Pembe watched The Kid with wide-open eyes, the look of surprise on her countenance deepening with each scene. When Chaplin found an abandoned baby in a rubbish bin, and raised him like his own son, she smiled with appreciation.
When the child flung stones at the neighbours’ windows so that the tramp – disguised as a glazier – could fix them and earn some money, she chuckled. When social services took the boy away, her eyes welled up with tears. And, finally, as father and son were reunited, her face lit up with contentment, and a trace of something that Elias took to be melancholy. So absorbed did she seem in the film that he felt a twinge of resentment. What a funny thing it was to be jealous of Charlie Chaplin.
Elias observed her as she unpinned her hair, and then pinned it back. He caught a whiff of jasmine and rose, a heady, charming mixture. Only minutes before the film 15 came to an end, he found the nerve to reach out for her fingers, feeling like a teenager on his first date. To his relief, she didn’t move her hand away. They sat still–two sculptures carved out of the dark, both scared of making a move that would disrupt the tenderness of the moment.
When the lights came back on, it took them a few seconds to grow accustomed to real life. Quickly, he took out a notepad and wrote down the name of another cinema in another part of the town. “Next week, same day, same time, will you come?”
Yes, she faltered.
Before he’d found a chance to say anything else, Pembe leaped to her feet and headed towards the exit, running away from him and everything that had taken place between them, or would have taken place, had they been different people.
She held in her palm the name of the place they were to meet next time, grasping it tightly, as if it were the key to a magic world, a key she would use right now were it in her power to decide.
And so it began. They started to meet every Friday at the same time, and occasionally on other afternoons. They frequented the Phoenix more than any other place, but they also met at several other cinemas, all far-away from their home, all unpopular. […] In time he found out more things about her, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that he would complete only long after she had gone. […]
Slowly he was beginning to make sense of the situation. This unfathomable, almost enigmatic attraction that he felt for her, a woman so alien to the life he had led, was like a childhood memory coming back."
Elif Shafak, Honour, 2012