A Triptych by Riham Adly
Mezza for the Lonely
Everything is folded up and airy when I’m in love the first time. You walked into my shop with that lonely immigrant look on your face following the elusive chocolaty scents of brewing coffee soon to be served in my Arabian Nights demitasse. You stare ominously at the folding chairs and tables, at the wisps of Arabic among the paraphernalia of blonde heads and dark beards. For me it’s like knowing and not knowing a secret that isn’t a secret. I wondered if it was me or the mezza’s ancestral flavors that sparked your cardboard face back to life.
Semits and BaklavaIn my post-work haze I listen to songs about lost letters, love and lost boys and think of lost mothers. I sing along my own tunes of longing, hands dancing amidst the mist of flour dust, the buttering of phyllo dough, and finger tingling sprinkles of cinnamon, walnut and orange blossom. I imagine her closed eyes as she bites into crackling, heavenly layers, but I feel hard on the inside like a three-day old baguette, like those eternal Semits left on her grave back home, those hard to chew pretzels covered in burned sesame seeds, and honeyed smears of grief.
You bake it when I’m taken away by customer orders and insane night shifts. I bake it when you don’t stay for dessert and rush away to your secret. The cake’s layered, folded on itself like first-loves. It has both of us like the halting aging of fruits under a crust of icing sugar. It has us both in absence.
Riham Adly is an Egyptian writer/blogger. Her fiction has appeared in journals such Bending Genres, Connotation Press, Spelk, The Cabinet of Heed, Vestal Review, Volney Road Review, Five:2:One, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Gingerbread House lit, Writing in a Woman’s voice, Anti-Heroine Chick, Danse Macabre and @Fewerthan500 among others. She was recently short-listed in the Arab-Lit Translation Prize. Her translation of Author Tareq Imam’s “An Eye” was recently published in the Arablit Quarterly.Riham lives with her family in Gizah, Egypt.