Under the red tent, there are four of us sitting, and then another four, and so on, the mosaic tessellation. We grabbed each other’s hands the night before when we were dancing. My two friends and one stranger. We chose our family for five days. 

“Are you married?” One man asks another. 

“I’m queer.” The tall beautiful man smiled. 

I don’t remember what everyone else said about why we came there, I truly don’t. We possibly declared we wanted to be more open, to be closer to the ones who see us better; I think. For I can’t be expressed in front of everyone. The movement is absorbed, the voice taken. The feeling of inaptitude can infuse already sensitive flesh. I was conditioned to move and respond so silently. I would scare people who wouldn’t hear me coming. So, I claimed the right to make noise in a few broken words.  

“What is stopping you?” I fell over his words, the blue eyes looking into me, and embraced him over the dare. He was so certain in his ability to act fearlessly. I saw him tossing roses at a singer on the stage, arranging the figures of deities and Buddha, making a fire installation… all the while I watched, inhaling while I could. I took the water he shared with us, the bottle prepared with a rosemary twig in it, to ease the heat in our lungs. Remembered that one could do that.

I’m afraid of the valleys in this place, the big mine-like hills of sand, and the way the river feels familiar. I don’t want to be reminded. The heat produces a shade barely real, a vapour under the sunset, the colour melting orange into us.

We feel into the questions and we flow on them with the beat, all of us are dancing to every day. I might be unable to find the right words for the circles. I know they will come later, for someone timid as I am. I can hold my sheltered soul close to the certainty of not being enough. Some punishing would ensue, I figure.

And, the sand is underneath our feet, under the red carpet and it brings the weight down to the soles, all the heaviness. I know it keeps me anchored in some way, but I am flying most of the time, while full weight watery body barely listens. It takes the fluid from the atmosphere. I toss it. I don’t care about the scratches on my feet, walking barefoot across the little trails between those uniformed houses with room numbers. Grey sand burns the careless, willing to scorch a little, in exposure, in surrender.

I run to the river pouring into the sea, the liquid not salty at all, not blue or fresh, but brownish and murky, more sweet than clear. It is the strangest place, fog barely lifting in the September sun. I’m so dirty in that sand colour; I am grey in heavy mist. We all bring the sand into the bathrooms of our unlocked rooms and we jump out of the balconies closer to the ground, like children unwilling to be away from the playground for too long. 

The ones outside of it all are worried; the family drifts away. I leave the phone in my room, unattached and disconnected from anything not present there, near me. I am stranded who knows where, and the separation continues, widens with unfelt sentences I turn away from.  

“Are you alive? What sort of festival is that?” 

I don’t look back; just for a few days. I don’t face things, I go for a complete vanish and loss of the roots. I don’t face the words, but then I do. I should’ve allowed the meltdown over my silence. I am growing into disregard. Now the truth is I am keeping some kindness for myself this time. Sensing the departure, they grasp to keep me where I was. Unhappy as I might be in that place, as long as it is close to them.   

He suddenly sends the strangest video, which is supposed to be funny, after weeks of silence. I tell him I can’t watch videos like that anymore, and he feels me pulling away. I am still worried about him out of habit, maybe love. I call, but he doesn’t answer my judgment. 

All nights were red. I can’t get over my red readiness to dance. I dance for five hours sometimes. Maybe it’s the cacao; the last night’s ceremony enveloping the days before and after. Maybe they put some hazelnut in the thickness of it. I could taste bits of childhood spread I used to have on my bread. I am going back and back as I hear the girl speaking to us with a howl, from time to time, such sweet sound coming from her undulating body, as she sings us into a trance. We wait and we can smell it. We wait while it has been picked, dried, grounded, while it crosses the seas and the mountains, while it travels on boats or plains towards us, towards that little island of grey sand. We inhale it, we share it with the ones behind until every cup is filled and everyone has one in their hands. To be taken one drop at the time, to be tasted together with three hundred souls. We drink each other in those dark drops. 

We found the space to embody what we have practised, maybe in the privacy of our rooms or what we yearned for without knowing. Dancing wildly, screaming, and crying. I danced until something would break so I would sit and pray. I see us in a circle meditating and praying for every person, for the planet, as the full moon is becoming bigger. My skirt is orange on my hips and the robe silky on my shoulders, the one I love so much, the one I bought with you in mind. Always with you in mind, I would buy lingerie. All meant for the show, the play, the ritual.

The moon is fantastic, ever growing behind the man swallowing fire, giving it to us on the exhale, his breath flowing into the wind enclosing the island. My room is too small, occupied by the white light, seemingly incandescent, pervading the calm. I clean myself from the sweat and sand as much as I can and I go out into the dark again. I find the red tent flooded; receiving sweet confusing waters of the river within the sea, shallow when it’s calm. I am ecstatic about the improbability of where I am and yet, I am free and alone, outside, in the stormy wind, mesmerized by the tide and unstoppable waves. I sit for a minute, the drama of it consumes me as I drift up and down those small trails, up and down, dancing and turning with the wind in my kimono. Flowers and leaves flow with me responding to the sun’s reflection. My dancing partner finds me; the one who joined me around the fire. He was saving the equipment from the flood. I took in his toes and the small things painted on his nails. I’ve never done my nails.  

“Let’s go and have an adventure!” He holds me very close and the glitter from his face finds its place on my cheek. He has a small speaker and we continue to dance. I trust him. I can trust a dancing man with black eyeshadow framing his enthusiastic eyes.

In the bright sun of the final day, I am hugging the blond woman with the baby. Her hug covers like clean clothes we sniff from the western countries, evaporating like the fishes in the water, into one same sky. Her curls are one more smile on the face of all the heart openings. All accepted. We share the understanding.      

I might show it all to you. Would you then be jealous? Would you be as bland and uncaring as you can be towards me – not seeing, not acknowledging anything that shreds the control, the box of your universe? Where you sit by some screen, always, happy to be there with no one in particular. 

I was touched. So many hugs and so many arms. The touch, the small space where the matter exists. I gathered the years’ worth.

There is a photo of me sitting in meditation, praying, looking at a woman with her desperate eyes, reaching out of the dark. I prayed. Her name escapes me this morning. It started with her – our legs touching, facing each other. At that point there were no more shy glances, we left them somewhere on the border of Montenegro. I’ve never seen such light in pale blue, set in honey skin. She tells me what she sees, and I tell her the words appearing from her gaze- clear and open, in the morning. We change, with a bow, and we detach. 

I just know, the tall man could’ve had looked at me before, but he didn’t. At this moment, he has no choice. I hear the name – Billy. I don’t know what I see in his black eyes. I can’t stop looking. We sit as instructed, learning about intimacy. In one workshop, in the row of many: head spinning, body craving attempts to try and comprehend the nature of the connection and love. I see ribbons – fish coloured, shiny, and slick at times. Braiding, continually in the presence of the other.

I sit in front of him while he lays on the ground, in a position where the words couldn’t be assumed as angry, even if we are playing the role of a couple for few minutes. He says it doesn’t feel over. We change, again. Women are around men, and men are in a circle. We are crying for them as they try to touch one another. Some of them caress their unloving fathers; most of them touch what they have avoided. 

Another change and I find the fifth little stage for sharing. I walked and sat when the facilitator chose the moment and ended up facing two men living in the countries neighbouring the one I am from; at one point in history, we were the opposing sides during a war. Nothing is accidental, I heard, and it can be a comfort. 

One man looks tough to me, eyes wide apart, a warrior – I saw him carrying a baby most of the time and learned he is an energy healer. The other bears a strong beard reminding me of someone or everyone in my own family. He did say he would look over the border to a magical green country as a child, how he dreamt about baklava and pies made from thin white pastry. 

In a grey thin dress, I was shaking to the sound of rain slowly falling, cooling the sides of an open tent. It’s all eyes in front of eyes, gazing in and mirroring into oneself. We are soaked with its weight, yes, but the history just isn’t enough; it is not all. Moments evaporate in some altered continuum. It doesn’t matter how much we try to tie it all into some clear understanding. The events hit, so the feelings could tell the story as well.

Rain stopped. Billy vanished but finds me later on the beach, with my hair hitting his face. I taste the tobacco and mint on his breath.

“What was that?” I asked. 

“We were open. I had to leave, I felt too much. I saw you coming here. I felt the impulse to kiss you because it didn’t feel over. Can I?”- I can’t recognize the needs I usually see, not in his eyes, and it is a relief. He doesn’t need looking after and he gazes into me from a faraway place. From the dark woods, certain and real, his face alters to a wild expression. I echo his growls, the sound leaves through my pupils and my fingers on his skin, as my cells pour out from the back of my neck and the rib of my cage into the black of his eyes widening. A smile-twisted cheek in the dance of being carefully touched and slightly touching, in the grey sky. We are strangers witnessing the energy flowing over the clothes and past the facts, or surnames.

“Where are you from Billy?” 

“It’s Daniel. I am from Berlin. Oh, I am so hungry.”

“I thought I heard the name Billy there in the tent. It goes well with your red hair.”

“No, no I’m Daniel.”

“You look like a woodland creature to me, Daniel from Berlin. Like a deer.” 

“I always thought of myself as a dragon.” I expand in his hug with some pain in my chest. We bow. We change. 

 

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Edina Kikić  is from Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She works as a Bosnian Language Teacher in London, and writes stories, poems,  lyrics and music for songs, mostly in English. “My writing in general revolves around sensed experience, colours, scents, visuals… It’s all about impressions, dancing and sometimes hopefully collaborating with later recollection, in the way of imprinting, discovering the memories through language and word play, the cell bodies interchanging and ever changing until some crystallisation occurs.”

Grey Sand was developed with Product Literary Editor Luca Serra as part of our New Writers’ Mentoring Programme. It runs every year and is open to applications to all new writers from the autumn. Follow @scottishproduct for updates. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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