She came from a pet rock that has been sitting on my desk for many years. I used the egg-shaped stone to weigh down notes and papers set aside for necessary action on my behalf. Its base had a flat area and suited its task perfectly, besides it had a sculptural quality to it and reminded me of a work by Hans Arp. I never thought much about it, used as a necessary tool. But at the end of a working day, when most papers below its handy shape had been dealt with, it appealed to me in a different light. It must have been the sudden process of the change from light to dark in Southern Africa that made it appear different to me at that early evening, when darkness progressed entirely within an hour’s time. I took it into the palm of my hand and it felt smooth like a woman’s knee. Besides, i being a piece of art sculpted by nature, its age might be millions of years.
Her voice surprised me, as it came from within the smooth pebble, my pet rock. it sounded like the voice of a woman I once knew. At first I rubbed my eyes having worked all day hard and that also meant that my tested mind played tricks on me. However my curiosity with all mystical matters of the spirit and soul made me stop what I was doing and I listened, concentrating on the piece of stone in my hand. This is impossible I murmured, as a woman like an elf appeared in the transparency of my pet rock. I held my stone steady, afraid if I would move the slightest, the illusion might disappear. The pictures that changed were a magical display of high art.
The pebble sat in my hand like an egg, still warm from the afternoon sun that had touched it, or was it my imagination that her voice created such a warm feeling in me? The moment her face appeared on the shaped surface, the spark of initial warmth spread from my belly to my torso. I felt elated, stirred by this tiny face with geometrically shaped brown hair and a soft glow across her symmetrical face. It reminded me of an Art-Noveau design with the stylised flowing lines of body, face and hair. Like a jewellery box, I murmured and the face moved its lips talking back.
Initially in the shock of surprise, we talked a lot about our way of living. My mind said: If life is an illusion, when make it worthwhile, painting beautiful pictures.
“Are you a spirit of my late wife?” She paused.
“I am a geologist,” she said in a low tone, as if this would not be self-explanatory, living in the realm of stones and crystals.
“But how come you are here in this pebble?” I replied, my curiosity at its height.
“It is a long story,” she said.
“What is your name?” I regrouped my thoughts.
“Elena,” she said, I noticed her intelligence oozing into me from her eyes.
“That is like Helena, Helen, the Belle Helene,” I carried on murmuring. She smiled.
“Thank you she,” a slight rosy expression rushed across her face. I had not noticed how time passed. A pink dusk had settled over the courtyard outside. The noisy warble of the Hadedas-Ibis called for the end of light in the high plains of the capital in Gauteng province. Another day settled into the air-polluted evening, which announced itself with lower temperatures and snowfall in the Cape Province.
“So where do you originate from?” I wished to know more about Elena.
“I am from the Ural,” she replied, enclosed since millions of years in rock. If I am lucky I will become gold and when a new life will await me.” I swallowed, recalling the furnace that liquefied rock from which the yellow metal would flow.
“But then you would be -”
“- be burned to death?” she completed the sentence. I shuddered, what is all this about?
“I rather have you here with me like this,” I replied. “You look so pretty.”
“Egoist!” She shouted, “don’t you have any compassion?” I cringed, doubting my sanity. I wanted to call it quit.
“It’s all a dream,” I put the answer off. “Or what?” I recalled my favourite pastime, when at the beach in Monemvassia in Greece, collecting pebbles with interesting shapes, moulded smooth by the millions of years rolling at the beaches in the surf of the sea, battered against other storms like in a shake-box by torrid storms. Observing the pebbles for a while, I became engrossed with my imagination, seeing imprints of faces and figures. I started collecting some and painted their faces and figures and body parts on them, just as my inner flow of consciousness lead me on to do it. I followed a Greek tradition of artists who have done ot before me and who still do it today.
I had a bad time during my last stay at the coastal village of Porto Rafti, an hour’s drive from Athens toward the eastern part of the sea. Having collected regularly pebbles that seemed to lead my mind on to work on their shapes, I created a set of faces and bodies together as I worked on them and soon enough they started to talk to me, like in a play. To keep them apart and avoid infighting between them I had to act decisively. But when I did, Mrs Aleta, my protagonist died and she rolled down the hill from the marble terrace, shouting at me what in the wide world had I done” to her. “You don’t love me any longer?” I protested and tried to catch her, but I missed to grab her in time and she had rolled into the flow of an angry sea and disappeared forever into Poseidon’s domain. I stood mesmerized with a deep anger rising from my belly. “You ungrateful woman, I respected you and your antics, your beautiful words of poetry and your story telling. I loved you and you used me to satisfy your sexual needs -” The rising wind swallowed my words.
“I cannot hear you,” her voice said, “but cast a wish of what kind of companion I should send you -”
“An intelligent woman,” I shouted intuitively into the breeze as the scurrying clouds shaped into her beautiful body, now claimed by a greater force. I heard her sarcastic gasp and giggle, time’s up a dark voice hollered in me. I turned and left, moving slowly uphill with my head bent down.
“I will never be able to write my play,” I mumbled. Who will ever want to see a play like this one? I remembered Elena in the pebble and having placed her into my pocket as she had suddenly disappeared. I removed her from my pocket and faced her again.
“I had never compassion,” I admitted to Elena. Her face ingrained into the crystalline pebble that sparkled like a diamond, I ran my hands over it and felt close to her. My fingers played with her head and I felt her nose. I placed her closer to my eyes and my fingers stroked her nose and ran their tips across her eyes. She felt like skin and the natural warmth from having her in my pocket, enticed my fantasy, resurrecting my illusion. But I saw her face in the crystalline pebble, embedded in the rock, pale and as if it would be resting on a cushion, eyes closed as in a peaceful sleep. I slipped her back into my pocket, hoping she would come to life later, perhaps she would be curious about my life and how I looked with my clothes off, as I put my pyjamas on. I smiled, my mind carried on painting pictures and from now on she had taken the place of Aneta, all of a sudden. Has Aneta kept her promise?
Sahib drove us along in the off-road vehicle, with air-conditioning and a smooth suspension. Mohamed talked and we listened. Past the Pyramids of Giza in the distance, palm trees waved their light yellow-green fanned arms into a pale blue sky. The air filled with a golden mist. It smelled of dates and fresh baked bread. Mohamed asked Sahib to stop. Getting out the car, he walked over to a house, where the people greeted him. He emerged with Egyptian flat bread, wrapped in paper, a bunch of children dancing around him. The smell of anise seed and fresh dough filled the car, as he distributed the bread among us. This is where I spent some of my childhood, he commented. I always stop here to buy some bread, but they never let me pay, so I give coins to the children. I had my camera ready and snapped pictures.
Mohamed started to talk, as soon as we had finished our bread:
“The land of Egypt has been compared to the lotus flower.” He paused. “The delta in a way depicts the outlines of the flower, while the long stalk of it is compared to the Nile valley and Fayum declared to be its bud.” He smiled, turning from his seat, observing us.
“Poetic,” I commented.
“The colours are descriptive of the changing atmosphere,” Sola said.
Mohamed nodded, “well observed, you two budding Egyptologists.” He smiled, the gap between his front teeth showing. Sola had remarked to me that it made him look like Omar Sharif, as she encountered his smile for the first time.
I had a spouse and she, although ill, had agreed to my straying in sexual love: As long as you are discreet, she once said.
I am discreet, only Trudy knows, but does Sola know? She suspects my straying through her fine antennae of a woman writer. She can read my body language. Trudy is as expressive as I am and she may be more of an open book to Sola, than I am.
“Cheers,” I said and emptied my tea with rum, but it had cooled off.
“I will get you a hot one,” Sola said, took my cup and disappeared.
“Thank you,” I called after her and politeness replaced affection for the time being, as I wondered about her. Babette always accused me in the past of lacking affection towards her and I agreed. Life together had left us childless and parentless, most of our lovers had disappeared but friendship prevailed. Yet I still felt betrayed from her previous affairs, as much as she felt betrayed by mine. We had betrayed each other at different times during our married life and subsequent domestic fights welded us rather together than driving a wedge between us. We did not fall apart ever. Something similar must have happened with Sola and George and certainly I did experience her period of transition, I thought. She brought me a mug of tea. Her black crop of hair appeared first and then her sparkling dusky eyes and her smiling magenta lips. As she focused her dark eyes on me, I felt a pang of desire and my heart filled with love. I melted in Sola’s presence, whenever I looked deep into her eyes. She smiled as she saw my gaze and hooked onto it. Her soul and mine connected at an instant!
“My dearest Joe,
I hardly write any letters. This one encountered a difficult birth. I have thought about it for many days and yet I could not get my trusted pen to write down the words that tumbled from my mind. They disappeared into my soul and smothered there. Covered-up they became a barrel filled with red grapes, fermenting and bubbling. Finally they blew off the lid, spewing across these pages like blood…I will die Joe…I know it sounds final for me, frightening to you. The shadows around me remind me of the tomb I have soon to enter. I looked at a painting of Eurydice in the Underworld. I listened to Mahler’s Second Symphony, you sent to me and some quietness settled in my mind. But then Joe, I see your face and its expression of a desperate search for me. I do not want you to think I have abandoned you. It is a greater power. I have taken the picture of three women, symbolizing fate, from the wall of my room. I cannot look at them any longer. I talk as if I am already dead. Sorry Joe, don’t cry. This is a shock to me as much as it will be to you. I cannot help it. I have to tell you this. Joe, it took me weeks to muster courage. You are the first to know. I am crying, I cannot hold my pen right now…I have broken the cap, smashing the top of the pen you gave me for a present. Excuse the tear drops, it’s a mess…
Forgive me Joe, I stopped again, the teardrops have dried, the ink dissolved at places like my life has.
The drops of tears are for you. I left them, starting to write anew.
Joe, my poet, my man, my writer, my lover my other husband, even, if I am fantasizing: please listen to me. Why could I not meet you twenty years ago? We matched perfectly. I feared this more than anything else. When I met you for the first time, my knees buckled-up, my body started to stir immediately when you kissed me and the flash fire of want flared-up in me as you touched me and I felt your passion enveloping me. How wild has been the passion between us, a wild horse galloping into the endlessness?
Joe, I love you more than life, but life does not love me. I know what the Three Sisters do right now: Laughing with glee in the cupboard I locked them in. Atropos, the one with the wrinkled face like an old dried plum, waiting with her scissors to cut my thread of life…