I still breathe the glorious nostalgia of our thriving childhoods together—the time when I envisioned you as my prospective bride. Your warm, delicate hand covered my mouth as you faintly whispered, “Hush!” The sound reverberated through my being.
I recall the prickly pear shrub that never failed to pierce me as I tucked my skinny body behind it, trying to hide amongst its pads, while I watched you return from school. For some inexplicable reason my heartbeat would intensify and my limbs would shake involuntarily. It wasn’t until years later I realized that this strange sensation was what poets and storytellers allude to as love.
I still have vivid memories of your grandfather’s shop where I would go ritualistically every Tuesday afternoon, pretending to buy sweets. The poor old man was clueless of my actual intention—to watch as you slept like a goddess under the decrepit window of his store in your pale-blue school uniform. Every week, I would cross the village valley and endure the scorching heat just to witness those locks of golden hair gently caressing your forehead. All I wanted was to get a glimpse of your ethereal beauty, to nurture my precious dream of you.
The sight of you on your wedding day—your cheeks flushed with pleasure in your flowing white gown—embedded itself deep within my heart. Back then, I was only sixteen. I remember asking my mother, “Can’t a poor boy marry a merchant’s daughter?”
My insensitive mother slapped me. She never knew I loved you to the point of madness, and quite unmercifully said, “Study hard, my son, and put your daydreams behind you.”
Now, here I stand. The shroud that covers you is as white as the dress you wore on your wedding night. The same feelings for you resonate in me after over forty years. I weep as I stumble over the words you quietly poured in my ear when we were children, “Shhh, I will not marry anyone but you, so do not love anyone else, you crazy one.”
ABDULQADER S. AL-GHAMDI is a Saudi poet, novelist and short-story writer. He was born and raised in Al Baha city, Saudi Arabia. Abdulqader holds a bachelor of Arts in Arabic Language and Literature from King Saud University, Riyadh. He received his master’s degrees in Educational Leadership in 2015. Mr. Al-Ghamdi is currently working as an Educational Supervisor and an active member in the School Development Unit. He has published two short story collections and two novels. His works have earned him regional critical acclaim.
ESSAM M. AL-JASSIM is a writer and translator based in Hofuf, Saudi Arabia. He taught English for many years at Royal Commission schools in Jubail. Mr. Al-Jassim received his bachelor’s degree in foreign languages and education from King Faisal University, Hofuf. His translations have appeared in a variety of print and online literary Arabic and English-language journals.
An artist, art writer and guest curator, ELIZABETH JOHNSON began writing reviews for artpractical.com in San Francisco, California, and later covered exhibitions in New York City, Philadelphia, and the Lehigh Valley for theartblog.org. She has written for artcritical.com, Artvoices Magazine, Figure/Ground, PaintersonPaintings.com and DeliciousLine.org. She interviews gallery artists for Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She curated The Big Painting Show at Workspace Limited in San Francisco’s Mission District and has since curated shows that feature Lehigh Valley and urban artists at Lafayette and Cedar Crest Colleges. In 2021, she co-curated Pathological Landscape for Marquee Projects in Bellport, New York and curated I’m So Glad I’m Just Like You at Brick + Mortar Gallery in Easton, Pennsylvania. Residential Tourist, co-curated with Emily Steinberg and Celia Reisman for Gross McCleaf Gallery, will open in Spring 2022.