Salmuun (Prologue)

Damascus, 1744

"I want you to pretend to be in love with me, Salmuun. That’s all I want tonight. That’s my only condition," The soldier laid his terms upon the prostitute’s heavily lined, dewy eyelid. She scoffed sardonically, pushing him away with her henna red index finger poking into the middle of his tense neck. The bed was still made as she climbed off and elegantly walked over to the dirty mirror. A sigh of annoyance left a small circle of condensation on her reflection, she tilted her head to see if his lips hand smudged her carefully placed make-up. The candlelight flickered delicately in the breeze following her movements.

She turned to face the soldier, as if casually pirouetting, and walked back to where he was seated, awaiting her response. “You should’ve told me that before we came here. I am not here to pretend anything. I have never pretended in my life and I won’t start to with a man who is nothing but a slave to the Azms. To me, feigning my love for you is worse than giving you my sighs,” She spoke without looking at him, slipping her earrings into the tugged-down hole. “Goodbye,” before she could leave the room, the soldier stood up and held her by the shoulders. Salmuun paused.

"You’re leaving? All I wanted was to feel like you were mine for a few hours. Salmuun…" He was pleading her with his low, whiny voice dripping in desperation.

"I’m not here to love you, my friend. In all honesty, you’re repulsive," She spoke without emotion, as if even the slightest injection of emotion would be a waste on this man. "I’m here to fill my empty pockets, not your empty heart," She begins to walk away. He grabs her by the wrist, begging her to stay. Salmuun does not protest for even a second, she leans over and picks up the long white candle and throws it at the man’s monochrome uniform. He jumps back in fear as the wax leaves a cloudy stain on his chest. The candle drops onto the floor and dies out like the night they were about to share together.

"What, Salmuun?! What’s wrong with you!" Losing his temper, bangs in his eyes and fists clenched, he readies himself to leap onto her. Before he could do so, she pulls a small knife from through one of the small folds in her black dress.

"You cannot expect me to love you for even a minute. You cannot pretend to own me. Listen, the most you can ever have of me is moments. That’s the most you will ever possess. Her eyes light up suddenly,"Actually," Salmuun unravels her hair, grabs the bulk of her curls and licks the ends to dampen them, shearing off a few centimetres of dry, split hair with her knife. She catches the clippings in her hand and sprinkles them onto the soldier’s pillow. "There. You can have these. All yours, honey." She laughs loudly but gracefully, as if every giggle is taken into account and released with strength and purpose, pristine in their abrasiveness. She opens the heavy wooden door and walks out into the maghrebiyya.

naira badawi

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