Turning Back the Sun

Turning Back the Sun by Colin Thubron Read Free Book Online

Book: Turning Back the Sun by Colin Thubron Read Free Book Online
Authors: Colin Thubron
Tags: Travel
glittered incongruously in the dowdiness, and he sensed that she was enjoying the attention she was drawing—something he didn”t like in her.
    He said, “That club must be a tough place to work, isn”t it?”
    “Yes, but it”s a good stage—a deep stage—did you notice? And they let me do what I like … probably because they don”t care.” She laughed, then said with a sudden, edgy intensity: “So I choose the music, create the movements, then dance them. It may not seem much, but it”s better than what most people get.”
    In her voice the lisping cadence peculiar to the capital still mellowed the strident dialect of the town. But this passion for dance, for sheer movement to music, was mysteriousto Rayner. Even before he was lamed, he had never danced much.
    She said, “You don”t understand, do you? I can tell you don”t.” She looked at him, disappointed. “But that club was better once. We did satire and jazz.”
    “Why did you stay on?”
    “Why?” She looked as if she had never questioned it. “I suppose dancing is something I
have
to do. It”s the kind of … energy—joining the music …”
    Rayner stared back at her, wondering. He”d never wanted to join the music like that. Music turned him still. To him this woman seemed richly, accusingly young.
    “It”s just in the body,” she said.
    He remembered her body then, how it looked in the outrageous leotard. Even sitting here, she seemed to exist in a unique dimension, at once more precarious and straightforward than his own, and fuller-blooded. The passersby on the mall evoked a gale of comment and curiosity from her. “Look at
that
one…. How do people allow themselves to look like that, d”you think? … What a
beautiful
dog, did you see the dog? … Now
there”s
a good-looking woman…. Do you play chess? … If black doesn”t castle he”ll lose…. Oh how extraordinary,
look! …”
    Her observations of people—men and women—were openly sensuous. She would admire their legs or necks, their skin color, the way they walked. And when Arab music sounded from a nearby restaurant, her body began to sway. “I love that music, don”t you?”
    Rayner never heard Arab singing without being struck by its exile. It belonged so deeply somewhere else, like the long-faced Syrians in their restaurant. But Zoë seemed to hear and see things in cleansing isolation, enjoying or dismissing them purely for themselves. He started to envy this a little. It was innocently healing. He found himself delighting in her earthiness, her gaiety.
    “You should laugh more,” she said suddenly. “You”re getting the wrong lines.”
    “What?”
    She ran her fingers down his cheeks. “Your lines are starting to go the wrong way. They”re perpendicular.”
    He laughed again, and found his fingers momentarily touching her cheekbones.
    Hers was, he realized later, a deeply contradictory face. The dancer”s immaculacy and vividness most forcefully expressed her, a type of optimism. But beneath the blue compelling eyes and thin nose her mouth twisted up at the corners in a shy assertion of charm. He sat beside her feeling old, but bathed in her exuberance.
    “It”s too late for me to get smile lines.”
    He had paid the bill but realized he did not want to leave. Even in so constricted a town as this, it might be months before he encountered her again. It was not just her beauty which drew him, but her liberating, animal naturalness, and the half-discerned fragility beneath it. She seemed to need him.
    So instead of saying, “I have to go now,” he heard himself ask her, “How long have you been here?”
    “Nearly ten years. I came from the capital.”
    “I thought so. Your accent.”
    “I wish I could lose it. It sounds so affected.”
    Rayner was surprised. “It”s musical. Better than the one here.”
    “I prefer the accent here. I find it strong, very emphatic.” She harshened and deepened her words. “You”re from the capital too

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