The Girl in Me
A cold and bitter Friday in January. Almost midday. I push at the black iron gate, cross the flagstones, and step into the courtyard. My body startles. From above, a cry sheers into the space as if someone is being hurt. A second later it comes at rapid fire, high pitched, tossed into the air. Wild spirits. I look up. The courtyard is deserted. I am the only ear. Walking. Faster. Somewhere behind the lattice windows on the second floor, a couple is making love. I can almost feel his strokes as her sounds wheel into the air, a bird cawing with sharp, rhythmic joy. My mind flips backwards. One scene. Another. My past, unraveling above me. A hand placed over my mouth in Cairo so his aunties in the upstairs apartment won’t hear. A sshh soughed into my ear on the mattress on the floor of a flat in North Adelaide: neighbors! And sometimes, a free calling allowed to rent the air. The first time I ever heard a woman like this, the sound gathered up steam like cats mewling, as my young face blinked into awareness. Too present. I might as well have landed in her room.
Remembering the distance travelled, I reach the archway, turn in, haul open the door, up the stairs. The sound shuts off. I don’t hear anymore. I reach my office, the neo-gothic oak door with a heavy old-fashioned latch students marvel at, fumble over. As I step inside, I glance out through the windows back across the courtyard. A blind shutters one window opposite. Later, when I look again, though I have to get up from my desk to do this, the blind has been snapped up and a young man sits erect, a silhouette in front of his desk lamp, quietly studying. As if he has been doing this all along. But I know otherwise, the girl in me.