The night ends. The hundred candles are a mere resemblance of what they were six hours ago. I still recall the warm invigorating scent. I still see the shadows dancing on walls that extended 20 feet into the sky. The inner courtyards exposed a veil of stars and a faint light shone from the watching moon. The evening, perfect. The setting, unreal. 16th century, Moorish palette, an ambience, a perfect canvas.
We sit 18 feet under beamed ceilings and our feet kiss Italian tiles. The shadows cast from the archways obscure a grotto so inviting, magical, that I consider a short hiatus from the dinner. The secrets behind each passage and open area intrigue me, their provided breezes sustain me. She used the crystal and the silver, I learn as I shamefully place the silver in the washer.
I see him watching me from the corner of my eye. I am the “flame” this evening. He the moth. Our conversations are disparate, yet he continues to listen. He has only been here two days, but he feels “home.” I overhear him lean in and tell the host.
I walk. And he follows. I lean and the blue Italian tiles of the counter caress the small of my back. I smile. And he tells me I am a closed-book. We return to the table, now cleared, all of our glasses remain flickering in the light. We lean in over no less than twenty candles between us. Their light illuminates our expressions, our engaged eyes and connection. He continues, “a listener, an observer.” I accept these words, his sentiments a compliment. My mind travels and questions my storytelling moments. Earlier I stood hands up, “don’t shoot”—the table in tears. This is going in my book he said.
My mind returns pensive to our conversation. The others go outside gifting us with solitude, urging an intimacy or sensing a connection, I presume. Awareness in my acquaintances. A trait, I much admire. He recants my earlier words, the look in my eyes, he smiles and his eyes now ignite as he assigns an exact number to my mention of the word “balance.” My words are all noted. They were too by the others. A thesaurus, I am not. But this evening, my words captured.
I get up to use the restroom, the inviting grotto smiles in its darkness. I glance at my phone. 2am has approached too easily. Empty bottles placed in a perfect line. Our responses to each scrawled in pencil on the labels by the hostess. I don’t revive the intimacy. I don’t return to him and our table. It is time to leave. My colleague and I say goodbye. Light and empty promises of everyone seeing each other this coming evening.
The hostess lets us out the 20 foot wooden door. We leave and walk up the cobblestone street. The camera clicks. Moments captured on her wide format lens. Blurred images in the quiet street. Without flash. Simply outlines. Memories.
My colleague asks if I know who he is. He informs me.
He is here taking a break from his life of power . . . attaining balance.