Glass Enclave
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Benches. White curved metal, each and every one bore a placard, In Loving Memory of this person or that. As if people must die so that others can sit in the Winter Gardens. People must die... Her invisible brand shifted, breathed its existence. It was hidden from Rae, like her hair and the skin on her arms, it could only be imagined. Four years ago this brand had crystallized. Grief had formed, taken shape, a diamond shape, its four angles stapled onto her forehead, each shoulder, the top of her stomach. She knew it was translucent, she knew that it held a mercurial liquid which flowed up and down slowly when she moved. The diamond shape of grief made sense to her, her forehead -- that was where it hurt when she cried, that space behind her eyes, her shoulders -- because they curled to carry her heart. And the angle at the top of her stomach -- that was where the pain was.

So that she was somewhat prepared, now that the liquid in the diamond moved carefully like oil, she was not surprised, when Rae asked her about Tarig. 'My aunt's son', she replied, 'but it was not until I was seven that I met him. I was born here as you know and my parents and I did not go back home until I was seven'.

They were sitting on a bench in a room full of cacti. The cacti were like rows of aliens in shades of green, of different heights, standing still, listening. They were surrounded by sand for the room was meant to give the impression of a desert. The light was different too, airier, more yellow.

'Not until I was seven'. These were her words, the word 'until' as if she still could not reconcile herself to those first seven years of life without him. In better times she used to re-invent the beginning of her life. Make believe that she was born at home, Africa's largest land, in the Sisters' Maternity Hospital, delivered by a nun dressed in white. She liked to imagine that Tarig was waiting for her outside the delivery room, holding his mother's hand, impatient for her, a little fidgety. Perhaps she would have been given a different name had she been born at home, a more common one. A name suggested by her aunt, for she was a woman who had an opinion on all things. Sammar was the only Sammar at school and at college, when talking about her people never needed to say her last name. Do you pronounce it like the season, summer?, Rae had asked the first time she met him. Yes, but it does not have the same meaning. And because he wanted to know more she said, it means conversations with friends, late at night. It is what the desert's nomads liked to do, talk leisurely by the light of the moon, when it was no longer so hot and the day's work was over.

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