The Mystic Wanderer—Part III

-“Don’t you want to take a shower, Mystic Wanderer—looks like you need one.”

A few years ago, we were travelling frequently from Miami to San Dona di Piave in order to carry on our Doctoral studies in Health Policy and Management at Columbia University with extended stays in the Veneto region of Italy. We often bought a ticket from a German airline, which meant a transfer in a major hub like Munich or Frankfurt. Given that there were only a few hours of waiting time, we spent that time in the clean, secure terminal after eating a delicious snack and drinking a good beer. We often dozed off for a one hour or two, without any hassles. Until that day.

Those unsolicited words startled us, interrupting our nap in a super-comfy sofa of the main lounge; it had been almost deserted in the wee hours, with only the din of its open buffet-style cafeteria. Droopily coming out of our REM sleep, we looked askance at the impertinent creature that broke it.

In front of us stood a medium height middle-aged man with the dark complexion typical of Middle Eastern origin. With his wet hair neatly combed and his just shaven face, he was wearing a combo of a short sleeves shirt and a pair of pants, so nondescript that we cannot even remember their colors. He could have passed for any cheeky salesman that, out of nowhere, abruptly accosts you in a bazaar’s alley to peddle a carpet of dubious origins and worse weaving.

-“Sorry…do I know you?” we managed to mumble, rubbing our eyes.

-“Don’t think so. But I do know you. I sensed your presence well before I arrived.”

-“Really? And who are you?”

-“My name is Ahmed, I am a businessman that makes at least this connection once per month. I love this airport…There are nice free showers over there. Try them.”

-“Well, I’m kind of lazy. I’ll have a good one once I arrive in Miami.”

-“You seem to be very ambitious but still quite approachable…No obstructionist pride.”

-“Got plenty of defects, but vanity has never been the worst of them.”

-“Keep it that way…There is a stone inscription at home that warns against the dangers of pride…It says…” He then started to recite some words that seemed like Latin but we could not decipher.

At that moment, a two men-patrol of green-uniformed German police stopped by and asked to see our passport; we reached for our handbag and handed it to them. Once they checked it with a hand-held computer scanner, they politely returned it. We then noticed that our “new friend” was gone, as stealthily as he had arrived. We forgot to mention that he presented to us without any carry on luggage or handbag, something very unusual in a hub airport full of transit travelers.

We buried that anecdote all the way back in our so disgracefully cluttered Unconscious mind. Until a few days ago, when we were reading, out of sheer curiosity an excellent article in the Wikipedia about the Templar castle of Krak des Chevaliers, we found the following:

Note. This picture was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

You may have bounty, you may have wisdom,

You may have beauty

Pride alone defiles all these things

If it accompanies them

Wow! The sight and sound of our encounter with Ahmed rushed into our mind. Was this the inscription he had told us about? Why would he call that castle his home? Was he a time traveler that was making a stop-over in our world? Could it really be? Is there a parallel world and time?

Whatever the answer to those questions are, we will surely abide by those sage words. Pour quoi pas?

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

The Mystic Wanderer – Part II

One afternoon many years ago we were feeling bored in our Paris hotel room and, on the spur of the moment, decided to hit the street to visit the Montmartre quarter. After getting out of a taxi at its base, we walked up the hill where our favorite Parisian church lies: the Sacré Coeur. The beautiful Romano-Byzantine style church can be seen miles away at the top of what Parisians tenderly refer as “la Butte”; that hill was the scene of a firing squad liquidation of several priests during the popular uprising known as La Commune de Paris in 1871. After the revolt was tragically put down, the city and religious authorities built it to “expunge that memory” and atone for the Communards‘ sins.

After leisurely watching passers-by and tourists swarming the beautiful Place du Tertre (where there are many amateur artists that prepare great portraits) and savoring two crêpes from a famous “little hole in the wall”, we  slowly walked downhill until we reached the Place Blanche where the Moulin Rouge stands. We bought an ice cream and nonchalantly walked around peeking at the shop windows and the marquees of mini-theaters where “oversized bi-gender anatomies” are displayed. As it was getting cold, we decided to go to the nearest taxi stand to patiently queue up with other tourists.

While standing at the queue, we noticed that in a dark corner across the street a group of young men were harassing an old hag; she tripped with a bag and fell, lying defenseless at their feet. She looked like one of the old gypsies squatting in street corners to read tourists’ palms. Incredibly, not a single policeman was beating the street at that time.We immediately crossed the street and firmly confronted them in French for their abject behavior; even though we were out-numbered, the cowards quickly  took off in a jiffy. We helped the destitute woman with haggard looks and a run-down flowing skirt to stand up and collect her belongings; her smell of untidiness almost knocked us down.

-“Are you hurt?” we asked her. “Do you want to go to a hospital?”

-“No, thanks, I’m fine, “ she replied with a crackling accent that smacked of a Slavic origin. “I just want to go home. My bus stops over there,” she said, pointing at a darkened corner down Boulevard de Clichy where more trouble might have been surely lurking .

Without hesitation, we told her that it could be dangerous and that we would offer her a taxi ride at our expense; the fact that she lived in the distant suburb of Saint Dennis made us briefly hesitate. But watching her calamitous state, we carried on. We approached the taxi stand’s attendant (it was a touristy site with lots of clients) and made arrangements to pay in advance for her ride home; we gave the driver and the attendant a good tip apiece so they would take proper care of that poor woman.

We escorted her to the back seat of the spacious car, and we put her stuff in the trunk. Before the taxi took off, we leaned over the open window to say good-bye to her. She suddenly grabbed our right hand; we felt a jolt of electricity like we never did.

-“Thank you for your generosity, Mystic Wanderer…You do a lot of good to many people, even those you do not know. Like me…You’ve earned the protection of good spirits.”

-“Er…”, we mumbled. “Have we met before?”

-“I know who you are…You have a special halo that gives you immediately away.”

-“Mmm…Someone said the same thing to me in New York some years ago—”

-“Let me give a little present to treasure…You were committed twice but they were not the love of your life…A beautiful sorceress will steal your heart and seduce you.”

-“Really?” we shot back with a touch of derisive sarcasm. “Where is she, eh?”

-“She hasn’t been born yet…And she will be coming from the East…Beware.”

With a final caress, she departed in the speeding taxi, leaving us dumbfounded.

That incident occurred more than twenty years ago but it still troubles us deeply. She was absolutely right. We married twice but they were not “the love of our life” (our kids are grown up now and they might understand what we did not dare to confess to them earlier) They say you are only allowed Three Great Loves in  your Life and we already had two of them: marvelously sensual, smart and intelligent women that drove us totally crazy. In each of these instances we wanted to marry them and spend our lives together. Sadly, it was not meant to be. The mere recollection of the two separate incidents in time and space when they told us that our bond could not go on and said goodbye still painfully gnaws at our heart. Even after years of physical separation, the madness of Love lingers.

That is why why we have been reticent to commit to a steady relationship, even after two decades of bein separated and lately divorced. We are still trembling with the naïve hope that one day we will meet her: our Third Grand Love. Just in case, we always peek at the distant horizon in an Easterly direction, with the sweet anxiety of a teenager…

Le coeur a des raisons que la même Raison ne connait pas.

(The heart has reasons that Reason itself does not know)

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.