Sawwah By The Sea

Do you remember me, Cesar?

That pale-skinned, out-of-place woman that wandered into your 2013 summer?

I think of you as I look at our photo; a slice of lemon wedged between watered down memories.

You did not seem to belong there, and neither did I.

My heart longed to be tamed by the pines of the mountain side, and you? You were ocean beyond its foaming flirtation with sea.

Though your skin spoke of the sun, it was not leathered by the amble of piña coladas nor made golden by the glitter of sand. Yours were working hands; greened fingernails and blistered palms betraying a life of blue waters long before the overturned boats and fishing nets ever could.

I heard you before I saw you, lulled by the music that somehow floated its head above the crash of wave and clinking of drinks.

I followed your voice until I found you, head hunched over crumpled paper, lips giving life to words as you softly strummed guitar, which though battered by the waves, still sang its notes like a newborn. 

I caught your eye and smiled, gesturing for you to sing louder. You smiled back, shyly, gentle eyes never leaving my face.

After singing two songs, you paused and looked meaningfully at me.

I gulped.

It was my turn to sing.

Jetlagged, the only song I could think of was an old Arabic song called “sawwah”. How befitting, to sing an Arabic love song about a traveller during my own travels!

I did not want to let this moment end, so I let go of my anxieties about my voice and began to sing. Your eyes watched me faithfully, fingers carefully following the dips and turns of my imperfect singing, matching the patchwork of words to the rhythm of music.

We did not speak and we did not need to. For in that moment, we were one.

Just like the old silk and spice trade routes, language and human connection spread; music the great unifier.

This article was first published on 16 September 2016