave labour you say? I could never hack it as a slave. I’m far too lazy (ha.ha.)
I spent nearly all day at the pyramids, trying desperately to take in their grandeur and I’m not sure I succeeded. There was just too much to see, so much that I didn’t eat. Which was a perfect excuse to go see Farouk again. After some shawarma we got to talking, we got to chatting, and I soon realized he’s similar to Mama in that he’s quite child-like in some regards. Not many people could get me going like this but before I could stop to think I agreed to play tag with him and we were running around the market like children – never minding the people who stopped and stared.
Finally, winded from laughing we fall into one anothers arms, holding each other up so we don’t collapse onto the ground. I can’t help but realize how long it’s been since I’ve been held by someone and I have to admit, it feels good. The last time someone put their arms around me it was Marcus and he was telling me he loved me and that I was perfect for him. Well, we all know how that turned out for me, don’t we? Jerk. Farouk though, I could stay here forever if he’d let me but it’s not long before he has his breath back and is pulling away.
He tells me he needs to get back to work, needs to get back home, but first I manage to convince him to teach me a couple local songs to take back home with me. Again, I can’t help but think of Violet as I butcher each and every note while Farouk patiently waits for me to learn the words and tune as best as I can. Vi would have the whole song down in a heartbeat but it takes me the better part of an hour before I’m sure I’ve memorized it.
I awoke this morning feeling lighter than air – it’s been a long time since I’ve had a crush on someone and I plan on taking it slow. That means that instead of heading straight to the cafe this morning and spending the rest of the day there I’m doing more sight-seeing. The Sphinx is stop one and just like everything else here I’m amazed by the artistry and the scale. And the heat. I’m trying not to complain but this is just ridiculous! I keep being sure that I’m seeing ponds just over the next dune, but instead it turns out I’m crazy. I’ve never been this warm before in my life but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.
One more hike up another giant, allegedly hand-made staircase in the sweltering heat leads me to one more display of the ancient Egyptians talent with sculpture. I know in my heart that Al Simhara has so much more to offer me than statues but I just can’t see it. I’m surrounded by history but I’m not seeing that either – not surprising on that front, it was a miracle I passed my history classes ’cause I just didn’t care then and I guess I don’t now either. I know, I know, it’s important, but to me it’s not nearly as important to know how wars shaped the world as how art can.
Of course I went back to Faroud’s cafe every day of my trip. I can’t cook at base camp (I can’t cook) but Faroud makes awesome food and he’s great to talk to. I guess I got lucky in that he’s pretty good at Simlish ’cause my Al Simharan isn’t nearly good enough to carry a conversation. I was over confident in it when I got here and wow can I butcher a language when I set my mind to it! Faroud makes me feel so at ease, I can talk to him about anything and everything – about growing up with Connor as a father, about the boys I’ve loved and lost, about my art and school and friends.
He’s made me feel so at ease that I can’t help myself, I’m running out of time on this trip and I know I won’t be back here anytime soon so it’s time to make my move. I lean in to kiss him (I love kissing!) and he backs away.
“I am sorry Rose, but I do not feel… I cannot. I am sorry if you thought that we were more than we are. You and me are friends, yes? Friends but not like that.”
I feel so betrayed by all those times he gazed back into my eyes, all the flirtations that we shared, and now he’s dropping the F-bomb. Friends. I’m Rose, I see red. It’s what happened.
“So we’re friends Faroud? Do you run around with all of your friends like you do with me? Hold them all like you do when you hug me? I sure am some naive little girl for you to have played me like that, aren’t I? I guess I’m just another silly artist wandering into a place they don’t belong in getting roped in by some guy who doesn’t care if he hurts her ’cause she’s going home soon anyway! Is that is? Was this fun for you? Just a game? Whatever Faroud. Thanks for leading me on like that. Thanks for nothing!”
With that I turn on my heel and head back to base camp. I’ve fallen for the wrong guys so often that I’m not sure there are any right guys.
I hate to let anyone bring me down and the fact that I went to bed after my fight with Farouk thinking that it had ruined my trip really well, brought me down. I awoke and resolved that nothing would ruin this trip so I continued my explorations. In Queen Hatshepsut’s temple I’ve found the most beautiful room! It shimmers in gold like the desert seems to in the noon sun with blue accents that mimic the rivers… I was in a bad mood when I walked into this room but now? All of that seems to have melted away into calm, cool and collected. I think I’ll spend some time here, just… Relaxing.
I’ve seen the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids. I’ve seen temples dedicated to ancient royalty and the far more modern (but not as modern as home) marketplace but nothing compares to Abu Simbel. A local had pointed me towards this out-of-the-way wonder but she warned me I wouldn’t be able to get in. I went anyways and while she was right and all I could see was the outside, the crumbling facade, I’m very glad that I brought a picnic dinner. I guess I’m glad that I didn’t find this place earlier in my trip because I would have sat outside those doors all week trying to work out how to replicate the giant figures built into the living rock.
I leave tomorrow afternoon and I’m heartbroken to be leaving Egypt. I’ve never spent so much time just being awe-struck as I have this past week. It’s gone by in a haze of heat and amazing sculpture and I don’t really want to leave. Sure, I miss Mama and Vi and even Connor a little bit but there’s nothing at home to compare to the things I’ve seen and the places I’ve been since I arrived. There’s only one thing left for me to do and my pride is going to take a bit of a hit.
I have to be at the airport in an hour and that leaves me just enough time to visit the market one last time and… And one last chance to see Faroud.
“Faroud?” I’ve never heard myself sound so sheepish!
“Rose? You are back! I thought you were gone today.”
“Soon, I’m going to the airport right from here. I just needed to…”
“No no Rose, I go first. I am sorry I… emm… how you say? Lead you on? I am married Rose, many years, I love my wife. I did not mean to make you feel anger to me, yes?”
Of course, another man with another woman. I really know how to choose them. We’ve said our good-byes, Farouk and I, and I’m sure this is the last time I’ll see him and I suppose that it’s for the best. So I take one last look at him so that I can remember his face ’cause I won’t be running into this one at one of Vi’s concerts. With that one last look my time in Al Simhara is over. I have a plane to catch, it’s time to get back to ‘real life.’
I arrive home and everything seems to be exactly the same as it was when I left home. It feels like months since I’ve been here but it’s sorta nice that nothing’s changed. Everyone’s fast asleep and the place is neat and tidy, I’m glad to be home I guess but I’m not happy with the home that’s mine. Egypt gave me time to reflect on this heiress thing and I can’t wait to renovate so that it really reflects me and something that I’ll be proud to inherit.
My own bed! So much more comfortable than the constantly deflating air mattresses that I’ve slept on the past week. I’m fast asleep the second my head hits the pillow and in my dreams I’m touring the world, going from one city to the other and for some reason I’m riding a dragon. I guess I’ve listened to way too many of Mama’s stories about her friend Chris and his crazy. Always fun to hear Mama accuse someone else of being crazy.
You know when something really surprises you and it reminds you just how great that thing is? I spent a lot of time in Egypt getting things that I thought Violet would want or that she asked for specifically and the morning I got home she bounced into my room, jumped onto the bed and woke me up, wanting to know all about my trip. I’ve taught her both the songs Faroud taught me and once I showed her the basket outside she shrieked with excitement and started using it right away. I’ve told her everything about my trip, everything except Faroud. Still a sore subject, y’know?
Even Mama is enjoying the snake charming basket which I find really shocking. I never thought I’d ever see her sitting on the ground! Vi and I sit inside laughing our er… bums off while Mama makes the pipe squack these miserable sounds. Vi can make that pipe sing and I don’t even try but Mama doesn’t seem to notice that she’s scaring away all the wildlife and not charming anything… Except for her family, we think it’s positively precious.
First things first, now that I’m home, there are some supplies I needs, some shopping that needs doing, but mostly for right now I don’t feel like being cooped up at home. Connor’s writing another book but he’s started saying the words he’s typing so I can pretty much guarantee you that I know who killed the latest victim in this book ’cause he’s having a lot of trouble writing the chapter where all is revealed and he’s gone over it and over it about 7 times this morning already.
So I had my sculpting wheel delivered to the house once I ordered it from the grocery store, and the clay too so that I can start sculpting. I was blown away by what I saw in Egypt (in case you somehow missed that) and I can’t wait to try my hand at it. I’m pretty nervous that I’ll mess it up but I’ll give it a try and I plan on it being a good try. They say that the first step to sculpting is to see what the medium wants to be, but I don’t know what that is. I can’t see it! They say the next step is to cut away everything that the medium doesn’t want to be but I’m starting to think that ‘they’ aren’t providing me with very good advice.
Vi and Micah are still going strong, it’s nice to see her so head-over-heels in love with someone since she never dated in high-school. I think Micah might have even been her first kiss but that’s not really shocking. She’s always been so focused on her work that she doesn’t see the people around her. I’m really glad she sees Micah though. He’s a real doll and I envy her for having found a good man when I’ve gone through so many duds.
These are the things I think about when I’m sculpting, while I’m trying to see things that aren’t there and remove things that shouldn’t be… I’m actually not too disappointed in my first attempt at working with clay, at least not so far. Mama’s glad that there’s no room in the house for my sculpting wheel. I guess I can see why, from her perspective, it’s really quite messy business, but I’d quite prefer a studio in the house where I could work and then display. There’s no room left in my room for paintings and I feel exiled to the outside and it’s just not where I want to be.
I’ve finally finished my first statue! Go me! I’m really proud of it, really really proud! Violet jokes that I’ve tried to build my perfect man out of clay, that he’s some sort of golem for me but he’s totally not my type – too young, too poor. Bad joke? I’m amazed that I didn’t just ruin it, that his arm didn’t fall off and that his nose is actually centered. I’m so looking forward to continuing with this hobby, which I guess is a good thing since this wheel was expensive.
Before I left for Egypt I was just kind of hanging around the house, waiting for things to happen or for inspiration to strike but I came home with such a renewed interest in my interests that my days since I’ve returned have been packed! I haven’t stopped painting, I’ve just stopped being able to hang everything I’ve made and I’ve re-found colours too! The golden sands and skies of Al Simhara have certainly stuck with me and I’m trying to imbue them into everything I do before the day-to-dayness of Sunset Valley steals them from me.
I’m currently only leaving the house to get more supplies or more ideas. My Adonis no longer stands alone, he’s been joined by a friend and a nectar rack. I don’t know what to do with them, where to display them, but I love the feeling of working with my hands and actually feeling the material I’m working with. I love getting lost in the grain of wood or the details I can mold out of the clay. The last time I felt like this about something it was a someone and we’re just not going to go there right now if that’s OK with you.
When my muse departs to wherever it goes, I suspect it’s off playing with Connor’s since he spends most of his ‘writing’ time banging his head against the desk (not actually, but I suspect he’s thought about it at least once), I spend my time with the chess board. I’m not all that good at it yet but these things take time. I guess. I’ve had this set for a couple years and I hardly use it. I don’t have the patience to actually put the time into it, maybe it’s because there’s not tangible result or something? I dunno, but it’s good braincersise!
I’m outside working on my latest piece, and by working I mean I’m standing in front of a giant block of wood, begging it to speak to me, when I hear Violet and Micah coming up to the house. Violet’s laughing and I can hear her urging Micah on.
“Come on baby! You can do it! We’re almost there!”
“You’re heavier than you look, Letty.”
They’d spent the evening at Recurve Strand and I can’t even begin to imagine what possessed Micah to think he could possibly carry Violet home, but he seems to be doing a pretty good job of it.
Finally he lets her down and she rushes over to me, making all sorts of the squeaks and squeals she makes when she’s excited. I’m waiting for words but she just throws her arms around me and hugs me tight first.
“ZZ!! I’m getting married!!”
I’m speechless at first, I mean, it was going to happen sooner or later but I didn’t see it coming now. I’m shocked but their joy is contagious.
“Oh wow Vi!! Congratulations! You too Micah, glad you’re making an honest woman of her now tell me everything!!”
“I totally surprised him Zeez! I’ve been waiting for him to ask me but he took too long… Shush Micah, you had your chance, don’t interrupt me. Anyways, so I’ve been waiting and waiting and I decided I was tired of waiting so I bought a ring and made the date to go down to the beach. I got down on one knee, just like he should have months ago. Shush! And said ‘Micah, I love you with all my heart, you’re the best thing in my life and I’d like to keep you with me forever, will you marry me?’ and-“
“And I said yes, because she’s beautiful and amazing and I’m so lucky to have Violet as my girlfr- fiancee! I really should have asked her the moment I met her, I thought about it, you know. I guess I just knew that she was perfect for me but I couldn’t believe she’d feel the same way about me. Here she is on her way to becoming the greatest rock star and part of a legacy at that! All I am is a repairman. I’m truly blessed.”
They talked themselves hoarse, complimenting each other and enthusing about the wedding – I sure hope Micah knows that Vi’s had her wedding planned since highschool – and then the three of us went upstairs. It’s late and I’m just glad that they’re being quiet doing whatever they’re doing in there ’cause I really don’t want to know. I keep telling myself ‘they’re sleeping, they’re sleeping’ but I doubt it. I’m so happy that my big sister has found true love with Micah and I can’t wait to put on the bridesmaid’s dress that Violet has hanging in a closet somewhere for me. Hopefully I fit!
All of a sudden the house temperature drops to what feels like -30 C and everything goes quiet. I can’t hear a clock tick or a whirr of any of the electronics in the house. I’m not a superstitious person and I don’t believe in premonitions or anything but I know. I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that something has gone horribly wrong.
As I leave my room, Violet and Micah are at the door to hers, looking just as shocked as I am and then Mama starts to wail. The three of us nearly trip over each other as we run to Mama and Connor’s room and burst through the door without knocking. My heart was previously thudding like a drumline in my chest drops and stops for a second. It’s Connor. It’s daddy!
My heart breaks for my father who I never got to know, the father who was right there my whole life and who I passed like a ship in the night every day and now it’s too late. Death has come and stolen him from me and between the two of us we squandered every chance we had to be close. I didn’t think it would hurt this much when he passed, I thought I would be alright but it feels as though I’ve shattered a little bit. It was too soon!!
Mama looks devastated and her cries and wails are echoing through the house and up through her roof. She keeps saying what I’m feeling, keeps repeating “too soon, too soon!” she’s nearing on 100 and he was quite a bit younger than her but age doesn’t matter when fate steps in. She’s looking her years, all of a sudden. The light has left her eyes, she looks smaller, she looks… I’ve never seen her look so sad and defeated and all I want to do is cross the room and offer soothing words but I’m rooted in place and tongue-tied at that.
Violet’s crushed and I feel for her, she was always Daba’s little girl and on the night she gets engaged he leaves her life forever. She never even told him but I know that he’d be happy for her. He likes… Liked Micah a lot and he only ever wanted the best for Vi. Micah seems lost, he looks out of place and I think he feels it too. His fiancee just lost her father and he doesn’t know how to respond to the tears she’s crying.
What questions can I really put in here after an ending like that?
Who could have seen it coming?
How will the Clarke ladies deal with their heartache?
Coming soon: Chapter 3 – To Love
RIP Connor Clarke
Prolific author but mostly a loving husband and father.