Monday, October 08, 2007

Is there a sign on my back? A signal I send out?

We stopped by the beautiful Palais de Rais during our walk downtown and as we were strolling through admiring tiles and hand-painted ceilings and the generally gorgeous prisons in which women of the last century were imprisoned a veiled woman came up behind me and said, "Welcome to Algeria."

"Oh, thank you," I told her. "That is very nice."

I swear that is all I said, a polite response to a nice greeting.

Twenty minutes later, I knew about the death of her father and mother, her subsequent struggles with a memory disorder that left her unable to recall things in the immediate past, her hear ailment, her favorite Ramadan recipes. I had seen her swollen ankles, a symptom of the heart malody and photos on her telephone (whose idiot idea was it anyway to marry a camera and a telephone?) of both her children. Nadir, sucked into the conversation because her English did not extend much beyond her opening line, refused to translate anymore at about this point, but she kept on talking anyway until I just walked away, listening to Nadir bitching in English as I went, "Oh thank you very much for just walking away leaving me here. That is very nice!"

What made this poor lost soul swoop down on me, not Del or any of the other people in the palais? Why me?

I've been asking this without getting an answer all my life.

The woman reminded me for the first time in a long while of Rainer Kangas, a strange Ohio State student who frequented the UPI office in Columbus in the early 1980s trying to get me to write about how he'd found the formula for the hydrogen bomb. I never did write anything but he didn't leave me alone until suddenly I stopped hearing from him. He called me a last time to say he's fallen out a window and broken his ankles.

Maybe it was this woman exposing her puffy ankles to me that brought Rainer back.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Hilariously sad or sadly hilarious. I cannot make up my mind.

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