An era has come to an end. Fifteen years ago this December, in a little outdoor market on a sloping hill in Aswan, Egypt, I traded 25 American dollars for a beautiful blue and silver hookah. The vender told me with great verve that the plastic hose was actually camel-hide, and that the glass had been blown in the old manner going back hundreds of years.
I brought it back to America, carefully wrapped in my clothes. My friend Ian's broke in transit, but mine survived, and I have employed it in all the years since, not at all often but with great love, lighting it up with coals and breathing deeply of tobacco soaked in honey and flavored with fruit. It was a companion while I wrote my first novel, and my second. It has been a friend at parties, and in quiet moments of contemplation.
Today the hookah was on a windowsill in my office - mostly unused since I had kids, but occasionally still fired up when they were away. A strong gust of wind sent it hurtling to the tile floor, to shatter. I will mourn this loss, not for the easily-replaced glass bowl, but for the memories and years of service.
Hookah, you will be missed.