“You can do it. Relax. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Breathe in right through your nose baby. I’m here. What do you want me to do?”
She listened to him. Another anxiety attack made her way through their night; their first night together. She was fearing it would happen and hoping it wouldn’t. But it did. And there she was, facing the man she dreamt of but in the weakest positions she can be put in: when her mind was making her feel.
He held her close, and watched her come back to her regular state.
“Look at me. No, look me in the eyes,” he said. She did, and she noticed how beautiful they were. And she focused on listening, nodding for him to start saying what he wanted to say.
“I’m going to love you. I’m going to fall in love with you.” He had a twinkle in his eyes as he muttered those words. She wondered whether she heard correctly, and her mind raced to scan quickly all what they had talked about, all what he had said, all what she had felt. She nodded. She was overwhelmed. But she nodded. And then the pieces of her night fell into place. She lied down next to him, and as he fell asleep, she wrote chapters in her mind. She asked herself a million times whether that was the sane decision, to be with him, at least for now. She asked herself a thousand times whether he was going to start acting weird the next day. She asked herself a hundred times whether he was just another man who was saying just another “bed” sentence. She asked herself ten times whether she really knew who he was. Then she stopped. Stop stop stop. Why the scared thoughts? Why the fears?
She turned to see him. He was still asleep. She kissed his cheek, put her head back on the pillow, and looked at what seemed a starry ceiling.
All the thoughts and emotions of that one nights, all the breaths and the feelings, all the veins, the ins, the outs, the laughs, the kisses and the intensity of a first time couldn’t be more perfect. The ceiling still seemed starry. And that was why she loved it most.
قبل ما تنام، لمّا تنقهر لأن تركت خمس آلاف تيپس بدل أربعة، أو تنقهر لأن عم تنام مأخّر وما عم تشبع نوم، أو تنقهر لأن انقطعت الكهربا وما شفت نجم فريقك عم يحطّ غول، أو تنقهر لأن ما لقيت صفّة بالهيّن ومشيت تحت الشتي تتوصل عالبيت، أو تنقهر لأن حكيتا وما ردّت عليك، اتطلّع على هالصورة.
مشهد من فيلم، ايه، بس الواقع هيك كمان:
طفل فلسطيني. مش مسلّح. تقوّص عصدرو. رمق القاتل بنظرة جامدة. وقف قلبو.
هلّأ رجاع خبّرني عن قهرك.
“The person you become in 5 years is based on the books you read today.”
By the beginning of July last year, I figured that’s probably the thing I owe to myself: more personal time, more reading. Here goes my list of 8 books that I loved and how or where I read them. If you want recommendations, they’re all over the internet.
- The Outsider – Albert Camus
My close friend got me this book before I took off to see my sisters. I finished it during the deadly London Montreal route. The thing with Camus is absurdism, and I find his writings in general nice and thought-provoking.
- The Pocket Aristotle
I got this book as a birthday gift in 2014, it’s a 1946 edition I believe. I value old books and tend to fear approaching them or breaking their pages apart.
- The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
I had to begin reading for Shafak so I thought I start with this and then move on to The Gaze and The Bastard of Istanbul.
- Breakfast with Socrates – Robert Rowland Smith
Someone I don’t love at all got me this book so I prejudged and couldn’t complete it, till once it tickled my brain so much I sat and went through it, it was beautiful.
- The Elephant Vanishes – Haruki Murakami
I had to begin reading for Murakami, and 1Q84 looked impossible to finish. I wanted to understand the fuss about the Japanese author, so I went from Kafka on the Shore – which is amazing – to this. 2016 has 1Q84 on the list.
- Damn Good Advice – George Lois
Typical agency life and mindsets, you will like it if you like Paul Arden and his books. I recall my sister got me this book.
- To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han
I finished this book in two days, too much like me. I got it after I started liking more casual readings like Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I was astonished to find that the character is called Lara, it rarely happens.
- Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
I have to admit it looked cheesy from the cover, but I didn’t judge. A very beautiful colleague got me this book, I finished it in a week, and I liked more books like it and -7- above. Casual, fun and something I can relate to.
I never intended to write about this specific guy I have dated because it was brief, shocking and nothing close to a good experience for me, especially that we’re on very bad terms.
He got me once a squeezable heart to release stress. I took this heart with me around and named the folder on my desktop “where my heart goes.” I just came across this folder, and in it is the word document that he attached to me on November 30, 2012, the day – and way – he broke up with me. Yes, through a Microsoft Word document that he wrote at 3AM.
The funniest line was “Farewell little one, I love you and always will.”
The best line was “I’ve learned a lot from you, I know you’ve had amazing impact on my life and my lifestyle and even my way of thinking… You’re the toughest girl I’ve ever known and I’ve never meant anything more in life… I envy you… Stay who you are, but smile at everything that comes at you.”
And we’re strangers again.
I have a good friend who confides in me and asked me to write her story in my words; here it goes, with the setting and way she told it.
It was one of those lovely autumn nights in Beirut, and she had prepared herself to crash somewhere that doesn’t look like her bedroom. She had that habit of escaping the zone she was familiar with every once in a while. She said that with a smile, knowing I would think this “habit” of hers was weird enough, which I thought.
She spoke about him like he was a prince, so I’ll refer to him as such. She met prince online she told me, the usual cyber conversation style. “Why did you ever think you clicked?” She smiled and poured out a list that ranged from the twinkle in his eyes in the photos to the way he chose his words. I reminded her that she had those – what appeared to me as – odd thoughts even before seeing him, seeing how he sips his coffee, hearing his voice, watching his hand gestures. She nodded and agreed, and confirmed that she knew he was trouble from the day he typed his first sentence ever to her back in November. I asked if she was sure she wanted to tell me their story. She nodded, lit a cigarette, rested her elbows on her thighs and said “I want you to write it, so listen.”
She continued “I booked a room at my favorite inn. I was working on a huge project trying to ace a presentation, rehearsing and going through hell when he arrived.” I had to interrupt to ask how come he drove to see her and she said they had agreed on that. “He rang the bell, I opened, he came in and shut the door. He had a frown on his face, the one you pull right before nagging or criticizing. And this was indeed what he did. He asked me whether it’s a communist room, he asked me if we’re gonna sleep here, he told me he hated communists and he told me he will be up all night trying to get over the fact that the room looks ugly. I hate negative people, I hate people who nag and I hate people who cannot appreciate a moment. Was it really hard for him to sit and tell me about him a bit? Or was it super demanding to smile and be polite? Was he really mean and harsh? All what I could repeat to myself was ‘oh shit’ as he spoke. I got up, put on my shoes, and we left to a pub nearby. We were crossing the street when I grabbed his hand to guide his steps away from a puddle when I saw the worst reaction ever. He panicked. For the first time I feel degraded because I tried to help someone away from a puddle. I have been given the remark that I’m touchy, but for someone to stop in their tracks, scowl me and yell ‘don’t hold my hand’ on the street was something else. I was trying to make the night pass and go back home in two hours, to hell with escaping the zone and to hell with relaxation, I wanted him out of there and that was it. We got to the pub, sat inside, ordered our drinks, and he kept criticizing. The sound, the people, the place, the amount of alcohol in his drink, the fact that I smoke, everything. I kept wondering when this drink will be over because I really wanted to be not there anymore. You know how you build expectations that aren’t a fragment of your imagination, they are real. He was sweet to me always, we talked everyday, and he was right there in front of me, being a major pain in the ass.”
She put off her cigarette, took a sip on her coffee and sat back. “I really still don’t know why I had the guts to take this step and ask him to spend the night with me. It was the worst suggestion I ever made. He became gradually more relaxed at the pub, he started cracking the real jokes he had typed to me before, and suddenly prince was back to life. I was actually happy that the guy I liked wasn’t far from being himself and unwinding. We left the pub together to fetch a bottle of Jameson and go back to the room he had gotten over, finally. We drank there, and we talked, and we listened to music, and I was enjoying every moment with him. He apologized for the panic when I held his hand, I laughed, he laughed and then we both looked again at the phone to watch the concert. At some point he held onto my hand and I rested my head on his chest. I owned, well, I won’t say the world, I owned the stars. I have to shamelessly admit that I slept with him.”
I had to interrupt her to ask if she really was meeting him for the first time that night, and when she nodded, I asked whether it’s normal for her to jump into bed with men she meets because that’s not what I know about her. She shook her head and told me “Lara, you don’t know him. He talked to me about everything. He even told me he’s leaving the country. He talked openly, I was happy.” I saw her pause a little so I decide not to push the questions through. She then said “it felt right, you wouldn’t understand.” And she was right, I wouldn’t understand. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like, her and prince, in perfect harmony, for ten hours. She said the remaining details aren’t important except that they woke up and grabbed a bite and parted, and he said he was happy that they spent the night together. “A week later, we became total strangers, and here we are, no contact whatsoever.”
I was puzzled, so I asked her to describe prince to me.
“He’s a very mentally chaotic person. He’s selfish, handsome, smart and manipulative; possibly the worst type of men out there. He’s not a good businessman, he’s a good bluff. He is irresponsible, though he isn’t spoiled. He just takes people for granted and doesn’t care about them. He doesn’t know how to communicate his feelings, and his easy way out is sarcasm.”
I heard her describe him so carefully like he was the beautiful doll she ever wanted. And I was left to my thoughts. Why did he go away? Why was she not enough for him? Why was he not enough for her? Why was it such a mystery how they parted? Will they ever be together? Will she call me with nice news? Why was this happening?
She summed it up “he’s the only one I wanted, and I’m the only one he didn’t want. If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door. Accept and move on. Strangers again. It was just a one night stand.”
On November 24, 2014, I started dating a guy and decided to write down every day one happy note about our relationship. I wrote the date of the day on a paper and wrote below it a memory of this day. I ran the habit till April even though we broke up a few months after that, in June.
I never told him about it of course, and I had totally forgotten about that because of the million events that were happening every day in my life. Between April and June, I received a promotion, I traveled to Montreal, I changed a few habits and I went through relatively harder times emotionally and physically. Probably some of those events, which were keeping me busy from writing the daily notes, contributed to the piling up of the catastrophes, which led to the breakup, and probably not. In late June I was single and the notes were forgotten.
This morning, I decided to wear my grey jacket to work for a reason as silly as I did not want to wear the black one or the brown one. I stormed out of the house and left to work. Halfway through my coffee at my desk, I tapped my hand on the pocket of the jacket to check my phone, and papers rattled. I took out a bunch, and sat calmly reading and smiling. They had the below and much more:
- I named his bike, he let me name his bike!
- We had dinner were we first met three years ago as complete strangers!
- Took a lunch break with him, I had never seen light during lunchtime before.
- Long walk down our street
- I blew bubbles while he drove
- Met his family, HBR 20000
- We started the habit of him reading to me, first night was tonight
- Four months, wow time flies
- Heavy rainfall, his brother came back to Leb
- He met my colleagues, not sure he was ecstatic!
- Discussed his career abroad for the first time ever
- He wrote a list of all his relatives, they’re a clan
- The day he proposed
- He got a haircut, I got one too
- We finished the first book together
I smiled again when I finished skimming through the notes.
Keeping memories of nice times is a treasure, regardless of what those memories end up feeling and seeming later on.
My notes are now in the shredder and that phase of my life is over. Hang on to what makes you happy and let go of what makes you otherwise.
It seems, to me, like a long time ago, but it has been only four years.
I used to go out with a guy – and then eventually had gotten attached to – who blogged. He was a real geek. He knew about almost everything. He was a gamer, an enthusiast, and I learned a lot from his love for the things he really loved. He was a football player, a straight A student, a gamer, a napper, a writer and he had time for me. I was amazed by how much he juggled tasks so easily. I learned later, a year or so after he broke up with me, that he pursued his education abroad. Of all the guys I had gone out with, he was the only one I really admired.
I am the type of person who learns silently from people and doesn’t tell them. I don’t know if humans deserve to be told that you have learned from them, or if it’s just another form of flattery. I emailed him once last year after I was searching in my inbox for a specific email with my CV attached and I landed on a message from him that dated back to 2012. I smiled, and emailed him, as I was saying. I was extremely nice and polite, and he was his usual arrogant self, not that I was surprised or anything…
Quick note: last week my laptop returned to life after two years of a heart attack, which is how I had found a folder under his name on my desktop. I opened it and found things him and I had saved from searches. I also found this, from a blogpost he had written ages ago, saved in a notepad:
“Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.”
I figured that he, too, just like I did, made the effort to remind people that they’re special.
I got into the habit of sending out a reminder of that sort to twenty or so of my contacts. Back in October, I figured that since one of Facebook’s main personal functionalities was to help people connect, it was time I reach out to a few of the one thousand plus contacts I have. I wrote a note on a paper, snapped it, and sent the photo to twenty people. I chose five close people, five I haven’t met in person, five ex colleagues and five acquaintances. The best thing on earth was that I received it, two hours later, from a friend as a private message too! I was thrilled that the note served its purpose and went beyond that: it circulated. I wore a smile all day feeling that I really did bridge a gap between me and those twenty people. A week later, I made the same effort with thirty people. Ten of the previous list, five current colleagues, five ex classmates, and ten friends. The sad news – and yes believe it or not there is sad news here – was that seven of those thirty thought I sent it by mistake to them, three who never responded, and another two asked me who I received it from and why I am sending it to them. Twelve out of thirty. It did leave me upset.
I am planning on making this regular, especially that I had received eighteen private messages in 2015 from Facebook contacts saying that they liked my profile. It leaves me feeling nice, no ego boost whatsoever. The purpose of me writing and sharing and making all this effort is that I truly believe I am leaving a mark. That is the only difference I wish to make.
January: he proposed to me, I felt like I owned the world and the stars and the clouds. Work was fine and so was life, and 2015 looked promising.
February: him and I were searching for a house, planning our official engagement and waiting for his work permit in KSA. At work we started dealing with a big client and the projects were going smoothly.
March: mother’s day was outstanding, nothing more I can remember.
April: my best friend’s father passed away after losing a battle with cancer that started in December. I learned never to take anyone’s presence for granted; one day they’re here, the next day they’re not.
May: my niece turned one, smashing her face into a mini chocolate cake. I got promoted to team leader.
June: Ramadan meant lots of work, and Saudi clients meant campaigns, things got tougher, I started making serious plans for opening my own café. Family reunion was in Montreal, and everyone was happy.
July: I went through the toughest breakup of my life, I discovered yet again that nothing is more powerful and harder than commitment. Love isn’t enough, respect is necessary, and there are men who look like men but think and act like kids. I had three anxiety attacks in two weeks.
August: my closest cousin who lives in Australia got married to the sweetest bookworm on the planet. My birthday was a disaster because of the alcohol consumption, and my other cousin who was partying with us got poisoned and suffered through September.
September: family wins. My Australian aunt spent tons of time with us, the weather was still very hot and life was fine. I started spreading out positive notes personally and seriously.
October: I downloaded Tinder, hooked up with a sweet guy with whom I’m still going out but haven’t discussed any future matters (because we both agreed not to).
November: work went through the toughest times ever, I had a hard time putting it all together and felt like I was gonna crack under all the pressure. Dating went fine and things got smoother by the minute. I made the biggest mistake of my life by rushing the most meaningless brief friendship on earth. One anxiety attack. Two kilos added. Date got me seven pairs of socks. I adopted a kitten.
December: annual Christmas dinner at work was a good exercise. My brother came for a visit which put everything back into perspective. I learned that best friends can be over sensitive for a joke, and that they too can have a relation with your ex regardless of space and time. I got more interested in Mandala, and I learned a bit about origami too. My cousin gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. My best friend started designing the interior of her future house with her fiancé. NYE is close enough, I got a raclette. I’m waiting for papers from countries my friends are in.
Photo summarizing the year:
You were an unpleasant memory, and now you’re my reminder.
You’re my reminder to be more cautious of the people I invest my time in. You’re my reminder to see people as they are and not as I want them to be. You’re my reminder to fall in love with how people treat me and not what people tell me.
But if by any chance I fall for the wrong person again, you are my reminder that I can and have survived the worst.