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Le Monde de L'Écriture » Encore plus loin dans l'écriture ! » Textes non francophones » PHANEROMENI

Auteur Sujet: PHANEROMENI  (Lu 1897 fois)

Hors ligne Michael Sherwood

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« le: 15 janvier 2022 à 15:19:03 »
This is an extract from my oncoming novel, the only chapter I fully wrote in English. I just want to know what you think about it, if sentences, words, etc.. should be changed or improved. MS


Her Aegean Airline plane landed on the tarmac at 9.30 a.m. She was on the flight from Crete.

We met half an hour later when she emerged into the arrival’s hall. I had not seen her for maybe 4 or 5 years, but she hadn’t changed. At all. She was still the same lovely girl. Woman, rather. The same lovely woman. I don’t know which adjective to use to describe her: handsome, beautiful, lovely, pretty, cute? None of these or all these together? She’s not young anymore, neither am I. But she’s the sort of girl – woman – who will stay the same for quite many years, far into her old age, and by that time I’ll probably be dead and won’t mind if her beauty has faded.

We embraced and kissed on the cheeks, careful to avoid touching each other’s lips. I love her, she probably knows it and I hope she cares for me a little, yet we never slept together, we never kissed on the mouth, and we never confessed our love. I think that if we slept together, we would be spoiling something in our relationship. I don’t know if there are many examples of such a love-without-sex relationship between a man and a woman. I knew a colleague once who told me she and her male friend always booked separate rooms when on holiday, so I feel comforted that this behaviour isn’t as weird as it looks. But it’s rare. And precious.

We hired a taxi in front of the airport. It was one of the 6 door Mercedes limousines that were plying the Larnaca streets. I had counted two white ones and a black one in town, I thought they were rare but later discovered they were a common sight at Ayia Napa!

I asked our chauffeur lady to drop us at Anne-Marie’s hotel in Umm Haram Street where she had booked a room. Anne-Marie left her luggage in her room, then we walked a short distance down to the Café Français to have breakfast. It was by the corner of the seafront avenue. As a matter of fact, it was very close to my own studio. We were very cheerful. Happy to be reunited again. It was utterly surreal to see her after all those years. She had plenty to talk about her holiday in Crete, Heraklion, Sitia. I let her speak. I’m a good listener. That’s probably one of the reasons why she enjoys my company. I’m not hoping for more.

We had plenty of time on our hands. I thought she would be interested in visiting an orthodox church. She was, although she could have suffered visiting a mosque! Anything to please me, she had a sweet temper. I knew she had become an orthodox when she married her Greek husband. I had met them both on a safari in Tanzania the first time, quite many years ago. They had since separated, but she had two children from him who were now adults. We could probably have married after her divorce, but by then I was engaged to a girl. That’s life!

We went to Phaneromeni. Quite an interesting place as it has two churches, one behind the other. The old church in front when you come from the avenue, with the new bigger church behind. An interesting detail, although you might think I’m crazy, is the sort of kiosk that’s just in front of the old church, which is exactly on the same pattern as the ablution places I described in front of the mosques. On an octagonal pattern, with railings around, and a tiled roof. But the fountains are missing! I let Anne-Marie go alone in the new church. To look at the icons or pray. She’s found of icons, of all the paraphernalia of orthodox churches, of all that glittering gold and silver inside. All that, mixed with the incense fumes make me uncomfortable, like stepping into a forbidden place. I waited for her outside, in the shade of the wall. The sun was fiery.

Yet the climax of the visit is a small catacomb situated behind, on the same axis as the old Phaneromeni church. The place is surrounded by rusty iron railings. A short flight of stairs takes you down to a deep cave dug in the ground. We hesitated at the steppingstone then took the plunge and penetrated the cave. The threshold was narrow. The place was cool and damp, its walls almost slimy. A small wooden altar in a recess of the cave with a deep red cloth on it, covered by a protecting plastic sheet, against defilement. There’s a tiny silver icon of the Virgin Mary holding tight a baby in her arm at the back of the altar. Anybody could steal it, but who would? On each side of the altar are two painted icons. On the right-hand side was a portrait of Mary, not a young woman anymore, with plump breasts, shrouded in a deep red cloth, holding in front of her, possibly on her lap, but only the upper part of her body was visible, a boy wrapped in orange cloth, not a baby anymore. On the left-hand side was a painting of a standing man holding an open book or tablets in his right hand, his left hand raised, as if in a welcoming or warning gesture, with two fingers raised. A halo was painted around his head. I guessed, and Anne-Marie nodded, that it was Jesus preaching to an invisible crowd – delivering his message –or a blessing to us, Anne-Marie, and me, who were the only two people standing at the altar at present! On the opposite wall of the cave is a closed iron grid, but we couldn’t see anything as we tried to peer into its depth. Just an empty hole, probably holding the remnants of a saint buried in its ground.

We emerged out to the light of the day again, shaken, somehow like Moses coming back down to the world after his holy encounter on the Sinai Mountain. That’s an image. He was going down, we were coming up, but the experience we lived was of the same nature.

We went back to town for lunch. I chose for us the Valia and Souvlaki, a small restaurant held by a Russian, at the corner of Umm Haram Street, close to Anne-Marie’s hotel and my place. The food is indifferent, but the small place is nice. The tables outside are shaded by trees. We sat and ordered drinks and pita and souvlaki. Anne-Marie was facing me. She seemed happy and smiling. Life is so different when you’re a couple at a restaurant table! We didn’t speak much; we enjoyed the food and the sight and the birds. An old, tired tom cat came to sleep under our table. He didn’t beg for food and didn’t lick or groom himself. He just dozed off the afternoon. It was so peaceful.

After lunch, we both retreated to our respective apartments, for an afternoon nap. We convened to meet again in the evening for dinner. There was a restaurant on the sea front where I had always wanted to go, but I was always put off by its menus written in Greek. It was the Portokali. I knew it meant “orange”, as it was the same word as the Turk “portakal”. Besides there were small oranges drawn on its façade.

The place was cosy. There was a fireplace in one corner of the room. We chose a table by the window, offering us a panoramic view on the avenue, and the sea beyond. The landscape is very different at night. Hundreds of lights, car headlights, houses, boats at sea, streetlamps, distant sodium lights from the harbour are glittering in the dark. Everything familiar becomes unfamiliar. We had kleftiko, a Greek dish of “stolen lamb”. I remembered tasting it for the first time in Lefkoşa. That now seemed to be years ago! Anne-Marie also ordered a bottle of wine. I tasted it although I should not. That was a joke between us, my Anne-Marie was a true temptress, a true Iblis when she cared! We had a very pleasant dinner. Afterwards we strolled together along the sea promenade holding hands, towards the Milk and Honey, where we had ice-creams. The place was busy as usual.

Then we went back to Umm Haram Street, where I accompanied Anne-Marie to her hotel. I hesitated on the threshold of her room. The air-conditioning was on, and her room was cool, like a cave. The dark red curtains were drawn, the night table lamps on each side of the bed were dimmed, projecting small halos on the two paintings hanging from the wall behind the bed…
 She invited me inside. We suddenly kissed. On the mouth, feeling each other’s lips. With lust.
   - I love you!
   - I love you too!
After this spontaneous embrace, we didn’t go further than that. We just stared at each other, surprised, and laughed a little to hide our uneasiness. After all those years we had avowed our mutual love. I was stunned, shaken, my heart was beating fast. I retraced my steps to my studio for the night. Yet I somehow managed to snatch some sleep.

A different adventure awaited us the next day: the visit of Famagusta Walled City!

It's not because you're paranoid that they aren't after you.


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