Like the bridge, her life was held in abeyance pending a reversal of the past. He would have tried to comfort her by hugging her, but she would have pushed him away. He wanted to keep his distance. It started raining as tears began to pour down her cheeks. It was as if the sky had agreed to assist her in hiding her sorrow. She didn’t mind the rain splashing on her lunar face. She felt in harmony with the elements. Everyone else started running to take shelter, but she stayed where she was sitting and faced the rain. God was by her side. Half an hour later, the storm abated and a rainbow graced the sky. At long last, Constantine’s thirst had been slaked. The city seemed content. Sukina, however, could not find it in herself to wake up to her reality and move on with her life. It didn’t help matters that she preferred to keep to herself, for this reticence of hers had everyone’s imaginations running riot. Some assumed she was a lone wolf, others argued she was just a stray dog. The one thing that could be said for certain though was that she drew a fair amount of attention to herself. Yet she couldn’t care less what people leered at. After all, she would stand up and shake the dust off her feet in a bit while her long black garment fluttered in the frisky breeze, which would even be so bold at times as to expose her beautiful ivory legs.
On the way, Sukina would pick up three stones from the sidewalk, and upon arrival, she would place them in a row at the edge of the bridge about a meter’s length apart. Then she would take a few steps back without letting them out of sight. Seeing them there would bring a smile to her face, but the smile would fade moments later when her eyes started blurring. Later she would return to them, pick one up, kiss it and throw it off the bridge and into the gorge. She would subsequently repeat this procedure with another of the remaining stones. The last stone she would just pick up and squeeze tight in her hand. Then she’d head back home without looking back.
Said, who used to watch her from afar, would keep thinking about her long after she had receded from view. He was generally not one to pry, but he was all agog to find out the mystery girl’s identity and the story behind the stones. Thus he decided to approach her the next time he saw her.
In May, something of a slightly startling nature floated in the air. As a result, it seemed anything could happen during that time of year. She should have known better than to let her guard down. That morning she was feeling especially drowsy. She woke up late, ran over to the bridge, and began to perform her ritual with the three stones she had collected along the way. As she was about to leave with the one stone she had not flung off the bridge, Said tapped her on the shoulder. This made her jump up in fright, and as a result, she accidentally dropped the stone she had been holding in her hand. It fell off the bridge, and she instinctively let out a scream of terror. What had she done?
As if under a spell, she started uttering disjointed sentences:
“The stone has fallen
into the abyss.
The die is cast,
I am next in line.”
Said was speechless. He didn’t understand her reaction. All he could see was that a stone had fallen off a bridge. However, a gale-force wind started blowing all of a sudden. It was as if the incident had unleashed the wrath of nature.
Sukina mumbled over and over, “The curse of the stones has come upon me.”
Her head was spinning. A heap of fragmentary images flashed through her mind: fate, the stones, a forgotten place in a buried past, a curtain of rain that blots out all feelings, a brittle identity that doesn’t wash with the probing sun, lives, lost, in the blink of an eye.
Said’s bemused expression evinced that he had no clue as to how to deal with the situation at hand. In a desperate attempt to calm Sukina down, he said to her, “Look, whatever it is that has happened, it cannot be all that bad. Help me understand what the fuss is all about and I may be able to be of some assistance to you. Do you know why the wind has picked up so abruptly? It whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that I fear I am losing my grip on reality.
“Please, I beg you! Tell me, what’s come over you? What’s the deal with the stones? How are they connected to everything that’s going on? Even if you don’t tell me, I won’t give up, and I’ll end up figuring it out by myself.”
The pressure Said was putting on her to reveal her secret was beginning to take its toll. Sukina felt sick and just wanted the matter to be resolved.
“I used to take walks in the afternoon with my brother and sister, and we would wind up at this bridge. I would keep an eye on them while they cheerfully played with the stones they found. One day, a drunk driver zoomed past me in his car and knocked them off the bridge. Their bodies flew through the air and fell on the rocks. They died instantly. Since then, I have returned to this bridge every day and placed three stones in a row along its edge, each one meter apart from the other because as siblings we were one year apart in age. I am the third stone. Its fall has sealed my fate.”
As soon as Sukina had finished recounting her story to Said, she jumped off the bridge with a fourth stone clenched in her fist.
Written by Salwa Youssefy.