A golden orange sun melts behind the plains of Africa as we sit before a fire Nimbu has prepared. Cinnamon, cloves and coriander simmer our lamb sacrifice into tender acquiescence, softly bubbling in a worn black cauldron, like an offering placed before heaven’s dusky cluster of stars.
Tomorrow we reach the Wadi Sora Cave along the western edge of the Gilf Kebir plateau, in Southern Egypt. There we search for a secret Gaetulian treasure, buried millennia ago by the Phoenicians, a chest reputed to hold the riches of enlightenment rather than gold.
My mouth waters with hunger—hunger for food—and for Nimbu, my guide—who smells like patchouli and sandalwood. I deeply inhale the serenity of this place and my mood. It has been so long—so long since I’ve felt the touch of a man’s passion dance upon on my skin—so long since I’ve experienced a base impulsive to take one with complete abandon into me—to accept his energy and feel muscles ripple with reflexive passion. From where within me does this desire suddenly spring? What would this exotic man be like as a lover? I stand to slowly pace and hold court with my thoughts.
I am older now—yet still alive. I occasionally have ‘those’ sorts of feelings. I hide them though, because the world recoils in disgust if seasoned women feel amorous but don’t look young. The art of seduction once my muse and inspiration—passion a close companion before duty dimmed her path and she fled from the tyranny of social convention.
I am 69 years old. Nimbu is at least 25 years my junior. I’ve never entertained such a thought with one so much younger. Should this matter? But that’s the issue isn’t it? What about my worn breasts that now crinkle like crumpled tissue where they once perched firm? Are my copious folds a wonder or a horror to behold? What about the lines that crease my face like a map of dry riverbeds showing years of accountability, wisdom, heartache but also of laughter and memories? What about my husband?
I am a widow. My predictable husband is long dead, buried with his infidelities—conquests he described as ‘recreation’. I still breath beside my awakened passion, which startles me. Does Nimbu see me as a “monster” or mother figure? Perhaps even worse, I am invisible, so decrepit by societal standards that I carry zero appeal whatsoever, no longer the Goddess of all I survey.
“You look beautiful in the firelight,” he says. Thank God for fire—it hides a myriad of faults. Add some whiskey to his tea and I’ll bet I’m damn near perfect!
His comment causes a crack in my fantasy. “No normal man his age can possibly view me in that way without having a screw loose,” I think. He smiles and I know this look from my past. I think I’m going to faint!
Nimbu places the ladle in the pot, stands up and walks toward me, our eyes locked in the unspoken, universal dance of energy that transcends age or culture. What now?
“Thank you,” I softly say. “Is the stew ready?”