My mother told me that on the night I was born a storm of freakish magnitude hit Tartous putting the fear of god in the hearts of her people. The little town was ravaged by torrential rains and strong gales. The power went down and all hell broke loose. Psychotic lightening raped the sky with lunatic vehemence, quavered then climaxed in deafening rolls of thunder. Tormented shutters flapped on hinges in agony and moaned. The wind howled in between the alleys chasing genies deep into their holes. Rain drummed on tin roofs in a sadistic crescendo. Thunder bellowed threatening to disgorge the earth beneath. The sea pounded the beach a hundred meters from the room with a view to the sea, spitting its froth on the window. It roared above them all with deafening anger: “Be quiet!”, then I cried.
As a toddler I sat all day in my playpen on the balcony facing the sea. That was the only way to keep me content, my mother's bedtime story went on. Browsing old black and white photographs, I see myself swimming by the age of four. I have no recollection of my first steps nor of my earliest plunge. I do know, however, that the passage of years did not change me in the least. I still run away from it all and stare at the sea with an insatiable hunger and a profound thirst. Even in the dead of winter, when only a fool with a lantern roams the beach, I am there perched on my rock.
One thing about Tartous which made it different from all the landlocked cities I lived in is the expanse of her horizon. I remember an early trip to Damascus when my mother and father were traveling abroad and had to leave me at my grandparents'. I searched for the horizon but could not find it and I was afraid. How did they live within walls of mortar and shadows and not suffocate? Where did they escape to when their world closed in? There was no salt in the air to breathe. They did not sweat nor feel the caressing fingers of a westerly breeze cooling their bereaved souls. No sail carried their cravings to foreign lands. No ship horn wailed in the dark of night filling their minds with vocal scenes. Did they ever dream while they slept or did they barely live, fearless of getting lost at sea?
I have counted my days and ways by the ensuing tides, my spirit rising and falling with the imminent swell. I spread my wings and soared with the seagulls above. I let go, drifting, till I turned into a far-flung spec then disappeared. Time, being left without me, panicked. It gathered its hours and minutes and scurried beyond the mountains to the east, waiting for me to reappear.
I fell in a waterspout, morphing with the distant ripples. By dawn, they made it as breakers to shore. I climbed on my rock, naked and strong. I filled my lungs with mist and walked the desolation. The cowardly time, finding courage in my return and eager to please, asked me when I wanted to go.
I slumped in my bed, where I was born in my home by the sea. My nightly voyage left me invigorated and alive. I shut my eyes not to sleep but to see you closer. And I did.