My best friend, Caroline Jordan, was working in Cairo, Egypt. She was a year older than me and had scored what I considered a dream job photographing ancient Egyptian tombs—more specifically mastabas in Saqqara—for an Egyptologist writing a book on the Old Kingdom burial ground. It scarcely seemed fair, considering the fact I was the one who had been obsessed with ancient Egypt ever since I could remember. The ink on her degree from the New England School of Photography was still wet when she landed the job through an arcane web of connections, and also because she agreed to work for free in exchange for room and board.
During the long plane ride from Boston to Cairo, I passed the time lost in daydreams woven in with memories. I was anticipating the coming month with such wholehearted intensity, it returned me to my childhood with mysterious vividness. Maybe it had something to do with flying thousands of miles above the ground at such great speed that reduced the distance between past and future so they seemed to come together right there in my window seat.
History had always been my favorite subject, especially the ancient Egyptian culture and religion. What I had learned about history in school was totally forgettable. It was the books I devoured at home that fed my curiosity and fascination with all the different ways people had lived throughout the ages—their clothing, what they ate, their homes and temples, what they hoped for from life, and what they believed happened to them after they died.
My maternal grandparents were Catholics, and it was due to their insistence that my Agnostic parents had their only child baptized. As soon as I could walk, my grandparents picked me up every Sunday and took me to church with them. Until I was eight years old, when my grandmother suddenly died of leukemia, and my grandfather followed her soon afterward. I was told he simply died in his sleep one night. Every time I entered an empty church now—usually with Carol because she loved photographing all the beautiful old ones in Boston and Cambridge—I sensed my grandparents' presence, and missed how I had felt when I was with them. Churches made me sad.
As the pilot finally announced we were beginning our approach into Cairo, it felt like a dream I was having while awake. I had fully committed myself to experiencing every intensely real moment of the adventure before me. Somewhere deep inside me, I had found the courage to leave my Smart Phone back in my bedroom at home. Even though I didn't experience any physical pain, it felt like having a vital organ removed. But I was going on the vacation of a lifetime, and I was determined to immerse myself in the real world—to see, smell, touch, taste and experience everything in living 3D. Fortunately, my resolve had been bolstered by the complicated instructions for upgrading my phone so it might possibly work in Egypt after I arrived, and performed some complicated official unlocking procedure. I was proud of myself for daring to get up and walk away from my “dumbing down” phone, as mom called it. I had inherited one of Carol's awesome digital cameras, and I kept reassuring myself this was all I needed to document my immersion in the ancient land of the pharaohs.
It had taken me twelve hours and eighteen years to finally make it to Egypt. Then it took me a brief eternity to get through Customs, but at last my blue passport was imprinted with a circular red hieroglyph, and stepping through the gate, I spotted Carol almost immediately. Her pale slender arm was swaying like a willow branch over a river of people.
“Carol!” I cried. “Carol!”
“Mary! Over here!”
I threaded my way to her through the tapestry of races crowding the airport. There seemed to be people from all over the world there, which was not surprising since it was mid November, the ideal time to travel through Egypt.
“You look great!’ I yelled over the roar of voices as Carol and I quickly hugged each other. “But how can you still be so pale?”
“We’ll talk in the car!” She relieved me of one of my carry-on bags, the smaller and lighter one.
Following her, I paused to stare up in awe at the two stone colossi who sat smiling peacefully over the teeming masses at their feet as though gazing serenely into the past. I asked anxiously, “Carol, where’s the baggage claim?”
“Over there.” She indicated an area where native men clad in the traditional galabiyya were lifting suitcases out of a dark hole in the wall, and literally tossing the emerging luggage back into a waiting crowd.
“Oh, my God!” I cried. “I think that one’s mine!” A black suitcase hit the floor with an ominous thud, then burst open like a giant seed blooming and dying in the same instant. Immediately, a crowd of robed men descended upon the colorful petals of my clothing and undergarments, and seemed to enjoy caressing everything back into place. Then one of these men sat on top of my suitcase to make it close. When Carol grabbed the handle, he jumped to his feet and grinned at me as he quickly zipped it up.
“Don’t worry, Mary, my maid will wash and iron everything for you in the morning.” She gestured to a more sober looking native, who promptly ran forward to carry my luggage.
“Your maid?” A few moments later, I discovered Carol also had a chauffeur who was waiting for us out in the bright sunlight, and the huge blue Chevrolet he drove easily became king of the road. Once again I found myself in an air-conditioned technological cocoon, and the land I had dreamed of seeing all my life remained as unreal as a film playing on the window screens. The broad avenue we followed away from the airport might have been anywhere in the world if not for the colossal statue of Ramses II that loomed over us at an intersection. Then we turned right and encountered an explosion of life. Our American boat now shared the road with a tumultuous sea of pedestrians and assorted vehicles. We appeared to be passing through a marketplace, where black clouds of flies hovering over food stalls matched the robes of the women strolling by. Some of them balanced large urns on their heads, their hips swaying with a slow, timeless rhythm. Usually it was not so much a matter of driving as of squeezing between things, and the trickling flow of traffic wasn’t helped by donkeys pulling carts and flicking centuries away with their tails as casually as the flies.
“And I thought rush hour in Boston was bad,” I remarked.
“We’ll be out of it soon,” Carol assured me placidly. She was sitting in the backseat beside me. “You cut your hair, Mary. It looks nice. Very Old Kingdom.”
Her apartment was in Garden City, which from its wiki page I knew was a wealthy residential district spanning the East side of the Nile. Quiet, upscale and secure, it was a favorite destination for wealthy Western tourists. The U.S., British and Italian embassies are all located there. I suffered a stab of fear as I thought about suicide bombers and all us decadent infidels conveniently gathered together in one area of the city, but I shoved the concern away. At the time, I had been on the other side of town, but still close enough to the Boston Marathon bombings to appreciate that no place on earth is ever completely safe. I never forgot a story my grandfather had told me about a woman who had been so terrified of dying in an earthquake, she had moved to another country, leaving behind family and friends in order to live in a place where there were no earthquakes. A year later, she died in an earthquake, the first one ever recorded in that location. What I still wondered was why she had been so afraid of earthquakes when there were so many other much more likely ways to die, like in a car crash, for example. My train of thought—getting sluggish now that I was back on the ground—was thankfully interrupted when the car pulled up in front of a tall white building surrounded by palm trees. Carol's apartment was on the top floor.
“Normally, poor archaeologists can’t afford such a nice place,” Carol said after Hamud had deposited all my luggage in the guest room and departed. “But Simon has a friend who’s away in Europe for a year, and he was nice enough to let me borrow it.”
“You’re not an archaeologist,” I remarked testily. “Sorry, but I really need a shower.”
“I’m afraid you’ll be a little disappointed with the water pressure, Mary. I recommend a bath.”
“That will be wonderful. Thank you. Who is Simon?” I asked belatedly. My mental synapses were functioning on emergency power.
“Oh, right, I remember now you mentioned him in an email.” I glanced beyond the unimaginatively furnished ultra modern living room into the more traditional dining room dominated by a polished mahogany table. “Wine?” I asked hopefully.
“I tried to buy things you would like, Mary,” Carol avoided my eyes, “but I couldn’t afford wine.” She knew my parents had turned me on to drinking wine with dinner when I was sixteen, probably hoping that would keep me away from other drugs. So far, all their parenting techniques had worked.
“That's okay,” I lied bravely, and would have shrugged my shoulders if they hadn’t felt so heavy.
“You poor thing. It took me a whole week to recover from the jet lag. Come on, I put some towels out for you.” She showed me where everything was in the spacious bathroom—the soap, the shampoo and conditioner, the body lotions and scented powders—like a golden-haired angel giving me a quick tour of paradise. “I spend more time in here than in any other room. The air is so dry outside it’s heaven soaking in a bath at night. Would you like a martini? Hard liquor is a lot cheaper, and you can set your glass right here where I usually put my tea cup.”
Thirty minutes later, I could not have felt much better if my fairy godmother had tapped me on the shoulder with the wand of my olive impaled crystal stirrer.
Instead of the traditional childish bubbles, I had chosen mineral rocks from one of the many jars available to me. Carol was as serious about the art of bathing as an alchemist. I sank a little deeper into the water, grateful for the pillow cushioning my shoulders and the back of my neck as I stretched my long legs out in the tub’s delightfully accommodating dimensions. The curves of my figure were only slightly distorted by the clear blue water. Setting my martini glass down on the floor next to the tub, I slumped more comfortably against the bath pillow as I lightly caressed the insides of my thighs. I knew I had long, shapely legs because quite a few guys, even men, had told me so. How many times I had heard, “You have great legs, Mary!” might have gone to my head if the compliment hadn't always been echoed by my father's terse warning, delivered when I was sixteen, “Be careful, sweetheart, guys just wanna get in your pants.” Thanks, dad, for metaphorically spitting in my bowl of ice cream brimming with all sorts of tantalizing flavors I was aching to taste. Handsome guys looked delicious, but I didn't trust their flattery. And thank you, mom, for literally yanking a romance novel out of my hands when I was thirteen years old and replacing it with Tolstoy's Ana Karenina. There were lots of train tracks in Boston I could throw myself onto if the man I loved above all things suddenly stopped loving me. I had completely related to Ana and her wholehearted passion, until she gave into despair and killed herself. That was too lame for words. But the fact was, my parents' methods had succeeded in helping me control my strong inclination to give into temptation, because I was eighteen and still miraculously a virgin.
I closed my eyes, and I must have fallen asleep because I was suddenly looking up at a vivid blue sky through which a large falcon was flying above a grove of palm trees, behind which a pyramid rose up from a glowing golden desert...
Opening my eyes, I thought for a moment that I was in a garden because all I saw were green leaves and blue water, but it was just a potted plant in a bathroom. Yet even these common sights were magical, because I was in Egypt at last!
In the morning, I could have cared less that I was in Egypt. My head felt as heavy as the stone used to seal my tomb, where I wanted to remain forever wrapped up in the sheets of the divinely comfortable guest bed. Carol’s politely quiet knock was easy to ignore.
“Get up, Mary,” she urged through the door. “We have to leave soon! Would you prefer coffee or tea?”
A short while later, I felt a bit better, but not much.
“You’ll be fine,” Carol assured me.
“Really? I thought you said it took you a week to recover.”
“Oh, it did, but you’re stronger than I am.” She meant less sensitive. “Anyway, you can take it easy today. Simon wants us to finish the mastaba we’re working in, then I’ll be free to show you the sights. Here.” She handed me a large thermos. “Now, let’s go, Hamud’s waiting for us downstairs.”
Hamud was wearing the same short-sleeved blue shirt and brown polyester pants he had been wearing yesterday when he picked us up at the airport. I had met the woman who laundered them on the way down the stairs. His wife was the maid, and Carol explained to her by way of a mixture of English, Arabic and sign language that all my clothes required washing and ironing. The woman’s broad smile smoothed a few wrinkles from her leathery skin, and she nodded with such fervor I was sure she had not understood a word.
“Carol, how can you possibly afford a maid and a chaueffer?” I demanded jealously.
“They came with the apartment. Even when he's away, Simon's friend pays them to look after the place. And while I'm here, that includes looking after me.”
The cool early morning air helped clear my head, and I actually felt a stab of excitement as Hamud opened the back door for us with a goodnatured grin.
Once again we drove through a tumultuous sea of life, then Hamud floored the accelerator, and we were driving south along the Nile, the silver water flowing north toward the Delta before eventually merging with the Mediterranean. I felt as though we were driving back into the past. Apart from a few isolated housing complexes that resembled dry honeycombs, there were only green and brown fields on our left where robed figures bent towards the earth in the eternal dance of sowing and reaping…time seemed to slow down…pressing against my heart like the invisible head of the true love I longed for… I was jolted out of my daydreams when Hamud abruptly turned onto a narrow bridge.
“You’ll be able to see the Step Pyramid soon,” Carol informed me, breaking our dreamy silence.
We entered a forest of date palms. The ancient Egyptians made wine from dates, and it was so easy for me to picture tanned young men in scanty white loincloths climbing up the slender trunks. Then we drove through a miserable little village where Hamud was forced to slow down as a small herd of naked children surrounded the car.
“Baksheesh!” they cried. “Baksheesh!”
I didn't have any Egyptian money on me yet, and passing this way every morning, Carol had hardened herself to the scene. Her waist-length blonde hair firmly braided, she looked straight ahead, and not a muscle in her aristocratic profile twitched when I heard what distinctly sounded like curses hurled after us along with equally harmless pebbles.
I couldn't help it, a lecture began forming in my mind like a storm cloud. Hamud started, and gripped the steering wheel more tightly, as my indignant voice broke the car’s contented silence. “The Old Kingdom Nomarch of this province would have been horrified by these living conditions! Thousands of years ago those children would have had a much better life.”
Carol glanced at me with an abstracted little smile, and I could not tell if she was listening to me or lost in a daydream. I knew my friend had long ago learned to tune me out when she wanted to.
“A Nomarch was personally responsible for every individual in his domain just like a father,” I went on fervently. “Each of his subjects was as much a part of him as his own vital organs. Everyone played a different role in sustaining the living body of the province, and their well-being was a reflection of the Nomarch’s own physical and spiritual health…”
“There it is,” Carol announced, sounding relieved.
Nearly invisible on the trembling haze of the horizon, Zoser’s Step Pyramid was distinguishable from the flesh-colored desert only by its geometric purity. I stared at it in awe, and watched in fascination as the sand inexorably crept up around the palm trees. It wasn’t long before the desert took over completely and we found ourselves at the foot of a rocky cliff studded with signs.
I gripped Hamud’s shoulder. “Stop, please,” I said, and when he obeyed, I stepped out into the beautiful morning. After taking a bunch of photos, I just stood there for a full minute savoring the fact that I was really here at last. An arrow indicated that the mastaba of Ptah-Hotep, author of the famous maxims, lay straight ahead to the west, while the eternal home of the handsome nobleman, Ti, was to be found to the north. I was so excited these men were still here in a mysterious sense that my exhaustion evaporated. I got back into the car. “Let’s go,” I said eagerly.
His dark eyes shining at me through the rear view mirror, Hamud rewarded my reverence for his country’s history by burning rubber up the winding slope, which more than once threw Carol and me into each others arms, a sight that brought the teeth out in his grin. We crunched to a stop in a flat open space where two tourist buses lay abandoned in the soft morning sunshine in front of an amazingly modern-looking wall.
“Shukron!” I said breathlessly, enunciating my first Arabic word in order to thank him.
“Sa-eeda,” Carol added briskly. “Ba-dayn.”
“What did you just say to him?” I asked curiously.
“ 'Good-bye' and 'later'.”
“Well, that’s specific.”
“It’s specific enough for Egypt, believe me.”
Still grinning, Hamud drove off as my friend and I approached the wall. Its dark golden stone was made vividly three-dimensional by a pattern of recesses and projections that could easily have placed it in the twenty-first century.
Carol said, “Isn’t it beautiful, Mary? I can understand why Victorian architects came to Egypt for inspiration and to get away from that awful cluttered style that was so popular.” Then she added in a slightly more clipped, academic tone, “Only the first twelve feet up is the original wall. The rest was restored.”
She had always been good at recording information, and I assumed this little speech had been edited from a longer one delivered by her employer.
Behind the enclosure wall—that originally stretched for miles around the burial ground but only a fragment of which remains—Zoser’s pyramid rose step by crumbling step into the cloudless sky.
“What mastaba are you working in now, Carol?” I asked, my excitement building.
“Oh just a small one, but it’s lovely. I like it better than some of the big famous ones, maybe because it belonged to a princess.”
We passed through the opening in the wall and found ourselves in a shadowy antechamber where the stone ceiling had been carved to simulate bunches of logs roped together. But it was the false doors to the left and right of the entrance that I found truly haunting. Carved to look as if they had just begun to open, they were symbolic entrances to another dimension as impossible for the mortal mind to conceive of as it is for the body to step into solid rock. Directly ahead of us stretched a long pillared hall.
“Simon says it’s ridiculous to think the Egyptians used engaged columns because they didn’t know free-standing columns could withstand vertical stress,” Carol informed me. “He says there are so many innovations in Saqqara there’s no reason they couldn’t have used freestanding columns if they’d really wanted to.”
“Whatever.” I had no idea what she was talking about and nor did she, which for the first time made me wonder what Simon looked like. That he had managed to impress these abstract facts on my friend’s visually oriented brain was significant. Carol was a photographer and a painter; her perception and experience of the world lay entirely within the framework of images. I was the verbal, philosophical one. Physically, we were opposites as well. I have shoulder-length black hair and honey-brown eyes while Carol resembles a living doll with her waist-length blonde mane and traditional big baby-blue’s.
Sunlight streamed down between the columns in hazy rays that struck me as wordless sentences my heart could almost mysteriously understand. I knew the columns were carved to look like bunches of reeds tied together, and that the space between them gradually narrows as the colonnade progresses west, creating an impression of great distance. We moved silently as ghosts across the sand toward a door of pure white light at the end, but when we passed through it we found ourselves in another empty section of desert, not in the magical realm of the next world.
How Carol located the particular mastaba she was working in is beyond me. She must have charted her way by counting sand dunes as I wandered behind her, enthralled by the desert’s featureless haze, and the ethereal violet color shimmering above the horizon like a veil separating this harsh world from a softer, more flowing dimension not yet broken up into space and time, shape and sound. The silence was so intense I could almost hear it—a subliminal hollow, haunting sound like the wind already blowing through what would one day be the vacant shell of my skull. The lifeless emptiness pressed against my senses in a strangely arousing way, and as I paused to fully experience it, Carol disappeared. I staggered across the deep sand in the direction I had last seen her, and was relieved to catch sight of her just below me as I crested a hill, that was steeper than I had thought. Distances and appearances were obviously deceptive in the desert, where there were no landmarks to judge them by. We passed the sights of several ongoing excavations—deep pits in the sand it would have been disturbingly easy to fall into. None of the doggedly patient archaeologists responsible for them were in evidence, but clearly Saqqara had not yet yielded up all its treasures.
Up and down we went over increasingly rocky dunes, during which time we both paused to take several long sips from our thermoses. I had never experienced such dry air before, yet despite the sun’s relentlessly penetrating rays, the temperature was ideal.
“We’re almost there,” Carol announced as we reached the summit of another steep incline.
I ran my fingers through my hair. Thanks to the desert’s natural blow dryer, it was incredibly soft and straight. Carol skipped gracefully down the hill, but preoccupied as I was with the paradoxical cosmetic benefits of a deadly environment, I tripped near the top and gathered so much momentum on the way down, I could not stop myself from running straight into a man’s arms.
Seemingly unsurprised by my abruptly passionate embrace, he detached me from him gently and smiled. “Hello,” he said, and I might have been looking straight through his skull at the sky his eyes were so intensely blue.
“Hello!” I gasped, letting go of him as I regained my balance. “I’m so sorry!”
“You have to watch your step around here.”
“Simon,” Carol's voice was slightly husky, “this is Mary, my friend from Boston.”
Now I knew exactly why she had learned so much about ancient Egypt.
“Nice to meet you, Mary,” Simon said politely, but his body language was more than a little impatient as he turned away and disappeared into a rock outcropping I abruptly realized was actually a mastaba.
Carol followed her employer into the tomb.
Anxious not to interfere with their work, I paused in the pleasantly cool little entrance corridor. Smiling figures the size of my fingers moved in procession towards the burial chamber in row upon row of bas-reliefs still glowing with life after centuries. Much of the original paint remained, especially the red-brown tone of flesh and the bright white of dresses and loincloths.
Losing myself in vivid scenes of daily life, I was especially captivated by a boat depicted over a row of tiny pyramids—a stylized rendering of the river’s surface—beneath which a variety of fish were carved in exquisitely realistic detail. My eyes ensnared by the scenes bursting with life around me, I set the thermos down and let my purse slip from my shoulder onto the sand. I focused on a perfectly proportioned young man carrying the entire hind leg of a cow in his arms, part of the delectable fare being offered to the deceased, which also included baskets of fruit, vegetables and grains. It was as if the whole world was being laid before her.
Tearing my eyes away from a cat triumphantly carrying a duck in its jaws, I suddenly found myself studying a man's very nicely tanned life-size legs. It was as though one of the figures carved on the wall had been released from his stone spell, and made real before my eyes as they traveled slowly up to his bare chest, and lingered there appreciatively before moving up to his face.
“Hi,” he said, which should have popped the bubble of timelessness I felt myself floating in, but for some reason, it didn't.
“Hi,” I echoed. Of course he was wearing shorts, not a loincloth.
“You must be Carol’s friend, Mary.” He extended his hand. “I’m Steve.”
I approved of his firm grip. In my opinion, limp, reluctant handshakes don't speak well of a person. “Nice to meet you, Steve.”
He glanced around us at the bas-reliefs I had been admiring. “Beautiful, aren’t they?”
“When did you get here?”
“I flew in yesterday afternoon.”
“You’re going to love Egypt, Mary. I'll see you later.” He slipped past me out of the tomb.
Set up in the largest room of the mastaba, Carol’s photographic equipment made me think of a lunar module just landed on the otherworldly sand of the silent tomb. Silver light-stands reared their black hooded heads around the camera focused on one small section of wall.
Staying away from the sensitive equipment, I examined the bas-reliefs on the opposite wall while Simon and Carol took an astronomically long time setting up just one shot. I must admit, I found it difficult to concentrate on the tomb paintings with such an exquisite three-dimensional representation of the male form occupying the same space with me. Occasionally, I glanced over at my friend and her employer. Simon was dressed just like the traditional Great White Hunter, in khaki shorts and a matching short-sleeved button-down shirt, an adventurous style somewhat marred by clean white socks and very cushy-looking sneakers. He was tight and tan everywhere, and either he had bought stock in Coppertone or he was blessed with a magical gene that enabled his fair skin to turn golden instead of red beneath the sun, a stunning contrast to his Nordic-blond hair and blue eyes.
I wondered how Carol was able to concentrate on her work, yet I wasn’t surprised she hadn’t told me how attractive her boss was. I loved her dearly, but ever since grade school she had done her best to keep me away from any boy she was interested in. The fact that he was an Egyptologist as well as stunningly handsome added up to the very annoying fact that I could not concentrate on bas-reliefs I had waited years to see in reality.
We were in one of the very early mastabas, and it had clearly belonged to a woman. She looked incredibly peaceful, happy and assured of her immortality. The clean, form-fitting lines of her ankle-length dress and her casually pulled back hair also struck me as strangely contemporary, as if I was looking at a princess of the twenty-second or twenty-third century rather than at a girl who lived thousands of years ago. Her image was considerably larger than those of the people bringing her offerings, yet I could barely make her out on the pale stone wall in her tight white dress. She was holding a lotus flower up to her smiling face, eternally inhaling its fragrance.
“You know, Mary,” Simon murmured in my ear, “if you put your hair up in a ponytail like the princess is wearing it, you would look remarkably like her.”
Turning to face him, I met his eyes and replied, “I'd really like to believe I have an immortal soul, but I didn't come to Egypt because I imagine I was Nefertiti or Cleopatra in a past life, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
He arched a dark-golden eyebrow. “Methinks you protest too much?” he said, but he smiled.
“Do you believe in reincarnation? Is that why you're so interested in ancient Egypt?”
“I apologize, Mary. Please understand that I've dealt with a lot of people in search of funding, and some of my most generous donors either believe in, or dabble in the possibility of, reincarnation, and ancient Egypt is a very popular location for a past life. Because of its thousands of years of history and its countless tombs, ancient Egypt is highly prized karmic real estate.”
I laughed. “I take it you don't believe in past lives?”
“I believe in life,” he replied soberly. “And that's all.”
“What do you mean?”
He looked away from me at the smiling ancient Egyptian princess. “Life is, and always will be, and anything else is pointless speculation.”
“That's not exactly true, Simon,” I countered. I had, after all, been raised by two Agnostic attorneys. “Life came into existence and, when the universe burns out, all life will disappear. That's a scientific fact, so I assume that by speculation you're referring to religious beliefs in a soul that survives the death of the body but cannot be detected by any physical instruments because it is not part of material existence.”
He returned his attention to my living face. “Material existence is life, and there is nothing beyond it, literally nothing, end of story.”
“But according to modern physics, our universe, and all life as we know it, exploded out of nothing.” I was just getting warmed up. “Which means nothing, or what appears to be nothing is really the mysterious seed of everything!”
A series of lightning-like flashes silently filled the tomb as Carol began taking multiple photographs of a small section of one wall. When I opened my eyes again, Simon had vanished. But of course he hadn't, he was still very much alive, and telling Carol where to point her camera next.
Annoyed that he had simply dropped our conversation just when I felt it was getting interesting, I turned on my heels and hurried toward the exit, where I nearly collided with Steve, who was on his way back in.
“Off to explore more tombs, Mary?”
“Then I recommend you begin with the one behind this one, and just to the right. It’s exquisite. And I already turned the lights on for you.”
“Wow, thank you. I’ll do that.”
The princess' mastaba was part of a small group Carol had informed me was off the beaten tourist track. Following Steve's directions, I entered another and larger mastaba. I immediately sensed I was all alone in here, and the silence in the well lit corridors and chambers weighed against me in a mysteriously challenging way. Suddenly, I felt really tired, almost depressed. A little desperately, I concluded that I was simply suffering from jet lag.
Take a nap.
Could I really just lie down and go to sleep in the middle of a tomb? Well, why not? It might be interesting, and it beat standing around waiting for Carol to get off work. Feeling strangely excited now, I followed the painted processions into the largest room at the very back. After removing the bulkier objects it contained, I beat my purse into a relatively comfortable pillow, and lay down across the soft cool sand. The only part of my body that wasn’t tired was my mouth, which curved upward as my eyes closed…
...Sensing a presence, I rise. At the end of a straight path of white sand ending at the horizon, I perceive the tall figure of a man silhouetted against a sky the color of blood. I know him! And he knows me! He knows me like no one else knows me or ever can! He begins walking toward me, and the feeling of how much we love each other grows stronger and stronger. He loves me! And I love him, more than anything! When he calls my name, his gentle voice rings directly in my mind, “Mary...”
A much smaller voice outside of me echoes, “Mary, wake up.”
Opening my eyes, I saw Simon crouching beside me. Rising, he offered me his hand, and I let him pull me to my feet.
“You have a bad case of jet lag,” he observed.
“Are you hungry as well as grouchy?”
“Yes, I guess so.” But all I really felt was a crushing disappointment the powerful love I had just experienced was only a dream.