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Sphinx / Day of a Turtle


Saba Riazi

Art by Denis Arvay



For some inexplicable reason she was in love with him, or so she thought. My take? I thought it was crazy, period. Why a woman at her age, with her looks, education, career and charm would fall for a guy with whom she has not even met up for the past two years and has only interacted with virtually? Cherry on top, the guy had stopped emailing her three months ago. Last couple of weeks she was around, we hung out a few times and she was literally drowning in man's Instagram posts and she was telling me stories of how she thinks his photos are a response to hers. And I'm her best friend, it was ok to express her fantasies to me, but she wouldn't keep it at that. Those impressions were actually all she talked about in gatherings, parties, with her iphone in one hand, white wine glass in other hand going around clumsily presenting his photos as proof of some weird statement of her beloved husband's opinion on things in between serious conversations. She was shattering herself in pieces. Those days her eyes did not look right to me, there was a certain fog mixed with pain along with grin and a hint of melancholy. She seemed distant. I did not think she seems normal, but she looked beautiful. Her head was lightly floating in the air, way above her body. You wouldn't believe me but once when we were out for lunch she showed me a folder of her Photoshop crafts composed of her photos and his, stitched together side by side and below she’d pasted the the emails she’d sent him. They were a total of sixty something photoshop files, I looked at a few of them, I thought they were presentable artworks for liberal arts college finals and I also thought she definitely was crossing reality boundaries and although it was art to me but it was reality to her and then, for the first time I thought her sanity might be at risk, so I took the liberty of reminding her whether she still checks in with her therapist and she got way too offended plus this was the last days and she was not feeling well because the guy had stopped posting photos (probably because the guy also had a life or something) and she took that as a message! She was stalking him on every single social media platform imaginable and not a trace of him, so she ended up at a psychic to seek consultation. All I know was that one night she called and asked me to go to her place. It was around 8pm. She was packing. I asked her what the fuck she's on to and she said they are going to meet under the Sphinx! I said has he called she said no, but his last post is all about that message and the psychic has cracked open the code for her and she's headed to Egypt! What? I asked to see that last photo. It was a snapshot of a cat on a pedestal with its neck stretched all the way out as if in a yoga pose, the location tag read: Giza. I did not say a word. I did not think. I slowly shed a few tears helping her pack her suitcase, dropped her at JFK for a 1am flight to Cairo and headed back home. I have not seen her or heard from her in three months now.


Day of a Turtle

It was raining. For which grandiose reason he thought. There was no reason to get out of bed that day. The buzzer goes off. First day after his last day at work. He is staring at the ceiling. Thinking of nothing. For the first time after how long?... For the first time after how long he is not thinking he wonders. He then thinks. Warm milk. Milk is in the fridge. There is milk in the fridge. He looks out his balcony. A cat is curling its tail on his "psychology today" magazine on the bench. "Secrets and Lies" is the bold white title etched on a woman's blue-eyed white skinned face on "psychology today". There is milk in the fridge. He walks to the fridge, takes out the milk, takes out a plate, it's flat, takes out another one, fills it up half full, walks to balcony and places it on "psychology today". Cat is golden, grey-eyed, standing at a distance making assumptions regarding whether the milk is his or not. The milk is his. He stares at him drinking his milk. Is he thinking, he wonders. He is thinking about the cat drinking milk. I'm glad I do not have a kid he concludes after watching the cat for a period, which seemed an eternity to him. The buzzer shatters his thread of thoughts if there was one. He wants to greet the unexpected at the door. He needs an appearance. He puts on his robe, climbs down the stairs, and opens his front door. Here's a person, seemingly young, wearing hijab, brown lipstick and quite a heavy made-up face he thinks. She hands him a tract. Simple title: "On Islam". "What's this about?", "It's about you", "about who?", "You! How you go about your daily life. There are suggestions. " He looks at the wrinkles of the scarf on her small shoulders. Does hijab make life sexier? Is censorship a necessity? Do things look better half-covered? Or that’s just a subjective question of aesthetics. He thinks. It is. It is sexier, he concludes. "This talks about what you need to hear about" she says, "how do you know what I need to hear" he asks, "How do you like this?". She pulls up her red turtleneck; she is wearing push up bras. She pulls down her bras. Breasts are almost flat. Non-existent. He has no thoughts he is thinking. "Well have a good one." and she leaves. And he follows her gazing until her black and red intermingle in infinity.