One Thousand and One Nights


I’ve always loved Arabian nights; the story of Scheherazade and her never ending story. I remember being little and picturing the billowing drapes, the night slowly turning into day and Scheherazade weaving her magical storytelling threads captivating the sultan in her web and keeping him there, transfixed, always wanting more.  Serial killing sultan aside, it’s a beautiful story.

When I think back over the summer, it’s the ‘Arabian Nights’ moments I’ve loved the most…

A day I’d wished would never end, the last day I’d spent with Chris (AKA Golf Boy) we listened to Wathering Heights on audiotape, lying side by side with the corpse of our relationship between us, neither speaking. I’d put my head on his shoulder and smelt his scent, knowing it would probably be the last time I would see him.

Then there were the three nights with the artist, drinking vodka, chainsmoking cigarettes and talking until my eyelids drooped and my head fell onto the sofa.

There was a brief encounter with a French trader I’d met at a party in a carpark. A Sunday night in my kitchen eating Uncle Ben’s micro- rice with spinach while talking about Sartre until 1.30am. There was not the thought of work, or sleep or life beyond. There was just that moment and the way his boyish hair fell in his face.

I will always remember the night ‘Golden Boy’ came over at 2am after some party and we sat in our living room laughing at some guy who’d ended up back at the flat attempting to play the piano. GB whispered in my ear to go upstairs but we just lay on my bed laughing at how his middle toes were so much longer than the rest while listening to some beach boy band. I remember the way he’d looked solemnly at the wall and confided that his father recently passed away, It was the first time he’d told me anything about himself. I hadn’t known what to say.

If only the morning never had to come, if only those nights could go on for ever. There would never need to be the worry over him not texting back. I would never have to know that he posts ridiculous status updates on Facebook. He would never know I’m fundamentally neurotic.

Perhaps it’s true that “if you want a happy ending, it depends where you end the story” but what if the story never ended? If there was no morning but just 1001 nights. An Arabian night isn’t about sex, it’s about the minute you feel…  connected, and sometimes, when you look into each other’s eyes and the clock strikes 4am, you start to hope that day would never break the spell.

Romeo:

It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die. (Romeo and Juliet)

Every tale needs a prince charming, and I met mine last  bank holiday Sunday at a terrace party in Shoreditch. I didn’t immediately know it was him of course, I was distracted by the music, the MDMA and the drink in my hand. I remember liking the way he kept looking over and  though I can’t now remember what we’d talked about, I do remember he leant in and kissed me. It was love at first kiss.

The sun set and the day bled red into the night as we took a cab to another party, then there was just a jumble of kisses and music, and I barely remember how we ended up back at mine. Sleep wasn’t an option. Sleep would break the spell. I tried so hard not to fall asleep but when I opened my eyes I could see the sun falling through a chink in the curtain. Oh god. It was going to be the same nauseous feeling I have with Golden Boy when I look at him passed out and wish he would get the hell out my bed. The awkward conversation which always starts with “so… what are your plans today?” and ends with “I’d better go.”

I wondered if I had morning breath and if I’d remembered to even take off my makeup.

I turned sideways with dread.

The Prince was awake and in the shadow of daylight his eyes were the colour of the deep blue silk on my pillow.

“You fell asleep.” He said, kissing me.

“I did?”

The prince lay back and looked at the ceiling.  “I couldn’t sleep for ages last night,” he said. I thought those marks on your ceiling were ants, and they were racing to the finish line, I was taking bets on which would reach the finish line first.”

I laughed. “I think the left one. It looks faster.”

Though day had come and gone, everything was still the same.

I spent another long day and night with The Prince, so comfortable with someone I’d barely known 48 hours, so easily  lying on his shoulder as he watched sports on TV as if we’d been together five years.

As I fell asleep, he kissed the top of my head and for the first night in five months, I didn’t dream of Chris.

Over lunch the following Saturday I argued with my grandma over happy endings.

“Sad endings are easy to write… they’re endings are for lazy writers,” I argued. “A good happy ending is really special.”

If I end my story about The Prince and I where I did, it would be  a ‘happily ever after”  but, unfortunately unlike fiction, life goes on.

A week of panic over the date he hadn’t finalised turned into tears on my bathroom floor when he hadn’t called in days. There was the text he sent on the day cancelling last minute because he had to work late.

“Can we do Wednesday instead?” he texted.  “How about Thursday then?”

But It was too late. He wasn’t my prince anymore. He’s just a guy I met at the weekend. The spell had been broken, and the arrival of the day had nothing to do with it.

I hate sad endings, but I suppose…. Life does go on… and doesn’t end until it ends. So where does this leave me and the once formally known as ‘Prince?’

I’ll guess…. To be continued.

Then they returned to Scheherazade and displayed her in the second dress, a suit of surpassing goodliness, and veiled her face with her hair like a chin veil. Moreover, they let down her side locks, and she was even as saith of her one of her describers in these couplets:

O hail to him whose locks his cheeks o’ershade,
Who slew my life by cruel hard despite.
Said I, “Hast veiled the morn in night?” He said,
“Nay I but veil moon in hue of night.”

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