First draft, quickly written, upon remembering how many people helped me achieve the small things in life. Due to love. Not love for a person, but love for a just cause.
This Kind of Love
Dubai August, 2011.
Sometimes, it is that specific hate that brings us closer. A history so besieged, so maligned, the boundaries of where your hurt stops and mine starts are indefinable, are intrinsic to all our coincidental unavoidable encounters, are the essence of the way you understand my jumbled sentences, and the many accents, can foresee the suitcases that are shadows of a nomad existence, and the weary shake of the head that smiles in recognition…
Where are you from, in Palestine?
I used to be from Jaffa.
My family used to live in Safad.
Our village was called Tantura, but now that’s a name we associate,
with a massacre, with indelible fate, with inconceivable suffering, with the knowledge that are impotent, that we are always too late.
Sometimes, yes, it is the hate.
And sometimes, when the alignment of all that is sacred in this earth pitches its voice to serenade our worn hands, sometimes, when we can smile, sometimes when we forget, sometimes in order to forget, it is love, it is only love that binds us. It is the line, the hook, the sinker, the bait. Without a trick, without the charade, without the games of emotional trade.
She sits, so regal, so masculine, so determined and in a state of grace.
She sits in her studio, paint and regret etched in her face, more than seventy years battling canvases to remind, battling New York rats, refusing to hide, refusing to bind her crotchety hands that weaved magic olive trees in our hearts, forever. She sits in her studio, wary of me, and my stories, and my desires and the longing for help, and the need in my center, and the gasping at seeing her embroidered dresses hanging, the gentle way I catch her eye and ask…please can I borrow them? I promise to return them, to watch over them, to not be late.
Please help. And she does. And she does, and here I am, years later, celluloid engraved with her kindness, her dark face and bitter eyes following my camera on paths to scribe the legacy she drowns me, the guilt she pushes me forward with, the duty she smears on my chest, the painted protest signs she created for street fighters still ringing in my dreams…
They said…”Arm Palestinian civilians”. Oh Samia, you are almost 80, and so much stronger than I.
Sometimes, it is tough, but it is love.
He sits on the edge of his seat, shaking his knee, wanting a cigarette. He is so handsome I forget my projects. I forget to behave and to be polite and wait to be befriended. I forget about hate.
He must have wanted a cigarette to extinguish whatever fire he lusted up with my eyes. He must have wanted to escape knowing I would ruin his peace. He must have known I would trip all the fuse wires in his bereaved and calmed senses. He should have known better. He falls in love with her stories, and all the vine leaves curling in her waist, and all the brown soil dripping from her honey eyes, and she is the land not forgotten, and her young body is the refugee camp he had to flee, and she flows clean water and daisies.
And she is the laughter of his sisters as babies, and she is the hope of life burgeoning in the futures unwritten, and she is the savior and the butcher, the saint and the whore, the scent of all that is Arab, and all that is in love with his American self, and more. She is the center of Manhattan and the entire field he remembers in lives, past.
And when the warrior inside her is too tall for him, and when her voice echoing tales that refuse to be silenced is too wide, she is then the memory of his failure, she is the loss of another home land, she is another olive tree, uprooted in fear. And sometimes, this too, this attempt, this sadness, is love.
The falafel shop was small, and the customers blonde. The recipes Palestinian, the owner Syrian and the hands delivering tahina sauce across counters from Egypt. The students at NYU, colors of rainbows. They listen to her stories. The meals offered for free, for students in need of Arabian aromas, the scenes she describes in her films, the dreams she enacts on pages and in computer screens, the actors she replenishes with hand crumbled chickpeas, the culture inherent in the ancient dynasty of our kitchen tables, and our dining habits, and our happy bellies are enough, are enough to fill cash registers with pride.
And sometimes this, this free food in the land of check out counters, this is love.
And what of the countless strangers? And what of the eyes that widen in recognition to whisper…
I know. I have been there. Say nothing more, wander no longer.
Here, take what you need. Give me nothing that you can’t offer.
Here, my gut is open to you, and in it is my family name, and in it is all the giving I can muster,
and here is my palm, once clenched, now ripped open asunder by secret keywords,
villages razed, midnight tales of grandparents that ached, and hidden attics of photographs
that have not crumbled, and what of the countless lovers, yet unmet, who know that in your eyes,
and in your limbs, and in the curve of your thighs are all the round rocks of mutiny we can
stand, are all the soft winding rivers we can thrive on, are all the walls of homes we turn to for a harbor.
Yes, often it is the hate that I know which brings us closer.
But a legion of nomads are sung to in soft murmurs of love, secretly in nights alone, a siren song of such pitches that tremble, and armor, and hunger, a tinkling chime that ceaselessly wails dirges in our heavy lips, an incandescent candle blotting out the spiraling dark…a legion of brothers and sisters.
If I could arm all the magic hands I have touched on this earth who offer nothing but understanding,
I could create an invisible army unbeatable, I could wipe out the smears of Merkavas,
and root out the weeds in my olive groves, and roam a butterfly,
orange, red, yellow and pink, a resplendent being amongst your upturned faces,
a legion of warmth,
a country of hope,
a nation without passports or borders or ID numbers.
And we would laugh on love, and we would feed on hate,
we would excrete that hate,
and to hell with that common enemy,
and to hell with that fragmentation of our stories,
and to hell with our bodies separate,
we would jot down Palestinian love stories in wine and bread,
and we would dance,
and that would be another face to love,
now and forever. Here, inside, and across all the nomadic spheres, yonder.