1960'sIn the aftermath of the six-day-war a long trench was dug in the middle of an open field near my home by the sea. More like a scar, it measured a hundred meters long by two meters wide. We kids went there and played War in the afternoon.
"Tatatatatata," we roared back and forth, reproducing the cracking reports of machine guns. When we all died, I climbed out with muddied pants and sand in my hair and rode my bicycle frantically across the gritty breadth of the field. I sped over the pebbles raising a storm of dust in my wake all the while keeping a watchful eye on the gaping wound in the ground. I pulled to the edge of the asphalt and braked hard in a sweeping arc. I stood up, removed the sticky underwear wedged up my ass and gathered my courage to jump to sea side. I pedaled as furiously as I could. The wheels spun in the air over the ditch then made contact, an inch or two short. I plunged forward hitting a sharp protruding stone chin first. The gush of warm blood sprinkled the earth through my fingers. I staggered then fell. Human voices faded in the background; the light of day dimmed then was swallowed by darkness. Minutes later I regained consciousness and winced in pain.
“How is he doctor? Please tell me how he is?”
“Don't worry Abu Tarek¹. He's a tough kid.” My father reassured the man who carried my limp body to him and continued stitching my chin.
I still have the scar.
I stared at the masts of ships disappearing below the horizon. Seagulls shrieked above, soared with invisible drafts then vanished. A crowd of ancestral spirits prattled in my head, nudging me and pulling at my sleeve. You should leave, they called, it's time. Streaks of lightening cast short-lived shadows on the high walls of dead-end alleys. I bid farewell to the life I knew, hunched over against the cold drizzle and walked away.
It was raining in Louisiana too on my 18th birthday but this time I took my clothes off and let the deluge wash my dehydrated skin. Nobody is right, I found out, but we might be all wrong. I absorbed this realization like a Porifera² left to die in the sun. I pitied the wasted youth of my generation and those yet to come for not facing their days and nights with decisions and indecisions.
We spun the bottle: Truth or Dare?
"What do you want to do with your life?"
"I want to fuck the universe till it screams." I was drunk, when I said that, or stoned. I think I was both.
I never got around actually doing that but I did kiss it... and it moaned.
Daughter of Astarte³
She was having a hard time breathing as I held her tiny body in my arms. There she was a part of me outside of me for the first time. I stayed all night by the NICU.
"Get some sleep." The doctor who stitched my chin twenty years earlier said and patted my shoulder.
He reassured me that she'll be alright in the morning, not because he was certain but because he wanted to as much as I did."Her name is Ebla" I said, "after the great Syrian city that proved that the whole world is living a big lie."
"Give me the pleasure of naming her myself." My father said. "She's Diana, goddess of the hunt and of the moon, daughter of our own Astarte."
I sat for hours on end near Diana's cot waiting for her to wake up. Then one day she rode my motorcycle on the winding mountain roads and on my back in the same house where I was born. She changed me forever. She made me a father.
"A month. Two at most." Dad replied.
I spent the next four weeks with her. She told me a story everyday, except that they kept getting shorter. So did her days as she slept more and more until she never woke up.
I missed my mother, my storyteller, my friend, my fan and idol. She was my rock in times of need, my lighthouse in the storm, my laughter and tears. I lost her.
2000'sI was a late bloomer. I had lived my entire life in the shadow of a paradox, etherized with the void of being and the timidity of acceptance. I fell in love… with life, with the morning sun and the silent passage of the moon across the sky. I embraced time and distance at last. I fathomed the “seemingly” predetermined motion of the heavenly bodies in the sky, the toil of ants underground and our human voyage. As I passively rode the rapids down the river I had a change of heart. I found a low hanging branch and held on to it. There is a beautiful ait upstream, a little further back. I do not want to be anywhere else.
Falling in Love
Falling in Love
That eventually the torrent would sweep us all became irrelevant. I swam against the current to reach my island or die trying.
Five moments in time, mind-picked from the fleeting decades of my life. I am 50*
¹ Abu Tarek, my neighbor, made the best Knafeh in the world. He passed away ten years ago.
² Porifera: an animal phylum comprising the sponges.
³ Astarte: Syrian Goddess, grandmother of all the subsequent Greek and Roman Goddesses of fertility, sexuality and war
* 50: Coming up this week.