I found an email I had sent you about four years ago saying:
The cruelest form of alienation is every place where you aren’t.”
Today, twelve months have passed without you. And I happen to be alive to write this.
I never counted the days, but now I do. I pay attention to the weeks that go by, to the sun when it sets as I wave it goodbye. I wait on the 9th of each month to convince myself that I’ve survived, again.
One more, and another one, and now too many months have flown by, without my consent.
Since the day you left, it had felt as if it had been summer all along. I never met winter again. And I can’t even remember what it was like to feel cold. I get this same feeling sometimes when thinking about how close we were. There are so many days when I tend to forget how much I was loved by you, and how flooded with happiness my days were. Today, I wonder whether I’d see you there; on the corner of the street behind the wheel of our white little car, waiting for me to cross the road with my wet light blue jacket. Or perhaps, coincidentally meet you in a bookstore, bending your head towards the contemporary English novels displayed, picking some of them based on their colourful covers or their author, hoping that I’d read them ‘someday.’
I wish I told you that I enjoyed Arabic novels more. That I wished you bought me more of Arabic poetry, not that the 4000 books we owned weren’t enough, but I would’ve not minded more.
You taught me to never get enough of books, and of people who read. And I never got enough of you.
Arabic transpierced my soul because of you. When you taught me how to pronounce the words, letter by letter with your deep tenor voice. When you taught me how to stand and speak in public when I was 7 years old. The many Sunday mornings spent reading “La Belle et la bête” on our balcony were priceless. And later on, when you used to come and sit in my room on the big antique red chair you brought me to read on, and tell me about some secrets of yours which I had never heard before, thinking that it was the time to reveal them to me, letting me discover another side of you.
I wish I told you that it was so comforting to hear you talk about nothing and everything. Even your silence when hearing my complaints was another kind of love that I only understood now.
Reading Arabic in your absence was somewhat about coming back home, coming home to you.
I found you in sentences, in complex words, in ideologies and theories. I found you in citations, and in mystic poetry, I found your name in lyrical lullabies, and in the back of my mind; always present to answer my wonders and my fanatical queries.
Learning how to conform to a world filled with memories conceived without you left me with unfinished accounts of what it meant to be ‘present’ and in the moment.
I might be over the stage of blaming you for not letting me know that you were to leave me this early, and how could you? Twenty years is barely enough to declare peace between an imperial country and its proxies. Twenty years is barely enough for my birth scars to heal. And even those, you didn’t stay longer to see them vanish away from my brownish skin.
I had to reflect on a daily basis on the purpose of life, and on what it meant to be alive after you. I had to fight between the aggravation of being and the benefits of ‘not’ being. I remembered my unprecedented prayer to god a few hours after I touched your cold hands, and your soft chest when I saw you on that hospital bed projecting what was left of a smile designated to a scenery of heavenly wonderment.
I remembered how I had taken your praying mat that morning,—after a few moments of sleep, enough to regain energy to attend your burial,— and went to your usual place to pray, under the Jasmin tree. I didn’t put a scarf on and didn’t cover any of my showing skin. I bowed in front of him as you showed me. I thanked him for gifting me with you, I told him that I was accepting this destiny that he has now chosen for me. And I thanked him for the blessing of having been near you during your last days.
Oh, and how I wished I knew they were your last days. I would’ve kissed you more, hugged you more, sang for you more, laughed with you more, took you out on coffee dates more, showed you around my favourite places more, cooked for you more, and went hiking with you more.
And still, none of it would have been enough.
And maybe you knew all of this when you kissed me goodbye on that Tuesday afternoon at 5:30 pm.
A year without you was too long, and I hate imagining what the next ones will be like. Yet, it was probably nothing compared to the twenty years you endured without her — the ones that had gone “too slowly” as you described them on one of our reflective road trips. And then you added, “but at least I had you. You alleviated the solitude left by her absence, Amina.”
As for me, I have the sunsets, the moon, my voice, the books you left me with, the letters you wrote me and everything in between. It’s hard to remember the existence of all the things you left in times of despair, but at least they are there.
And even you; you are still here. I can feel you.
Moi? Je suis là.