When in old Sana’a

Suhail AlHammady

Having been bestowed with the gift of being wrapped in a dark skin, it was obvious that the “norms” crippling-down the corners of our society would abort the seed of love between the two of us. Fair can best suit the way you sway down the allies of your so beloved streets of old Sana’a. I abhor the place, never really having enjoyed the privilege of dwelling in the sense of belonging to a city that profiles me, as an alien. Yet, a new light overwhelmed a heart not so dark, as the skin of its owner, when I first saw or–shall I say—embraced you. The old cliché of love-at-first-sight got the better of me for I was under the impression of what has been labeled as “Adore.” The pre-destined incident is carved in the galleries and hallways of my memory; I precisely remember the day for it marked the “Big Bang” of my heart. Excuse this gushing of emotions, dear reader, but when you go through the pangs of first love, you cannot help but be a little or too sentimental! In the sacred traditions of the old, golden city of Sana’a, you were pleasuring over the 150 Riyals coffee royal of old uncle Saleh. The sunset matched your hazelnut eyes, perfectly, and your delicate laugh set the seductive tone of the most melodramatic, complementary song that eased the evening. You did not notice me. After all, what attention is due to a faint, dusky figure of a man, isolated from his surroundings? You reminded me of the tiny, heavenly pieces of a freshly-baked bun—the kind my dear mother used to make on the sweet days of Sana’anian rains (rough on the outside, but sweet and tender, inside). How unorthodox you were among the herd! Such distinct contrast soured you from the rest (eccentric, fitting the description, best). Yet, behind the seas of your eyes of honey exists a sigh–a depressed moan. I, the sad-type, could easily decipher the abundance of encrypted messages you so sadly sent. Lonely you were.  In a way, this city and you share a common denominator: both of you are surrounded with a lot of John Does. The sight of your leaving this place broke me from my frozen state. Fancy me, gazing at the spectacle of your ghost that you left behind! I picked your traces like the shatters of hope that bloom inside the rough terrains of my heart. Disappointed, I laid on the bed. In its usual fashion, my stream of consciousness began to make my abode uneasy. “Will the night ever have the chance to crease the delicate hands of the day?” This was all that occupied my mind…my body.  “Dawn!” was the answer. It is in this tiniest, most uncomfortable of spaces that boundaries extend into the endless, calling for the gathering of the unalike.  “An opportunity is right around the corner. I should give it a try,” I decided. So, along with the gentle sun rays of February, I embarked on a quest to find my Sana’anian Cinderella. I could scarcely tell you, my beloved reader, how deeply disturbed my thoughts were—how caught off-guard I was–by the sight of her blocking my way! If it weren’t for the conventions—these shackles of tradition–been between us, I would submerge myself in the radiant warmth of your subtle smile. What came after that was something beyond my understanding for I was under a deadly spell: a concoction of your perfume and the roaring effluvium of condiments from Old Sanaa’s markets…or, perhaps, it was the brush of sun in your eyes.

In the evening, I met a little scale boy by Al-Saila street. I remember giving him twice his normal sum; he even winked at me, foregoing comment and his usual sarcastic manner. Well, was the answer yes or no? Could I say that we are happily in love, now? On that day, however, the red, white, and black of the flag tied to our neighbor’s roof were half-masted, and I was accompanied by the city’s not-so-dark light, anymore.

Photo merge by Rania Sultan.