Grated at the edges
He was sitting all huddled up in what seemed like an old blanket pretending to be a not-so-old shawl. All I could see was heavy lidded red-rimmed eyes, sallow cheeks and cracked lips peeking from under a robust, hearty mustache. Faint traces of sunlight turned the rocks around into molten gold. This was early morning in Petra and tourists like me were going around staring in slack-jawed wonder at the sheer majesty of it. There was a charcoal stove in his little tea store which first attracted my attention and then I saw that he had an assistant who was brewing mint tea. On that cold morning it was a sight that warmed me to the core. And so I wound up sitting beside him sipping tea and listening to him.
I will never forget that voice. It emerged from somewhere deep within, crusty and grated at the edges with a vibrant resonance at the center. I could have grated cheese with that voice! He barely opened his mouth to speak yet every word was clearly enunciated. We talked about Indian movie stars, life in Petra, tourists, the state of affairs in the world, the merits of taking a donkey ride up to the top to see the famed Monastery, the attractive complexion of Indian women…. I let him do most of the talking while I just listened. His voice seemed to take in some of the smoke from the charcoal fire at times and occasionally it felt like the words would break into brittle little pieces and float away into the mist. Even now, a week later, I can recall the smoky, tangy flavor of his voice with its serrated edges.
Sometimes all it takes is a voice to turn a great vacation into a memorable one.