Emily Conyngham

Emily Conyngham
Homey Airport, Nevada,
December 31
I Enjoy It
I couldn't make this stuff up! © Emily Conyngham All Rights Reserved


FEBRUARY 13, 2013 10:20PM

The Silk Road Romance : A True Valentine Story

Rate: 24 Flag


Her hips swayed freely beneath her silk skirt as she breezed out the door after our lovemaking. Watching her sashay down the front walk and out the iron gate, off to the grocery store for some pasta and wine, I could see the energy course off her like the ripples of a mirage. Knowing I was still watching, she turned her light eyes to me, blew me a kiss, then smiled at Mr. Katz who held the gate open for her. She smiled big for him, flashing sparks all over him. She was a summer storm soaking the parched souls around her.

I was working in DC for a defense contractor that year. Human Terrain was a hot gig if you could get it  back then. I’d been hired to map out populations of support for NATO operations along the northern supply route from the Baltic to Afghanistan. My years of archaeological and restoration work among the Uzbeks had given me connections and the language skills to command a very respectable fee for my services. So I packed a couple of suitcases, loaded the car, and drove down there. My friend at Rand was off in Nigeria that summer and rented me her townhome in Dupont Circle.  I couldn’t have written a better scenario if I’d tried.



The Silk Roads 

The years in Uzbekistan had been my choice, I realize now. I fashioned myself as Indiana Jones, unearthing the gold of Transoxiana, sipping tea in the market at Samarkand, translating ancient songs of the Silk Route, and heading up the preservation of the great mosque. I was the hero in my own romance along one of the major arteries of human history. I pictured Alexander the Great marching in from Persia, wedding the exotic Roxana.

10871 - The Man Who Would Be King
Shakira Caine as Roxana in Man Who Would Be KIng

I could almost feel the hooves of Genghis Khan’s hordes thundering down from the plains to secure the perimeter of his empire.

Genghis Khan 

 I trembled at the murderous legacy of Tamerlane. Stories of men of ambition, a route to wealth and power, and the thirst for particular women transected here. The visions that had filled my head were here in Central Asia, marching, dancing, and traversing the continent. A man must be the hero of his dreams.

tamerla d

Tamerlane The Murderous 

I lived alone with that dream ever since Katherine had turned away three years ago.  Samarkand’s peaches and pumpkins, cumin and lamb scented the story, but I was still hungry. Damn woman remained a relentless criminal in my head though, the whore of my nights and pickpocket of my days. I had to cast her like that, after what happened. It was the only way I could remain a hero in my story. The reel in my mind’s eye would not stop looping.

Pale yellow and green tile  covered the kitchen counters in  the house we shared when we were first in love. The landlord had described it as “vintage” in the rental advertisement, but mostly it was small and funky-smelling. We didn’t care because it was cheap and close to downtown where she tutored English and I taught History. Anyway, all we had those days were a couple of plastic plates, two pots, a few utensils, and a corkscrew. Most nights, we’d start the pot of water boiling for some pasta and open a bottle of wine. We agreed on everything. We’d save money for the important stuff, and eat pasta and drink cheap wine at home. We’d have enough to travel to the Silk Route in two years.

Katherine would sit on the edge of the counter twirling her bare feet to cool them off after a day at  school in stockings and heels. I poured our wine in the juice glasses she’d stolen from the cafeteria, and we clinked. I pressed against her knees while we talked about the little dramas of our days and characters who were perpetual idiots and jerks.



When she laughed at my jokes, my face was bathed in the grapes on her breath. I pressed harder and slipped the hem of her skirt up to her thighs. Her eyes crinkled, she clasped my ears, and she leaned her face into mine, opening her mouth to suck the wine on my tongue. Her knees parted and she wrapped her legs around my hips, pulling me to her.  My memory tells me the story that it was like this every night, a simple narrative with a nice trajectory.

“Jack,” she whispered one night, shuddering, “I'm so in love with you… I want to have your baby...” Her words and the warmth and strength of her clenched me.

“Oh, honey, yes!” I know I said it. That evening.  We glistened.

blue smamarkand

It was only a week after that when I got the call from Istanbul I had been hoping for. Tarik’s voice told me, “We’ve got the UNESCO funding for the Sherdar Medressa project in Samarkand! We’re in, man!” He went on to say it would be two years of work on the famous structure and ultimately result in Samarkand becoming a World Heritage Site. This was the opportunity of a lifetime for me.

I hollered and raised my fists in the air when I hung up the phone, “Katherine!  Bow down to me! I AM the one! I got the project in Samarkand! I am so on the road!”

She hugged me tight and we jumped up and down. “Jack! This is huge! Wow! You must do this!”

At those words, I stepped back and looked at her in shock. It had never occurred to me that it was a choice whether to go or not. The opportunity had come and I was being called. The next shock to my brain hit immediately after. She was telling me I had a choice, and that I should take it. She knew I would go without her. She blinked once and gave me a quivery smile, “You need to do this… go on…”

“Katherine, I…”

“You gotta do it, Jack.” Her eyes darkened, and she did not blink this time.

“Will you, um, wait for me? Will we ever see each other again? Will you write?”

She answered my compound question simply. “No.”

Smiling again, but not open-mouthed, she continued, “Jack, I’m not angry or sad. I have a story to live too, and waiting for you isn’t part of it. I’m a hero too, not just a character in your story…I have to get on with mine... I’m so glad you got this chance. I’ve loved you hard and true. What we have is giant… Now listen, put on your boots, and go get ‘em. I’m sure I’ll read about you somewhere. I love you, Jack. I really need to go.”

She did not look back that day. I was utterly floored at how definite and tough she had been, this woman who quivered in my embrace, who ought to be the mother of my children, just letting me go like that. It was me who was sad and angry.

Katherine, and the kitchen, and the call, they played like a film in the background the whole time I was in Samarkand documenting and restoring the mosque. The name of the mosque in English is Tiger Gate. With this project completed, the world would know I am a tiger. Still, the desert winds blew dry and hot like a furnace in summer and burnt cold in the winter as I worked. The cement Russian apartment was a grim container for a tiger, I grumbled to myself. When a man is in the middle of his own legend, he forgets he is making plot choices.  The work was slow and painstaking. I undertook each aspect of the preservation with care. Samarkand is now a UN Heritage site. I returned to the US a tiger, but I only knew it after leaving.



One Thursday in DC I had some time off the Human Terrain project, and decided to check out the Freer Gallery’s exhibit of Chinese treasures from the Silk Road. It would be pleasant to escape the work that was rapidly becoming a banal endeavor. Sauntering past the old red Smithsonian, I descended into the cool darkness of the Freer. The pleasant matron at the front desk informed me that a guided tour was about to start, so I chose to go along.  She smiled wanly and wished me Happy Valentines Day. I had forgotten, but but returned the smile. I joined the group listening to the guide who was beginning her introduction to the collection.

“Included in our tour will be the exhibit of Silk Road Luxuries from China. For more than two thousand years this vast network of caravan trails has linked oasis settlements across the Central Asian desert, and many of those ancient overland routes are still in use today. …” said Katherine.

silk skirt


I didn’t hear the next sentences. When her eyes finally turned to me, I think her voice stopped. I’m not sure. At some point in this vacuum, they brightened and crinkled, and her lips parted into that big smile, and the world become big and started to rotate again. I think everyone else in the group was looking at me. Again, I’m not sure. The story wasn’t being written by me at that moment. I was just one part of it.

Katherine began visiting me on Thursday afternoons, and then we spent Saturdays together too.  She was working at the museum and running a literacy program for recent immigrants. She said they’re people who are making legends of their lives, crossing continents, braving every imaginable humiliation, and loving each other something fierce.

Now, here, I still smile when she talks and laughs. She’s always understood about living your own legend. We kiss again.  She tilts her face back a little when she looks in the mirror and puts on her lipstick. She walks out the front door with her silk skirt fluttering in the breeze, cocks her head, and says, “Jack, I’m so happy you're sharing my story again.”



The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937) is a fine, fine piece of travel writing about the area, especially his descriptions of the architecture.

The Man Who Would be King is  the delightful 1975 film based on Rudyard Kipling's novella by the same name - men and the pursuit of power in remote places never ceases to amuse.

Samarkand is sure to seduce you once you start studying any part of its interesting history. 









Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Happy Valentines Day from Samarkand to DC. It's a long one, but that one person make the journey worth it.
Here's to literature and art getting us all to where we want to go!
Now that's how you start. With 'sway' and 'sashay', you definitely know what you are talking about; me appreciates much. What a beautiful piece, Emily; well done. R
I very much enjoy reading things that are competently written. I love it when the writer understands, and uses well, the grammar of our language.

But most of all, I am thrilled when I read a smooth and well crafted story that carries me from line one to the final line with nary a hitch nor a hesitation. Pampering me as though I were travelling on a luxury liner; feeding me a delicious viand of imagination and serving a carafe of wine, red with the fierce blood of an extraordinary writing talent coursing through its veins.

I feel my heart thump fit to burst when I, a mere reader, am pulled into a glorious tale in such a manner that I cannot - and do not wish to - escape its enfolding embrace. An embrace in which I may luxuriate with ease and comfort. A tale that becomes my own as I read, for who could not adopt such a wonderful tale as one's own?

I could not ask for - have never had - a better Valentine's Day gift.

Thank you Emily!


[r] Wow. This is amazing! Thank you for sharing it with us. You inspire with your tale and your writing! best, libby
Very nicely done Emily! I like your male perspective. Very authentic.
Beautiful piece my sweet Emily...
Emily, this was excellent writing. If this is top-knot writing, I better go back to school.
Thank you CG. Ha, yes, basic motivations are a good place to start. And indulging a friend's typos....yikes.

Thoth! I am so happy I got you right from the beginning, and hopefully captivated you til the end.

Skypixie, well...I have to tell you that I am positively giggling with delight over your beautifully crafted reaction. I might have to print it out and hang it by my desk so I can summon it up when I need a little boost for the next one. Thank you so very, very much.

Libby - aww thank you! If I inspire you to feel romantic today, then we are all doing well. Thank you so much for the beautiful comment.

GabbyAbby - thank you! I have done it twice now, and it feels like it give me the distance I need to see to the whole story.

Linda, I am having a marvelous Valentine Day so far and it is only eight o'clock. Best to you, my friend. Here's to the big goblet!
As smooth as silk. Excellent images as well. R.
Kenneth, oh Kenneth, you have no need of school whatsoever..your writing is glorious! Than you for the nice compliment. Happy Valentine Day with the woman who brings you home!

Lyle - smooth as silk. Well, I like that a whole lot, especially since this is Valentines Day. Thank you so much!
Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
If only imagination could be as florid and detailed as this true tale, then the world would truly be a place of limitless mystery.
Wonderful! You've brought so much together in a perfectly crafted piece. I'm curious about the "true" part.
"She was a summer storm soaking the parched souls around her"

Indeed she was. Just fantastic Emily. Writing our stories . . love it.
Ande, why thank you. Ain't love grand?

AKA, imagination is limitless! I'm glad you enjoyed my tale from the land of Scheherazade.

JL - little snips of truth woven in here and there, but frankly I find the comings and goings of humans along the Sil Route to be incredibly rich fodder for the imagination. I wonder if you have heard the music from this region...makes your hair stand on end. http://www.amazon.com/Silk-Road-Musical-Caravan/dp/B000063NDQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1360855931&sr=1-2&keywords=silk+road
Trig, this compliment from you makes me feel especially good. Thank you for reading me here.
I could hear the strains of the silk road music swirling in the background - fabulous and, of course, rated!
Torrito, you inspired me with your poem about Samarkand last week. Thanks, you always inspire with your passionate belief in love.

nilesite - I need to find soe squirrels to bring my brain back to earth today. hee he. Thank you.
Emily, after reading your wonderful story I have a new perspective to look upon when thinking about The Silk Road, defense contractors, Dupont Circle, the Smithsonian, RAND, and human terrain...just for starters! Thanks so much for sharing your writing and creativity on this nice Valentine's Day.
This took a quick jump forward to a happy ending. Wow. Thanks and HappyValentinesDay Em.
Your words completely seduced me.
designanator, thanks. I was thinking about all the "designs" that cross the Asian continent, like empire and egos. Those orgs you mentioned merely house them, I think. And there is hop ethat people like Katherine are helping others to live new lives after they cross great distances, whether moral or geographical. Whoa, I wax poetic. Off to something else. Enjoy your day.

TG - happy day today! Thank you for checking this out.

Maria - you know souls. Thank you so much. xox
Superb narrative and writing. Breathtaking.
Wow. Thanks, Cathy, for the nice compliment.. I was thinking later ( which is the way I seem to operate) about the difference between viewing populations as BACKDROPS to what the narrator sees as the larger issues, and Katherine's view, that the populations ARE the larger issue. I will probably want to re-word this later, but tonight that is what I think.
Gorgeous writing, skilled story-telling, and whew is it getting hot in here? Well done, Em. I love your writing. R!
Thanks, Jaime! Glad you liked my far flung folly. hee hee.
Awww...I"m so glad they found each other again!
I couldn't decide, Alysa. Now, I have made the pair reconnect, maybe I will tangle them up, or separate them, or deliver a devastating blow...ha! Thank you, I have had Paris on my mind quite a bit lately...maybe I should send the story to Paris and visit you in order to provide rich detail!
"she was a summer storm soaking the parched souls around her."
I delighted in that line for awhile, the image of her in her silk skirt
bedeviling me.
"living your own legend" is a very cool concept.
And so is "sharing in my story"
Thank you, James! I've been thinking about narrators and history lately. Oh, and the other stuff too...hee hee. If I continue this story, maybe I will switch narrators.
What a travesty, and not an uncommon one unfortunately. Such a great piece written and published here, right on time and on topic for this last week, only to be ignored by lazy ass despicable Jake.
Point taken and compliment much appreciated, Trig. Thank you, my friend.
To pasta and wine and silk...and to letting ourselves be pickpockets and whores and historians and travelers and whoever else it takes to keep those long winding roads traversable.
Catch...I love hearing what you pick up and how you send it back. Yes, let's do what we can to keep the arteries open. Best wishes to you, my poetic friend.
Lovely ode, that. And thank you, my reading list was getting a little uninspiring.
Icy! I know your romance is picking up steam. Go forth, young man! Thank you for coming by.