We are on the cusp of spring and the days are longer. This evening, a rare trip to the supermarket alone prompted very strong memories. I seldom shop at night, but this evening I just wanted the quiet pace, the meandering without pressure.
I wasn't prepared for the effect of being in a car alone at dusk would have on me. When I lived for 7 years in a desert, this was the time I would go shopping. It was generally after a very busy and stressful day in the office. The grinding heat would have lost its edge and you could always smell the scent of some flower or plant as the temperature dropped and the ground sighed with relief.
One of the many delights of my desert life were the encounters with shop assistants. They were all unfailingly polite and friendly and it gave me the chance to make small talk - a luxury not really possible during working hours. My local supermarket had beautiful girls from mainland China at the tills. They wanted to practise their English on anyone who had the time to stop. The giving of change and packing of bags was slow and gently drawn out in order to make conversation. The Indian salesmen in the material souks were charming and funny and would tease and laugh. My local florist was Syrian and kept birds in cages all around his shop. He always had time to talk. The people were often intoxicating, as if from another world.
And there is something in that pause between day and night which triggers the deep emotions I so often felt, returning to an empty apartment, making a meal, checking on my neighbours then falling exhausted into my bed. It was a strange zone between sweet contentment and crushing loneliness. Delight in the ever changing variety of each day, followed by the brief interlude of a sensual dusk, the call from the mosque, and the swish of sand as it hurried across the road.
Tonight I am thankful for a brief return to the intensity of that time. But I am also grateful that tonight I don't fall into bed alone and the only sound of the night I hear is of our resident owl calling its mate.
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