[from THE GLASS HOUSE OF FORGETTING]
He knew that he was being followed and reached for the gun under his shirt for reassurance. Night had fallen a half hour prior and he had meant to get back before dark. It was because of Samual’s death, he was certain. Dinah told Sarah that she overheard people taking in the souq the day before. Sarah translated the Arabic into “foul play,” which wasn’t an exact translation but the gist of the idiom. Was he just being paranoid or were the villagers and others from the mainland conspiring against him and Sarah?
Samual had been one hundred and three years old. At least that’s what he and the villagers claimed. And then there was the strange man that Ethan saw visit Ziri again. The man whose prior visit had left their friend distracted and jumpy. Was he in some kind of trouble?
The stone streets of the medina were slippery in places, slicked with some kind of oil. Maybe one of the restaurant workers had spilled of a vat of olive oil. As he ran, he was afraid that the soles of his sandals had worn away and that he would slip and fall. In the distance behind him, the footsteps echoed behind him, encroaching. He wasn’t sure how many of them were following him. Three or four, he guessed.
What did they want from him—an explanation or an apology? Should he say, “I’m sorry your eldest died. It wasn’t our fault. Samual’s soul was unmarred,” he would assure them.
He was panicking and suddenly couldn’t remember the way back in the dark maze of the ancient streets. It didn’t matter where he turned as long as it was away from the men. And if he was lucky, they would turn another way. It was a gamble, a crap shoot. He quickly removed his sandals to run in his bare feet, hoping not to be heard, that the footsteps wouldn’t follow him.
He could still feel the warmth on the flattened stones beneath him from the day of intense heat. Sarah would be worried. She probably checked the safe to see if he had the gun. She felt better if he carried it when he left their property, especially at night.
He was gasping for breath and stopped running. He bent over and rested his hands at his knees. He tried to catch his breath, so he could keep running.
Maybe they should leave. They had lived there thirty-five years. Where would they go? He felt too old or maybe just too tired to start over. They might not have a choice. They could take a boat to the other side of the Mediterranean—maybe to Sicily—not too far to travel and still by the Mediterranean. None of the villagers had the money to follow them there.
He was breathing more slowly finally and was relieved not to hear the footsteps echoing behind him. He was several turns in the maze of old stone streets and would stay there quietly until they were gone, back to their wives, children, and maybe even grandchildren.
Yes, Sarah would worry, but he had no other choice but to lie down on the cobblestone street. He was too tired to keep going and he feared that the men were still in somewhere in the maze of the medina. He lay down on the warm stones—outstretched on his back with his arms and legs in a snow-angel position. He thought of the winters of his childhood. How many years since he had seen snow? More than he could count. He pictured himself with his best childhood friend, the architect of the Glass House. Ethan was the one who opened the letter from boyhood friend’s mother.
He hadn’t yet told Sarah that the architect had died and probably wouldn’t. Let her think he was alive somewhere thinking of them and his beautiful masterpiece. He wouldn’t tell her that he was found dead in a bathroom in Penn Station in New York City and how it took five days for his body to be identified. He had no wallet or identification. There was speculation if the mugging caused his heart attack or if the mugging happened after he keeled over in the dirty stall.
He always assumed he’d see his boyhood best friend again, that the architect would come back to visit him and Sarah and his Glass House, his gift to them that they could never repay.
Ethan looked up at the sky. The moon hadn’t yet risen over the tall stone walls. He studied the remote stars in what had become a gray night of cloud cover. He struggled to find and count them to help him slip in and out of sleep. Where scenes of his childhood were woven through a disturbing series of short dreams. He was still running. There was someone with an automatic weapon on the beach. His daughter. He saw the architect appear as an old man who did not speak but tugged on Ethan’s arm. As Samual had. When he was conscious he felt guilty. He knew Sarah would be frantic with worry.
When the sun crept over the horizon and the ancient stone walls, he put his sandals back on and walked home. Yes, the Glass House was their home for so many years. He was certain the men wouldn’t follow him or do anything during daylight. But he would be chased again. He knew.