The Past Tense Of Youth: Odalisque


reclining-odalisque The disguiseHow could he have made his way past the guards and through the gates of the first and second courtyards into the harem? How could he, my Gurel, have made his way into the past at all? How had I come into the picture?  I no longer knew what year I was in or  even when or where I had been born. Everything… all my time lines … had been thrown into dissaray.

 Was I still 22?  Was I still married?  How far back in time had I travelled and what was I to Rana?  How had I first met her and how had I been made privy to her innermost secrets? She had left the diary there for me on purpose.  It would contain my story too surely.  I had played an instrumental role in her love life and she in mine.  But was this really the same man? 
Somehow all three of us had formed a bond in a former life that had been broken.

Something terrible had happened to one or all three of us that had never been resolved.  Now here I was living the life of a concubine in a harem which was so much more than just the room In which I was now standing. It was an entire neighbourhood with kitchens , bath-houses,mosques, laundry, infirmary,courtyards and apartments. All connected by stairwells, corridors and cobbled laneways.

Trees shaded the pathways and beautiful gardens surrounded the fountains.  There was life everywhere.  What part had Gurel played in this life and what had he been to Rana?  It was clear from the diary that she had longed for him ever since their eyes had first met at the slave market. How had he made his way to her or was this still to come?  Suddenly I could hear voices on the stairs.  A group of women were returning from the bath house and Rana was amongst them. I returned the diary to it’s position on the table making sure it was right way up and with it’s marker in place and then quickly returned to my own room across the hall.

I stood in my doorway and waited for her to pass me.  She smiled at me as she floated past like a gossamer breeze. She whispered softly so that only I was able to hear.  ” I am now odalisque”.  There was a hint of sadness in her tone but she laughed as she returned to her room and closed the door behind her.

© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 30/8/2013







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