leopard dream leaves Nana with an after-taste, a residue that contaminates her
awakened state to the point of casting doubts about Palace sectors declared
OUT OF BOUNDS:
Could there be
a dark side to what poses as benevolence? More than once the notion of deception
has troubled Nana’s mind. Contact with the girls who have fulfilled their
yearlong service (six since Nana’s tenure, two considered intimates) lapsed within a
fortnight of their departures. Emails, cell calls, video-grams went mostly unreturned; though Nadia and Aan both sent regards,
pictographs, plus gushing testimonials about wages paid-in-full. Fabricated somehow?
Deviously faked? Possible but improbable, and
wholly out-of-character; neither the Prince nor his Uncle ever proved
disingenuous. Secretive, yes, but such is deemed expedient among men of great wealth
Still, shades of grim foreboding have crisscrossed several psyches, Nana's among
them. The closer looms her release date, the
louder alarm bells sound, fates of Po, Trin, and Xia Xia (real or imaginary)
gnawing on Nana’s nerves—Sheik Hadithah’s unannounced arrival seeming all the
Dressed traditionally, his wan burnoose (by virtue of simplicity
I will tell you
why a camel is better than a Mercedes,
lest you who traffic in hard-ware have
never led a caravan
weave) bespeaking regal lineage, the Sheik has made his way
nor crossed the
desert in anything more practical
than a dune buggy—trusting less in Allah
than in academic writ
from portico to
parlor unescorted, un-preceded by fanfare, unobserved by staff,
tames the sun’s ferocity
nor shields the eyes from sand
and leaves the lips as
being Security personnel galvanized to open every portal
as salt on a sea
bed dry since Isaac:
a camel wants to arrive at its appointed
It has a vested interest,
Potentate’s measured path, gates, doors agape automatically
a burning drive
to survive the distance A to Zed—
unlike dumb machines
that break down due to
(buttons pressed, surveillance cameras trained) and left un-shut
as opposed to weakened will,
the latter only succumbing on
pain of inexistence.
out of respect
for Him whose bearing brooks nothing short of reverence,
applies its every wit-gram to persevere,
and carries on its back a
whose nod can
guarantee a fortune, whose frown can forecast ruin,
on getting where
he is going,
who cannot be denied by parts devoid of spares,
for his are like
only fools dare curry (the Sheik immune to flattery); fear of Him is
by which he is
Living things as commodities,
as means to ends—
be they chattel or
response from those he knows less well, while others,
be they sex
slaves, CEOs, celebrities, or politicians—
serve those Served best fuelled
by the octane
the family or legitimate relatives, express profound regard in lieu of outright
Fill the hump
and power can reign supreme.
"Read." the Angel prompted.
the Mind of Man is written
(reinforced by gratitude)
more intimate emotions held at bay,
the ciphers We
We who look before We swat a bug that might
not bite Us.
the Sheik's invulnerability an attribute hard to love,
love itself a sentiment the Figurehead disavows.
zealousness is a
heart that beats beyond cessation.
Finding only empty chambers, no sign of his nephew, Sheik Hadithah glares at a
spy cam’s watchful lens and speaks as to a minion.
"Send Ms Nana Wolffmüller here; and switch off your surveillance."
Seating himself on a huge divan of Moroccan nut-brown leather—his aspect
semi-formal, his regal pose erect (if composed, relaxed, sedate)—His Eminence waits for the
his summons to comply.
Knowing speed of response is second only to modesty when ordered to appear
before the Sheik, Nana dresses hurriedly, veils her hair in a scarf of pale
damask, makes sure not a follicle is visible before clothing the remainder in
tasteful silk pajamas and a pair of kidskin slippers
that peek from under her pant cuffs as she veritably sprints...
...her haste on entry unacknowledged by the meditative Elder (whose
subtext is continuous, a run-through for his address as keynote speaker
at a conclave scheduled to convene in the United Arab Emirates).
plays into Our hands.
It is a tool of the impatient.
Nana, prostrate, forehead pressed to the marble at her Sovereign's aged feet,
knows to punish a conviction
is to fashion its mystique.
waits for Him
to signal she may kiss His hem and rise,
Jews to the ovens,
honored by the
time He takes, perceiving it as a test of her devotion
have served to
set in stone
their noble Prophets’ precepts,
hers toward Him
a lifelong pledge she renews on each and every visit
myths, tall tales, and superstitions.
these have been throughout the Sheik’s exalted patronage
Faith is an
ideal manna for the masses,
as addictive as an opiate,
industry with ink distilled from guilt—
one’s gratitude to someone unimpressed by words divorced from deeds?
to which the hapless fallen yield
For steadfast is as
steadfast does; her thanks are paid in loyalty
becomes flesh-and-blood reality,
which is not
too proud to kneel, to demonstrate admiration undiluted by the nicety of lip
is a product,
that We can sell.
one's face at last in humble recognition of
Him whose fond munificence spreads
like a mentor’s smile.
"Ah, Nana. Rise, child. Sit beside me. Lend your pretty ear to an old man’s ugly
croak. More and more my voice becomes a parody of the crow’s big brother
raven—sacred in this rooftop world of tarkins, hispid hares, and black neck
cranes. These latter, did you know, outlive the locals? Eighty years do black
necks flap their shapely wings. They mate for life; perhaps this is the secret of their
Perhaps not. Admirable, in any case; I disapprove of profligates. Does that
surprise you, Nana dear, that I who supply my brother’s son with a singular
stock of paramours should denounce the very craving that sustains them? I
confess it is the truth, one of all too many truths that signify contradictions—truth’s facets—for truth is like a diamond that
the mind of Mankind cuts. And what
is a diamond? Excrement, after epochs of the earth’s relentless pressure."
Pausing to collect his thoughts, arrange them advantageously, a habit honed to
fend off pretenders to his throne (his audience in
suspension, loathe to interrupt, eager to demonstrate patience (two states
paradoxical), the Sheik lets seconds pass before disclosing his visit's purpose.
"I have come to bring glad tidings I trust will make you purr. Not in the manner
you were taught for the purpose of pandering to our narcissistic Prince. Those
skills, hitherto the upshot of your training, will delight some future helpmate,
doubtless, but henceforth are retired. Purrs your lovely throat emits, from this
day forward, will express a private joy, bred of your accomplishments outside
the boudoir and founded upon your talents as an unexampled sculptress. Pity I was duty-bound to groom you
for that wastrel, that bundle of adolescent hormones and vampire-thirst for
hymens. Indebtedness to an assassinated sibling can lead to ill effects. Mine to
mine has sloped my nephew’s primate brow and given him the ambition of a bonobo."
Shocked by this impeachment, Nana shrinks within her silence. The attack upon a
family member—ruefully frank and pitiless—overwhelms her with its
precedent-setting vehemence. What could the Prince have done to incur the Royal
wrath? And why share such a confidence with a lowly 'employee'?
"Your exhibition is set, in Paris, at the Georges Pompidou! Soon I must
depart, on the morrow in fact. An unrelated matter will occasion
me to sojourn one week. When I return you must have cast your latest works
and seen them properly crated for transport. You must also pack your personal
belongings, child. Anything you want is yours. Allow the Prince whatever liberties he
requires to mark your leave-taking, but do not, I repeat, do not
attend him out of bounds. In the event he asks, remind him of my dictum. In the
event he insists, use your intellect to evade, and seek, if necessary, refuge
with the Lama at Druk Yul Temple."
Extraordinary measures, these surely are; Nana grows afraid. Unconditional
obedience, hers to the Prince, by the Sheik has been rescinded. What calamity or
circumstance could warrant such a turnaround? Does she dare to inquire? Or would
it better serve to do as she is told?