You are headed toward the road flanked by trees. Your heart aches as you remember.
The sun slants across the mountains. You watch the roaring waterfall tumble down the cliff. A sudden breeze rustles the grass. You are not lyrical about what the bucolic setting bodes for the future. The landscape is blanketed in snow. The almond trees are in bloom.
Tablat’s spirit endears the town to everyone who has been lucky enough to traverse its streets. They come like migrating birds, which despite having had to circle around the world several times dare not cover the safe distances the different cultural worlds comprising our globe keep with one another.
On the day of your date, the air smells so sweet that it cloys your senses. We may be meant to be, you think, secretly wishing destiny will allow you to play a part in your own story. You step out the door and Tablat’s sparkling everyday nature unfolds before you. You bang the door closed behind you, careful not to slam it on your heart, which clings to the frame. You stride confidently down the lane. You are set on taking decisive steps today and hope the nation will condone your recklessness in the long run. You have left this hankering to live unfettered by society’s rules—to fly free and experience it all—bottled inside you for way too long. Now it’s time to blossom again.
I commend myself to the darlings of our ancestors as I head toward the meeting place. My feet sink into the ground with every step I take. Long time no see. I have missed you, but now I no longer know what to expect. Suddenly, my glance falls on the label. It says, “Made in the past.” A revelation! I am at a loss for words.
Deeply rooted on the spot, I cast a look in the direction of my travel. My feet are bright in color, bemused.
The look sums up the story: night of absence, dawn of shy meeting, and morning beset by clouds after looking.
The shadow cast by my steps encroaches upon the shadows of the comrades . . . at leisure.
Suddenly, a balloon pops in order to talk.
It allays my fears, and I overcome my paralyzing shyness.
Tell me, my friends, is it lamer to listen to excuses, to whoop with joy from a distance, or to have one’s heart point accusing fingers at others? Tell me, my bosom friends, my fellow citizens, isn’t this city still what a peripatetic prancer of childhood is to life? A velvet coyness lingers on the outskirts. The city’s eyes glint funnily in the morning light after bandying words with the colors of the rainbow over their duty to dye its horizons after the crying bout of rain.
A friend of the friends I have who like to dramatize their nostalgia-induced suffering with their ribs and curvatures—the tear almost scratches the eye and the sound and the steps—says:
“Why did you pour on us a long separation and a bitter distance while feigning sleep, thereby shutting your eyes to your promise and the memories?
“Why did you squander your good years waiting for me to return from under the palm of exile that was scourging me?”
At that exact moment, the separation ran dry again.
Doesn’t the ground absorb the water from the separation? Don’t tears get wiped away in the same way the sky clears up after a melodious storm? Is the separation running low on water?
Here it is, my friend. The scolding isn’t over; instead, it muffles the whispers of its desires.
Shouldn’t we, as we sit on top of our Mount Judi, be seeking a comfortable balance? My friend, should we not aim high and try to make our dreams come true? Shouldn’t we fill Tablat with free joy and sustained merriment? Life takes on a sour flavor if your friends leave you stranded. Here I am, killing the time I have to wait for the bus by reflecting on how many times my heart has been broken. Meanwhile, he speaks. Friends mix the drinking of the encounter with the tasting of the farewell. I hurt. Are they allowed to do that?
Unfortunately, a long and trying ride back home lies ahead of me after our short rendezvous. The absence that strains my heart stretches out.
Oh, my comrades, soon I will be long gone.
When will we allow ourselves to spend as much time together as we want?
When O Destiny?
Written by Redha Bouraba.