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Monday, June 23, 2008

A Staying Change

As B approaches me, I raise an eyebrow at what she's wearing.

She grins at me, happy that her T-shirt has had the desired effect. She stretches the fabric out with two hands, indicating the message printed on it: Don't panic, I'm Islamic.

"Well?" she asks.

"Well, indeed," I say.

"Well?"

"Well what?"

"Oh don't give me that look and then have the cheek to say well what! You know damn well, well what!"

I smile. "You must have run the conversation in your mind, surely you don't need me to repeat what you're so sure I'm going to say?"

Hands now on her hips, she cocks her head to one side; her dark eyes flash, "Sometimes Ali, you can be too clever, y'know?"

"So, I'm often told, and so often they're right. But I know you, B. You're no more pro-Islamic then Middle America, and its tasteless to use religion as a political symbol. You're not actually standing up for Islam with that, you're insulting it."

"Because I'm wearing it? Do I need to be wearing a stupid headscarf, or hiding behind some damn man's sense of purdah? We Turks reformed Islam y'know!"

"No, my darling, because you're wearing it for the wrong reasons. It's not proper to use some person's honest belief or faith to make a political statement or to irritate the local American tourists of Kyrenia. But of course you're free to wear it, I'll fight for your freedom to do that. We're not in an American airport, no one will arrest you here. Just don't expect me to play along."

She gives a grin, but this one is laced with acid, and reaches to take the shirt off. "Well then, shall I just take it off?"

I look at her without blinking, "Do what makes you comfortable, it's nothing I haven't seen before. Though I can't speak for the rest of Kyrenia of course."

A car honks its horn as it drives past, and a few people stare at us. Taking a shirt off in the middle of a busy street is starting to turn a few heads. Someone whistles.

"But if you're not going to act like a lady, don't expect me to be the gentleman and cover you up. You can walk like that to the port."

She hesitates, "Should I call your bluff?"

I raise my eyebrow again. "Believe me, this is no poker face."

She lets her hands drop. The T-shirt still on, she slips a hand through my arm. "Lead the way, Mr Serious. And lose that eyebrow!"

I laugh. "So, what do you want for dinner? Where shall we go?"

She thinks, closing one eye. "Usual place, but something light, maybe a salad with a huge brownie slice covered in chocolate and ice cream and a coffee? Or we could make it really light and skip the salad?"

"As you wish, Missy. You lead the way."

We begin to walk towards the old Venetian port of Kyrenia, a usual haunt when the summer season arrives, pushing everyone to open their windows and doors after a winter's hibernation in Cyprus.

The heat is almost oppressive tonight, if it wasn't for a lightly salt perfumed wind coming from the sea. We walk closer by the shore, to catch some spray and cool down.

B pokes a finger at my arm. "By the way, I really like the last few posts on your blog. Really informative. Learning new things. Thanks."

"Which ones?"

"The stories of words for one. Laughed at the role of the British man! Can you imagine that happening with a couple here? I mean sleeping apart? Turks would be horrified, families would think something was wrong. As my parents do, I want to - how does that Turkish saying go?"

"May you age on one pillow," I say in Turkish.

"That's it! That's what they wish newly married couples. Do you think I'll ever hear that?"

"Of course you will...what happened to whats-his-name?"

"Oh number 5? He's history," she says blithely. B names her ex-boyfriends with numbers, their names are never mentioned.

"But I like him, he was-" I catch a look flash again from her dark eyes, and stop mid-sentence. "You're parents should have named you Lamia," I say, affectionately.

"Why?"

"Lamia is the Greek name for Lilith. So rumour has it, she was Adam's first companion, before Eve. She demanded the same rights as Adam and so God banished her from Eden. She married a demon and became the queen of demons."

"Should I be insulted by that?"

"No, Missy. But it's you down to a tee. Lamia is a nice name for a girl."

"Queen of the demons? Yuck, no thanks. But that does sound like your last girlfriend funnily - and put that eyebrow down buddy, you're scaring no one a third time!"

We approach the port from its east entrance, and B makes her way to our usual summer spot a few metres away. Even with air conditioning the inside of the eatery is out of bounds in the summer, and customers are seated outside.

The month of June is a high time for tourists. Our usual café is full, but as we are friendly with the café owners, they always keep one area of their open air plan free for special customers. As B walks up, the waiters are already starting to lay a table and two chairs out for us.

"You order, I'll be there in a minute," I call out to her, and stop to look out to the sea. The harbour is a little more busier, a little more noisier than I usually like, and maybe for that reason I find myself thinking back to when I had come here nearly two years ago with B, to see out the summer season.

Nearly two years ago.

So many things had changed, and yet so many things had not.

And I am content, for that is just as it should be.

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