After the earthquake

I recall the furtive languor with which we dressed and silent as accomplices made our way down the gloomy staircase into the street. We did not dare to link arms, but our hands kept meeting involuntarily as we walked, as if they had not shaken of the spell of the afternoon and could not bear to be separated. We parted speechlessly too, in the little square with its dying trees burnt to the colour of toffee by the sun; parted with only one look – as if we wished to take up emplacements in each other’s mind forever.

It was as if the whole city had crashed about my ears; I walked about in it as aimlessly as survivors must walk about the streets of their native city after an earthquake, amazed to find how much that had been familiar was changed. I felt in some curious way deafened and remember nothing more except that much later I ran into Pursewarden and Pombal in a bar. And when Pombal said: ‘You are abstracted this evening. What is the matter?’ I felt like answering him in the words of the dying Amr: ‘I feel as if heaven lay close upon the earth and I between them both, breathing through the eye of a needle.’

– Lawrence Durrell, Alexandria Quartet

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