I run my fingers gently over my arm from wrist to crook. New hairs have sprouted where the arm was shaved, and their short sharpness creates electricity on the pads of my fingertips. The skin is raised slightly where the needles have done their beautiful damage, and a new layer of skin reclaims the surface and drinks in the cool, black ink.
I close my eyes.
A North African thunderstorm lumbers and languors overhead, the clouds heavy and pregnant and generous. Below, the earth is greening. She breathes in the moist air, exhaling fire into the blooms of the poppies that shine slick and bob gently on the hills outside of town.
I hear it now—the rain—tapping incessantly on the wet stone outside. A rooster crows from a neighbors roof. Flatware clinks as it is sorted into drawers in the third-floor kitchen. A woman’s voice calls down through the atrium in Arabic— soft and insistent and swirling with colonial influence.
I open my eyes. Here, just on the other side the patterned window glass that separates my small room from the common area, another voice calls up in response.
The sweet gears of the guesthouse continue to turn.
I breathe in… olive oil, mint, and freshly-baked bread. I breathe out… cinnamon, coffee, cream, and honey.
My leather journal shifts beneath my hands. Ah, yes, I was writing. What was I saying?
There is a membrane between myself and everything else. On the far side of this translucent film, another tempest is raging, marked by attachment, pain, rage, loss, and confusion. I rest here, in the eye of the storm.
I am utterly lost in the beauty of this moment, sublime and eternal. My pen pours ink smoothly onto the page as it rushes to keep up with my thoughts, my hand brushing over the suede cover as I make this commitment to the paper.
The near-darkness in which I lay is broken only by the faint orange glow, cast by the small warm bulb, hanging from the long metal chain, bolted to the massive stone ceiling, shielding me from the warm Moroccan rain, falling from the sooty African cloud that hangs low in the morning sky.
The shouting and haggling of the shop-keepers has disappeared. Do they sip strong coffee in the dark corners of the souks? The braying of the donkeys has ceased. Do they stand in the rain, munching hay with complete indifference to the weather? The song and laughter of a hundred schoolchildren has fallen still. Do they wait—quiet and hopeful—gazing through water-streaked windows and praying for an end to the storm so that they might resume that game of football in the narrow stone passages that race up and down between their homes?
Colors move beyond the opaque window beside my bed, betraying the Moroccan woman who cleans the common area beyond. While her form is obscured, the colors she is wearing dance and change shapes with the patterns of the glass. I can hear the ropey mop as it swishes across the patterned stone tile at her feet.
I sit here, propped in my bed, resting satisfied in my membrane of the now, witnessing the overwhelming beauty of a world that lays largely beyond the heavy wooden door of my small room, but reveals itself fully at my small hand on this small page.
I am on the inside, at last. In this moment, I am fully within myself. I’ve spent more than a half century searching, trying to tear my way through this membrane, seeing it as the thing that has kept us separate when it is quite the opposite; the very thing that has bound you to me, and me to you— the container of our shared light.
I place my pen in the spine of my journal and wrap it tight with the soft leather band. It rests on my lap as, again, I run my fingers across my slowly healing arm and listen to the storm outside.