Ariana, Tunisia - A glare of despair caressed her regard, while her wizened ashen lips twitched forcing to blast a new thread of creases to add to her through-time-collected legacy of wrinkles. Each wrinkle told of an eclipse and sunburn labeled a cruel spiteful harvest.
Ariana, Tunisia – A glare of despair caressed her regard, while her wizened ashen lips twitched forcing to blast a new thread of creases to add to her through-time-collected legacy of wrinkles. Each wrinkle told of an eclipse and sunburn labeled a cruel spiteful harvest.
Her eyes, tiny pistachio nuts, barely visible through a set of deep-cut furrows, blazed in a dim emerald green. Despite the thawing-towards-celadon green, a few dazzling cress -green dots were tossed across her iris to tell of a more dewy past. Six teeming-with-unwanted-knowledge decades seemed to shake easily before her youngest daughter’s sullen anguish. The tiny pistachio nuts glared at the facing blueberry ones yet a heavily quiet response was all there was.
The old woman- Darfoo, she was recently called for what her trail of life has shown; Darfoo which meant “silent wisdom” became her trail escort- sighed heartily and three steps back she took. Leaning on the single decent wall of straws the hut has witnessed so far, she rested her petite body on it and gazed through the small hole they called a window.
Joining her in her gaze, Rafflesia, the youngest daughter put aside the sieve in which she spent the morning, picking wheat grains from sand ones. The kind of silence that crouched in the corner was a familiar one, for words were seldom said; after three sunk-in-despair years, sighs became the common language of these two dwellers. They both stared through the hole; the sun has taken its natural place in that time of year: behind a cloud, emitting a strand of warm blaze every few clouds. “The sun is shy today” murmured Darfoo in a quiet voice, a voice that sharply slew the crouched-in-corner silence.
“The sun is always shy, always veiled and then gone” not shuffling her sight-scope Rafflesia muttered.
Taken aback, the helpless mother shot her daughter a futile scornful frown that soon transformed into a sympathetic one; it was not the first time she heard this kind of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo coming out of her daughter’s k lips. For three years now she observed her little one buds to a highly judicious and doubtful person, a person who uttered more interrogative sentences than affirmative ones.
“I see joy has forsaken your eyes and agony has taken lodging. Lost you claim yourself to be. Vain you claim your existence to be. You have scrapped any given shape of life. You have let your beauty molder, and of your heart you built a coffin. You barely speak, I doubt if you breath, and of both of us you are about to feed lunacy.” Smothered by the arousal of her emotions, a deep breath she took, trying to pave the way for her next line. She had to carry on. She had to find release.
“The Cave Tale,” Darfoo added briefly and waited for a wraith of interest to be cast upon her daughter’s face. She would settle for lesser, anything but vacancy. As though a church-bell, the word rang inside Rafflesia and her face glimmered. “The Cave Tale?” in an expressive pitchy voice she asked, “The one where the ultimate knowledge lays?”
“Where the sibyl lives” Darfoo corrected reluctantly. She did not want for her daughter to know about the tale, about the sibyl who claims ultimate knowledge. She did not want for her daughter to leave her side. They lived by and for each other. “It was ages ago, back when the sun shone tenderly and graciously upon our village, back when trees breed generously and we ate thankfully. There at the foot of the fourth hill, right behind the old Drago Tree, lived a fair young woman whose heart belonged to no man yet every man’s heart sought hers. To her parents’ misfortune, the fair young woman, Saura she was called when her ripeness outburst, refused every eligible young bachelor and thus a burden to her parents she became.
Pitiable reasons she furnished, when demanded to offer an explanation, so thought her parents and the surrounding tribes. “I am not ready to give meaning to someone else’s life while the meaning of my own is but a silhouette,” she often conveyed. She had a fickle spirit, one minute teeming with certainty, the other swarming with doubt. While her peers of young bridals spent time collecting wedding ornaments, mixing herbal and earthy essences and learning about marital life, Saura roamed with her mind elsewhere. Thirst for knowledge drove her to finally leave her parents’ cottage and wonder in the forest to finally inhabit a heaving-with-mystery forsaken cave.
Myths disclose that knowledge she claimed during the years she dwelled the cave, knowledge of cosmic essence, knowledge of fire, earth, water and wind. The knowledge she sought for her entire being.” For seconds Darfoo paused, chased some of her scattered breath leaving to escape a few within each air gulp she captured. To her momentary bliss of seeing a grain of enthusiasm generating in her little one’s eyes, was added a seemingly-chronic glimpse of fear; fear of the hidden.
“Darfoo”, the name itself folded within more meaning than its letters could pack. Two sounds announced her presence, a distinct one. “You shall be recognized as “Darfoo” for the remaining path, a woman with little words but great saying. As though of breezes your words are made, holding the silence of a burning flame and in power, the loudness of roaring angry bear.” Spoke the tribe chief at the day of her Second-Transition. “And though with two sounds your presence shall be summoned, know, meek woman, that the ample letters your name possesses hold the unuttered wisdom.” She was a woman in whom the uncertain sought assurance, to whom indecisive young women came for guidance… Through her sieve of slightly-burned wheat she perceived insight. She was a certified woman yet to her daughter eyes, clueless she was. A familiar autonomous silence overran the shack. Shortly after, Rafflesia left her seat, her refined gardenia-skinned little body swaying in quietness towards the corn field.
Warm southern wind dallied with the tall graceful corn brides, brushing once so they bow in shyness and caressing once thus their lush wreaths drop a tear or two. Her curly tresses, resembling potions of sun dropper, blended among the corn ears and faded bit by bit while the old Darfoo watched. The latter was used to seeing her daughter’s little body plunge teasingly, alternatively between appearances and disappearances. She was used to that seen. A scene choreographed perfectly, she thought, where the sun flickering-rays combed her curls attentively and the corn spikes, in desire to steal away some feathery kisses, leaned over her body stroking lightly. A seen she was used to. Yet, and there were hardly any “yets” in her profuse life, something told her that the habitual string is to be severed for though the same sun shone dimly and the same corn danced in organized anarchy, that teeny spark in Rafflesia’s eyes said it for her.
Her tiny feet darted through the rugged way. Little she cared about the flying mosquitoes worshiping her body by sucking the blood or the thick dust, which combined to the sweat wreaths her toes wore, turned into small conglomerates of mud enjoying the ride joyfully. Neither did she care about the miles she folded and the ones still to fold nor the monotonous stillness of the fraudulent shady night. The sun had witnessed several births before she reached her destination as the villagers pointed, a vast plane land exempt from curves, exempt from bends, a flat yet desirable bosom upon which the loving sun seemed to dwell turning Acacia* the fresh green of the meadow. A laden intake of breath Rafflesia took while she kept lingering her eyes around the charged-with-plain- images and mainly emptiness – she thought- prairie; the trees, she expected lofty in undeniable arrogance and garnished with light-reflexive leaves which in faint day light would resemble light flies dressed up in an emerald-green night-gown and sway to the waddling music with every passing soft air, and against the blistering sun rays would appear as a radiating flying saucer ,stood humbly bent, crooked against the ground as though peeking at their wavering shadows following in timid silence the daily changed position of the so-loving sun. Birds, she anticipated chanting liberty carols as they fluffed their wee wings in their soaring, barely touched the bent branches, barely flew around the trees and barely warbled. Stillness perched around the place sowing an aura of bleakness despite the plethora of colors which for a thread of seconds distracted the young girl’s attention.
About sixty feet further, she noticed a stream of water around which small arrays of rocks were scattered, different in shape, different in color yet to her seemed of equal sameness. If it were another day, a usual one, a day where she would crouch on her mother’s sieve and with automatic hand she would get rid of the bad wheat, she would have thought else way, she would have spent time- that other would perceive wasted- staring at those rocks, tirelessly categorizing their tints; If it were another day. However, a different day this was. As her helpless mind had paved, this would be the day in which a knowledge she would get, one that would suck away the fog locked within. As her teeny feet sunk in the grass, she shuffled towards the stream, feeling a daze- the loving sun stood as its founder- and craving a gulp of fresh bubbling water.
Bending down she reached her fingers roiling the mirror-like seemingly immobile flow of water, and so, inviting to dance the reeling salmon-tinged granites for though craven before the surrounding sharp-cut rocks, the presence of an even bigger shadow- the one of Rafflesia- gave them a flick of courage to dance. Having put to death her thirst, her eyes sprinted the miles to come: across the river they travelled to lend on a small outlet, round, dark, telling of great depth, seemingly an aperture of a cave. The river stood between her and her fate, again as her helpless mind had paved. With hasty fingers she took off her sandals, pushing up her skirt (something she needn’t do for dirt has already taken lodging out of it) out of fear of getting wet. Bare-footed now, step-by-step she got down the river, coldness prickling her feet as if a string of ants were trekking the path along her toes.
The first steps she barely stood and upon her toes she walked adding to her height some inches. Few steps further, her rather-dry skin got used to the stinging freshness of the water and retreating back on her feet, she was back to her former height. “Keep your feet on the ground” her mother would say… The sound of the word “ground” carted to surface a grin which implanted a knot between her eyebrows and so shaking her head she shook too hard that she was on the edge of falling but still managing to jump her balance back. Familiar the feeling of the slippery rocks underneath her became, she waddled, lingered hence prolonging the ecstasy which prickled her skin forcing to stand ovation her senses. Oh she did not want an end to such ecstasy! Hence reaching the other side of the river, she performed a dance-around-the fire ceremony as she soared around her shadow whilst lustful the water shafts flirted with her feet. Indeed! The river absorbed her quest; for a few minutes that is.
“Wise Sibyl!” Rafflesia shouted faintly, as loud as her voice cords allowed, as the sound soon precipitated through the seemingly gulping vacancy a hazy shadow made an appearance. The old wise, knowledge claiming, reputation mowing sibyl is standing, No, leaning on a stick in front of her! She was a Woman; a breathing two legged, two armed woman! That she didn’t expect for all the stories which decorated her childhood walls about sibyls for some reason tended to skip the part which tell of the womanly gender. And so the portray of a white bearded old man chaperoned her existence. Well, not until she shouted “Wise Sibyl”.
As the Sybil, Saura stepped out of the shadow, all the murky lightning-versus-shade effects withdrew in awe; and Rafflesia could see, in HD version, the oldie standing before her in a gown-like robe. Shaking fingers made their way to entwine with Rafflesia’s. Ten shaking fingers became twenty, ten shaking to the bones- fragile and squeaky one- and others shaking with fear- fear of what to come.
Now they walked, the conscious of Rafflesia confirmed for her sight backed off when dusk was all there was. Sill her fingers were entwined with the oldie’s and still in silence she followed. In little a time, they both reached a rather vast but most importantly sunlit area. Her eyes over exposed to a dusky nothingness narrowed at the matching-in-intensity light but though through a thick smudge of lashes Rafflesia could still get a glimpse on her surroundings. The absurdity of nature is that of a fledgling in a first attempt to leave the nest, fragile are the feathers of its wings and yet despite the wind those feathers may face the flying is to be done. Unexpected is nature, a wandering gypsy seeding life in a craving-to-breed earth, kindly seeding, selfishly leaving. Unexpected, no, frivolous is nature for it does rain while the smug sun crimsoned becomes. In that vast area nature dallied in walking, dallied in chuckling; in the middle of a forsaken cave nature chose to dwell, and so it did.
Saura strode forth in unforeseen grace; she was not in age for such strides. Beneath the light intake she stood, unfastened the wooden buttons of her gown, let it slip off her creasy skin and stepped onward. Her body had the print of a sadistic artist which forced Rafflesia, the ignorant of any other shape of human flesh but hers, to take hostage, for seconds, her breath. Against light, nudity flushed scars, scattered scars. In utter belonging, the step sisters (scars and skin) lodged the oldie’s corps which told of a history of harmonic dwelling. Taken aback, Rafflesia could not help but murmur “How is it that something as beautiful as a human skin could breed something as dreadful as a scar and still in all the oxymoron both elements create, they still exist in tranquility?”
“One’s existence begins within oneself. An oxymoron witnesses birth when consciousness of unlikeness appears to surface and breathes a different air. My skin, my scars inhabited one body, mine, ever since history made peace with my memory. A scar, as far as your consideration, is the result of a defected, mutilated skin. A scar as far as my consideration is the result of a perfectly healed, fixed skin. My age, unlike most think, allows goodness in sight.” The sibyl replied in a quietness of wisdom. “You are here, I dare infer, for one of two reasons.” Resting upon a roc, in a flushing bareness, she added “It is curiosity which brings footsteps around. Not a breathing shadow shall seek haven in what an old lady could offer unless inner forces are not in harmony with outer forces. In such case unbalance shall create a rocking lullaby to which no soul can sleep”.
“I sweep a clean floor” Rafflesia paused for a moment, “the stains of ink, the tarnishes of dust every floor craves have never embarked on mine. White floor flaunting its bleak blankness is my loudest unearthing, alas”.
For a while, the sibyl gazed at her in what seemed an attempt to fathom what the latter had said. “The clairvoyant would hold your hand, would penetrate the skin to reach the beyond. A silken palm would tell of a lush book and a lush book tells of a simple unsophisticated reading. A simple reading merits not a margin full of scribbling, travels not with the mind afar from a page border. A simple reading requires not the pleasure of reading, requires not the view of a leave bent under the heaven’s heavy tears. However, a tainted hand tells of a book teeming with adventures, bountiful with meanings. A small taint alludes to occurrence and shouts erudition. A small taint heralds a sweaty reading, a reading which forces to pause, to contemplate your surrounding”.
Tossing her head back, her eyes shrunk beneath the light’s order and she continued “Your hands are of a petal texture yet the color is ashen. The aura of mist surrounding you heralds hunger. You crave taints, your crave specks of dew… you crave scars.”
“I crave insight…” muttered Rafflesia. “It is said that you claim knowledge”
“Knowledge? What is this word?” frowned on the Sybil. “You seem to use it perfectly, you seem to question it appropriately hence it is evident that you hold knowledge of this knowledge I claim, you said, Thus what is this knowledge?”
“I know so little of knowledge, much more of life. I know of growing crop, I know of stitching tattered gowns and I know of comforting my mother. Of bees and bears I know, of rose and rain, of the Earth. Knowledge bears the weight of life; knowledge contains life, contains the elements. It gives a whole to seashells, to cans. It fills up a vacant cave, a chest, a skin of scars. Knowledge makes believable the perception of sunrise and sunset and makes the betwixt a whole of synergy. Knowledge defines the steps by which a human dances his life. The steps of mine are still an absurdity, for this I seek remedy in a forsaken knowledge-dweller body.” Uttering so, Rafflesia grasped a handful of breath and waited for the reply.
“Knowledge bears not the weight of life. Life cradles knowledge, life transpires insight; life chisels the paraphernalia of the perceptual faculty. It is the lethargic flutter of a bee, the sameness of its buzzing which numbs our senses yet to pierce the beyond of that flutter shapes the early countenance of knowledge. A straight or a bending thread of striding ants encompasses the walking of life, diffuses the strings by which one’s existence stands stiff. Knowledge is the nectar of sunrise, of sunset; it is a mixture of a beholder, an abstract occurrence and a floating synergy. The skirmish of these three pillars foregrounds the fetishes of erudition. My dear, living needs not breathing. Breathing is a mere parcel. It needs oscillating between shape and substance and finally lying on substance to define shape. It is the fickleness of the substance: a drop of ocean, sassy salt, transcends clouds to fall down in utter purity. Knowledge presents not a shape but dwells every shape. Knowledge is the substance of shapes.” The sibyl paused for what seemed an endeavor to unify her thoughts and she continued:” your life is the breeder of your knowledge, and one’s knowledge has the uniqueness of its breeder therefore the odds of propinquity for two arbitrary perceptions fall into a state of nihilism. The crop, the mother, the bees and bears, the Earth enfold the constituents of your life paradigm, the breeder of your knowledge; they themselves bear a clustered unearthed truth awaiting your acuity.”
Rafflesia gawped at the Sibyl while the latter carried on with what now became a soliloquy: “Your existence is inner rather than outer. The outer elements which stratify your dimensions peak when consciousness falls and wind up in an ashtray when consciousness peaks. There is a point in your life when skepticism undresses the firmest body surrounding you, when a single flighty thought could fuddle an entire orientation. At that point you are to wear a different gown, even though the color you chose is at contrast with the adjacent colors. That point is the aftermath of the birth of your perception”.
Moments of silence flaunted around the cave and Rafflesia couldn’t help but drown in inquietude about her yet-prolonging loss. “My eyes run over every incarnation my being could embody, and yet no form seems to fit the scopes of this latter. The present hands me a tray of familiarity and yet insatiable I remain. The shape I crave is yet to be found hence to disappointment I’m left with every setting moon. What am I to incarnate?” Quietly the Old Sibyl withdrew her gaze to the outlet from which sun beams fell and smashed against the green moisture swathing the rocks. The panorama the light against her skin created resembled a grotesque tableau of light and shade dancing blinkingly. When light stepped forth, shade, in owe, stepped back and lurked its chance. The wrinkles on her face seemed to enjoy the grayish gauze rather than the flushing light for it hid their greasy texture and denied time its blade. Rafflesia sought haven between the oldie’s creases which reminded her of her mother, of her simple life. The simplicity that squatted in her village wore not a beautiful mask. It feasted on the dwellers’ automatized lives. And they fed it.
It seemed that she lived among devotees; breathing eating sleeping devotees of simplicity. Plain words with unsophisticated structures, plain explanations with mystic derivations, and plain emotions of womanly devotion towards manly given-rule enriched the dominant stagnant aura of simplicity. Complex emotions such as infidelity, abhorrence and love, mutilated imperfect love threatened the steadiness of their holly emblem: contentment. This later was the anodyne of their trembling simplicity, the callous suppressor of any demander of complexity. It was a translucent weaved shell through which one could see, but beyond which one could never trek. Contentment was the equivalent of religion in its assorted creeds. It turned the populace into sulky clowns, accessorizing smiling lips to flat faces and not being able to find an alternative to such apparel. Rafflesia knew nothing of contentment, she despised mediocre sentiments. They, to her, embodied the lowest of sentiments; hence she never seemed to fit the vertical archetype of relationships built between men and women of her far-from-being- complex society.
“One’s incarnation develops not from an inner sense of the outer elements; it is neither the result of a perceptual inquiry nor the genesis of an eon of sophism. Nay, it is an arbitrary chanceful happening. It is at a blink of an eye that you realize the body you are to inhabit and the route to follow. An uncalculated moment, born from a rather regular one, signals your mature unique inhabitation. Everything before that simple uncalculated moment is a haphazard chaotic collision between charged elements in order to create an adequate virgin of your existence, handed on a platter for you to embrace. One’s unconscious is to embrace this virgin yet it is at the birth of consciousness that it is refuted. The birth of consciousness my dear is that uncalculated moment which will determine your incarnation.” Saura paused for a moment and then resumed “you are not to seek it; it is to undress itself to you”.
“The figures, lines and curves which languidly fill the dusty corners of your mind have to them an ever stretching thread of sense. These lines frisk a familiar pattern and obeying are your eyes. Familiarity and easiness numbed your senses and forced to fade the various allusions these figures present. It is by discarding a familiar meaning that a figure shall bear a new yet obsolete allusion. At the manifestation of a new meaning, the corresponding stature projects in you a feeling of erudite rebirth. Through fresh channel thus you shall observe your surroundings and it is with the culmination of novel meanings that your preparation to that uncalculated moment shall be polished bringing forth your predetermined incarnation”
The girl’s perplexity increased, what has been revealed only heightened her loss and curiosity. The Sibyl strode away, leaving a hissing sound emanating from the chafing of her abrasive feet against the ground. She is to wait for a moment! But what if her consciousness was too naïve to recognize its occurrence?! What if she misled her life? The sibyl walked away, never looked back while in confound Rafflesia swam. She is to go back to her simple existence and solemnly wait. Contemplate her surrounding and solemnly wait. Pierce the beyond of a flutter, undress figures of meaning and solemnly wait. Wait for the moment wherein her idle simplicity shall transcend.
Photo by Tunisian graphic artist Mohamed Amine Badreddine
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