Romancing Burnt Sienna

This is a response to the second prompt from Magpie Tales started by Willow.

She stood at the window and looked at the sea. Beads of sweat cooled at her neck, a light breeze stirred her hair gently. Mosquitoes hummed drowsily and she became aware of the darkness settling in the corners of the room, the purple sky was descending into a well of darkness, the horizon disappeared after a last glimmer.

She moved to the large polished table, lit the bee wax candles on the wrought iron candelabra. The candles threw a pale pearly light in the dark room. She fidgeted the matchbox; her eyes descended on the box – burnt sienna, the colour of her marriage sari brocaded in the rich silk of south India. She ran her manicured finger over the box, opened it.  She smelt the matches; they carried the smell of a different world, a different culture, quite like her husband who carries a different time in him.

The burnt sienna triggered a memory of an evening when he took her to Arikamedu, a nondescript suburb south of Pondicherry.  It was once a busy port town that docked Roman ships. He took her in a boat from a fishing village, they went deep into the sea and the land curved behind them. She saw a mangrove at a distance and saw that they were moving beyond the lip of the land towards an inlet of a river, thick with moss and algae. The boat sliced the water that was like a sheet of green glass, just the way the Romans did in the first century, he said.  They pulled up on a thin bar of sand and beyond there was no habitation, only dense thickets.

He lead her through the brambles, polythene covers clung to the thorn thickets and blew gaily in the breeze from the sea. She saw empty bottles of beer and cigarette butts, revelers from the city she thought with disgust.

He wasn’t aware of his surroundings, he had moved to a different time and seemed a different person. He had been during those early months of courtship a mysterious lover who went on his archaeological digs, that evening she saw him descend into the world that he dug and excavated.

He took her to a trench where layers of digs had been completed, he led her down the trench. It was once a bead making unit, beads of various hues in various stages of making had been found there. Glass came from different parts of south India and it was blown into tubes, pinched into drops to make exquisite jewellery that went to different parts of the Roman Empire.

They stood on even land and he held out a shard of pottery for her. It contained beads, a dark mass in the failing light. As she held the pot he lit a match that threw light on the cluster of translucent glass beads the colour of burnt sienna. She held a bead in her fingers, veins of light flowed through the small piece of glass. She stood there transposed to the world that these drops of colour and light travelled, all the people they adorned.

She opened her chest of drawers and took the box where she had kept the bead. She placed the bead on the match box, the bead left a stain of glow on the match box. Does Bratislava have a Roman connection like Arikamedu?


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