The search for love (part 2)

(con’t from part 1)

One month passed, Salam’s silent annoyance got to my nerves and I stopped going to his store to buy things. I didn’t know how to tell him: no reply no reply no reply… just give up. I stopped going to his store, but he started coming to my house after he closed the store, he would stand quietly outside of my window, but he wouldn’t knock, he would just wait until I saw him and told him that there was no letter, then he would thank me feebly, slowly walk back to his shop, sit on the floor and stare at the sky for hours.

After quite some time, one day I opened the postbox. There were several letters, and also a notice from the post office asking me to go there.

“What is it?” I asked people at the post office.

“A registered letter in your mailbox, to a Salam… Hamidah, is that your friend? Or is it the wrong address?”

“Oh…” I cried out. With this letter from Monaco in my hand, I got goose bumps all over my body. I picked up the letter and walked home hastily.

I misinterpreted the whole thing; she wasn’t a con artist. She had written back, and even sent her letter by registered mail. Salam would definitely be on cloud nine.

“Read it, read it now!” Salam said as he closed the store. He was trembling, and his eyes had the glint of a deranged man.

I opened the letter. It was in French, I felt so sorry for Salam.

“It’s in French…” I bit my finger. When Salam heard this he became so anxious he couldn’t stand still. “It must be for me, right?” he asked softly, as if afraid he would wake up from his sweet dream if he was too loud.

“It is for you, she said she loves you.” I could only read that sentence.

“Make a guess, please, what else did she say?” Salam did seem nuts.

“I can’t, we’ll have to wait until José is off work.”

Then I went home, Salam followed me closely like a vampire or a ghost. I had to invite him inside the house, had him sit down and wait for José.

José sometimes got worked up over his colleagues at work, and would look angry when he got home. I got used to it and stopped bothering.

That day he came back earlier than usual. He saw Salam but just nodded coldly, and then he went to change his shoes without saying a word. Salam was holding the letter in his hand, waiting for José to notice him, but José didn’t look at him and went straight into the bedroom. When he finally came out, he already changed into shorts and was heading towards the bathroom.

By then Salam’s anxiety from waiting was at breaking point. All of a sudden and without a word he plumped down on his knees in front of José, holding the letter. He looked like he was about to grab José’s legs. I was shocked when I saw this from the kitchen. Salam had gone too far. I was mad at myself for bringing this nutcase back to make a scene in our tiny place.

José was still deeply engrossed in his own world when Salam knelt before him suddenly and terrified him to death. “What on earth…what on earth is this?” he yelled. “Sanmao, help!”

I struggled to pull Salam away from José, and finally got both of them to calm down. I was so exhausted I couldn’t be bothered with anything anymore; I just wanted Salam to get out quickly and leave me in peace. José finished reading the letter and told Salam, “Your wife says she loves you too. She cannot come to the Sahara now because she doesn’t have money. Please prepare one hundred thousand pesetas and send it to her brother’s place in Algeria. He will use the money to buy an air ticket for her to come here, and you will never be apart again.”

“What? You have got to be kidding me! She wants money again?” I cried.

Salam was not disappointed even the slightest. He just kept asking José over and over, “Saida says she will come? She will come?”His eyes were filled with joy, like he was in a dream.

“Money? That’s not a problem. I can take care of it…’ he muttered to himself.

“Forget it, Salam.” It didn’t seem possible to persuade him.

“Here. This is for you,” Salam was so happy that he seemed to have lost his head, for he took off the only silver ring on his finger and pressed it into José’s hand.

“Salam, I can’t take this. Keep it for yourself.” José put the ring back on Salam’s finger.

“Thank you, both of you have helped me so much.” Salam was very grateful to us when he left.

“What is with this wife of Salam’s? He’s head over heels for her,” José asked in bewilderment.

“What wife? She’s clearly a whore!” This fake flower deserved to be called that.

Since he received the letter, Salam pulled out all the stops to get a part-time job. During the day, he went to the shop, and then at night he baked bread in a large bakery. He worked hard round the clock, only managed to sleep from five to eight in the wee hours.

In just half a month, he lost a lot of weight rapidly and was looking gaunt. His eyes were red, his hair was messy and dirty, his clothes wrinkly like washcloths. But he began to talk more, and as he spoke he was so full of hope in life. Yet I didn’t know why I still thought he was in emotional agony.

After a while, I noticed he had quitted smoking. “I need to save every penny, it is fine not to smoke,” he said.

“Salam, you’re working so hard day and night, how much have you saved?” I asked him. Two months passed and he had become a skeleton.

“Ten thousand, ten thousand in two months. It’s getting there, getting there, don’t worry.” He was talking nonsense. He got really worn out with this prolonged sleep deprivation.

All this time I was thinking, what kind of superpower did this Saida have, that could make this man who had been with her for just three days to love her this much? And how could she have given him such happiness that was so unforgettable?

After some time, Salam was still hanging on like a zombie that lost his mind. Was it necessary for a man to hang on like this till death?

One night, Salam was really exhausted. He put his hands on red hot iron and got them badly burnt, but his brother did not let him close the shop and rest during the day.

I saw him working in the shop; he had to hold things between his wrists to give customers clumsily, taking one thing and dropping another. His brother arrived and watched with cold indifference, which made him more nervous and dropped tomatoes all over the place. He tried to pick them up but it was too painful for him to use his fingers, as they were inflamed and swollen with pus. Sweat streamed down his face.

Poor Salam, when would he be relieved from this crazy obsession with Saida? He looked even lonelier than before.

Ever since he burnt his hands, Salam would come every night to have ointment applied on his wound, and then he would go back to the bakery to work. It was only at our house, that he could be carefree about this secret from the bottom of his heart. He had completely forgotten the suffering that Saida had caused him. The more money he saved, the closer he would be to the happiness he dreamt of.

One night Salam came to our place as usual, I asked him to join us for dinner, he said he’d rather not eat because his hands were still wounded.

But he was still fixated on the one dream he had. “I’ll be fine soon. My hands are starting to scar, maybe I can bake again today, and Saida…”

José listened to Salam with sympathy this time. I was getting cotton balls and bandages to change the ointment on his hands, and I heard him went on and on about her again. I was disgusted, and I said to him, “Saida, Saida, Saida, you talk about her all the time, do you seriously not know that – SAIDA-IS-A-WHORE!”

And the moment those words came out of my mouth, I couldn’t put them back. José raised his head and looked at Salam. The room was dead silent, as if time froze.

I thought Salam would jump up and strangle me, but he did not. What I said to him hit him like a huge bat. Slowly, he turned his head towards me and stared at me. He wanted to say something but couldn’t utter a word. And I stared back at his skinny ghost-like face.

There was no anger on his face, he held his badly burnt hands up and looked at them. As he looked at his hands, he burst into tears. He stormed out without saying anything and ran into the darkness of the open fields.

José asked me gently, “Do you think he understands that he’s been fooled?”

“He knew from the very beginning, but he just wouldn’t wake up. If he was not to save himself, who can save him?” I was sure about what Salam felt.

“Saida must have put a spell on him,” said José.

“Saida could have bewitched him by fulfilling his lust, but Salam took her body as an embodiment of what he had been missing all his life. What he wanted is love, a family, affection and warmth. And for this young man with such a lonely and reserved heart, the encounter with this tiny bit of ‘love’, even if it was fake, would make him give up everything just to hold on to it.”

José remained silent; he turned off the light and sat in darkness.

(to be continued…)

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原文:愛的尋求

摘自三毛《撒哈拉的故事》

一個月又過去了,我被沙崙無聲的糾纏弄得十分頭痛,我不再去他店裡買東西,我也不知道如何告訴他,沒有回信,沒有回信,沒有回信——死心算了。我不去他的店,他每天關了店門就來悄悄的站在我窗外,也不敲門,要等到我看到他了,告訴他沒有信,他才輕輕的道聲謝,慢慢走回小店前,坐在地上呆望著天空,一望好幾小時。

過了很久一陣,有一次我開信箱,裡面有我幾封信,還有一張郵局辦公室的通知單,叫我去一趟。

「是什麼東西?」我問郵局的人。

「一封掛號信,你的郵箱,給一個什麼沙崙——哈米達,是你的朋友,還是寄錯了?」

「啊——」我拿著這封摩納哥寄來的信,驚叫出來,全身寒毛豎立。抓起了信,往回家的路上快步走去。

我完全錯估了這件事情,她不是騙子,她來信了,還是掛號信,沙崙要高興得不知什麼樣子了。

「快念,快念!」 沙崙一面關店一面說,他人在發抖,眼睛發出瘋子似的光芒。

打開信來一看,是法文的,我真對沙崙抱歉。

「是法文——。」我咬咬手指,沙崙一聽,急得走投無路。「是給我的總沒錯吧!」他輕輕的問。深怕大聲了,這個美夢會醒。

「是給你的,她說她愛你。」我只看得懂這一句。

「隨便猜猜,求你,還說什麼?」沙崙像瘋子了。

「猜不出,等荷西下班吧。」

我走回家,沙崙就像個殭屍鬼似的直直的跟在我後面,我只好叫他進屋,坐下來等荷西。

荷西有時在外面做事受了同事的氣,回來時臉色會很兇,我已經習慣了,不以為意。

那天他回來得特別早,看見沙崙在,只冷淡的點點頭,就去換鞋子,也不說一句話。沙崙手裡拿著信,等荷西再注意他,但是荷西沒有理他,又走到臥室去了,好不容易又出來了,身上一條短褲,又往浴室走去。

沙崙此時的緊張等待已經到了飽和點,他突然一聲不響,拿著信,啪一下跪撲在荷西腳前,好似要上去抱荷西的腿。我在廚房看見這情景嚇了一大跳,沙崙太過份了,我對自己生氣,將這個瘋子弄回那麼小的家裡來亂吵。

荷西正在他自己那個世界裡神遊,突然被沙崙在面前一跪,嚇得半死,大叫:「怎麼搞的,怎麼搞的,三毛,快來救命啊——」

我用力去拉沙崙,好不容易將他和荷西都鎮定住,我已經累得心灰意懶了,只恨不得沙崙快快出去給我安靜。荷西念完了信,告訴沙崙:「你太太說,她也是愛你的,現在她不能來撒哈拉,因為沒有錢,請你設法籌十萬塊西幣,送去阿爾及利亞她哥哥處,她哥哥會用這個錢買機票給她到你身邊來,再也不分離了。」

「什麼?見她的大頭鬼,又要錢——。」我大叫出來。

沙崙倒是一點也不失望,他只一遍一遍的問荷西:「沙伊達說她肯來?她肯來?」他的眼光如同在做夢一般幸福。

「錢,沒有問題,好辦,好辦——。」他喃喃自語。

「算啦,沙崙——。」我看勸也好似勸不醒他。

「這個,送給你。」沙崙像被喜悅沖昏了頭,脫下他手上唯一的銀戒指,塞在荷西手裡。

「沙崙,我不能收,你留下給自己。」荷西一把又替他戴回他手指去。

「謝謝,你們幫了我很多。」沙崙滿懷感激的走了。

「這個沙崙太太到底怎麼回事?沙崙為她瘋狂了。」荷西莫名其妙的說。

「什麼太太嘛,明明是個婊子!」這朵假花只配這樣叫她。

自從收到這封信之後,沙崙又千方百計找到了一個兼差,白天管店,夜間在鎮上的大麵包店烤麵包,日日夜夜的辛勞工作,只有在清晨五點到八點左右可以睡覺。

半個月下來,他很快速的憔悴下來,人瘦了很多,眼睛佈滿血絲,頭髮又亂又髒,衣服像抹布一樣縐,但是他話多起來了,說話時對生命充滿盼望,但是我不知怎的覺得他內心還是在受著很大的痛苦。

過了不久,我發覺他煙也戒掉了。「要每一分錢都省下來,煙不抽不要緊。」他說。

「沙崙,你日日夜夜辛苦,存了多少?」我問他。兩個月以後,他已是一副骨架子了。

「一萬塊,兩個月存了一萬,快了,快了,你不用替我急。」他語無倫次,長久的缺乏睡眠,他的神經已經衰弱得不得了。

我心裡一直在想,沙伊達有什麼魔力,使一個只跟她短短相處過三天的男人這樣愛她,這樣不能忘懷她所給予的幸福。

又過了好一陣,沙崙仍不生不死的在發著他的神經,一個人要這樣撐到死嗎?

一個晚上,沙崙太累了,他將兩隻手放到烤紅的鐵皮上去,雙手受到了嚴重的燙傷。白天店裡的工作,他哥哥並沒有許他關店休息。

我看他賣東西時,用兩手腕處夾著拿東西賣給顧客,手忙腳亂,拿了這個又掉了那個。他哥哥來了,冷眼旁觀,他更緊張,蕃茄落了一地,去撿時,手指又因為灌膿,痛得不能著力,汗,大滴大滴的流下來。

可憐的沙崙,什麼時候才能從對​​沙伊達瘋狂的渴望中解脫出來?平日的他顯得更孤苦了。

自從手燙了之後,沙崙每夜都來塗藥膏,再去麵包店上工。只有在我們家,他可以盡情流露出他心底的秘密,他已完全忘了過去沙伊達給他的挫折,只要多存一塊錢,他夢想的幸福就更接近了。

那天夜裡他照例又來了,我們叫他一同吃飯,他說手不方便,乾脆就不吃東西。

「我馬上就好了,手馬上要結疤了,今天也許可以烤麵包了,沙伊達她——。」他又開始做起那個不變的夢。

荷西這一次卻很憐憫溫和的聽沙崙說話,我正將棉花紗布拿出來要給沙崙換藥,一聽他又講了又來了,心裡一陣煩厭,對著沙崙說:「沙伊達,沙伊達,沙伊達,一天到晚講她,你真不知道還是假不知道,沙—伊—達—是——婊子。」

我這些話衝口而出,也收不回來了。荷西猛一下抬起頭來注視著沙崙,室內一片要凍結起來的死寂。

我以為沙崙會跳上來把我捏死,但是他沒有。我對他講的話像個大棍子重重的擊倒了他,他緩緩的轉過頭來往我定定的望著,要說話,說不出一個字,我也定定的看著他瘦得像鬼一樣可憐的臉。

他臉上沒有憤怒的表情,他將那雙燙爛了的手舉起來,望著手,望著手,眼淚突然嘩一下流瀉出來,他一句話也沒有講,奪門而出,往黑暗的曠野裡跑去。

「你想他明白受騙了嗎?」荷西輕輕的問我。

「他從開始到現在,心裡一直明明白白,只是不肯醒過來,他不肯自救,誰能救他。」我肯定沙崙的心情。

「沙伊達用蠱術迷了他。」荷西說。

「沙伊達能迷住他的不過是情慾上的給予,而這個沙崙一定要將沙伊達的肉體,解釋做他這一生所有缺乏的東西的代表,他要的是愛,是親情,是家,是溫暖。這麼一個拘謹孤單年輕的心,碰到一點即使是假的愛情,也當然要不顧一切的去抓住了。」

荷西一聲不響,將燈熄了,坐在黑暗中。

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