Patricio Munoz (University of Adelaide, Australia)
When she did finally come down from the roof Omar said, “Did you see anything?” and she said “No, but I heard something. I heard the sound of horses.”
Omar kept cutting through the vegetables and he laughed a little. Then he said, “Beth, we live in the city. There aren’t any horses here.”
“Well that’s what you think,” she said. “I know what I heard.” Then she got undressed and she made her way to the shower. As Omar was cutting the vegetables he heard her making a sound that was unlike a song.
The sound of the water running and her voice, not singing, not speaking, just sounding, made him think of his childhood.
It had been some time since Omar had thought of his parents and of this one moment in particular. It had happened many years ago. Omar and his family had been living on a farm then and he was young. One day his father, who had worked as a labourer, had not returned from work.
Omar had been too young then to understand that men who grow up in the city and who relocate to the country as adults sometimes carry with them dissatisfactions that are well hidden by buildings and traffic. In the country, where there is nothing but time and space, nothing remains secret.
Omar’s father did not return at dusk. Omar had begun to play with the shadows cast by certain things. His mother, who had also grown up in the city, had approached Omar and had said, “I’m going to find your father.” “How will you find him?” Omar had asked, “It will take you nearly two days just to get to the fence.”
A child that grows up in the country has different perspectives on time and distance. For them, the land is not divided into streets and neighbourhoods. “You just wait here,” said his mother. “I’ll be back before you finish the first page of the Qur’an.”
Omar began to read from the Qur’an aloud. He began at the very first page. “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful,” he said. He continued like this and he didn’t hear his mother leave, nor did he hear the sound of the horse as it was taken from the stable.
He also didn’t hear her approach him. Her hand was warm and her hair was still wet. She said in his ear, “Omar? What brings you to the roof?” He said, “It’s you Beth. I thought I heard my mother calling my father’s name in Arabic.”
Patricio Munoz is a Ph.D. student in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide, Australia. Presently, he is completing a book of short stories titled Erasure. He has come to Adelaide by way of Santiago, Chile, and Sydney, Australia.