When Their Eyes MetFeel free to enjoy the following short stories
When Their Eyes MetFeel free to enjoy the following short stories
The moment he exited the elevator into the lobby, she was coming from the entrance at his right, at the eastern side of the building, heading toward the western quarter of offices behind the reception desk. Morning sun light was beaming into the lobby through the glass walls, merging with the ceiling lights, and reflecting on the polished ceramic floors of black and white colors. At the reception desk facing the elevators where he emerged, two male receptionists, in their black suits, were each serving a visitor.
An intuition prompted her to turn left where he had emerged, as if his image was profoundly marked in her mind and sentiment, and she could sense his presence even if he was not within her direct sight.
Their eyes met. For a moment they united. Like at a timed exam, each was trying to read the eyes of the other within that moment. Anything below their faces did not count, and was barely noticeable. Each stared at the eyes of the other, as if they were beings each made up of only two eyes surrounded hazily by a face. Neither did she notice his tidy appearance; nor did he notice her astounding dress and make up.
In a flash, he detected an expression of perplexity being initiated on her eyes, and a spontaneous gesture to an intimate face, prompted by a veiled, yet noticeable, tender, and a sensual desire reflected on her slackening lips that he glimpsed vaguely.
He realized that she sensed the indifferent and challenging look in his eyes, and sensed that she recognized that he had read her mind and interpreted her emerging gesture. Then he saw in her eyes a sign of recovery from the unexpected encounter and the shivering eye contact.
He anticipated that either her emerging gesture would blossom a shy smile signaling a secreted desire to reconcile, blended with, and hurdled by, pretence; or a reactive move to reinstate her feminine pride. He glimpsed a retractive attempt, manifested by an obvious effort to vex her lips to wipe off what she was sure he had perceived!
She swiftly averted her eyes and went on her way.
The Newspaper Seller
The Newspaper Seller
His skin was clad by a layer of dark color inflicted by the burning sun. His eyes mirrored perseverance; yet, the relentless sun had disfigured their white with a mixture of yellow and grey colors.
Reflex of the eyes against the glare of the sun was a luxury that he could not afford. His eyes had to suffer and remain wide open to watch all sides of the intersection, so he may attend promptly to probable buyers. He was pop-eyed, as if the muscles of his eyes had stretched to stand up for the challenge, and had to push the pupils outward.
He stood at the intersection of two main roads in a rich oil state, and would jump to the other side of the road before the signal on his side turns red. He would risk his life and race with the cars to exploit the entire thirty-second halt on each side. Unlike several newspaper sellers who lost their lives due to miscalculation of timing and cars’ speed, he was skillful and swift.
For a few cents’ commission on every newspaper or magazine sold, he would screen all sides of the intersection, read the faces of riders, and instinctively pick the ones who were likely to respond favorably to his approach. That elegant woman in her luxury car would probably be interested in the latest issue of the women’s magazine. Then he would run to her side of the intersection with his heavy load of publications and approach the woman with the colorful front page and exciting headlines. Deal; A few more cents were added to his humble paycheck. The hot headlines of that newspaper about the clashes in the Middle East would certainly appeal to that man. Running again to the other side. Deal; A few more cents.
The intensity of the rush hour was phasing out. He would now take a short break every now and then. Retreating to his thoughts and daydreaming were always a source of comfort in the midst of soar reality. The first thing that jumps into his mind was his family. His deep love and his uncompromised diligence to provide for them were the catalysts for his endurance. He would visualize the image of his wife’s kind face. Her submissive and yielding looks, which depicted helplessness and dependency, were shouting aloud in an eloquent silence that he was her hero. That decoration would charge him with a sense of purpose and incite him to stand tall above his suffering. It would nourish his soul with unshakable determination not to let her down.
At the thought of his wife, a shivering would sweep his mal-nourished body, pierce into his bones, and make his flesh quiver. For seventeen months, the tides of passion would awake with every rising sun, and then smash at the rocks of the daylong effort of making a living, and would awake again in his mind and soul just to struggle with the needs of his overstrained body that had finally collapsed on what was conceived as a bed.
The house of his widowed mother was humble even by the standards of their poor village back home, but good enough to shelter them against the sun, cold, and rain. His mother’s prayers had always guarded them. As a child, he used to imagine that the prayers of his mother always transformed into a physical shield that protected the house and them. How badly he missed her hugs, motherly warmth, and sympathetic words articulated in her subtle voice.
He had not laid his eyes on his first child yet, an eight months old daughter, nor held her in his arms. To see them more often is yet another luxury that he could not afford. It seemed that many of the things that most other people had taken for granted were unreachable for him.
A few cars would line up at one side of the intersection creating an opportunity for him to earn a few more cents. He would wake up from his daydreaming, rush to their side, and approach them. Deal; A few more cents.
The end of the day would bring triumph. He had survived the heat, the speeding cars, and his wealth had increased by almost sixteen dollars. The return voyage home on his bicycle would be tolerable, as the sun had commenced its withdrawal and would soon retire behind the horizon.
Sixteen dollars today! Wow. At that rate, he would fetch some four hundred and eighty dollars by the end of the month. However, this did not happen every day. The appeal of the new issue of the women's magazine would soon fade out, and sales would return to normal, yielding commissions of 10-12 dollars per day. Never mind, that was still good enough.
The only shelters he could afford were the deserted old houses due for demolition. Cramped by too many bachelors, and sometimes couples, each bunch sharing a room, these houses nevertheless accommodated other guests. Rats and roaches imposed themselves as permanent tenants who shared not only the limited space, but also the food!
He would rest his exhausted body on the old mattress laid on the floor. A few hours of sleep would refresh his body, and his soul would be revived by the hope that would blossom with every rising sun.
“We want to play outside,” the eight-year old son said to his mother with a tone of frustration. He gazed at his ten-year-old brother anticipating his support, and continued, “We have been imprisoned in the house the whole day, and there is no enough room to play inside.”
“It is so hot outside, and there is no trace of breeze!” said their mother. “You will get a sun stroke and meningeal if you play under the sun at this time.”
“We have read all the magazines, did everything we can do inside,” the boy appealed. “We just want to go outside and play with the kids.”
Their mother, in her thirties, sighed and said, “Look at the castor-oil trees, they are motionless; even the birds have disappeared.” She adjusted the electric fan and continued in a patient tone, “You will not find any of your friends outside; all the children are kept indoors at this time.” Heading toward the kitchen she continued, “Just be patient, I will make you another lemon juice; it will hydrate and calm you down.”
Inside the kitchen, she removed the saucepan from the coal cooker and placed it on the wooden bench, then returned to the living room and said, “Your father is about to come; by the time you finish lunch and take a little chat with him, I hope it will be cooler outside.”
Dressed in a cotton gown of beige color, she looked through the window at the yard and the other section of the house that accommodated an extended family, and saw ripples of mirages formed by the heat. Some of the rooms were built of clay and the new ones of brick, manifesting the transition from clay to brick that characterized the era of the sixties in Sudan.
The younger son peeked out through the window beside his mother. He looked at the water hose laid on the ground and said to his mother, “We will spray the brick walls and the yards today.”
“Yes you can,” responded his mother, patting him on the head. “That will evaporate the heat from the walls and the ground and will render the weather cooler in the evening.”
“You know mother,” said the elder son, standing behind them. “When we spray, the walls evaporate the heat horizontally, and the grounds vertically.”
“It could be so, I am not sure,” responded their mother, giggling.
Rescue came when the walls threw their shadows couple of meters on the unpaved yard. Realizing the arrival of this savior who had conquered the verticality of the sun, the two brothers ran to the shadow, their shouts of joy preceding them. They started jumping, playing football, and screaming. With every kick of the ball, an amount of dust was generated and mixed with the still air. It was not long before they started gasping for breath. With every inhaling, their lungs were filled with more and more particles of dust, until they became breathless and chocked.
“Let’s go outside,” the elder brother said. And they ran toward the gate.
“Look at this!” the younger brother exclaimed when they got outside into the unpaved road beside their house, pointing to the dust that had painted the stagnant air with gray color. They gazed at the cars passing by, leaving clouds of dust behind them that rained only breathlessness and distress.
“Look at the tires of cars,” screamed the younger brother. “They are excavating dirt from the ground and throwing it into the air!”
Amidst his coughing, the elder brother giggled and shook his head.
“I am scared,” said the younger brother, coughing, and gazing at his brother with tears in his eyes.
“I am scared, too,” responded the elder, bending forward and coughing.
“What shall we do?” said the younger. “Are we going to die?”
“No, no; let’s go to the paved road,” responded the elder brother in a tone of command. “Cars should not be breeding dust over there.”
They ran one block to the main road, gasping and sweating.
“It is also no good here,” exclaimed the younger brother when they reached the shoulder of the paved road, with tears on his cheeks and sweat dripping from his forehead. “Look at the buses, they pull on the unpaved shoulders of the road and generate dust as well.”
The elder brother was wheezing and did not respond. He crossed to the middle of the road, followed by his brother, and stood there gazing around him.
Cars were passing on both directions of the two-way road. With terror on their faces, the little two boys, in their shorts, T-shirts, and rubber slippers, remained in the middle of the street, gazing at the traffic on both directions.
“Get out of the road,’ shouted the drivers of passing cars, honking their horns.
The two brothers, puzzled why these people did not understand their bizarre situation, shouted back, “We need fresh air. We need fresh air!”
“How come it is getting dark so early!” asked the younger brother after a little while, turning right and left with his round eyes wide open.
A few drops of rain answered his question.