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I sang for him:

The blows of love play tricks on men
And destroy them stage by stage.

I asked: am I acceptable?
The elders said, Make yourself empty.

I know what you mean,
I replied

But consider my state
And show me some compassion

Sadness is only the start
Of the weight I carry.

He smiled and said that I had a good voice, a clean brain to pick up the words so quickly. He looked at me like that first day in the market. His traveling clothes and the sun on the peppers and aubergines. I knew who he was from his eyes. I went up to him and said, 'I want to offer myself in marriage to you', and he looked pleased, a little surprised, his eyes moving from hazel to brown like mine. Then I heard his voice for the first time, his accent, 'What is your name?'

We kept on climbing,

I looked up and the sky was purple and faint blue.

We kept on climbing.

I heard a sound, a singing, and it was something I had never heard before. It went inside me through my veins. 'What is this? It's so strange'.

'The clouds'.

'Are we nearly there?' The mountain was still solid above us.

He didn't reply. He quickened his step and I was lighter now. He climbed faster and I could keep up. There was no pain. I pushed the ground under my feet. I could see our destination, feel and hear it. Why did I think I could never make it, I could never reach this place? Here was what I had always wanted, every colour and every sound. More beautiful and deep than what I had given up, homeland and jewels. There were tears in his eyes. We had never been so close. I pushed the ground under my feet and it moved. It moved away from me. But that was an illusion, the ground didn't move. We were the ones who were flying.

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Also by Leila Aboulela

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