Teaser 236: Majnun and Laila

When the last of the questions was finally over, I was escorted to the entrance, which was a large waiting room itself. Waiting in this room was a small group of four people representing Germany, the country of my previous residence, all of them there to display their concern for my well-being. Since they all sat together it's what I figured the other three were doing sitting with Tanya. When she stood as I walked into the large room and was informed I was free to leave, Tanya looked to me with a lack of ease, a look of careful concern. I still wore the robe, the sandals and the turban which had not been cleaned and, except for the sandals, had not been removed from my body for days. Still, despite her reserve, Tanya approached me. “At least you're still in one piece, Gregory, or is it, Al-Barrak?”

“Gregory Hess is no more.”

“Are we no more?” Tanya had reached me and we embraced. Her hug was tight. I sensed should she release me, we were no more.

“Introduce me to your colleagues, Tanya, and when we have opportunity we will talk privately, or are you in some sort of diplomatic haste?” I felt her laugh through her body.

“No, I have time.” Her arms loosened, swinging to her sides. She introduced me to the German Ambassador to Mali, his immediate assistant, a slight woman of officious manner, and the head of security for the German ambassadorial group. They had arranged with both the Mali government and the U.S. government to drive me back to Gossi with their own security arrangements.

I told Tanya I liked the idea, not that I disliked any representatives of the other governments based on my recent treatment, since I had been well-treated. I didn't mind the grilling to which I had been subjected. I considered it necessary from their point of view. After all, no one expected Al-Barrak. “And according to Monty Python, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition either, at least, not in the twenty-first century. It is true. There is a time and place for everything. The One plans it this way.”

We drove to the German embassy where I would stay the night as their guest. In the morning we would all leave for Gossi, so they would have time to drive back to Bamako while it was still light. Once I was shown my room on the top floor, Tanya asked everyone if she could have some time to talk with me alone. All excused themselves and the Ambassador's assistant closed the door behind her, being the last to leave. “I suppose I can't do with you what I really want to do, can I?”

“I know what you want to do, Tanya, and you're thinking it will offend me. A kiss is but a kiss. An embrace is but an embrace. To go beyond, though, you must be my wife. You must be my beloved, engulfed with the same honor, trust and love for me with which I would be engulfed. You are not my wife, Tanya. I am not your husband. We are not beloved to each other in this manner.”

We sat in separate chairs, the entire room between us. Tanya appeared defeated. “You have taken your next step, your direction has swerved, Al-Barrak. Though I know your direction is true, there is no room for me any more.”

I stared at Tanya as she sat in the chair across from me, her right leg crossed above her left thigh, her skirt tightly drawn over her thighs to just a few inches from her knees, the rest of her legs bare and smooth as silk. Her beauty in my presence surpassed what I could remember. I took a long time to gaze over her entire appearance, focusing on this small area, that small area, every protrusion, curve, and subtlety. I could see her minute movements, of discomfort, of pain. “Majnun and Laila, have you heard the story?”

Her eyes flashed and locked on mine. “No.”

“Laila was the most beautiful of all to Majnun, surpassing even his imagination. When he finally gazed upon her whole and true beauty, it killed him. He could not live once he was confronted with such beauty.” I watched Tanya slowly lift her mouth into a smile, and she shifted a bit in her coil. “Your beauty, Tanya, surpasses all, even my most vivid imagination. I am dead when confronted with it. I cannot ignore, though, that your beauty comes attached to a wondrous woman, a human being with thoughts and motives and ideas and love which is unlike any other, too. No one is like you, Tanya. No one can surpass you. I am your beloved, whether you know this or not. I will love you always and you will be the object of my undying affection. Do not mistake me. You are not an object to me. You are Tanya, a woman, a beautiful woman, a whole human being, but my affection must attach to an object, or it has no meaning. I can attach my affection to a tree, for even a simple thing as a tree can display exquisite beauty, worthy of affection. As a woman, though, Tanya, desire must come with an honor and a love which is pure and worthy and above all. To allow such desire to flow untethered is to invite disaster. Let not our meeting each other result in disaster.”

“I cannot marry you.”

“You can. What you mean is that you will not.”

“You are going to make this extremely difficult.”

Tanya will make this extremely difficult, because Tanya thinks—these are her thoughts—that she must devote herself to me in all ways. She cannot leave me. She cannot have any life beyond some perimeter I set for her. She must surrender to me completely. This is what Tanya thinks a wife must do. Tanya does not understand a wife has a path which meanders in as many ways as there are human beings, because she does not understand the true height, breadth and depth of honor, love and trust. Until then, she is stuck, and she will remain beyond my grasp, for I cannot grasp her until she grasps my hand willfully.”

“But I can kiss you, embrace you? Is that true, Al-Barrak?”

“Don't put your tongue in my mouth.”

Out came the sound of Tanya's full and deep laugh, a welcome sound…

- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-NineInextricably Bound” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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