This ancient city is thick with people tonight. They move through its narrow streets and hairs’ breadth alleys slowly, like a flood tide. The throng’s collective voices, lapping one over another, are a steady drone of sound. Not a word is decipherable. Old buildings lean against one another, crowding up against the streets’ edges to observe in silence as the human river inches by.
We are not surprised by the crowd, as this is a night of singular celebration. But my senses are overwhelmed. The constant hum of noise is a vibration so palpable, I feel it in my skin. Everywhere I look, the people are clothed in subtle shades of shifting red, and they move ceaselessly in the darkness; their bodies press so close, I can scarcely tell myself from any other. My mother and I are squeezed to the margins, pushed backward away from the mass until we find ourselves forced across a low stone bridge that stretches over a canal. The dark water moves slowly, slips easily between its banks and on its way.
At the far side of the canal, there is a calm silence. The grass is thick and damp and empty of people. Here, in this quiet space, my mother and I are able to spread our mats. We lie down on our backs and look up at a vast, dark sky illuminated with countless bright stars.