JOHN IRVING CLARKE
Every hour, as regular as the muezzin calling the faithful, the ferry rumbles in a wide arc across the bay. The engines grumble and the propellers expel a wash which slops loudly against the quayside walls. The chatting and shouting of those packed on board fades as the boat gains distance on the shops, cafes and market stalls. There is little dusk. The heat of the day leaves a muggy blanket over the narrow streets where the smell of frying onions and spices escapes through beaded curtains hanging in doorways. Pace decreases; life slips into a slow gear. Now is the time for viscous coffee and pungent tobacco. The minute variations of an identical day are discussed. Beliefs are re-instated and nothing can shake the permanence of having seen it all before. This is where I have made my space and ordered my nest. But the strong dialect rings with unfamiliarity; the words are always spoken too fast and I will always be ajinbay.
My daily ritualis like the call of the muezzin, like an article of faith. I flip open the lid of my laptop: to live in this town, to haggle in the souk and to swap gossip in hijabbed huddles is to mix the colours and breathe the smells of a thousand years of history. Here I am blessed with understanding and acceptance.
Ajinbay – foreigner. I gaze at the screen and search through Arabic for the words for sickness and home.
Sitting by the Harbour won first prize in the Fosseway Writers Flash Fiction short story competition, Newark, Nottinghamshire.
(Photo: Bruna Bonino)