Excerpt of The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton
(Page 3 of 7)
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"How about your phone number, then?" he jokes, pseudo-husky,
leaning in again to smell her cheek. She laughs, shoving him off. He winks, and
the color of his eyes makes her think of olives resting in martinis.
Okay, so shes partial to his blond good looks, his humor, and his
consummate skill with a camera. She likes that hes drawn to her face without
make-up and her constantly disheveled short hair. But they arent a couple;
spare her that conventionality. They are colleagues. Plus lovers, when the mood
strikes. Both of them journalists who find the story irresistible and plan to
live in it a long time. Discussions about relationships soon bore her. Too much
dependency invariably backfires, in her experience.
Usually she thinks Marcus agrees. There are, of course, those other times.
Like in the hotel bar last night. Shed been talking about how she didnt
want to sign another year-long lease on her apartment, and hed said shed
become afraid to commit to anything, too hooked on the ephemeral news story to
ever be satisfied with the solidityness of real life. His tone was surprisingly
wistful. She refused, though, to give him a serious response. They were in a
bar, after all, with colleagues. Screw you, shed countered, laughing. News
stories are real life. And they werea form of it, anyway, the way bottled
perfume was a form of odor. Besides, Im just talking about a lease. She could
tell he wanted to say more, but he took another slug of beer, letting it drop.
The mustachioed militiaman who collected their cards strides out of the hut,
shaking his head as though hes uncovered a plot. He motions. Their
driverwhats his name? Hussein? Mohammed?glances back without meeting
anyones eyes. Grains of sweat darken his temples and bead above his lips. He
slides from the jeep, taking the keys with him, as if these journalists were
inmates, plotting to drive off and leave him behind in the vacuous Lebanese
The gunman speaks to the driver in a dull slur that Caddie cant make out.
Their guard is still swaying, his AK-47 balanced delicately in his arms and
pointed in their direction. The crickets grow loud, unusual for midday.
The driver shuffles back and passes out press cards. Three.
"Excuse me," Marcus says. "Wheres mine?"
The driver shrugs.
"Brilliant." Marcus swings out of the jeep, the two Nikons around
his neck bouncing.
Their pear-belly guard stiffens, aiming his gun at Marcuss chest. Caddie
reaches from the Land Rover to try to grab Marcuss arm, but hes too far
"Okay, okay." Marcus raises his hands. "I need my card back.
Card. Back. Comprenez?"
The guard holds his gun steady.
"Tell him, Catherine." Hes still grinning, still outwardly
confident that this adventure is manageable, no more threatening than a Ferris
wheel ride. But Caddie knows he drops her nickname only at serious moments,
"My colleague, please, must have his press identification," Caddie
says in Arabic, addressing both militiamen, trying for a
there-must-be-a-small-mistake smile. "Then we will depart, thank you."
The mustachioed militiaman speaks shotgun-fast to the driverto Caddie it
sounds like "these beans should be fried again in Syria,"and the
driver listens without expression. Caddies Arabic isnt bad, but now she
wishes, deeply, for a better grasp of local colloquialisms.
Another man emerges from the hut. Shirtless, skinny and muscular, he appears
younger than the others. His face is creased in irritation. His hair sticks up
in tufts as though hes been unwillingly roused from bed. Carrying no weapon,
he walks with shoulders high, hands alert, fingers slightly extended. Caddies
tongue suddenly tastes metallic.
From The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton. Copyright
2004. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced
without written permission from the publisher, Unbridled Books.