One of my favourite short stories is included in ’5 Pillars of the Gypsy’ so if you are reading the book or planning to reading this will definitely be a spoiler so stop right now! Lesley
Gypsy Restored (Finale)
I am awakened by the call for prayer, my hands already facing upwards in submission, having stayed that way all night. I dare not stir too much as I think without my usual logic that any movement in high temperatures could possibly exhaust me into sleeping late.
The air conditioner refused again to make it through the night. I understand so well how difficult it is to function properly in extreme heat and sympathize with the wall-mounted machine. I decide that we should all have a breaker system that switches us off when we hit overload.
I smile at my early rising. It pleases me as it allows me to watch the town wake up in peaceful slowness without the hustle of peddlers, tourists, gigolos, workers, tour buses, beggars, traffic, opportunists – without all this reality. Only too soon the sidewalks will be lined with goods, mannequins overpowering the walkways, men and young boys calling attention to whatever they are selling. I can hear it even before it begins. It is an integral part of survival here, where tourists pick and choose depending on the best act, the brightest smile, the nicest-looking waiter or the most promising prices.
The silent breeze is welcome now, to be turned off by nature itself in an hour. The sun will beam and even at half strength will eradicate any semblance of coolness. A hot furnace will blow off the marina, delighting the palm and banana trees. I imagine them opening to the puffs of air and swaying gently. For now they are stolid, in repose from the evening’s activity of being hugged, climbed, photographed and tugged at, all the while attempting to handle the salt washes.
Scents of coffee and yeast fill my nostrils. I follow my nose with the hope that it will lead to a place to sit and study, undisturbed; to wake at a leisurely pace while examining, for the twenty-third consecutive day, the bases and basics of this foreign culture and its history and people. The likelihood of no interference is slim, based on recent experience. Each day, however, I change my route in an attempt to find a place that honours my request and caters to my sensibilities. Searching for a haven along with scenery that will fulfill my hope that this part of Eden does, in fact, exist and produces bountiful goodness. I am naive ; a bit innocent. I am not likely to change.
Armed with fifteen vital “to dos” on my quickly scribbled but well-thought-out list, I venture out to see them all accomplished. One remains elusive. The one closest to my heart. The one that is the most difficult to recognize as finalized. The one I believed I’d found so many times only to be disillusioned by the truth. It is the one that catapults me into this area of the world for the third time in as many years. I know it is here. I feel it and so I am compelled to continue my pursuit. I am in search of my faith in humanity. I lost it somewhere along life’s path. It remains essential to my nourishment. Time convinces me that I cannot live without that faith as I am fading. Determination will prevail, I am tepidly certain.
Coming so close to the completion of my list has at once inspired and frustrated me. Recent visits have produced close results. The mosques, the churches, the ruins in distant communities, speaking with the inhabitants, touching history, the air, the sea, the colours – all allowing for the universe to work, have cumulatively led me back. All these avenues ventured, producing more and more yearning in my soul; a higher need for exactness and a resolve not to be suppressed or, even worse, wrong in my instincts.
Friends back home know about my quest. They do not know details, but they still understand. I am not so sure that I would be as understanding and so I respect and love them more for their blind support. I wonder if envy of my wanderings led to their acceptance. I am quite certain that nobody’s list matches mine. Therefore, they must each have their own list and imagine mine to be similar. Yes, that is the reason for the giggles, the hugs and the pure feeling of sisterhood. I picture for a moment their reaction to the poem I wrote. Now, some call me “the gypsy.” My ego is placated by the nickname. It sets me apart and gives me wings of power. It substantiates this journey, if only to my own conscience.
I find myself reciting the poem out loud, knowing that the words were one of the things that sent me here. I am careful to use a soft voice. The least attention I attract the better chance I have of drinking that cup of coffee alone and perhaps accomplishing my final task. Today may be the day.
When the winds of change
And the gypsy
………Perhaps this day
Feel her freedom
One more night
By the time I finish my private recital, tears well in me, uncontrolled by. The verses hit a nerve. The words represent me and are deeply personal. My oversized, unnecessary sunglasses disguise my emotions and I don’t bother wiping my face. Hopefully the stream of tears will not leave a crust on my skin as I have seen on children.
Looking up to my angels and watching them guide me on my way today as usual helps break the lump in my throat. Calmness and clarity take over, and I silently acknowledge their presence. I thank them with my smile and through my newly dry eyes. Being distracted by my emotions causes me to let my guard down for a fraction of time. A fraction is all that is needed, obviously. I kick myself for indulging in daydreams and poetry recitals, taking my sights off my surroundings. Perhaps I am paying the price for satisfying my ego.
Standing in my space, so close I can feel his breath leave moisture droplets on my hair, is a stranger – and a big one at that. All I can see is his shirt buttons. He smells clean, his skin seems tanned, his belly flat and muscular. I do not dare look up or down. My primary instincts set in as I choose not to move a muscle. If this was a wild predator, how would I behave? I am in the wild, confronted by a ferocious beast, perhaps a lion…I will not stir. The hair stands up on my arms with dread of what might happen[ 5] . There is not a soul in sight. The sun is only now ever-so-slightly peeking through the darkness, and I seem to have gone off track. I am unsure of my whereabouts as the pavement has turned to cobblestone. Stupid, stupid, stupid, dumb. I beat myself up –not the first time on this trip.
The standoff continues far past expectations. Neither he nor I move a muscle. I cannot, for the life of me (perhaps literally?), figure out what to do or say. All I know is that my emotions are rising. I am unable to decide if I am more annoyed, frightened, curious or amused. It is a ridiculous, unnatural stance. My face sets on fire as I imagine everyone looking.
Time passes. I suddenly feel my shoulders start to shake, as do those of my predator. Silly laughter escapes us simultaneously. We take a giant step back in tandem.
I evaluate him carefully.
He has a nice face. His laugh is deep and real. It creeps into his eyes. I am thinking how extremely attractive he is. I am stupid, stupid, stupid, dumb.
My mystery man finally speaks, first revealing warm, soft tones in slightly accented English. He has my full attention, and so, in spite of myself, I reveal my attentiveness, almost leaning forward to hear him. He has yet to introduce himself. I feel he knows my name therefore I don’t bother with introductions either. They would seem out of place.
“I have watched you for days. You walk three times, always after the call for prayer. You are searching for something…. I have walked beside you, behind you, raced farther ahead and watched you pass. You have not been aware of my existence. Now, tell me this: You are obviously looking for something. How do you intend to find it when you insist on looking straight ahead? Even when you rest or drink or eat, your back is straight, as is your gaze. Will you tell me what you hope to find using this manner of search?”
The residual of my prior burst of spontaneous laughter subsides, as does any humour. This is not amusing at all. I am curious, though, as the unravelling of this odd event intrigues me enough to feel compelled to answer back truthfully. Incredulously, I truly do not remember spotting him follow me. I give myself a failing grade for not noticing him. Here I was thinking I was so tuned into my surroundings and environment. What a joke I am. I decide that he deserves a response since he is right about my search. I am seeking something – he is definitely right. Suddenly I am feeling very solemn and trusting. I begin slowly, deliberate with my words, my voice steady and clear.
“I am simply looking for my faith in humanity. I know it was with me at one time but it is now somewhere in my past. And I don’t ever look back. I know it does not walk beside me. I don’t feel it there. Therefore, I conclude it must be directly up ahead, but I seem unable to recognize it. It might be unrecoverable. That is a tragedy I cannot live with. If I do not find it, my spirit will die.” Not that anyone should care, I add silently. I am still very confounded at his role in my quest. Still confounded by the whole experience.
The sun chooses this exact moment to make its daily debut.
The stranger shifts his stance, pivoting to stand in line with me, eyes facing straight ahead. He holds my hand, our arms grazing, and I do not pull away. His hand is large, cool to the touch, slightly calloused and a comfortable fit. I feel warmth and safety in his touch, like a protected child.
Our eyes collectively follow what appears to be a bright, narrow torch. I realize that it is one of the sun’s rays.
We are close to the water’s edge. How did I get to be here? The atmosphere is surreal, and I am tempted to pinch myself. I forget about finding an open café or escaping this situation. I forget to think at all. Instead, I let a feeling of contentment wash over me, mixing with the gentle sea breeze. It is the most natural place on earth for me to be right now.
Mentally I am preparing myself for something special. My instincts have never been stronger as I play with words like “destiny,” “miracle,” “once in a lifetime…” I pray to God not to disappoint me. I thank him too, just in case I am ultimately disappointed and cannot bring myself to give thanks later. I equate the situation with receiving a beautifully wrapped gift that disguises an unwanted item. I leave out the second part, though, and stick with simple thanks. My faith is teetering, but this remains my secret. I don’t want God to know just yet.
As we watch the ray of light, my companion answers my silent question.
”They will go out again after this to fish all day, providing food and income for their own families. By six this evening, they will return to pick up staple supplies donated in rotation by the shopkeepers in town. They will have a lot of help unloading their gear and fish from the boat, exchanging the space for the treasured supplies. Under the cover of darkness, each of these seven tiny boats will drop off the cases and bags of food and water and, at the same time, pick up children, women and elderly refugees. They will spread their human cargo evenly between the boats and follow separate routes back here. This has been a weekly event for several months now…about eighty percent of the region is involved in some capacity. The refugee centre and school are in the mountains. Tomorrow I will take you there.”
With his final word, the beam of sunlight expands just enough to outline the figures in the semi-darkness and confirms it as truth. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the sight, choosing for the second time this morning not to wipe my tears.
His grip tightens as we again follow the scent of coffee and yeast. We smile together, not broadly, not tightly, just authentically. Our eyes meet with ease as though we have been acquainted for a long time.
As we stroll, I do a pirouette. His hand raises, guiding me very slowly on my three-hundred-and-sixty-degree spin. My skirt obeys me and lifts slightly, causing me to feel even more lightness in my steps. I swallow the tremendous beauty of the mountains, valleys and sea and all its vessels, most still tucked in for the night. The citrus, grape and pomegranate orchards and ancient ruins that occupy the luscious landscape are illuminated by the pinkish morning light. I turn farther to see the simple homes and the people who have restored me.
As I look around for the very first time, I know solidly that the gypsy has found her place. It is in Eden.
- 5 Pillars of the Gypsy Available in e-book Format ~ a Gift (journeyofthegypsy.wordpress.com)
- The Healing ~ Romantic Love (journeyofthegypsy.wordpress.com)
- the Gypsy’s Pilgrimage (journeyofthegypsy.wordpress.com)