She had brisk, light steps. But all that ease concealed careful calculation. Each of her movements through space spoke a word. So as not to reveal everything, so her words would be even more inscrutable and deep, she danced in a precious haik.
* * *
He was a clever and restless boy. His father was a weaver of haiks, continuing the family tradition, which went back eight generations. Periodically, someone in the family succeeded in weaving a haik of astonishing beauty. It happened once in each generation; when the weaver completed the haik, he fell into something resembling mental dullness and physical exhaustion. It lingered for a few days, during which the whole family prayed for the recovery of the weaver.
When it happened in the first generation, the family was considerably bewildered—and frightened. They considered various hypotheses for why that strange fatigue persisted, what caused it, what kind of consequences there might be… Meanwhile, the family members carefully allocated their money, in case the weaver did not recover, so that they would be able to survive until the first and at the time only son of the weaver began to work.
The weaver not only recovered from that strange, perfidious illness, but he also began to weave with much greater speed, as if he wanted to make up for lost time. So thought those who saw him, and they were delighted by the skill of his hands. Only he knew that a beautiful haik is the result of slow and determined effort. Deep within himself he had yearned to weave such a thing, even if it were his last haik, but the thought of obligation to the family drove him to work with half a mind, thinking more of the next haik than of the one he was weaving at the moment. The work provided extra income for the family, of course, so that when the weaver of the third generation, after working three weeks on a single haik, fell into unconsciousness, the family was not overly worried; their prayers were not so urgent, for everybody knew that it would only require a few days before the weaver would return to his work. His haik was placed alongside the other two. Here I do not mean to say that it was more or less beautiful than the others, for the family cherished each of these haiks as a special treasure and relic, respecting the sufferings of its creator. Each was wonderful, enchanted, and beautiful, having its special quality, so there was no way to compare it to the others. When one of the haiks was separated from the others, you undoubtedly would declare it the most beautiful in existence, but the haiks were kept together, and they had something of their own, a distinctive imprint. Some said it was the seal of fate, others of beauty.
The weaver then would work with more of the same cloth, but nothing ever would be near as beautiful as the haik that had hurled him into such heavy bewilderment.
In the sixth generation, a weaver arose who wove two haiks of magical beauty. He wove the first just a few months after he took over the trade from his father. The women in the family, especially the older ones, saw this as some kind of evil omen: it seemed to them to come much too soon. The weaver of the sixth generation overcame his illness after only two days, which was both pleasing and frightening. It caused the women to stay out of his way, as if he were an intruder in the house. The men coming out of the mosque, after the weaver began to weave again, after sitting long at prayer, began to deliberate aloud about him. His father said that it would bring sudden disaster, and everyone agreed with that. Nevertheless, they all knew they could not assume anything about the weaver and his work. So they gossiped, and it seemed to them that their words flew off, as though evaporating into the sky above, and the emptiness they felt afterwards was as though they had been left with not even a cloud. The oldest of the weaver’s brothers battled against the power of the words that swarmed in his head and managed to contain them behind pursed lips. He never said that he would continue the work of his brother, because he knew that the family could have only one weaver in each generation. The family’s weaver was in some ways isolated and more prominent than the others, like a mosque and its minaret. And everything revolved around him, as if around the mosque. The discussion of the men went on, until the twilight began to pour its shades of dark blue over them.
* * *
When he was a boy, seemingly nothing interested him as much as stories did. Hours passed by whenever he came upon a good storyteller; he seemed to devour the words, and long after, the stories he heard would reverberate in his head. He wanted to create visual images of the stories as he alone imagined them. At first he created them behind closed eyes, and then he started drawing them on the walls of the house.
More than anything he liked the tales about the fortress…
It was on one particular night: walls were beginning to grow up around the city. The whole city was on its feet to see this marvel. The walls appeared as unexpectedly as a flower that blossoms and withers all in one day. But the walls remained.
The commotion was not as great as one might suppose, but no one slept that night. Terrified, they looked at the stone structure that began to encircle them. They sought the answer in prophecies and in old books, and they sought the answer in their own sins. When the walls stopped growing, they understood that the answer had to do with their valor; the city was protected by an insurmountable fortress, and everyone within began to feel more secure.
The following night, the city was again on its feet. This time the uproar was much greater. The foundations of the city began to shake. At the eastern part of the city, in its walls, a fissure opened up and widened so quickly that the people began to run in panic to the opposite, western part of the city. And suddenly everything was calm. Out of nowhere, having never existed before, a river appeared in the new canyon.
Now the fortress was open, and some feared that they would be vulnerable once again. Others comforted themselves that now they would have to defend only one side of the city. A third group was happy that the city was once again open to the world. The air became easier for them to breathe, and the hardships that the walls imposed on them almost vanished.
They called the river Rumel. It flowed toward the east, greeting the light of the new day…
These were some of the images the boy kept within himself. That river excited him in an ambiguous way. When he was in front of it, he felt fear. When he was within it, it seemed to him that he saw the history of the city. He compared his own visions with the stories about the city and saw that they coincided. Not only that, but it also seemed to him that he knew many more details than the storyteller did. Then he tried to convince himself that too many details could strangle the story, even the stories he nurtured himself. He believed that when he grew up, he would become a storyteller. He retold the stories within himself, he altered some details, he embellished them in ways that he thought would make them better, and he awaited the day when he would begin to tell stories. However, he was the oldest son of his father, and he had to inherit the trade. He became a weaver.
* * *
In the dark-blue colors of dusk, the river became threateningly ferocious. The weaver stood before it, and it seemed to him that he heard the voice of his brother, the voice of his father, mixed into an unbelievable cacophony of unrecognizable words. Often, standing thus along the river, he wished to declare that he wanted to be done with everything, even with weaving, along with the knots of the haiks… Even with the family, if need be. However, he kept quiet and went on weaving, fearful of the results, just as earlier he was fearful when he looked at the river. Somewhere within him glowed the belief that everything would change for the better if he tried to be rid of the work completely, but then he thought that his entrance into the river was that which changed life for him and it mingled with his thoughts as if his thoughts were incomplete knots of a common, white haik.
* * *
They say that every family has its own curse. The curse of this family was embodied in precious haiks, and the weavers carried it within themselves as if constantly passing through purgatory on the trail of repentance. Some in the family believed that the curse could become even more terrible, especially now that the young weaver had rushed into the trade so early.
He did the work as though nothing special was happening, or would happen. In general he did not notice that the women were behaving as they were, nor did he seem to notice what the men were doing. The cacophony of nearby voices agitated him when he stood alongside the river, but he left the answers to time.
He bore the beautiful haik within himself, but the more time passed, the feeling of exhilaration slowly turned into a memory, with the taste of ground mint.