I knew that in Africa, as in many other places in the world, it is seldom wise to leave items of value in a bag checked into the hold of a commercial aircraft, and as such It is best to travel as check-in light, and back-pack heavy as possible.
However, the downside of being laden with copious carry-on is that the security checks, which although often almost cursory, in this part of the world, still sometimes require the inconvenience of unpacking into the plastic trays of the security scanner.
It was just such an annoying situation which made me grind my teeth at Johannesburg’s O.R. Thambo International airport..
I was late and in a hurry. I knew for the short international flight to Bulawayo I would need to be at the A gates early, as we would be taken by bus to the aircraft.
However the gritting of my teeth ended almost as soon as my awareness registered the figure which stepped alongside me in the line at the security conveyor belt.
In the shuffling wait in the queue to the check point she had obviously stood unnoticed to my rear.
The first flick of my startled eyes registered her beauty in a breath catching way.
Unpacking my laptop and kindle into separate trays, more slowly now, I continued to flick my eyes surreptitiously, I hoped, over the outline of her elegant and sparsely sumptuous figure.,
She was as dark as a Gypsy, with the tone of her smooth skin complementing the somber simplicity of her clothing, clothing which fitted her like the fur of a sleek black cat. The only concession to color was to the silver necklace which glistened out from under the long sooty silk of her hair, as it cascaded down onto her shoulders like the moonlit waters of the Zambezi as they glide down into the Devil’s cataract.
The last item she placed on the tray was her jacket. As she slipped this off i saw that the neckline of her dress possessed a high, embroidered cut, with short, almost tank-top shoulders.
It was then that I gave in to temptation and let my eyes linger.
Out from under the cut off delineation of her top was the finest artistic filigree of ferns and flowers I had ever seen. It was etched onto the burnished amber of her skin. The tatoos tumbled down her shoulders, onto her upper arms, brushed behind her elbows, and reappeared with delicate appropriateness back onto her forearms, until their fine stylized fronds teased to the edges of her wrists..
From the fineness of her features and the darkness of her eyes I knew she was not Gypsy, rather, being in Africa she was probably from the stock of those who, long ago ,crossed the ocean from the Punjab, and followed in the footsteps of the Arab slave traders of Zanzibar.
I mentally whistled to myself before turning to follow as she passed through the gate of the metal detector.
It is seldom in this day and age of body art that a tattoo makes such and impression… I was not sure if it was the artwork, or the dark hinted romance of her face and figure, or the surprise of its revelation which was more attention catching.
Maybe it was the combination of it all, in this surprising setting.
Whatever it was, it seems to have lodged in my subconscious…
That night I dreamed of a maiden standing before me. She was as dark as that Indian gypsey girl, with eyes as black as those of the Queen of Cush. As she turned away I could see, unobstructedly, her whole back. Her shoulder blades were etched in just the same sort of filigree’ed sumptuousness, detailed on skin burnished as brown as a calabash.
When I roused up from the bed of my slumber, I thought to myself that maybe Moses was correct. Maybe the dog in me might still be able to howl at the moon.
Long howls, loud howls, wild howls.
Maybe even longer and louder than those mornful howls of the heart, the faint echo’s from the misery of a despair as black and long as that maiden’s hair…
.. Long ago howls at her back, as Sophia had turned to leave me.