[Fiction. Undated. Written ages ago, for a friend going through some stuff.]
The sandals are beautifully embroidered, with little gemstones laced into the straps, held together by delicate silken threads, almost invisible. They shimmer in the bright sunlight, blindingly reflecting the the world around them in a kaleidoscopic rush of sun, sand and sea.
She unlaces them, slowly rubbing her feet. Smooth, beautiful feet, gracefully manicured, with perfect little stripes of white nail polish at the top of each toe-nail, and beneath that, an impeccably thin and clear lacquer layered down on each nail by a perfectionist.
She remembers the day she bought the sandals. Marrakesh. She’d always loved Morocco as a child, for some now obscure reason, but had something to do with the countless books she read, tucked away in the corners of the school library, which she would read for ages, wide-eyed, imagination soaring the Arabian skies. She absolutely wanted to visit Marrakesh and when her father made the announcement, she squealed with delight and spent the next three months scouring the internet, mapping out all the great places she had read about, planning to see everything.
10th October 2007. The family vacation was coming to a close. Two weeks of absolute pure bliss. The days were bright and sunny and so foreign, and everything was so white, and yet so outstandingly colorful.
Her last stop was the souq, the large open-air market that pretty much defined Marrakesh for her. She had bought everything there was to buy, and still found she wanted everything else. Almost out of money, she wandered wistfully from stall-to-stall, unconcerned with the looks the vendors gave her even as they touted their wares. Suddenly, the sun was on the horizon and her little sister was tugging at her dress, tired and hungry. As they quickly found their way out of the market, worried about transportation back to the hotel, she saw an old lady selling just the one pair of sandals. They were impossibly beautiful and she instantly fell in love.
She gently puts the sandals aside and stands up from the wicker lounge chair, stretching slowly, looking at the vast ocean that lay before her, surface shimmering like a silken, mercurial landscape. The sun was setting and the ocean was awash in golden hues of light. In the distance, a lone fisherman was finding his way back home and over-head, a flock of sea-gulls flutters off into the sunset. She smiles and tucks a stray strand of hair behind her ears.
She gingerly steps into the soft sand and feels the grains part for a moment and then rush to surround her feet. The cool, gritty feeling is something she can never get quite used to, no matter how many times she goes to the beach. Like stepping into a lush luxuriant Persian rug. Amazing every single time.
Walking towards the water, ignoring the whistles from the beach-boys, she drops her wide-brimmed straw hat by her side. She’s wearing a lesu around her waist, framing the gentle curve of her hips and knotted at the top of her waist, angling just enough for the white bikini bottom to peep through. She walks slowly, unconsciously swaying her hips to the rythm of the waves crashing ahead.
She finally reaches the water, and the sand is even cooler and softer here. She lets the waves bring the water to her, swirling around her feet and washing away the grains of sand. As the water rushes back to the ocean, she sinks her feet deeper into the sand and waits for the next wave to come wash it all off again. Crash, clean, retreat: a beautiful and multi-sensual rythm.
She stays this way for a long time. Eyes closed, feeling the rays of the sun on her face; sand and water playfully dancing around her feet and the cool salty ocean breeze caressing her bare skin. She thinks to herself… there is nowhere else I’d rather be right now. This is eternity and this is home.
She smiles again. And remembers the lady at Marrakesh, with her toothless grin, and how she had to exchange her bracelet for the sandals because she had run out of cash and couldn’t afford the sandals. The bracelet she had bought in Kenya, when she was visiting Aunt Joy, her favorite aunt, who passed away last year and brought her whole world crumbling down; she had refused come out of her room for weeks after the funeral. The bracelet she bought from the crafts market in Mombasa, where she saw the ocean for the first time and fell in love with life again. The bracelet that was so gorgeous and so expensive that when she bought it, the old man selling it – his toothless grin was a good sales strategy – gave her the lesu as ongeza. The lesu and bracelet had been inseparable since… until the souq at Marrakesh.
She unties the lesu and drops it into the ocean, where it lingers for a while, slowly getting soaked until it is floating just above the surface. The waves continue their crash and retreat, crash and retreat, and minutes later, the lesu is a part of the ocean, glowing brightly through the reflected light. It becomes a shimmering kaleidoscope of golden sun, blue ocean and beautifully crafted red, green, blue and yellow embroidery.
She stands a bit longer, staring off into distance, silhouetted perfectly against the setting sun, and, finally, sighs and turns around.