Falling backwards…..

5 09 2016

Desert Pyriamid

Walls of Turquoise cast illusions of coolness onto two tired travellers’ faces – our tired faces now drinking a third mint tea and debating whether or not to have a fourth when the waiter launched a question at us. ‘Where are you from?’
Ignoring Sherry’s Mickey Mouse T-shirt I tried to guess the right answer. ‘Err Switzerland?’
‘Switzerland?’
‘Err Europe?’
‘Is he your husband?’
‘No, boyfriend’, her answer morphing his brown eyes red. He was now looking at her through flared nostrils.
‘Why did you come here?’.
‘We are exploring the Middle East. Do you travel much?’
Silence before the waiter turned a slapped cheek expression towards the doorway. ‘A man was shot dead … there… yesterday’.

I waited in vain for Sherry to respond, huge myopic eyes now scouring the floor for evidence.
‘Did you know him?’
‘Yes of course.’
‘So sorry for you loss but we have to leave now. Bus.’

We bowed our way backwards towards the exit, ‘al salamu alaykum’, legs two feet in front of torso’s as we scooted up the road and around the corner – an out door stock exchange thwarting an attempt to move further – desperation mobilising an idea – my camera, focussed on no one in particular, parting the crowds like a  scene from a biblical movie.

But dogs still assessed us for meaty tenderness as we went, young boys begging us for cigarettes along the way, the young girl offering us flower petals handed  a coin or two before we’d emerge from the mayhem.

We reached the junction, a bus shelter just ahead, a water pump to our left, and to the right a rumbling noise… a screech… a tank – the officer sitting on the very rim of it aiming a gun at my forehead. ‘You cannot stay… you must leave. It’s too dangerous’, his outstretched hand yanking Sherry up before she’d uttered a single sound – me close behind, complaining, settling beside her, right next to the gun turret.

We couldn’t have looked more conspicuous if we’d tried, and I was already regretting the yellow shirt. Were there snipers on the roof tops? If someone threw a grenade at me should I throw it back or just say a hurried prayer? Was “Swiss” the correct answer?

Taking a wide turn right, the tank trundled through compound gates, hundreds of soldiers within it busy training for … they looked resolute.

Now in the officers mess room, and forced, against my instincts, to move away from Sherry in order to accommodate the number of soldiers surrounding her, I recalled the times Sherry’s’ flirting had dug us out of a hole. I didn’t intervene. But a Chief Officer did. ‘We are driving you to Jaffa. You can go anywhere from there but do not come back.’

Exhausted from the efforts of trying to pull our shoes off we fell backwards onto the bed. It was more of an imperial relic than a hotel but at least it had a jug of water, a bowl and a foreign smelling towel – and a hole in the ceiling disclosing an eerily black sky.

I squeezed Sherry’s hand. If flirting with danger, and surviving it, could heighten my senses this much, make me feel this much alive, then I’d begun to understand why people bungee jumped and skydived.

Recollections of yesterday still electrified us this morning, but enough was enough.  We’d take a flight back to London within the hour, and as advised by our military escort, wouldn’t be coming back.

 

Jet Plan

 

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