“The great works of the tombs of the Pharaoh were just ahead.”
“It was not often that he smoked the water pipe, but tonight was one of those times. It was a night to remember the past, and his life before he met her, and his life afterward. Oh, how long it had been afterward, more than a dozen lifetimes. The smoke drifted around him as he exhaled. It took him back to the first time he smoked the water pipe in her present. She had waited for a moment when no one was watching and asked if she could try. He was so Egyptian and she was so foreign. At first he thought he heard her wrong and had asked her to repeat it. Yes, she had asked if she could try smoking the water pipe. She was so very different than any woman he had ever met. In his country, no women would consider smoking the water pipe, especially not by asking a man to show her.
But that was her, and so like a boy caught doing something he shouldn’t, and a father being asked to explain something he was embarrassed to, he reluctantly agreed to show her. He had done it slowly, and let the little bubbles start slowly, and when the bottle filled with sweet smoke, he handed the pipe to her. She struggled so hard to bring the sweet apple smoke down in her lungs and to share what he was enjoying. It was not to be, for her lungs were not used to this way of smoking. She was not only foreign; she was also the new woman of the century. They tried things, to say the least. She smoked those little cigars that foreign women did, believing them more equal with men and independent.
Everything was so new and different when she was around her. Now for just a few moments, they were alone. She tried again, and again, and wouldn’t give up; she just wasn’t that kind of person. Her face was red for more reasons than one. He took the pipe from her and gain he mastered the little bottle to fill with sweet smoke, and run the over flow through his nose. She looked at him and said, “I want to taste it.” Without thinking, he leaned over towards her, and as he did, she opened her mouth. Before he knew what was happening, the smoke came out of his mouth and into hers. It was as if the smoke was sharing their bodies. He pulled back just before their lips touched, but the smoke continued on. It had done what they had not, to touch each other’s bodies. The smoke entered her lungs, and as she let go of it, her voice returned. She smiled and looked into his eyes, and said “it makes me a little dizzy”. He was ashamed of his thoughts, jealous of the smoke that had been inside him, and then her.
He stared ahead, unseeing, as he was back in that moment. The old man pulled hard on the pipe and his mind slowly turned back to the present, for the love of Allah, please come back to the present, the voice inside him cried out. As a distant traveler returning, he gradually became aware of the sound of his own heart beating. He was once more looking at the West Bank, with his eyes on the present. Ah, to look at the Nile now, the sun was giving off its last light of the day. The long rays of color lying on the water, to form dark and light blues. These were mixed with red and yellow lines, rippling from the mighty current. It was always here, beside the small homes that claimed their right to live on this river of all rivers.”
Inspired by my travels through North Africa, River of Life is a love story that spans the globe. A young Egyptian boy of Moslem faith meets his life’s destiny when introduced to a young Christian girl travelling from Poland. Their great love flourishes throughout their lives, despite the challenges they face, together and apart.
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