NOT FADE AWAY
Milah has not touched paper and charcoal in centuries. The Underworld numbs her, dims down every need to be more than just a performer of duties. One afternoon, however, a small, dark-eyed boy that she knows from her job as a crossing guard asks the impossible.
“Look, Auntie Traffic, I’m drawing my father’s horse! Can you help me with all the grass?”
For him to even think of a question like this, change must have occurred, some short of shift, Milah can sense it. Not much is different from before, but enough to sit down with little Navid and draw grass blades with children’s crayons in ochre. Under her fingertips the paper feels warm, dry and a little bit strange, like embracing an old friend not seen in years.
She doesn’t have it in her yet to conjure up her son’s image or that of her lover as she sets out for the beach one day later, carrying her own newly-bought sketchbook under her arm. The coastline and maybe a bunch of seagulls will do for a start, she promises herself, though her talent has always lain with capturing people. When she spots a lone walker at the top of the wooden ramp leading down, she includes him in her picture without even thinking. A tall figure gazing at the sea. Fisherman’s pullover and outdoor vest, close-cropped sandy hair.
Damn, he has noticed her now; that much is clear, since he is coming down the ramp and walking towards her. To Milah’s relief, though, he pauses once he is within hailing distance. She puts down her sketchbook and raises her head in expectation.
“I guess I have to apologize, Madam. I didn’t wish to intrude.”
“You bloody well did,” she shouts back. “But no offense taken. The light’s fading anyway, and I’m nearly finished.”
She can’t tell why she likes how this stranger seems bold and polite at the same time, only feels as if she had already met him someplace before. “Would you care to look at my drawing?” she asks.
“If I may.”
Again, a true gentleman. There is nothing flirtatious in his voice, just an air of bereavement which also shows in his gestures, his features. Milah realises where she has seen him, now that he is standing only a few feet away from her.
“You run that bar, the nice one that nobody ever goes to, don’t you?”
“Perhaps I run that bar, perhaps that bar does run me,” her lonely walker speaks. Judging by how he looks down at his hands, he is regretting the joke already.
“Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Here, for you. After all you are in it.” She tears out the page, and he takes it. Silently he admires the drawing, then furls it.
“I must go now. Opening time’s approaching,” he says. His frown, and the way he is pursing his lips during those final moments before he turns round, remind Milah of Killian.