What did my father see ?

Desert and Sunset
Desert and Sunset

He stood looking at the horizon with narrowed eyes. I looked where he was looking; nothing was looming on the horizon. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. The sun was nearing sunset when I left the tent to join my father at the 'nawala' where I found him standing, gazing solemnly and quietly at the horizon as if waiting for something to appear. Curiously and with wonder, I shifted my gaze between him and the horizon. Could he be waiting for Bilal the shepherd, or perhaps he heard the faint sound of a Land Rover coming from afar? I desperately wanted to understand, but I was just a boy then. What my father was looking at was never on the horizon; on the contrary, he was looking where his eyes could not turn—yes, he was looking at a place in his memory. His soul had left his body, staring at the horizon, and left me to a different place and time. Then suddenly, without any warning, my father moved and rushed to where the 'nawala' was centered, sat cross-legged in his usual seat, and began pouring tea. I sat next to him waiting for him to reveal what he was seeing when he handed me a cup of tea, smiling.

Years passed, and my father's spirit left us, but this time, permanently. I was on a trip to the desert with friends when I stood watching the sunset, and suddenly, time stopped. I saw something strange; I narrowed my eyes slightly as if that would improve my vision. I saw the silhouette of a dark-skinned man standing far away in a deep red robe watching the sunset. I was rooted to the spot, looking at him with an odd pleasure—it was my father. I remembered his harsh facial features and those kind looks that always instilled in me a sense of pride. The sun disappeared behind the horizon, and the darkness gradually crept in to tenderly swallow my father's silhouette. It was then that I heard a friend's call telling me that the tea was ready. I hurried to where the friends were gathered and sat down. One of them handed me a cup of tea. I sipped it while smiling, overwhelmed with happiness.

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