Chapter 13: Cold Shoulder
“Kanza! What are you doing here?”
Kanza didn’t give me the chance to ask any further questions. She barged her way in and shut the door. “Did you break the spell?”
“Did you really come here to ask me that?”
“No, I came to tell you that you won’t find Malika, no matter how hard you try.”
“But I didn’t come here looking for Malika.”
“Why did you come, then?” she asked, her face suddenly brightening up.
“I didn’t come for any reason. I just felt nostalgic for Marrakesh.”
“And have you fulfilled your nostalgia without visiting its alleys?”
“Its alleys don’t quench my thirst any more,” I explained.
“How could your thirst be quenched away from the alleys?” she asked, leaning in closer.
I backed away from her. “Because it’s a thirst for memories, not lust!”
Her hands were shivering as she pulled a cigarette from the pocket of her gypsy dress. “How long are you planning to quench your thirst with memories when the present is right here in your hands, my dear Elias?”
“As long as Malika remains in my memory.”
“But she’s gone.”
“I still hear her voice in my head.”
“What about me?” Kanza whispered in despair, drawing closer to me once again. “Me, Elias,” she said, taking short, sharp breaths and wrapping her arms around my back like a slithering snake, ready to bite. “Don’t I get a chance to quench your thirst?”
“Who told you I’m feeling thirsty?”
“No one can resist the heat of the red city: Marrakesh.”
“But I no longer feel its heat.”
She drew closer and closer, but I kept my cold demeanor despite her soft touches, which I felt beneath my skin. “How is that possible when you’re wandering through its land?”
“I wander it exploring, not craving after lust, Kanza.”
“While I wander it craving a buried desire, Elias.”
As soon as she ran her fingers through my hair, I grabbed her wrist firmly and pushed it away. “You wander it craving another man while your husband wanders it dancing to meet your needs.”
“Who told you he’s a husband? Or that he’s even a man?” she yelled.
“How dare you say that about the man who’s spent his life hanging around in those circles to meet your daily demands?”
She lit another cigarette and puffed away at it in a failed attempt to cover her agony. “How can I respect his masculinity when he wraps a shimmering scarf around his waist and covers his face with a veil? Do you really think he can satisfy me when I’ve seen him that way?”
She put out her cigarette abruptly and approached me again, running her fingers across my lips. “Only you can satisfy me… but…”
“But you preferred to satisfy Malika’s desires over mine.”
She disgusted me and I pushed her hand away. “I loved Malika!”
“I wanted you to love me, not her. I sold her to you so she would fulfill your desire, not capture your heart.”
“But she did fill the void in my heart, Kanza.”
She came over to me, shivering. “I can fulfill your heart and your desires at the same time, Elias. Don’t push me away.”
She embraced me passionately and allowed her dry lips to touch mine.
I pushed her away and shouted: “Stop it!”
She was taken aback for a second, but then she fixed her sharp, lustful eyes on mine. She pushed me backwards until my body hit the wall, and then whispered, “Why do you want me to stop? What does Malika have that I don’t? What has Malika offered you other than her consumed body? What did she ever give you that I can’t? Tell me, you devoted lover.”
“She granted me a blessing amid a swamp of sin.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, looking surprised.
“I never touched Malika, Kanza!”
“What are you saying?” Her jaw dropped and her mouth hung open like a cave, abandoned by words.
“I didn’t touch her, but I loved her.”
Kanza fell onto the old, copper bed. She hid her face with her arms and wept. I wasn’t mad; I pitied her. In her misery, there was a bleeding wound craving the masculinity that had been ripped away by the dancing circles and the shattah of El-Fnaa square. She carried the pain of a mother who had sold her daughter as a prostitute to provide for herself and to occupy her lonely nights. I made no attempt to console her.