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This report is taken from PN Review 125, Volume 25 Number 3, January - February 1999.

The Gaze of the Turkish Mona Lisa Christopher Middleton

I could feel her gaze resting on me, so strangely, lightly, that it would have been inept to return it. She sat diagonally opposite, at a small square table, in this 'Iskender Kebap', or Alexandrian Grill. There she had settled with her sturdy husband and fat (anon hiccuping) son. Close as this family was to me at my identical table, their conversation, scant in any case, was almost inaudible. Me in my buff travelling shirt and white trousers, with my white beard, rather ragged, thinning brown hair, she was taking me in. While she'd been sitting down I had looked at her: a fleshy woman wearing a headscarf that spread across broad shoulders, a nondescript headscarf. Then, in an instant, I had noticed something about her lower lip. As she almost smiled, or pouted, a tiny crease appeared in it, a seamark on a horizon. I remembered the same crease which appeared now and then in Tana Cochran's lower lip, also halfway along the left half of it, whenever she looked rueful but was also taking me in. What sort of a conspiracy might this be?

This Turkish woman's moon face would have looked heavy, too much flesh, if it had not been for her delicate features, the tilted planes of skin which pronounced those features, catching the light as she turned her head. Her eyes were not large, but lazy, inviting intimacy, the skin a rosy brown with a velvet texture, and now a gentle disdain, ...


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