The plate of spaghetti sat before her getting cold. She turned and …left the place without as much as a glance back. Calmly, without running, her plate left untouched, she walked out without even smelling the freshly cut basil on the tomato sauce, or the butter still melting between the strands of spaghetti.

The fumes from her bag under the table must have reached her nostrils but the information was unprocessed, unused and thus totally irrelevant.

As she was walking away from the restaurant, she felt whole again for the first time in a long, long while. Maybe the first time in her life even. She could not remember ever feeling so calm and composed. She knew exactly what she was doing, where she was headed and why she was doing it. She had finally found her purpose in life. She had found her inner voice.

She was walking through the market, past the spice stall, with its tiny mountains of powdered colours, past the fruit stall, where the vendor was shouting his latest deal, the smell of strawberries mixed with fresh herbs from the salad stall next to it were hanging in the air.

A woman in a hurry shoved her aside without an apology, without a look. She barely noticed it as she walked past the cheese shop where the smell grew heavier; musk, amber and mould. She had never liked cheeses.

Now she was on the parallel street. The air was suffocating. It was a little after 2 o’clock. She was sweating heavily and had a haut-le-coeur* when she walked through the “butchers’alley”. She choked and covered her mouth with her hand. The smell of blood and dead meat were too much for her. She had never liked it. The pieces of discarded meat shoved in cardboard boxes and left to rot in the sun exuded an overpowering stench that only a stray cat could be attracted to. Those gruesome cats whose fur had lost all warmth, softness and fluffiness. Their fur was dirty, filled with unwanted tenants and crusts. They disgusted her as much as the meat on the floor.

Further up the alley, someone was grilling the insides of some poor animal. She picked up her pace; she could not stand the smell of burnt meat.

In no time, she was out of the butcher’s alley and into the next where the flower shop stood. Her mind wandered back to her untouched plate of spaghetti. She had not paid for it. It was the first time she had ever left a restaurant without paying and she felt vaguely guilty about it.

The truth is she mainly felt exhilarated and felt herself smile with pride and satisfaction. Then she heard someone calling after her.

She turned around and saw a middle-aged lady with a happy jovial face waving. She was holding something in her hand. It was her bag. She had left it at the restaurant, beneath her table, underneath the cooling plate of spaghetti.

The good-hearted lady was passing the flower shop now, the bag in hand and a big smile on her face. She waved again.

The two women looked at each other, one frozen, one smiling. They were 10 meters apart.

One pair of eyes was profoundly happy she had found the owner of the bag. The other pair of eyes had lost all purpose and all colour.

They were so close they could have touched each other when the bag exploded into the air, pitilessly taking everything along its way with it, bits and pieces of flesh mixed with flower petals.

The happy woman’s smiling eyes were transfixed forever.

~Alexandra David, Tel Aviv

(June 18th, 2013)

*haut-le-coeur: nausea

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