Architect: A short story

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Hannah Cooper/Senior Staff

I n your travels you come across a city which rises from the crystalline dust of endless sand dunes every two years and dissolves into the sand two years hence.

In its wide, open avenues and ornate palaces, the poor live content that they will as soon as not be rich, and the rich live content that they will as soon as not be poor, as each envies the relative simplicity in the life of the other.

In the warm summer night a woman lies awake, only pretending to sleep, but listening with a quiet ear to the sounds of her son making love for the first time to his sweetheart in the room below, or perhaps to the sounds of the swallows on the terraces and rooftops above, singing the arrival of morning, for the two are much the same.

You find that in the center of the city square sits a large cobblestone well, from which the city’s life flows out in water, and into which the city itself swirls down, dripping into the cavernous depths below as if through the neck of the hourglass, flowing resolutely to the Other, where all is complete in kind but reflected diametrically in aspect.

To steal here is to kneel and gather the sand in your hand, and watch it pour through the gaps in your fingers, the finer grains carried by the breeze onto the porches with wicker chairs and argileh, where perhaps there is a man sitting, his face weathered and hard, endlessly fingering with his left hand the ring found on his right as the scent of kebab drifts from behind him into the square.

To dance here is to dig your toes into the sand lining the bazaar, underneath the scorching layer baked by the sun, to watch the roots spread from your heels and the tips of your toes and take hold to the lampposts and fountains as the city hums itself to sleep and you sway silently in its rhythm.

To die here is to sit cross-legged in the square, hand resting lightly on your thigh, eyes closed almost entirely, as the last of the astronomers’ towers and philosophers’ palaces come apart and sink into the ever-shifting dunes, leaving you alone in the ocean of sand from which you construct the universe in a polished sphere of blown glass.

Imad Pasha is the Weekender editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @prappleizer.

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