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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reprisal of an Autumn Serenade

Sitting at one of the outdoor cafés that line the old Venetian port of Kyrenia, I watch the glitzy veil of club-med mentality lazily slipping away.

The wind is soft against my cheeks. Slightly damp from the spray of the sea, unabashed it plants tiny kisses across my face. Across the table, B takes a sip of her Turkish coffee and looks at me impatiently, but I choose not to respond to her questioning glances. Instead, my back to the sea now, I stare out at a distant line of vision over her shoulder.

Some restaurants have already begun to close their outdoor venues, a few waiters in the distance are stacking tables and chairs to be stored away for next season. Surprisingly domesticated, an irritated sea-gull sqwawks at one boy as though telling him to work faster, while a cat sits a little further off slowly licking itself, seemingly mourning the anticipated end of scraps from the dinner tables.

Soon the rowdy casinos and gaudy stalls of plastic memorabilia will fall silent too, and I smile at some semi-ironic symbolism conjured up in my thoughts.

Celebrating the end of the tourist season has become a type of August finalé ritual for B and me, and yet both of us, though born on the island, coming from England were tourists too in some sense.

But we were also different.

For only the real lovers of Cyprus stay after the summer sun begins its gentle decline into winter. Only they love what's behind the veil, warts and all.

For only when is it the hardest to love something, that's when you should love it most of all.

I shiver suddenly, as the playful wind blows a kiss down my neck. Turn back round, it seems to say. Turn round and look at the sea.

Like people fascinated with the morbid, we had come to watch something die. That the thing dying was without a soul - a temporary love affair, shallow and conditional - didn't help to shake that feeling which had suddenly overcome me.

I ignore the call of the wind, as I've ignored the call of many things. Maybe I'd had my fill of endings. I didn't want to turn around and look at the great expanse of the sea, reminding me that some endings were without end.

I look into B's dark, round and blessedly familiar eyes instead.

"It's not like you to be so patient," I say finally.

"I want you to be ready to talk about it," she replies.

"It's not like you to be so mellow, either. Are you softening in your old age?"

"Mid-twenties is not old, though I wouldn't be surprised if you've always acted old. Though I can't imagine that old head on a six year old."

I laugh. "Believe me, my family can."

"How do you always manage to change the subject so easily?"

"Because we always have a lot to talk about my dear B, more important things than me."

Finishing her coffee, she places her small, thin porcelain cup upside down. Once cooled, she will "read" the symbols left in the drink's dark brown sediment - a customary way of fortune telling among people who share Turkish coffee as part of its cuisine.

She indicates my cup. "Turn it upside down, let me read your future."

"Oh B, you know what I think of that."

"Yes I know what you think of that, do it anyway."

I meekly do as I'm told. If you knew B, you'd do it, too. "What are you expecting to see?"

"What is right in front of your nose, but that you're too blind to see," she says enigmatically.

"Hey," I fake an indignant smile, "aren't I meant to be the one that does that? Attempting to be all knowing?"

"When it comes to some matters my dear Ali, you are exceedingly dumb," she says with a bluntness that can only come from years of friendship. "You tell me so much about love in your poetry - but when it comes to you, how little you know."

I ask genuinely amazed, "You still read the blog? After the blog took a slight turn in direction, I thought you'd stop reading it."

When I first began this blog, it was because of a conversation with B over lunch. It evolved from discussing the Tarkan phenomenon to a journal for me where I collected small anecdotes about this and that, and then somewhere along the way it became a journal about me.

"I've never stopped reading it. I can't stop reading it. Even the little news bits you pick out, they say a lot."

"Or you just read a lot into it," I smile.

"Oh, don't try and be so damn humble. You know I keep telling you about your poems - and not the ones on the blog, either. A book or something. I just don't understand you what you have against publishing."

"You know B, people should have ideals, but ones they set for themselves, not others. Our ideals are different that's all, I don't have anything against publishing - I just don't want to write with that in mind." I call a waiter over, and order us something sweet and two cappuccinos. "The greatest compliment to a poet's work is not to bring it to a literary agent, but to take to the streets and have it achieve what it was written for, to connect with hearts and minds of everyday people like you and me."

"Like me maybe, but I wouldn't describe you as everyday. And your poems are hardly graffiti."

"Why aren't they? The blogs are the new streets, keyboards the modern version of the spray can. Children in schools should be taught that poems are living breathing things written by the same, and should not come to poems by way of an autopsy of meaning in examinations alone. Learning about Tennyson shouldn't just be about learning meter and rhyme."

I pause. The waiter brings us two large pieces of chocolate cake, as we wait for our drinks. B sticks her tongue out, and then blows me a kiss. She grabs her fork and punctures the thick, luxuriant top layer.

"Go on," she prompts, before tasting her first bite.

"It's the same with Shakespeare," I continue, warming to my theme, "we shouldn't introduce it in schools as something technical, confining his works to an intellectual minority. Shakespeare wrote to entertain. His plays should be played in the street. Get Shakespeare in the street, because he has a lot to say."

"Well you could bring out a book, and still continue to publish poems on your blog. I love all the intellectual clap-trap, but you know what your real problem is? Your problem is you feel that what you have to say doesn't deserve publication. And boy, are you wrong."

I laugh, loudly. "Yes, it seems I am. You haven't mellowed at all."

B grins. "That's what you get for trying to change the subject. Speaking of which -" she makes a move for my coffee cup, but I pull it away from her reach.

"No you don't," I say, grinning back. "Eat you cake like a good girl, first."

Relenting, she leans back and turns her attention to her plate. "Oh, I'll eat my cake, honey, but what's being good got to do with it?"

"My dear B," I try to deflect her wicked smile, "sometimes you are far too street for me."

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