Man at night

This is the prompt for The Antonym December Flash Fiction Contest, PC – Aritra Sanyal

Soon it would be dawn. He’d wandered the maze of alleys all night, then, and now he was alone, no one else out except a cat yowling, another.

Why had she left him? Nothing to do with love, she said. Nothing to do with anything but emptiness. The emptiness of her arms, after waiting nine months for the baby, and then the perfect form of him, all his toes and fingers, everything but breath. How could this be? What had gone wrong?

Something about her blood. Something about her blood with his blood. Where had he gone? Amir, their prince. Waiting and waiting for him, singing to him, reading to him, rocking him night after night as she sat on the balcony’s wrought iron bench, her heavy body relieved by its plush pad, rocking and rocking as she stared out at the minaret of the Kasbah Mosque, bright as a thousand stars.
But now no prince, nothing but long days and nights of emptiness.

She couldn’t bear it. Couldn’t bear the anguish on his face when he looked at her face, the bewilderment in his face when he looked at her belly, empty as her arms. So she left. Back to Rabat, where she could speak in French, and be someone other. Not the mother of the dead.

He pleaded. How he pleaded. But she left. Nothing to do with love, she said. Nothing to do with anything but emptiness.

Was that why he found comfort only in wandering the maze of the medina all night? Trying to believe she would come back to him. Arguing with her, arguing with himself. Hadn’t they sworn to each other, all those nights, the heat of her body opening and opening to him?

Yes. But now she was the mother of death, she told him over and over. Now she needed to be other. To leave him to find another life. To leave him so he could walk toward that other life, night after night until dawn brought its call to prayer, its promise of more light.