It was a hot day in Metropolitan, his longing for Cordoba matured under the midsummer afternoon sun, as he crossed the busy markets heading to the port, he couldn't bear this heavy feeling lying over his chest..he felt like an unfinished symphony, a bird shot down in flight, confused..disoriented. he has found success in the years past, but he was constantly misrepresented..misunderstood, it felt as if he spoke a different language, no one could understand him, nor could he understand.
He searched among the vessels..asking seaman after another whether any of them was heading to Andalusia, and with every "No" he heard, with every denying nod..he became more determined to reach her, even if he had to walk along the shores..following seagulls, until he reached Gibraltar. His heart skipped a beat when a man finally pointed at a white boat in the distance..it was heading to Tangier, he ran like he never ran before, he looked for the skipper, "Take me with you" he shouted, the skipper looked down from the boat at this man on the pier.."This is not a boat for leisure..I carry spices". our friend hurried up the ladder, and in one leap he was facing the skipper, in another quick move, he took out a bag of golden coins.."Take me as far as you can..and I shall give you two more of these", The skipper smiled; "What makes you think that I wouldn't take all your money and throw you in the middle of the sea?!", our friend grabbed the skipper by his shirt, "I would swim the rest of the distance".
The skipper maintained his calm as he fixed his wrinkled shirt..seamen are patient by nature, he grabbed our friend's hand and lead him to a small room below deck, "you sleep here..you rise at dawn..and you work for your meals".
The man became ecstatic with joy..his lifelong dream of returning home was coming true, he threw his small pouch in the corner and got himself ready to start working..he thought that the sooner he became part of the crew..the sooner he would arrive, he grabbed a mop..ran up to the ship's deck..and went on with cleaning his new found kingdom..he was always a philosopher of fate, he ruled a kingdom of books in Cordoba, then a kingdom of fortune in Metropolitan, and now he was the master of the mop, and his pride was greatest with this third reign, this ship was the carrier of his longings, this kingdom was different..it represented a promise, a realization of fate, bearing his heart, his dreams, his future and his past, it was heading west, where Cordoba is.
He was crossing the ship right and left..staring into the horizon..trying to unfold the distance like one unfolds a rug..wanting to see further than he could, and with every breathe he took, his estrangement became less painful, as his lungs realized that the air filling them was becoming more and more familiar.
On the evenings aboard the ship, he would have supper with the seamen, then take a corner on deck..lay his head and look up to the stars, he remembered the old man, and his lessons about the stars, "There are 88 star constellations, each month, a number of these constellations rise in the night sky", and as it was July, he knew that the 6 stars in the western sky where the stars that made up "Hercules", the bright one in the distance was the Northern star.
Few days have passed into the voyage, and still he couldn't get accustomed with the constrained life on board a small ship, the constant rocking of the ship made him uneasy..he couldn't sleep..as his thoughts took him on trips of time and space, and as the ship slowly sliced the sea, truth became more and more resident in his mind, he has finally done it..he has killed his defeat, conquered his fears..and he was now realizing the meaning of the victory he achieved over himself, he never thought that one day he would get over his expulsion from paradise, he never thought that one day..somehow, a hidden force would torpedo his being into heading in the direction of Cordoba once more, it was like The Forbidden City to him, he could never set foot there again, "the only certainty is that there is no certainty", he thought to himself as he went into a philosophical trance, nothing stays the same, kings can become peasants, peasants can become kings, the sea can turn into a desert, and foes can become friends..time makes its own decisions..and we are but players on the big board of life, we think we're successful, we think we're on top of the world, and then suddenly..we discover that we were sitting on the tip of an iceberg, below us are miles and miles of hidden truths..and the tip was melting under our own feet.
His chain of thought was broken by a fellow seaman..the shadow of a huge man of African descent stood above him, carrying a lantern, he kneeled then sat beside our friend. "I'm Jaffar" he said..our friend smiled and kept staring at the stars, Jaffar sat there, as their silence was only broken by the sound of the waves splashing against the ship, Jaffar took out an orange he had bought in the market by the bay before their departure, he pealed the skin off the orange, and presented half of it to our friend as he laid, feeling disrespectful..he sat up, took his half, thanking Jaffar, and for the next few minutes..they both ate their halves..contemplating their next moves.
"How long have you been a seaman?" our friend asked.."Twelve years and four months..ever since I was sold in Zanzibar, I was a boy". our friend sensed the pain in Jaffar's voice, his vessel for freedom was someone else's prison, his promise of victory was this man's betrayal of defeat. Jaffar started narrating his tragedy; "I was taken away from my family..sold as a slave, I've travelled the world, but in doing so, I was still a prisoner, I saw gold, silver, precious spices..but I was always the man to move it from one master to another, I could never own any of it." Jaffar had the body of a gladiator, but with every word he uttered in the broken Arabic he spoke, his tender heart as innocent as the baby elephants in Africa came undone, and with it, our friend's attention grew, he was taken by this gentle giant's ordeal.
"Have you been to Cordoba?" our friend asked, "Yes..a noble city of noble people" Jaffar exclaimed, "The only place where I felt free was in Cordoba" he went on.."I felt free as my mind felt free..I used to visit The Grand Library of Cordoba..until it was lost in a fire", our friend jumped on his feet like a possessed demon..Jaffar snapped up as well, thinking a rat had bitten our friend..they both stood there..facing each other..each not knowing what to do next..until Jaffar shouted asking if our friend was alright..bringing him back to reality, our friend sat down and held his head..trying to stop his mind from escaping through his fingers.