9 Dec 2020

62. Regrets


I have no idea where I am. On a deckchair somewhere, I'm uncomfortable. The light is blinding me to my surroundings. After an age of anguish I begin to recognize my garden. Outside my house. I relax in relief. I close my eyes again. I hear, far off, the grumbling of the sea as the waves crash against the rocks a kilometre away to the east and a thousand metres below me. I don't understand why my relief is laced with regret.

      A blackcap forces out his crystalline riff and is answered by a flock of wild canaries landing in the almond tree, giggling and chattering like a thousand futile fashionable young things. The regret turns to melancholy at the song of a distant blackbird. Blackcap, blackbird … black and white stripes of a hoopoe not ten feet away, jabbing the earth with his long, curved beak. Somewhere between sleep and awakeness, I see him beside the curry plant. I smell the curry plant, immortelle. I don’t know if I really smell it or if I remember the smell. In my mind I sense the wood in the house, warm, dry and resinous, and the stone walls, slightly acrid with age, like me. The native artemisia by the kitchen patio, they call it Moll – as in Flanders – and say it purifies the air. I recall the refined perfume of the stephanotis that climbs the kitchen wall, and the more brazen jasmine, too, and the sherbet of the wisteria. I smell the woodstove in winter and the earth wet with rain in the garden, and the olive tree and the orange and lemon blossoms and hear their beautiful Arabic name “Azahar”. I can’t hear or smell the grapevines but I can hear and smell the winery, and the wine, and I can taste the grapes. And the plums, too, and figs and apricots.  Melancholy …

      I remember my wife and I forty years ago. We looked at each other when we came here, to this our friend’s house. We smiled: this was our place. Neither knew why. We just knew. But things happen, things change in ways we could never have imagined. And we know it’s time to move on. Like our friend did. The house is up for sale.


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