My mother would hate me if she knew I had become a slave. And it’s all because of you.
I am as much a victim as you are, woman. Your enslavement shall be one of the body; your mind, your soul, your anima, shall remain free. And that is why I need you. Through your eyes I can remember events I have never witnessed. Your eyes can metamorphose the past into the tales of the present; without you, sweet little woman, I shall continue to be a cuckolded ghost as I have done for the last five centuries.
Who are you? Are you Spanish, like me? Spanish, like these men that have taken me off the street and used drugs as their whip of enslavement.
I am Theodora, daughter of princess Clotilde, and in many ways, a son of a bitch. I am not Spanish, woman. My hair is blonde, my eyes azure like the Atlantic on a radiant day, and my bones are slender like a pine tree in winter. I am a Visigoth, heiress to the throne, but, yes, I was born in Spain. Is your culture decided by the place you are born in or the people you are born to?
I don’t belong to anyone. Neither the ongoing landscapes nor the oblivious passersby care for me. I am homeless, nationless, so perhaps it is right I end up like this. A whore for the black market. The cold kiss of the gun’s lips on the back of my neck is my passport. So tell me, Theodora, where are we going next?
Out of Spain, woman. There is nothing left for us in Spain now. Get yourself exported to Monaco; there I will see my first memory of Maslama.
Who is she?
He, you ignorant whore, Maslama is a he. And he, is the reason I am here. Maslama was the love of my life, the promised phoenix whose wings would one day lift me away from the ashes of enforced destitution. He was the most handsome Berber I had ever set eyes on. A body as agile as the wind and as dark as a coffee bean, with long hair as smooth as a blade of grass, and eyes grey like an aged diamond. He was made for me. Not by God, you see, He would, and did, frown upon our romance. No, he was made for me by something greater than god, or perhaps God’s agent amongst us: the hand of chance designed us to be together. It was clear from before he was even born. When he was still in the confines of his mother’s womb, Maslama, my poet of ivory touch, overheard his father speaking of a princess promised for him, a princess who lived in the palaces of Mecca, whose fortune outshone the hedonism of the stars. Even from before he was born Maslama was ordained to be her husband. Confident of such riches, was it any wonder he was born smiling.
Were you the princess?
I couldn’t have been. You see my riches were taken from me when I was just a girl. With the invasion of the Berbers my parents were overthrown, slaughtered and myself abandoned to the streets. Just a girl, whose life became obsessed by the re-possession of wealth and the amnesiac need for greed. But, to my heart’s great relief, after many years of stifling poverty, I met Maslama, and found that he too had been deprived his promise of riches by the assassination of his own parents. We met as dirty orphans on the streets of Toledo, the glorious city our families once governed and, enamoured by beauty and the sinuousness of our dreams, we fell crazily in love.
We are in France now, in Monaco. It’s so cold in these cages. But the temperature is not cold; I am only cold at the sound of luxury and prosperity reaching me from outside this crate. Fortunes are being made in those casinos, fortunes that will, by tonight, have purchased me. But I don’t understand, why are we here?
We are here because of Maslama’s beauteous greed. He detested his enforced impoverishment and resolved to end it at all costs. He remembered, the way an old man remembers the prayers he learned as a child, that he was promised a magnanimous princess. He was determined to find her, she was his birthright, his salvation. “Aren’t I your princess?” I would tell him, begging him to stay with me. He wouldn’t speak, then. And I knew he had already left me, even when he was stood right next to me. One morning, when a shooting star struck an old ruined castle with fiery rage, he enrolled as a mercenary in the Burgundian navy. I never saw him again. But I will see him now, through your eyes.
Can we not stay here long. I don’t like the bad breath of these French who go down on me as if I was their dog. It’s strange… how much these hideous men actually love me whenever they touch me.
We won’t stay long. But, ah, I can see him now, my beloved Maslama, spearheading an attack on a Saracenic fleet. In this battle of faiths in the western Mediterranean, there can only be one victor: Maslama’s beauty. He slaughtered 512 Saracens that day and was made an instant hero. When the battle was over, the drowning corpses were left floating on the surface of the water, and when the afternoon sun shone on them, it looked as if the sea was a carpet of fire. That evening, the Duke of Burgundy invited Maslama to his court to celebrate their victory. The celebrations were so hard and the Duke of Burgundy got so drunk that he sold off half his dukedom to a spinstress. Maslama, raised Muslim, could not handle drink very well, and to fight back its poisonous touch, he retired to a dark corner and incessantly recited verses of the Qoran. By the end of the night his drunkenness had made him a scholar. Now, take yourself to Rome.
The streets of Rome are so lonesome. The only eyes that see me are my owner’s, ensuring I don’t take a share out of their profits. They tell me to beg from Muslims, as they are forbidden by their faith to turn down beggars. I make a pretty penny. But my bottom is freezing on the cobbled streets of the eternally damned city. Can we go soon, they want to put me in the fields.
In Italy Maslama was conscripted as an assassin by the Duke of Ravenna, who wanted to murder Pope Adrian I. The Pope had designs on Ravenna and the proud Duke would not let God’s right-hand man lay claim to what is not his. “If God made everything, isn’t everything the Pope’s kingdom?” Maslama asked the Duke before he set off on his mission. “God made Rome. Ravenna was made by us.” Maslama travelled to Rome in the darkest night, and, assisted by the spells of gypsies he met along the way, in the mountain forests, he entered the modest vatican cloaked in a veil of invisibility. When he arrived in the Pope’s chambers, knife in hand, he overheard the Pope talking in his sleep. To his bewilderment, the Pope was reciting verses from the Qoran. Soon, the Pope and the assassin were reciting Qoranic poems together, the Pope as he slept and Maslama sat next to his bed. When he awoke, Maslama looked bewitchingly into the Pope’s eyes, and spoke with the voice of an owl: “I am here to murder you, but I cannot murder one of my own.” The Pope, enamoured by the naïve beauty of my Maslama, had him pardoned on the condition that he revealed the identity of his employer. Ravenna was soon annexed into the Papal territories and Maslama became the Pope’s secret companion. Using his cloak of invisibility he would enter the Pope’s chambers every night and together they would discuss and sing the truths of the Qoran.
Where do we go now? Can it be somewhere sunny. I am sick of the cold. And the cold is sick of me.
On to Constantinople.
I am scared of the Russian that owns me. His voice is like a mudslide and his body is ancient and grotesque. And his fetishes, my sweet God, how could You have made this? He whips me and scratches me and runs a knife along my spine so that, by the time he enters me, I am grateful for the softness of his cock.
In the heart of the Byzantine Empire, in the city that straddles continents, my Maslama, he, he became a renowned lover of women. His gift for love-making had helped end the first iconoclasm; purely because the women he loved felt so divine after consorting with him, that they were compelled to give thanks to the Virgin Mary, and when they went to the churches and the illiterate women could not see her image, they were distraught. Some began to kill themselves, which is why eventually the emperor had to reinstate icons in all the churches. My Maslama…
Did you never make love to him?
I never had the chance. We were still so young and, despite our bitterness, we were both pious. Although, come to think of it, he never seemed interested. Why would he be? We were children. But, if he had mentioned it, I would have given him the world. Why didn’t he mention it? What did the women of Constantinople have that I did not?
Maybe he made love to them because he didn’t care for them. Men need sex like they need bread.
I don’t believe that.
I know it to be true – otherwise I would not have travelled an entire continent to be the sex slave of men whose hearts are bereft of love.
Lets carry on, I want to know if he found his princess. I want to know if he loved her the way he loved me. I’m beginning to hate him, but I know I am wrong. Love does not lie, just like the song of the canary or the passing of the seasons. It is a thing, organic and palpable, and once conceived it needs a canker to make it rot. Only, if the love he swore to me was a lie, I would rather not have been born.
Where are we going now?
The last treck of our journey. We go to the Arabian peninsula, his destination as well as ours. The home of the princess he abandoned me for.
Saudi Arabia, must we go to that hell? I don’t care for my own degredation anymore, but to be forced to work beside little girls who have not even hit puberty, to listen to their restrained wailing and the crunching of their bones. I have made friends with a thirteen year-old Indian girl called Korati, she’s so beautiful, but her face is scarred with acid burns, her hands lacerated by serpentine bruises from whips… all because she didn’t make her quota of men in a day. How can men be so cruel. I would rather humanity never evolved than to have to see all of this.
Be quiet, woman, I can see her. The princess, I can hear him calling out her name, Huzaima. Huzaima… and I can see her, she is far more beautiful than I, her hair longer and her body clean, pure and dark like obsidian. Her eyes are a light amber, her eye-lashes like silken scimitars. Of course he would seek her out. What could I give him that she could not? But then, where is he? He’s not here. Get yourself taken to Mecca, woman, I have to see; his unmarked grave, my Maslama! What happened to thee? Go back, go back just a little further in time, I have to hear the arrows piercing his back like chicken bones. Dying on the outskirts of his Mecca, his face, still so handsome, buried in the sand, bleeding orchids, his eyes open wider than the summer sky. What have they done to thee? They killed you, didn’t they? Why? Because… you divorced their princess – “I divorce thee I divorce thee I divorce thee” – and you were taking with you all her wealth. But you’re, you’re not greedy, are you? You’re mine. You were bringing that wealth back to me. My Maslama why could you never reach me; your heart was as pure as a virginal blossom, yet you would never be mine. And to think, I killed myself because I could not bear to be seperated from you, I could not bear to live alone and impoverished. What would you have done if you came back a prince and found me gone? How you must hate me, I who have been so greedy, in life and in death, and you who were so noble, so selfless. Oh my Maslama you are a temple of manhood. And I am but a woman, weak and fickle, not worthy of the love you carried for me until the day of your death. Won’t history do you justice, won’t men live on, always, in thine image?
I don’t want to stay here anymore, Theodora, I have seen too much, and I would rather die than be passed onto the hands of another gluttunous man. Why can’t they just be happy, what contentmnet does the enslaving of women and children bring them? Am I just a black status symbol for them, or are they genuinely unhappy without me. Either way, I curse all men, even the pure ones, for, given the chance given the wealth, they would be sick masters like all the rest.
Maslama, I will always love you.