Sûrah LXXXVIII
THE OVERWHELMING
"Scorched by burning fire, drinking from a boiling spring."

88
CONSUMED

Besieged, her pleasure resonates, courses tip to toe like an alto's deep vibrato (felt most keenly in her lips and loins respectively). Zahra swoons... Anachronistic is this quaint response to her nervous system's overload, yet her head indeed feels dizzy. She retreats; their lips unglue, the rush of air restoring Zahra's wits, and with them poignant memories of her long incarceration in this stuffy, tomb-like room, a room so barren, so forlorn throughout her endless days of waiting, sleepless nights of bitter loneliness, introspection, doubt, dismay, that she endured (why not confess it?) by evoking Franchone's image, by reliving certain moments of their all-too-brief affair:

  • their first encounter

  • her resistance (based on principle)

  • his conceitedness

  • the effrontery of his guessing who she was versus who she is

  • his rude allusion to virginity

  • her departure

  • their reunion

  • Ahmed's menace

  • Franchone's hospitality offered

  • her acceptance too short-lived

because of what she learned the instant he had placed his hands upon her—hands that stroked as they are stroking now—because of what they stirred—as once again her crippled privates seep their seeming contradiction. She is loathe to think of men in terms of sex—his palm massaging—when the proof of male depravity lay indelibly carved, engraved on the very tissue—come alive beneath the pressure he sustains—which men abuse whenever it suits their lustful purposes.