My mobile's alarm blasted at two o'clock piercing the still of night and robbing precious sleep from my weary eyes. Bewildered, I slowly lifted my upper body on an elbow. I had gone to bed well past midnight but suddenly I remembered that I had a car to ride, two airplanes to board and a taxi to drop me at a hotel in Martigues. Eighteen hours later, I leaned on the reception counter of a small hotel in the south of France.
Oui demoiselle, je veux rester pour quatre nuits chez vous.
The summer sun lingers in the sky of France well past its usual day-shift of lower latitudes. My biological clock completely out of sync, my laptop rendered useless after a fatal system crash on the flight from Damascus to Paris and loneliness creeping up on me I descended the hill on foot and headed toward the docks of the small town by the sea.
I scrounged frantically for a discarded cigarette butt on the pavement and sidewalks. No city could be so clean, no place more serene. Seagulls flew overhead sending shrieks echoing against the brilliantly colored walls of quaint houses. A loose sail fluttered in the wind while a couple of hands worked feverishly to quite it down. I could taste the salt on my lips, I could taste hers in my reverie. Moored boats wobbled on the troubled surface of the canal, straining against the ropes. The creaking of wood longing to sail was too painful to hear, too realistically disturbing.
-Where would you go old sport, I asked the heaving and battered launch, if you had the choice?
-Anywhere, it pleaded silently in my head, just set me free and let me drift.
Restless, sleepless and mindless I brought back Prufrock, my PC and travel companion to life. The night died in my arms. Its last memory was of my ecstatic eyes beaming out of my tired face. Connected at last, I was craving to read.
Fares, my pride and joy, the reason I am called Abufares after all had started posting in Arabic on his blog “Superkid Chronicles”. How can I ever convey my feeling of elation about the fact that he's writing. My nine years old son, Abumaher, is perhaps the youngest on the Syrian Blogsphere today. He had only posted twice so far and I've already commented with words that betrayed my fatherly bias. Still, I needed to take a look at his virtual space again and feast my mind on adulation and hope. I am in love with people who write. I always was. And Fares, my flesh and blood, is writing.
The neat office where I was to work for the next three days was thrown on the shoulder of a mountain. It stood sentry to the estuary which led to a lake somewhere further east. I met people who became my friends, for life. We shared bread, butter and plenty of wine. The sound of our laughter drifted in the breeze toward the piers. We exchanged toasts and stories of our cities by the sea, always by the sea. For it had brought us together, seamen who would rot and die in the dry blandness of the inland. What is a woman if her hair is not weaved with seaweed, if her armpits do not taste of the salt that keeps us old mariners afloat? What of her thighs if they don't froth with zest to the tiding of my call? Her piquant breasts a safe harbor for my head where I close my eyes and still can see.
Mariyah's 26-episode story of Ghassan & Alexandra burned my second night and handed me safely to the morning sun. I would really like to find a way to tell you and myself how much I like Mariyah. Since she dropped anchor on Syplanet she had become my fantasy ship. When I sit on the outstretched rocky wharf of the corniche in Tartous her writing washes over my head and shoulders, cleansing my heart and soul. I gaze at the curved horizon and wonder about the straights she's crossing. Be tender on her Oh Goddess of the Sea and bring her smooth passage until she takes shelter while the storm withers away. Dawn crawled from beyond the hills, invading the dim corners of my room. Finally, I dosed for minutes dreaming of the intoxicating scent of Mariyah's prose.
On a concealed terrace not far from the marina half a dozen tables were laid in the shade of a giant Eucalyptus tree. I had my lunch there day after day. My hosts, perfect gentlemen, treated me like the indubitable ambassador I was to their tranquil shores. I never sampled a more toothsome cuts of entrecôte or a more divine côtelettes d'agneau in my whole life. Ah, les Français, I forgive their snobbish repute though I have only basked in their unrivaled hospitality and generosity. The twin bottles of Rosé kept us company and lulled our senses, reinforcing the simple verity that we were one family across the Mediterranean. The clinking of flushed goblets reverberated among the patrons. Salut mes amis, à votre santé.
Gabriela writes from Lima, 8000 miles away. Ever since she graced my blog with her first comment I took an immediate liking to her. I know that I will meet this intelligent, spirited and beautiful lady one day. I have no doubt. She will either come to see me in Tartous and I will walk with her through the narrow alleys of the old city or she will guide me in the Barranco district of her enchanting city. Gabriela writes inimitably in Spanish, a language I have always loved and vaguely understood. I translate her post on Google first and swallow the shabby English just for the sake of getting the general meaning behind her words. Then, I slowly sip her Latin spirit and get dizzy on her dainty melody and rhythm. Seis de enero is the blog of my lovely Peruvian Lawyer. I can't wait to be in Lima, to get in trouble then have Gabriela bail me out. She stayed with me on my third night and didn't leave until she got her message across. You can't spend your whole life traveling without going where you always wanted to. South America is a dream on hold, Gabriela reminded me.
Whenever I walked the streets of Beirut a personal unsolved mystery followed in my footsteps. Who was she and where did she come from? Evidence of her oriental paternal pedigree was abundant as traces of Islamic arcs, Arabian nights and Byzantine bells could be discerned on her slender body. Yet her mother remained behind a veil until I landed in Marseille. Ahhh, the full realization, the overwhelming sense of Déjà Vu . No wonder so many Lebanese call France their mom. Just take my word for it dear neighbors, it was never France, it was Marseille only and all along. We sat in that most famous of restaurants on the beach of the city. We were late for the topless volleyball chicks, my hosts apologized. This is where the fabled bouillabaisse de Marseille is prepared. My friends and I surrendered to the maitre who promised to take good care of us. He brought forward a glass of Pastis for me when he learned about my fondness of Arak. Then in the spirit of White we drank some of the best wine the south of France had to offer. Growing up by the sea and being raised on its scrumptious fruits all of my life I finally had to take my hat off, Chapeau bas a Marseille. A fish, if given the choice, will ask to be eaten in a bouillabaisse in Marseille after it dies and goes to heaven.
I gingerly climbed the stairs to my room on my last night in Martigues, satisfied beyond explanation, absolutely, perfectly, completely suffonsified. Only Isobel can do justice to the fleeting hours of bliss before I pack again and move. Suffonsifism has been my best kept little secret for quite some time. The apparent simplicity and effortlessness this gorgeous woman puts into her writing is mind boggling. Her posts are often short and to the point. How can she, I wonder, say it the way she does. How can she be so suffonsified and make me, a man behind a small screen halfway across the world, come to grasp the full meaning of her blog's name? I have never read anyone like Isobel. I very much doubt that I will ever read anything remotely parallel. I tiptoed through her lines, paused at her comas and came to full stop at her periods. Her divine music rushed through my mind, her priceless humanity escorted me through the blind twists and turns of a long tunnel where there was light at the end. I stood there in awe, not daring to blink for fear of missing a minute detail of her beauty within me, not believing that I went on for four nights sleepless in Martigues, forever suffonsified, and ever!