The caravan went on slowly. It was hot.
That little wet released by the muggy heat was immediately sucked dow by the ground. A dry, barren land that had not been drinking for too long exactly as the people who passed through it.
The sun, pale and strong, burned the ground, no clouds in the sky for some respite.
The passage of the wagons raised the dust, clouding the view. Scattered yellow, hunger and thirst confused the horizon.
They deferred their food and drinks in order to have them till destination. They learned not to waste energy. Nobody talked. There were children crying in silence, women yanked them with few energy. Someone still had the strength to carry them in their arms. Steps were shuffling, animals slowed down after each stop.
Old men sat on the wagons. Young ones carried the sacks on their backs; the girls held the loads on their heads to protect themselves from the sun.
Someone had said that the city was near. They said the same several weeks before, but no sign of the city was visible yet.
On the blurred line reached by sight, only ocher and brown yellow, a nebula of dust and the shimmer of the muggy air.
A horse suddenly stopped. The big carriage’s tent jump. The old men swayed to the right and to the left, pushing each other and shoving without intention. The horse was exhausted. The coachman spurred it without success. He got off the wagon and checked its eyes. They could not afford to lose another animal. He considered whether to sacrifice his water ration, since it would die anyway. Maybe it would go a little further.
The city was near, they said. He gave it water, praying God.
Meanwhile, the young men and women put the bags on the ground. Children stopped crying and looked at the carriage making big eyes. Nobody talked. Animals had no more energy to breathe a single sound. Dust settled on the ground. The heat left room for the desert silence.
For some time no sound could be heard. Until a song was raised.
Everyone turned to the tent. The old master had come down from the cart. He started singing a song that sounded like a lament. He moved from the caravan towards the desert. His arms were open and raised to the sky. He turned his right palm upward, his left one downward, and began spinning slowly. At the same time he would sing and raise his eyes to the sky. His movements were calm and respectful of his body, too weak and old to dance. Everyone looked, no one said anything. One of the young men took a drum out of his sack, sat down on the ground and began to accompany the old man’s lament. His friend took the lute.
It was then that the younger girls made their robe swing, with their handkerchiefs still on their heads and their dusty arms.
People began to smile. Children were pleased to see the adults happy again.
Perhaps suffering was over. The old man sang and moved slowly. He would continued to sing for the whole evening and the whole night. Let death catch my people in joy, he thought; let life be celebrated at any moment, he sang. The old man was crazy, but his people had always respected him, because he had seen God.