by Joshua Keidan
She listened to her lover. He was showing her around what once been, many moons ago, the kingdom of Sparta. She was as amazed by the crystal blue seas of the Mediterranean as she was by the accounts her lover gave her of the Spartan army of only three hundred men holding off the most powerful army in the world at that time. She listened but could not help but think of the café where she and her lover had been just a few days ago in Paris. There her lover told her how the greatest artists and the greatest writers of the early 1900’s would come there to socialize. Strangely she felt more at home here then she did in her own capital.
In her own capital she felt foreign. Her speech was not the same as he people that called themselves her country men. They would often talk behind her back about how innocent and naïve she was. Apparently they thought she was deaf too because they would say it when she was in the room. They mocked her clothing, her taste in music, everything about her. She felt worse than a stranger, for she saw how well the strangers were treated.
Of course her lover did not feel that way towards her. He had loved her for many years, even when she was simple farm girl who had to leave school because of her father’s accident. At first he would tell her simple stories. He would show her around her province and explain how things came to be they way they are. “You come from a proud people; your people feed your country. Never forget that without you, your nation starves.” That was the first lesson she learned from her lover. She would never forget that day they had together sitting on the riverbank.
When she was a little bit older her lover told her stories about the old kings of Siam and how they would battle the Burmese and the stories of the Maharajas of India and the traders from China. What she adored the most about her lover is that he never said he loved her, and he always respected her virtue, their only contact was the briefest and most gentle of touches to her hands. Yet she knew how deep his love for her was.
One time, when the rainy season had come and there was no work to be done in the field he came to her. He asked her if she wanted to go to London. She had heard of London once before when she was in school, but she did not know much about it.They walked the same streets that Jack the Ripper did at night. Her tense body betrayed her fear. Her lover reassured her that as long as he was there no harm coming her way. Jack the Ripper was long dead and even if he were not he would never let her be harmed.
Of course most of her friends laughed when she would spend more time with her lover then she would spend with them. She was sure they expected her friends to be wondering how long before her lover left her a broken woman, as so many lovers had done to so many women in her village. They always told her she and her lover needed to spend less time together and that she should be listening to the latest songs on an MP3 or trying to change her beaten old daughter of a farmer’s clothing to that of the newest imported fashions from America and Europe.
But she politely ignored them. She politely looked down on them because she knew was more interested in the pyramids of the Incas and the Egyptians. Her lover tried to explain the different theories of how this happened despite the being so far in time and location. The fashions would come and eventually go, but the stories her lover told her stood the test of time. She would sit wondering how her lover could know so many things.
One year the crops got no rain. Then after they got no rain they got too much rain. She and her brother both went to the capital to find work to help support her family. The capital was a dirty place. And night rats ruled the street and during the day cars choked out the sun with their smoke. The girl, now older missed her family, she missed her brother whom she hardly saw and when she did see him she did not recognize him. The young man who she grew up with who was full of life grew old over night. He worked and he drank and he slept. When an accident at the factory claimed his hand he just drank, ashamed that he could no longer help his family. She was not much better. She worked in a factory also, making things that it would take her three decades to afford. She missed her mother and father and more importantly her lover. She had abandoned him she was sure that he would not take her back.
But the lover did take her back. If he was offended by her abandonment he didn’t show it. He took her further and further away from her land. Her lover was always careful to get her back before her manager would notice her absence. Her lover never noticed the weight she had gained or how her skin, once healthy and fresh from the country air was now aging faster then she was.
The lover told her glumly it was time to go. She protested. The fresh Mediterranian air was curing her soul, as well as her body. She made her lover promise they would meet again soon. With words unspoken the lover did, the lover let go of her hands and was gone. With that solemn promise the girl closed the book, turned off the light, and fell asleep.