Queen of the Night

Ibrahim Waheed “Kalaavehi”

“Dhanvarah farive folhey, boalha kinkiri maa! [transl: the boalha kinkiri flower which blooms at midnight]” – traditional Maldivian bodu beru baburu song.

Pure salty water danced for joy at having found the innocent beach. Wave after wave touched and kissed the beach, almost with a religious awe. They licked the sparkling white expanse of sand reverently, for it looked like a carpet of consecrated sugar which had been laid ever so smoothly in front of lush green beach plants. Brawny trunks of sturdier trees stood there, darkly watching the shady goings-on of the milky moonlight of a hazy night. And the goings-on were certainly not related to the hermit crabs that scurried around, waving claws at each other, scampering for shelter at the slightest movement of a vague shadow, leaving behind the lace of their legwork on the beach for the first children that arrived on the beach in the morning to marvel at nature, and perhaps swim a bit, as they did every day.

Like a compassionate lover wiping away a salty tear from the face of a hurting partner, her trembling finger swept delicately across the cold, impersonal screen of a brand-new iPhone 4, opening up the software cage within. Inside the cage, the electronic heart of the machine sent out invisible tentacles which, at this time of a dark night, usually wound their dark selves suffocatingly around her heart, if she faltered in her resolve. She lifted the smoothness of the phone to her face and allowed it to softly kiss her warm cheek. Who or what possessed what or whom at that point in time blurred into insignificance in the hazy light of the fuzzy half moon.

“Hello Rahma, sugar cookie!” Confidence was the major chord in the sentence, with just a hint of a seventh note of arrogance. Ahmed was sometimes accused of haughtiness and conceit by those who did not benefit directly from him. “Can’t make it tonight. I have to wait for my Italian partners to leave and they have just changed their flight schedules to fly out tomorrow. And Fathun flew in on the afternoon air taxi transfer from the airport. I guess she will have to be Queen of the Night tonight.”

So it was not to be a dark night. Looked at positively, it was going to be just another night of peace and tranquility, or even freedom, flavored with a soupcon of annoyance at Ahmed’s flying-in wife but certainly not at dear Frederico or Umberto. If one let one’s emotions get the upper hand, it was going to be a night of loneliness, where watching the hermit crabs producing their lace art on the sand would be a better option than going to that place she called home only sometimes, while the pure salty water of the waves slowly receded from that part of the sugar-like beach where they had permission to play only at high tide.

Slowly, for no reason acceptable to her confessable inner self, two salty tears escaped from the confines of her eyes and rolled quickly down her cheeks before she could catch them and ask them to back up into authorized territory. Looking around furtively, just in case any vagrant and unfortunate soul on the beach had noticed that micro-second breach of composure, she dabbed away at the offending moisture with a delicately embroidered, old-fashioned handkerchief and smiled to herself. Then she slowly began to walk towards that place she would still call home only some of the time. Why let your emotions get the better of you when you had a wonderful hobby like embroidery to fall back on, when time became generous with itself, and indulgence in a good, private, self-controlled cry was anathema to the soul?

As she whose name meant Mercy in the language of its origin entered the place she called part-time home, she looked at the blessings that had been heaped upon her. Thick pile carpet she could sink her shadow into looked up at her, carrying with it memories of when they had traveled to Tehran to purchase it and had checked in as husband and wife at the modest Espinas. Lumina Pearls from Italy, gifts unattached to any strings from Umberto, lit up the hall. A carefully chosen Natuzzi leather couch, just the right height off the floor for Ahmed, and patently soft enough for Rahma, invited her to sit down and rest her walking feet before she took off her street clothes. A statuette of a Maldivian raiveriyaa toddy tapper stood on the dining table. It had been carved out of some tropical aromatic wood whose name eluded her. It was also a constant bone of contention between them because she had noticed it said “Made in Indonesia” under its base while Ahmed maintained that the object itself was uniquely local.

Rahma took out her brand-new iPhone 4 and like a reluctant victim wiping away a salty tear from her own face, rubbed her finger across the cold, impersonal screen. Her fingers traced out each possible name like a perfidious tentacle before she decided on who should see her through safely into the sanity of the morning. She lifted the now impersonal, smooth phone to her face and spoke into it. Who or what possessed what or whom at that point in time was very clear. And since who cheated whom into what had long since blurred into a hazy lack of definition, she could not really care what pure salty water found what innocent beach as long as she had left it to the hermit crabs. And she could still be a Queen of the Night!

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  • Silk Shawl  On October 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I can detect a subtle change in your point of view here Mr. Waheed. Or am I simply jumping at a shadow? Because you said Night Rider is no more? Have you committed suicide of the soul as you said?
    But maybe your heart is as big as before. Maybe people like me don’t know how big your heart can be.
    With this story I can see you know a lot about this country and its women. There are women who even get married to Bangladeshis coz they feel more secure that way and not only tourist resort owners are giving safety and nice things. Are you telling in the story that Rahma is a prostitute of some kind?
    Some women like us feel that in this country today we need a friend who can protect us and also care for us. So maybe Rahma is right. In this story Rahma is also full of hurt.
    You leave us with too many mixed feelings. After reading this, I started thinking and it was near morning and I cried. I don’t know why.
    can you explain?

    • ldive  On October 24, 2010 at 11:12 pm

      Something I must say here! Bangladeshis are also our brothers and sisters who are here to contribute to our economy.
      And I would not call Rahma a whore. On the contrary.
      As for mixed feelings, that is what life is all about. Would you prefer a single leaf salad or a good healthy mix?

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