The Storyteller of Aleppo by Donna Obeid
In the barren cold camp, you wear a dusty cape and top hat, wave my cane as if it were a wand and tell me your dream-stories, one after the next, your words spun and tossed like tethers into the air. Orange blossom moons and starlit seas, doors that open into terraced gardens, women who fly like butterflies. You could barely glance at me before marriage, stuttered when you spoke. Your keen-eyed matchmaker mother, the holy man who spoke of love and wings. How could any of us then have known the test of such things? Mandala drawn in henna upon my hands, a dozen glowing faces, rice and petals that rode on the jasmine breeze. We walked across the field that led to your village and I saw shadows in the distance. At first, I thought they were churches, so magnificent their proportions. But no, you tenderly said, those are my brothers’ barns. The cake of a thousand layers, the sword we held together, the oud that played as we twirled. Here, you said touching me in the night, at this mole, in this cove formed by your collarbones. This is our home. The baby we were to have together, the sight that was supposed to last a lifetime, those things we’ll never speak of, things too horrible to have happened. Even here, in this village of a thousand tents, some of our old customs we won’t allow to pass away. Here is the tea you pour three times a day. Here is the praise we give to Allah for most this precious day: for the bright true dream-story of sky and everyone and everything. Here is the imaginary boy who sits at our table and feasts on bread and cheese. Here are the books we read to him, the questions he asks: Where did the sun go? Why won’t the birds sing? When will we go home? Instead of a road of dead bodies and ruined things, you say there is an endless sea. In the depths of the water, we dance in candlelight, sip sweet wine. You take my hands and smile at me, the eyes of my eyes are cured, our heart of hearts healed. Before we can rise to the top, before the broken world can come back into view, I whisper to you – My love, my storyteller, vanish me.
Originally from a suburb outside of Detroit, Donna Obeid received her BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and both an MA and MFA from American University. Her work appears in The Baltimore Review, Carve, Flash Fiction Magazine, Hawai`i Pacific Review, South 85 Journal, Waterwheel Review, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California. Read more of her work at: www.donnaobeid.com.