For a friend

I know not how to make my voice say

That my heart cries for you today,

And I know not how to comfort thee

With much more than an earnest plea;

Today I ask all angels in the sky

To turn each gasp and every cry

Into beds of roses for her to sleep,

And may your soul learn not to weep

For we’re all but visitors doing time

Till those promised bells begin to chime.

We are so near the sweet departed

Who want us not so broken-hearted;

Despite the void and all the pain,

Remember not these days of rain

But count the days of sunny splendor

Given to us by ones so tender.

It is not far, this new hello

Though hours seem to pass so slow,

We’ll see their bright faces again

So keep in mind that until then

If your strength begins to sway

I am only a few steps away.

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Random rant

When I started this blog, the idea was to write down on my phone whatever came to mind, be it a fait divers, a rant or a haiku. So, staying true to that, here are the perplexing thoughts running through my mind at the moment and snippets of the events triggering their oh-so-annoying appearance.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father’s older cousin passed away on the day after Christmas, alone in his house, his body found by the police and left there to decay while they searched for living relatives of the deceased. Well, they found us, and we had to run all over the place on new year’s eve to ensure he was properly buried and his papers were in order. The first part done, we were asked to go back into his house perfumed with five days’ worth of rotting flesh, rummage through his private belongings as I repressed heavy tears from flowing all over the place at the thought of how terribly lonely it must have been to die alone. He wasn’t only family, he was human, a feeling being who left unopened boxes filled with Christmas decorations in his living room, papers strewn on all chairs and tables as he endeavoured to finish his affairs while death crept closer and closer. I repressed my tears long enough to get back home where, nothing restraining the flow anymore, I wept. These events coupled with my uncertain state of mind every time my future is mentioned inevitably caused my body to react and… hello heartburn. After years of struggling with it, how it appears out of the blue or during stressful moments, I still don’t know how to deal with the monster. On a strict diet of rice, boiled carrots and camomile tea, needless to say the kitchen seems to be laughing at my dismay, the internet taunting me with “don’t eat this” and “don’t do that” instead of offering me the one thing I desperately seek: “eat this”, a “this” that doesn’t taste bland or makes me want to sing about dishes of yore, dreaming of my hot cup of nothing.

There is no point to this post other than to relieve some of the tension acquired from opening the fridge and closing it in vain, this time knowing it isn’t devoid of tasty snacks and dishes as it can so often seem, but stacked with forbidden treats by my too sensitive stomach and upset nerves. 2017, it’s been only a week, take it easy on me, will you?

Three cheers for new year’s

Hello to anyone who reads this,
And to all those I terribly miss.
I do not know what to make of the past year,
We’ve in turn felt sadness, anger and fear.
We’ve watched countries burn to the ground,
We’ve seen music lose some of its sound,
Films will never be quite the same
After so many have lost their flame.
Orange is a colour we now well know,
And each day produces yet another blow;
We’ve seen death too many a time
Hoping for our beloved the bell won’t chime.
There is still hope, world, I swear,
In every smile, and sprinkled everywhere.
There is life left to celebrate,
Beautiful memories to perpetrate,
Love enough to go around
For happiness we were surely bound.
Now that wretched year has flown away
Give your heart to this bright new day 🎈

(Maria Sometimes)

A morbid year

2016. Mentioning it is already a horror story, but the way it is ending for me is truly worth making a film out of.

This year started with Bowie’s death, then Alan Rickman’s, followed by Harper Lee, Umberto Ecco, young Anton Yelchin, Mohammad Ali, Prince, Pete Burns, Paul Kantner, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gloria de Haven, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Carrie Fisher then her talented mother Debbie Reynolds a day later! These deaths and so many more make for the saddest obituary, but hey, 2016 wasn’t satisfied with taking people away, it also added to the madness by making Donald Trump president, and in parallel giving Lebanon its own orange head of state. Wait, we’re not done yet! Exploding phones, Brexit… this year is watching us, amused by the mayhem, eating popcorn while we look right, left, up and within for answers nobody can give.

Well, if only that was it for me. I had one of the most stressful years leading to meds being prescribed so I can digest all the chaos, my father was hit by a water cistern as he was crossing the road, I snapped my back and had to walk like the hunchback of Notre Dame for over a week swallowing pill after pill searching to relieve more than my swollen muscles. However, nothing compares to the joke of an ending this year had in reserve for us. Hearing the news of my mother’s cousin passing a few days ago, then my former school principal’s whom I loved – her being a long time family friend – I verbally challenged this last week to test my nerves and surprise me further, and to be honest I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday morning, we were informed that my dad’s cousin on his mother’s side had died. Preparing ourselves psychologically for yet another funeral, the phone rings. On the other end is my brother explaining he had just been informed that my father’s cousin from the paternal side has been dead for 4 days in his house, and since he had no immediate family, the authorities were waiting to find relatives to take care of the usual procedures. Naturally, us being the closest in Lebanon, we were asked to go into the house where – insert nervous laugh here – the corpse still lies, sign papers, make an official inventory of his belongings with the probably overpowering stench of our cousin’s decaying body, then arrange for his funeral.

So 2016, for your last day of existence I withdraw my challenge, you’ve won, now will you please go on vacation and never return? I’m no longer a fan of surprises.

The fruit of death

I haven’t posted in a week. The reason? Death. No, nobody close to me has died recently, I haven’t been grieving any particular loss, I’ve just been in deep contemplation of the idea of dying, the mourning process, and the aftermath. How does one live after death?

Cher asked “do you believe in life after love?”to which I always answer moodily, depending on when the song starts playing. However, do you believe in life after death? If so, how does one continue, and what scars does parting bestow on those still living? It is unarguably easy to die; once you’re gone you’re free, whether you’ve spent the last ten months in a hospital bed, or fell asleep to never wake up, when the light goes out it’s over, for you and whoever is left. I was five the first time I became aware of someone’s passing. I had been sitting with her a day earlier in her bed. She was attached to machines, yet when she saw me holding a pack of fresh figs, her favourite fruit, she sat up and peeled some for both of us. At 5 years old, you just don’t get it, the tubes and the blood bags…you’re just aware of the lingering smell hospitals are so known for – I hate that smell. The next day, I was in the stairway ready to find her room when they told me I wasn’t to see her anymore. Ever. I remember that staircase so well, the white banister, the hermetically closed window… you don’t forget the places where all of a sudden your life derails from its tranquil course. My grandmother also loved figs, she had a big tree in her garden and when we’d walk by it, she’d pick a few and share her tree’s bearings with me. When she passed, nobody told me; being in the middle of my exams, nobody wanted to distract me with the news I’m still struggling with 8 years later. Figs… we pick strange things to remember, strange things to hold onto, strange things to move on with… Whenever I eat figs I need silence, and until recently, I had never understood why, the reason I so naturally slipped into a meditative state every time I had any. As I watched a small video on death and how people continued after witnessing loved ones depart from their presence, it hit me: I haven’t moved on, I haven’t forgotten, I live with death every day and I smile. Not because they’re gone, but because through the simple act of peeling a fig and sensing its sweetness in silence, I am once again the little 5 year old with the two old ladies that marked my childhood so evidently.

Nostalgia is mourning the death of the past, it is lived through our senses; smells, sounds, textures, sights and tastes all hold our memories, patiently waiting to revive what we thought had left us forever. Maybe in the end we’re only memories, pacing through others’ minds, and when we’re not being remembered, we sleep, unaware of our short-lived existence having ended. I suppose death is not so frightening after all.

Always is never enough

Alan Rickman has just died. Same week as Bowie, same age, both cancer-stricken, both British. Well the Brits always had a peculiar sense of humor…I bet they had made a pact to meet up on the stage beyond, David performing and Alan narrating his new story; two beautiful charismatic beings captured on film and tape, two souls too free to capture and keep alongside us.

I had been feeling under the weather since last weekend, and these two deaths confirmed my mood: this week is simply better forgotten with its morbidly dark content. These two were true artists, they left us with an undeniable musical and cinematic heritage that we will definitely “always” cherish. However, always just doesn’t seem enough; they can no longer reinvent themselves, stuck in every character they’ve ever incarnated, from Ziggy and Major Tom to Snape and Colonel Brandon, and every one in between, never again to experience those they had no time to become. Always is short, even if we as spectators can still rejoice in their presence as we replay their masterpieces, that’s it, it’s over, their chance is gone. That’s the tricky part of life, the one that says once your eyes close, all your potential closes with them, trapped beyond the realm of the living, kept from us here still panting from the last time we experienced their intrepid energy. However, unlike us mere mortals, they live on in the millions of admiring fans they accumulated with every winning performance. Alan Rickman embodied talent and charisma, a sense of humor that helped him even when playing evil or stern characters, as I loved watching his off-screen bloopers, and he always managed to amaze me with his acting skills, skills not so common in today’s world cinema. He worked with his gut, his wits and his heart; the way I believe we all should.

In the end, celebrities are of no bigger importance than anyone else, but when brilliant people become famous like the aforementioned two, there’s no denying the world knows loss once they’re gone. Farewell Mr.Rickman, and every time I’ll watch one of your movies and weep, and around me they’ll ask “after all this time?” I’ll unfailingly answer “always”.

Etiquette pirouettes

When you grow up in the Middle East or Arab world, one of the primordial things you learn is proper etiquette; from attire details to rehearsed phrases, the decorum panoply is endless! However, when you travel through the western world after having absorbed the myriad of rules and traditions so deeply implemented here, you inevitably experience not only culture shock, but hopefully eye-opening realities: we’re stuck in a bizarre medieval world with dépassé notions of social correctness.

I rarely go to weddings here, they simply exasperate me, visually and intellectually. Once the invitation received, the mayhem begins as invitees barge into all the bridal and evening wear shops the country has to offer, trying to find the sluttiest blindingly sparkling piece of cloth to wear. Once the item chosen, purchased and fitted one size too small, comes the turn of the matching bag and shoes, or stilts in most cases. I’m quite sure men in the area suffer from Napoleon complex with all these ladies looking down on them from their ego-pleasing pedestals. I have a feeling one day there will be a fashion uprising and the male population will start wearing heels again like in the 18th century, and women will only have themselves and Louboutin to blame. And because the gem-studded outfit isn’t eye-catching enough by itself, the invited ladies cover themselves in Swarovski crystals and head to the hair and make up salon. Now here’s my favorite part: here in the Orient, we watch the Rocky Horror Show every day! It may not be the original cast but hey, we have the second best thing; hyperventilating menopausal ladies in form-fitting bodaces and young beauties hidden under layers of ill-matched pore-clogging foundation. Needless to say I always attract attention whenever I do attend these events, as all I put on is a simple black dress and some eyeliner for show.

Funerals, on the other hand, are a strange thing to me. First, everyone wears black, which isn’t a big stretch in my case. Make up should be really subtle or appear to be non-existant; which doesn’t stop everyone from hiring a make up artist to create the invisible masterpiece – yes, we pay to have things not done to us. Jewelry is out of the question unlike the Victorian era’s fashions, and tears are mandatory…the first fifteen minutes. I always get the impression that people see funerals as occasions to meet up and have a cup of coffee lovingly offered by whoever was hired for the job. I once went to a friend’s grandfather’s funeral in France, and him being a veteran of the war, all his living comrades had come in costume for the ceremony and we had all marched towards the dug up grave. It was such a powerful moment. A few heart-warming old songs had been chanted and then we all headed to another location to have a drink and talk. No pretend tears, no overly-rehearsed condolence speeches, just an honest “life goes on” gathering.

There are so many ways to celebrate life, whether its beginning or its end or even the journey in between. It’s amusing how, in an increasingly globalised world, we’ve so skillfully managed to implement the worst in the oriental society.