The sky-blue swell pounded the breakwater at Borthel on Sea in a steady rhythm. John gazed out at the mountains across the broad bay and drew a deep calming breath. The anxiety that had built up and wracked him in recent months and on his spontaneous long drive from the city eased its intensity.
Three minutes into the performance, and I stifled a yawn. Crammed in the front row with a clutch of fellow bored hacks, I hoped no one had noticed. However, the acclaimed actor and playwright and recently appointed head of NATS, Barry Lazarus, turned and fixed a beady eye on me from centre stage.
We hit the road at sunrise. Anna complained about packing the bikes in the pre-dawn dark. But we had to make up for the kilometres we'd lost yesterday to punctures and her mishap. Our reward was a crimson landscape when the sun crested the horizon. I rode ahead, and Anna fell behind, as usual.
"Happy anniversary, Darl." My blank look doesn't wipe the smile from his face. "It's our double anniversary, remember?" he prompts, presenting me with a single red rose. "Nine months since the party and six months since you moved in." My nan taught me to tell the truth. "Of course I remember," I lie.
Covid-19 was the best thing that happened to my daughter. Her cocaine supply dried up, and she discovered she was an introvert. She turned twenty-four on the first of May, a May Day child without a cause. It was not always so. Dux in Year 10 and a black belt in taekwondo, before she fell prey to anorexia.
The photograph is gloomy, and the colours are fading. But it was twenty-five years ago. I'm sitting in the high-ceilinged inner courtyard of the Al-Rabie Hotel in Old Damascus, catching up my travel journal. My wife calls out from the first floor. I stop writing, look up and wave for the camera.