Sunday, November 20, 2011


SOL OCCAXUS (Sunset) Monday, 19 September, 2011

CREPUSCULUM (Evening Twilight)
I. Friday, 23 September, 2011
II. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
III. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
IV. Sunday, 16 October, 2011

VESPER (Evening Dusk)
I. Sunday, 23 October, 2011
II. Sunday, 30 October, 2011
III. Wednesday, 9 November, 2011
IV. Monday, 14 November, 2011
V. Monday, 14 November, 2011

CONCUBIUM (First Sleep – Coitus – Rest)
I. Thursday, 17 November 2011
II. Sunday, 20 November, 2011
MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)
DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)




He smelt her perfume before he noticed her.
“Hello, Michael.”
Michael Mara put the book that he had been reading down and stood up to greet Isabella Sanjil. She was standing at the far side of his table and was wearing what he thought was probably the smallest black cocktail dress he had ever seen; obscuring the distinction between lingerie and daywear to the limits of designer perception. It was hardly surprising that every other male eye in the restaurant had followed her entrance and that they continued to watch as there was an immediate territorial stand off between the maître d'hôtel and Michael to pull out Isabella’s chair. What was it with her and restaurant staff, he wondered as he lost out to the maître d. He had wanted to greet Isabella in the continental way, to feel her skin against his cheek, but instead had to settle, awkwardly, for a handshake.
The restaurant, which was in a dark alleyway that led onto the calle Zacitín was obviously popular and the room, that lunchtime, was filled with elegantly tailored and bejewelled diners who soon returned to their eating and loud banter. “You look stunning, Isabella,” Michael said as they settled back in their chairs.
“Thank you my kind gentil home. I am sorry that I had to rush away yesterday afternoon without us having had the chance to talk. Some urgent family business needed attending to. It was very good of you to arrange for another opportunity.”
“I was very happy that you were able to make it today. Is everything ok with your family?”
“Oh that. Sure. A minor crisis averted.” Isabella smiled at him before looking around the room for people that she might know. This was done expertly, Michael noted, with only the slightest movement of her head but with eyes that scanned in a complete arc. He watched as she used the excuse of hanging her shoulder bag over the back of the chair to complete the reconnaissance of the diners sitting behind them. Turning back, to look at him again, she gave a small smile of satisfaction.
“What would you like to drink, Isabella?” he asked.
“I like the local vin seco, if that is acceptable to you?”
“Sure,” he replied as he called the waiter over to ask for the wine list.
“Would you like water Señor? Señorita?” the waiter asked handing over a particularly thick leather-backed wine list.
They both nodded. Isabella asked for non-sparkling and while waiting for the water Michael chose one of the scarce but better Granada vintages. The wine waiter nodded approvingly, more for the benefit of Isabella than him but Michael appreciated the professional courtesy and smiled at him warmly. Isabella leaned over and looked at the book he had been reading. “The Dumas Club. I also like Perez-Reverte. Have you read any of his others?” she asked.
Michael picked up the book and placed it out of sight on the ground beneath his chair. “Yes, most. I liked the Fencing Master and The Flanders’s Panel equally well. Less obviously cerebral but better focused and paced than Eco.”
“True,” Isabella agreed as she studied the menu.

Michael did likewise and, both having made their choices passed the next hour or so enjoying the food and the nut-brown wine. It was only when the desert plates had been removed and coffee served that as Isabella reached back into her bag for cigarettes that he noticed she was not wearing the blue pendant he had seen at their first encounter. Instead a plain gold chain around her neck sank into the groove of unsupported breasts. Isabella noticed his interest and inhaled deeply as she transfixed him with a quizzical and slightly conspiratorial smile. “Does your wife suspect that you are having dinner tonight with a young, impressionable Spanish maiden?” she asked nonchalantly.
For Michael the noise and activity in the rest of room seemed to suddenly evaporate in its irrelevancy. The detente was over. He brought his hands up and linked them under his chin as a rest and looked at Isabella for a long time. Her use of English had always been precise, measured. The chasm of difference between suspicion and knowing was, to the scientist, acolyte or cheating husband, the obstacle that they had to rationalize, to overcome. For many it is a beginning, for others a termination. Isabella’s question for him, he knew, was at the same time a test, an initiation and a departure. He gave her a rueful smile and her slightly arched eyebrows showed that she knew he had understood. “I doubt that you were ever easily impressionable Isabella, but in answer to your question, no she does not either know or suspect. Would it matter?” he asked. Michael needed confirmation that this arrangement was mutual.
“Not to me, Michael, because I am here with you by choice. As you are with me, for that matter! Your wife . . .eh . . . Caroline is her name, no? She has had no choice in our arrangement. Does that mean you lead separate lives?”
“No. . .” He hesitated. “Not really.”
“But surely not discussing your lives, away from each other, would undermine trust between you?” Isabella’s question was neutral in tone, inquisitive without accusation or pre-judgment.
“Perhaps,” he said a bit too quickly. “But it would be difficult to explain my desire to explore other female relationships away from the accepted conformity of a married partnership. It would arouse jealousy and conflict.”
“Only because the reasoning for your actions would give cause for jealousy and conflict.”
“I do not understand what you mean,” he said truthfully.
“Of course you do only you do not want to face it,” Isabella confronted.
“Explain please,” he demanded, flushed with irritation.
Isabella blithely ignored his agitation. “To me Michael, and remember I am a virtual stranger, your very obvious inclinations are to try involve yourself physically within those relationships where you deem that the effort is worthwhile. I suspect, from our contact so far, that you obtain a great deal of pleasure and delight in ensuring the satisfaction of others but that is a patronising approach. As such, and although perhaps intense and exciting for all involved, it carries no weight of moral conviction and is doomed in the end to failure.”
“Ensuring happiness is a duty Isabella, and as such does carry a moral worth,” he shot back.
“I agree. If your inclinations are followed through from duty as distinct from beneficence then they do carry a moral strength. Your actions demonstrate a continual desire to move beyond the parameters established by your primary relationship with your wife. These parameters of course are different for different couples, and some even encourage this avenue of exploration. For you apparently, this type of freedom is not an option and the betrayal of trust, as I see it, means ignoring for your own satisfaction the established boundaries. Your inclination for happiness is offset by an inclination to ignore other obligations. You must recognize that.”
“You . . . You are right, Isabella.” Michael’s voice cracked slightly and he felt his heart pounding from the danger of the insight. “I do have the inclination to find happiness in new and unexpected shared experiences and have rationalised my desire to explore those needs.”
“Needs? You say that as if it is enough of a justification of your actions. Are you a serial philanderer so? Am I a number to be notched up?” Isabella stared at him with steely eyes.
“No! Of course not! Its just that . . . I’m captivated by you,” he blustered.
Isabella gave him a dismissive look. “But that is purely sexual Michael, spreading your seed as it were. If you are that desperate let’s go into the toilet or if you prefer, your hotel, and have sex right now. Remove it as an objective. Every other man in this room would jump at the offer. Is that what you want, Michael?”
No of course not Isabella! You make it sound trite, dirty even. I explained myself badly. I don’t just want sex but want to explore the potential for a shared happiness. Yes, I’ve had other relationships but cannot remember feeling the intensity that I do right now.”
“A temporary phenomenon. I assure you.” Isabella laughed loudly as she said this.
Michael remained defensive. “No. Not true. You and I were destined to meet, Isabella. That is my conviction and the justification for my actions. I really want to know and understand you.”
“I doubt that, Michael. The feminist writers would consider that reasoning a phallusy, I think the right term is.” Isabella blew smoke in his direction.
Michael waited for the fog to clear surprised by her uncharacteristic mispronunciation. “What do you mean by fallacy?” His question was sharp in its tone, reflecting some of the discomfort he suddenly felt.
Isabella leant forward and held his hand. “I said phallusy Michael, not fallacy: faulty reasoning engendered by a penile assessment of me as an object! Do not misunderstand me. I am sure you are a very beneficent lover. Patient, attentive, adventurous and even sympathetic. I am also sure that few of your secret women friends would have faulted you on that score but it does not equate to knowing or understanding them. I suspect that you have never completely given of yourself and that they instinctively would, as I have, recognize that fact and be prepared for ultimate disappointment. You compartmentalize, you separate, you move on. Your inclination is to secure happiness but you are afraid of the duty, as you put it, involved.”
“What is it about people that makes them all want to be bloody psychoanalysts?” Michael growled as he pulled his hand from hers.
“What do you mean, Michael?” she asked, a little concerned.
“Ah . . . nothing Isabella. It is just that recently nearly everybody I care about, both here and in the States, have said much the same thing to me. I must be a sad case.”
“Perhaps, but not terminal.” Isabella laughed as she took his hand again. She noticed the fine hairs on the back of his wrist prickle in an electric response. “There is a cure Michael.”
“What’s that?”
“Get off the intersection or the fence as you Irish say. You are straddling the compartments you have conveniently contrived for yourself. Go one way and you can tell the world and your obligation to duty to ‘get fucked’. You can play the games but at least be honest and admit that it is for your satisfaction and yours only. Go the other and you will open your mind and life to experiencing, without pretence, real relationships with the world, women and even other men for that matter. The choice is stark but necessary.”
“Thank you for that advice.” Michael said sarcastically as he fumbled with his napkin, sweat-battered by her full frontal assault. “And you Isabella, what do you want in a man? What do men think of you?”
Isabella smiled sweetly and squeezed his hand before withdrawing hers. “Do you mean sexually or as a friend?”
“I love men with a firm tight bottom and nice eyes,” Isabella taunted and then watched as he shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
It was at that very moment however that Michael felt waves of release wash over him. A tidal cleansing of his soul, he thought. Relieved, ecstatic almost, he began to laugh loudly, ignoring the initial amusement and then annoyance of the other diners. It was almost manic in its intensity. Composing himself slowly he crossed his eyes and stared back at Isabella across the table. “And there was I wishing for a bigger penis. Thank you, Isabella.” He really meant it.
“It is my pleasure, Michael. In answer to your question, although I see it is no longer an issue, as a friend I give my trust to few people and as a sexual being I am celibate.”
“Celibate. Jasus. I find that hard to believe. You must be one of the most sensual women I have ever met. Why?”
“Are you asking about sex or trust?”
Isabella laughed. “I see we are getting back down to basics.” She stubbed out the cigarette and immediately lit another. “I am celibate as a matter of choice, of discipline as it were. It is hard to explain.”
“You mean, like a priest or nun?”
“No, not really. I am not Catholic but I suppose in its original intention it is not that different. There was a famous Sufi mystic and writer called Ibn ‘Arabi from Andalusia who in the twelfth century said that it can only be in woman that man may truly contemplate God.”
“The Shaykh al-Akbar. Born in Murcia I think. I read his book of poetry dedicated to the Lady Nizam during a romantic summer long ago,” Michael immediately remembered, all his faculties firing.
“Wow. I am impressed, Michael. It means you possibly understand,” Isabella said with a slight purse of her lips.
“In what way?”
“In remaining celibate I have purified my soul. I have reached a spiritual stability which the Sufi’s call tamkin. In recompense there is insight, knowledge and wisdom. Ibn ‘Arabi suggests that a celibate woman is the ultimate jamal or beauty describing the relationship of mankind with God.”
“Have you always . . . eh?”
“What? Been celibate?”
He nodded and Isabella’s unfettered laughter, once more, made them the focal point of the room. “You are persistent! No, Michael, I am not a virgin. I have had to travel through a number of degrees of ascent to achieve this state of inner peace. You were observant earlier about my sensuality and, believe me when I say this; the transition has often been difficult. Duty for me has meant sacrificing some very strong inclinations. Can you understand?”
“Yes, although it is hard to rationalize the sacrifice.”
Isabella squeezed his hand again. “Cheer up, Michael. There is some hope. I reserve the option to review that choice at any time. I consider that the pursuit of pleasure, material or sensual, is a wilful choice and not the result of original sin or inherent evil. For me however my duty to secure happiness is served best by the opposite course. There is an additional value in the energy saved by needless games and this allows me to develop trusting relationships with my Creator, others and myself. You should consider it.”
“I thought that the Sufi’s felt that in making love to a woman man reaches the state of annihilation and that the couples’ sins were absolved.”
“Yes, but that annihilation is only in the context of absorbing the light of God. In its intention it is a stage on the path to understanding. Salvation requires that we release ourselves from the constraints of matter, lust, and belonging to reach a higher awareness. This I must do alone.”
“Have you never met the right man?”
“Person you mean. It does not automatically mean a male is necessary.”
“You are right, but then I am looking at you from a male perspective.”
“You should stop looking at me, Michael and look into me instead.”
“I would like that.”
“I wonder whether you are up to the challenge though? Are you really ready to contemplate annihilation as you put it?” Isabella’s eyes probed.
“Try me,” he said with bravado.
“Even if we never consummated our relationship?” Isabella’s question to him was not posed with a tone of finality and it left an avenue that was generous in its possibilities.
Michael smiled at the realisation. “You were right earlier, Isabella. As a lover and friend I have serious shortcomings, if you can excuse the pun, and I would hate to disappoint you, in either category.”
“But you hardly know me, Michael. Why would what I thought matter?”
“All of a sudden, it is really important to me Isabella. Perhaps I have been searching for this . . . For someone like you. Who knows?”
Isabella took his hand and lifting it to her lips kissed the tips of the fingers gently. “What are you doing later, Michael? Would you like to meet?”
“Yes, I would . . . but . . . I’m meeting Alonzo at eight. Perhaps we can arrange to see each other after that.”
“Alonzo who?” she quizzed. A frown creased her forehead.
“Alonzo Aldahrze of course. Remember! You told me about him,” he explained.
“Did I?” Isabella looked strangely perturbed and hesitated for a moment. “Of course I did. The Baedekers. I had forgotten. You managed to find him. That’s . . . good. How is Alonzo? I have not seen him for a while.”
“Yes, he said that you had been in America.”
“Did he? Yes, I was . . . I was at a conference presenting my work.”
“Where was that? I’m sorry I missed it.”
Isabella was still holding his hand and squeezed it again. “Thank you, Michael. You are sweet. It was in . . . Chicago and it was boring. This is much more enjoyable. Come closer.”
Michael complied and Isabella, keeping her eyes locked on his, leaned forward and gently kissed his lips. He could feel her tongue run quickly and lightly along their join but she pulled away before he had the chance to respond. “What did I do to deserve that? I must remember.”
“You are a nice man, Michael. Listen! If meeting tonight is not possible how about tomorrow? It will have to be late as I am working. Would you come to my apartment?”
He tried to control, unsuccessfully, his nodding head. “Sure. What time? Where do you live?”
Isabella’s voice lightened as she let his hand go and reached back to get her purse. “I will give you my personal card. Let’s meet at say . . . eleven pm.” She pushed the card towards him with a long fingernail pointing to the address.
“That will be fine. I am sorry about this evening,” he said as he looked at the card before putting it into his wallet. That movement brought the attentive waiter to the table with the bill. Michael extracted his AmEx credit card and handed it to him, and signed for a more than generous tip. The waiter returned with the card and a smile that was, for the first time during the meal, directed at both, Isabella and him, equally.
“Michael, shall we venture out together into the light?” Isabella asked as they stood up. The late afternoon sunshine was barely penetrating the shaded room.
“Yes, but don’t let me forget the hurricane lamp,” he replied. “You are a storm waiting to happen.”
Isabella laughed and linked his arm possessively as they paraded out of the restaurant and on towards the Zacitín.

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