Thursday, December 26, 2002

New footprints to erase the old

I open the door, walk out, intent on taking new steps.

I dined in our favorite restaurant. Remember? Shrimp Cocktail and French Style Onion Soup. We were very suave, weren't we? What were we thinking? French cuisine would taste like French food? Onion Soup in Zamalek would conjure up the Latin Quarter in Paris? My stomach turns. This time I took all my little cousins. The nine of them. They gobbled and talked and nagged the waiters and ordered gallons of soda and argued over dishes they cannot even utter. What am I thinking? I'm taking my Onion Soup no matter how many times we had it together and no matter how sophisticated we thought we were. Onion Soup is great for the soul! Onion Soup is the essence of French cuisine for God's sake! I order it for the ten of us. The kids love it! The idea of bread smeared with cheese floating in soup is so novel that they actually went silent while eating it up. God bless them with their pink cheeks, their loud voices, their free laughs, and, at the end of the meal, their hugs and kisses smeared with the ever-present ketchup. Whenever I enter this restaurant I will always remember the way The Amazing Mohra, my favorite three-year-old cousin, suddenly got up from beside me, looked at the man sitting on the table next to us, narrowed her eyes, and stated, "Enta…GHABY!" (You…are…STUPID!) Well, to be honest, the man looked a little bit like Ragheb Allama in his latest video clip, but this doesn’t automatically mean he's stupid! Then again, Mohra must have had her reasons. I trust her insight. I ate new soup to wipe the old.

I climbed the amazing mountain where we watched hundreds of sunsets. I chose a very sunny day, to erase that other gloomy and dark one, when I hoped you would hold my hand and you wanted me to hit you as hard as I can. I should have known then. I should have seen the brutal mind not hope for the tender heart. I should have seen where the power was. This time I took my cousin and my brother; they both come from cold places. The sun will do them good. The sun always does us lots of good. Sometimes I can feel it going straight to my heart. I wanted them to store some sunny rays in their hearts for the upcoming cloudy days. The sun was generous and the weather was feeling bountiful. We had a long talk. We cried. We held hands. We hugged each other and drank sugar cane juice. We felt that whatever it is, it will pass. Now every time I remember this mountain I remember this sunny day. Everything will pass, as long as the sun stays in our hearts. I watched a new sunset to set aside the old.

I walked up the street where you held my hand and asked whether I am beautiful, whether I am irresistible. I bought tons of firecrackers, went there the night of the feast with my two best friends, and lighted the crackers! Red, yellow, blue and green! I felt BEAUTIFUL! I am irresistible! We laughed and the people walking in the street clucked their tongues and shook their heads. Then we offered them some of the crackers, and before we knew it the street was ablaze with the happy colors. I love converts. A major paradigm shift, I'd say. We went home on foot. The wind felt so new to my face. My body discovered breathing. Now every time I pass this street I have a wide smile on my face. New firecrackers to replace the old fire. Happy colors. Beautiful. Irresistible.

I went to the spot by the Nile where we sat in winter and basked in the sun. I went alone. You won't believe it, but there was this girl sitting there crying! Remember the other girl who sat there crying? Remember how you snickered and how I wanted to go talk to her. I still insist she looked suicidal. I still believe I could have helped her. I could have at least told her my favorite joke! But, typical of you, you clipped my wings and made us leave the place altogether. You never wanted to have anything to do with sad people. Not your scene. This time I sat by myself marveling at the view and at my stupidity. I can still hear your words. But now I can hear her soft sobs too. I sit far from her not wanting to interrupt her special moment. I know how special it is to feel sorry for ourselves. We need this from time to time. We need it from ourselves so that we don't go and seek it from others. After some time I go to her. I pat her shoulder, she looks up. She looks up kindly. I say I am sorry for whatever might have happened but I am sure it's always for the best. She cries. I cry. New tears to blot out the old. I keep patting her hand; my usual nervous way of comforting troubled souls. I offer her a gum. We chew silently. I tell her my favorite joke and she laughs and cries and cries and laughs. New laughs to laugh away the old. This will always be the Sunny Spot. I walk away feeling very good about myself. I am so happy to have my wings back.

I close the door. Walk away. I take new steps to erase the old. Now I can walk again.