Red Lips & Battlefields

The Unrequited

I don’t know if you have ever realized… but I love you. I have done so since the moment I saw you. This is a feat in itself as all I saw of you was your nose and a bit of your eyes (it was winter so the hat and scarf were covering every bit of your face), yet I was blown away.

You may ask when that happened; a year ago, possibly 2. No, it happened 4 years ago and, to the shock of my friends, I still haven’t told you how I feel. Week after week we see each other, and yet I am too scared to say so. Part of it is due to the fact that I don’t want to ruin a good thing if you don’t feel the same way. I have to say, after my initial reaction, I tempered down my feelings for you. I didn’t want a repeat of someone else, or being disappointed. However, I was right to feel as I did all those years ago.

I love how you respect me. I love how you let me speak and we agree to disagree. I love how we like similar movies and TV shows, yet we also have different tastes in other matters such as music. I love how we watched marathons of those movies and TV shows until the late hours of early morning. I love how you understand my jokes or references to songs and films. I love how you always come to events with me even when you may not like or understand them. I love how we watch football together occasionally. I love how you got me into tennis when I didn’t enjoy it before.

I love all these things and more about you, yet I am scared to tell you. I could fill a page of how much I love you. Every thought of you brings a smile to my face as it does now. You are gorgeous inside and out, which makes me love you even more, if that were even possible.

So here is my confession on paper; you may see it or, very likely, you may not.

– Anonymous
March 20, 2014

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

City of Jasmine

Dear Damascus,

I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while, but I don’t know what to say.
It’s been so long since I walked in your streets,
seen your aging structures,
inhaled the sweet smell of jasmine that fills your air.

I am, not only, deprived of going home,
I am also deprived of seeing home.

I look at your pictures on the news;
I don’t recognize you.
I don’t know a Damascus torn apart;
I only know the one that exists in my memories.

My favorite part of Damascus is the old city,
A 15 minute walk south from my home in mazra3a,
Past the once great castle of Damascus.
I would enter the old city through Sou2 El Hamadiyeh,

A 300 meter long stone bazar.
For thousands of years, people would buy and sell goods here.
I would shop around for Shishas, perfumes and Jewellery.
After walking through the Sou2 I would reach the Ummayed Mosque:

A momument to the, once great, Ummayed Khalifa.
The entire Muslim world was ruled by this quarter in Damascus for 100’s of years.
Now, the muslim world has forgotten our influence and abandoned our people.
After starring in utter aw at this magnificent structure, I continue east to Bab Toma.

Bab Toma is a predominantly Christian area north of the Jewish Quarter,
A maze of narrow 7arat and Arabic style homes,
Filled with Christians and Muslims who have been neighbours for generations.
Getting lost in Bab Toma was a wonderful experience.

It was 3 am, I was walking through the 7arat with my sister and her fiancé.
As we passed the closed shops of the silent streets,
We talked, laughed and lost track of all time and direction.
I was taking in all the history I could,

Touching the old stone walls and wooden doors.
I broke off a small piece of stone and put it in my pocket.

Hours later, still lost, we turned a corner and saw an open door.
Peaking inside we saw a man watching TV,
He spotted us and quickly approached.
We apologized for intruding but he insisted we come in for tea and ka3ik.

After reluctantly stepping into this strangers home
We saw a tree in the middle of the living room, extending through the ceiling.
Only the trunk of this thick, aging tree was visible from the ground floor.
The man said this is a lemon tree that crowns in him bedroom.

We asked why he keeps his house door open at 4am;
“Why close my door?
I grew up with everyone who lives here; if any Shami wants to come in
we will be more than happy to greet them” he replied.

Although i didn’t realize it at the time,
This is the moment I learned the true Arabic social fabric:
Having so much trust in the people around you
That you leave your door open at night without a worry.

I don’t remember the man’s name.
I didn’t ask him about his religion, he didn’t ask me.
Through his generous Arabic spirt I realized,
He is more brother to me than stranger.

Oh Damascus,
I long to walk your streets again.
Oh Damascus,
I long for your jasmine scented air.

However much I want to visit Damascus,
I dread the day I will arrive.
When I see the destruction that has fallen on you,
The images in my head will immediately become distorted.

This letter I am writing
Doesn’t have a recipient
Because the Damascus I know
Doesn’t exist anymore.

– Anonymous
March 20, 2014.

The Passerby

If I could, I would write you a masterpiece, but you will have to make do with my humble soliloquy for now…

Our brief encounter was, in time, as simple as two shoulders accidentally rubbing on a crowded side-walk. You could have been nobody. But, I took the time to look at you. You took the time to see me. And all it took was that one hard look for me to know that I knew you. I knew you, and you hadn’t yet said a word.

I didn’t speak to you for long. Not long at all. But, somehow, you managed to get right under my skin. You awakened passions in me that I lost a lifetime ago. You reminded me what it was like to feel again; to find, to celebrate, to lose, to mourn, to remember. The accidental touch of your shoulder against mine felt like a full-blown slamming of souls. You left me breathless.

You’re gone now, with all the other strangers who pass me by on crowded sidewalks every morning. It is quiet, now, and there is only room for memory. If there was a magical pen that could draw your face into the fabric of my dreams, I wouldn’t possibly remember it better. I remember “A Whole New World.” I remember hands shaking. I remember eyes meeting mine, and finally feeling at home. I remember diving despite my fear of water. Exposure therapy.

For you, I dove. And I broke my neck. I knew, if I didn’t, I would never forgive myself.

– Anonymous
March 19, 2014.

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

The Destructive

I am tired. Tired of tight bodices under short dresses. Perfectly waxed legs. Painful heels that make the balls of my feet burn, the delicate sides of my toes rip. Tired of walking like I’m on a runway… one step in front of the next, a dance in my hips. Full figured sexy. I’m tired. Tired of turning my nose up against a slice of french toast. Of shaming myself into refusing a bite of chocolate because it will take permanent residence against the sides of my hips. I’m tired of sinking my teeth into tastelessness, binding myself within traditional notions of womanhood, repressing the bulge in my waistline in a corset that forces me to breath little, short breaths, or not breathe at all. I’m tired.

Tired of running my fingers through textured fabrics on manufactured racks in stores with bright glaring lights that don’t flatter the creases in my skin, looking for something that will render me beautiful. I’m tired. Tired of minding the straightness of my back even as I attempt to sink into the couch in the privacy of my own living room, when nobody is watching. I am tired of being confined, prepped, primed, manicured, brushed, whisked, flushed, lip-stuck. I am tired of being stuck. I am tired of my fingers straightening and toes curling, back stiffening as the masseuse asks me to relax. I am tired of paying people to tell me what to wear, how to draw on a mask of perfection, how to run my fingers through my hair, and how to run myself through the cellar of life: refining, hiding silently in darkness, tasting “better”. Paying my time. Paying my love. Paying my heart. Paying.

I’m tired of sweet wines and deep cognacs that weaken my mind, that make me more of the woman they want with every sip, and with every sip less the woman I am. I am tired. Tired of overwhelming perfumes, masked eyes, long nails, bright lipsticks. Tired of long hair, straightened into perfection, not one strand out of place: lifeless. I am tired of holding my breath and holding my stomach, training my voice into song-tune for the rare occasion when it is allowed to utter a word. I am tired. Tired of giggling. Tired of pretending. Tired of drawing myself, painting myself, washing myself out. I am tired of empty promises and weak kisses stolen under frozen twilights in frozen cities. I am tired of faking orgasms. Tired.

– Anonymous
March 18, 2014.

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

The Dirty Little Secret

“We only said goodbye with words, I [cried] a hundred times. You go back to [earth] and I go back to…” The closer we get, the quicker you go back to reality, reminding me that ‘we’ could never be. I guess in a way you try to remind yourself too but why remind when you can’t forget? I will never forget one of the most surreal and real moments in my life–heavily and sadly crying while I was given one of the best gifts of my life. In your arms, driving where the wind would take us (literally) reminded me of how carefree we were for that split second when nothing else mattered. You showed me that I can have emotion again, you showed me that I could love without boundary even if for a blink of an eye. Thank you. Thank you because I know that if my world crashed you would not let me crash with it. Thank you for kissing me with love and with lust. Thank you for looking at me ‘that’ way.

There are some things better left unsaid, but I know whenever we look into each others eyes they do the talking. I suppose this is what this letter’s meant to be, a brief look into my eyes. And then you hold me tight underneath the sun and moon in various nooks and cracks in the city and it’s like for those few moments there are no obstacles in the way. 2 am road trips, sneaking off into waterfalls, falling into the embrace of dangerous excitement all came crashing my way for years. We can thank that moment by the mountain, during the sunset, and after just a few days of talking, when we just knew. Something unmistakable, something forbidden, and yet, something so wonderful was about to occur. I use that word because I can never explain it to another human being. And that’s why you’re my dirty little secret. Well, for other reasons too of course.

These obstacles… I don’t want you to ever think that I won’t abide by them or that I will try to make you change your mind. If I could turn back time and be in the position to erase one of the obstacles, I would in a heartbeat. And then you would be mine. But you’re not unless it’s temporary. I don’t know why we put walls up when vulnerable; I can see that even in writing this. The last time you pushed me away tore me apart more than I could ever explain to you. Maybe it’s because I felt it was really goodbye; like this was it. I wouldn’t want to ever fully let you go, there is a magnetic force in me latched on to you. I know one day I will not have a choice in the matter but I guess I’m still on my first stage of grief- denial. I hope you never read this. I hope you never know how much it actually hurts or how much I care. But I hope you feel the same way. Sometimes you win—sometimes I feel insignificant to you. Maybe in the realm of everything that is logical I am, but if I was emotionally insignificant then I would not be pushed away just to be held tight… I don’t get it, even if I participate in it.

Why is it that people play games? I guess to prove who has the power. But in this case none of us do… and yet we’re stuck playing, hiding, masking, and not saying all that is true. So don’t read this letter because the games will be over. And once they are, I’m afraid you’ll go with them. Love me from a distance, dream of me, and hold me in every breath you take… This is just the beginning of my goodbye, my dirty little secret. I will forever keep the memories sealed within my heart.

-Anonymous
March 12, 2014.

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

The Far-Fetched

We’ve been talking for quite some time now and our friendship has grown to a point where there are days where we would spend endless hours, day or night, talking about anything, which is so often criticized as impersonal and distant.

I don’t think I’ve ever “talked” as much with anybody or any so-called friend as I do with you.

Some people talk about the risks and dangers of knowing someone you just met, to the point of becoming suspicious of their own shadows. But I must confess that our contact, even at a distance, has become really important to me.

But, more importantly, I feel the need to know that you are well, that you had a good day, that things went well for you and all those curiosities that true friends have about one another.

By writing this letter, I acknowledge my intention of maintaining this almost daily contact, until the day that we can tighten this relationship and make it more physical.

Anonymous
March 10, 2014

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

The Byron

You’re a difficult memory,
But you’re a wonderful one.

You challenged everything I believed in.

You tore me apart and then made me a whole different kind
Of whole.
Hole.

You nourished me, re-energized me,
and sheltered me.
You kept me warm.

You made me feel at home; you were good at that.

You were also good at leaving.
So was I.

All the roads lead to Venice, after all.
All the roads lead to love.

They lead to nothing.

But the wind blows.
And, when it blows, we have to go with it.

Don’t we?

– Anonymous.
March 1, 2014.

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

The Battlefield

An undercurrent of solitude breeds miracles of thought. There is something about quiet, dark rooms that allows me to extend so deeply into myself that I am often afraid to fall off some unknown metaphorical edge of consciousness. Deprived of the hustle-bustle of my often alarmingly loud life, I begin to recognize a bizarre layering in my mind that is often inaccessible to me: sandwiched memories, forgotten havens, pleasures and sorrows. In silence, I am finally able to glimpse the sharp corners, the crossroads, and the invisible road bumps that tend to throw me into cyclones of undecipherable emotion. There is a woman struggling with an identity battle in here. A woman without home or land, searching for a hint of who and what she is. It takes an immense amount of courage not to leap away from her. It would be easier to turn my head and walk away. It would be easier to fill the room with sound and light: distractions at the very least, and at the very most accomplices to my conscious neglect of the storm inside me.

In solitude, I finally allow myself to remember that I am not an ordinary woman. There is no such thing as an ordinary woman, yet the idea of her is always present and so easy to conjure and believe in. A dab of lipstick here, a shade of eyeliner, a wisp of ordinary laughter are all it takes to become this imaginary and incomplete rendition of whoever she is. Who I really am is much more difficult to deal with.

In solitude, I am able to hold my breath and absorb the intricate details of my internal phenomenon. Even in complete silence, it is never quiet in my mind. Even as the city ices over, the fire in my heart spits and rages. It does not rage with anger, but with love. It is a fire that is kindled by memories of Jerusalem, by the smell of fresh kaek bread drifting through my window on warm summer mornings. A wild fire: one that is given new life when the Church bells ring, when fresh olive oil and thyme touch the lips, and when a droplet of Arak intoxicates the senses. It is the kind of fire that is a curse upon those who house it, and a lost miracle for those who lack it. A fire of chocolate eyes, olive skin, and curly hair.

In solitude, the parting of seas and skies is inevitable. There is no capsule, no vacuum  that can suppress the noise that thunders over the silence like the sounds of bullets echoing in the Palestinian night. There is no vehicle, no body that can contain the infinite grains of sand that travel with the wind across the desert and land between the olive trees in my mind. In the darkness: wholeness and emptiness co-exist. There is war here, and promise of peace. There is pain here, as bottomless as the old well that yields fresh water but never quenches the generations of thirst. Yet there is love here: boundless, and searching for home.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek, and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). So I will ask until my breath runs out; I will seek until I am sitting at the very edge of the earth; and I will knock. I will knock until my hands bleed. And I will find myself.

MD 10/02/2014

20 & 1 Lessons of 2013

  1. Every day grants you an opportunity for a new beginning. You do not have to wait for the new year, or the first day of a new week, or your birthday to start making positive changes to your life.
  2. Human beings are complex creatures. We often do not completely understand ourselves, yet we become frustrated when we cannot understand one another. Have patience. Accept the mystery.
  3. A story is never just a story. A movie is never just a movie. Every fictional human experience has been, at one time or another, lived by a real person. Even supernatural fiction is often a metaphorical reflection of reality. Allow yourself to absorb the happiness, the suffering, the spirituality, and the growth of fictional characters: it will make you more human.
  4. Never say that it will never happen to you. Pain, illness, loss, suffering, hunger, and war are all things that can happen to any of us, at any time. Happiness, friendship, love, growth, wealth, safety, and family may also be given to any of us too. Do not take anything for-granted.
  5. It is absolutely your responsibility to know what is going on in the world. If your living condition is relatively safe, it is even more so your responsibility to keep your eyes and your mind on the suffering of others. A slight twist in fate, and you could have been the one without food, without shelter, and without family. Don’t you ever forget it.
  6. It is also your responsibility to help others. You have two hands for a reason: one to guard yourself with and one to lend to others. Remember: what goes around always comes around.
  7. Express gratitude. Without gratitude, there is no life, there is no love and, ultimately, there is no salvation. Be thankful.
  8. Define yourself. People will always seek to describe who you are, and why you are the way that you are. They may also often present such convincing arguments that you begin to believe they know you better than you know yourself. Stop. You, and only you, are a free agent to decide who you are; Not your best friend, not your mother, not a wise stranger, and certainly not your therapist.
  9. Love is abundant. The more you give of it, the more you will have for yourself. You can eat your cake and have it too.
  10. Love is not painful. This is the greatest misconception of human history. Love that is painful is not love. Leave it behind. Seek healing.
  11. Everybody is unique, but nobody is divine. All human beings are worthy of your love, but none are worthy of your worship. Mind the thin line.
  12. If you do not value yourself, nobody will. If you do not respect and love yourself, nobody will. Raise yourself.
  13. The word “no” can sometimes be your best friend. Learn how to say it when it needs to be said. It is not always a virtue to bend yourself backwards for others.
  14. Be headstrong and firm in your values. Do not compromise your values to please others. “Those who stand up for nothing fall for anything” – Alexander Hamilton.
  15. Religion is not evil. Some human behaviors are evil, and many of those behaviors are often rationalized by men yelling the word “god”. However, what’s in a name? Calling an orange an apple does not make it any less an orange. Likewise, calling personal demons “gods” does not make them any less demons, and does not make God any less Godly. Know the difference between names and concepts. Beware of those who seek to confuse you.
  16. Political correctness is a conscious acceptance of public censorship. Be kind and mindful of others, but do not present all your opinions with a sprinkle of fairy-dust on the side. Speak your mind; you have one for a reason.
  17. There is always more to learn. He who knows that he hardly knows anything is the one most open to growth.
  18. First impressions should not be lasting impressions. Nobody over the age of 6 will reveal their true spirit to you upon a first encounter. Dig beyond the superficial, and give everyone a fair chance.
  19. You will constantly change, and the changes will sometimes be so drastic and come so quickly that you will hardly recognize yourself. Welcome these experiences with open arms: they are the building blocks of your life.
  20. You are wonderful, but you are not any better than anyone else. You are worthy, but you are not divine. Strip yourself of social status, of physical beauty, of material wealth, and recognize your mortality. “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:12.
  21. Take your homeland with you wherever you go. When you forget who you are, it will remind you.

MD 30/12/2013

Love Roads

There is a beach that runs alongside a beautiful corniche, popularly referred to as “Love Road”, in Muscat/Oman. Although it is one of the most beautiful destinations for relaxation and sun-tanning in the Middle East, Oman remains rather anonymous: hidden in a corner of the Arabian Gulf, she is protected securely there. When I walk her beaches, Muscat absorbs me and lends me the trademark of anonymity and safety that is so exceptionally her own. Facing her sea, I feel my heart (physically, literally) extend far beyond the horizon: stretching, stretching to a point of no return. I feel the thump-thump-thump of her heartbeat against my toes in the sand. For a moment, I know what it feels like to be boundless, infinite. For her, with her, I yield to the complete evaporation of my self.

Fast-forward a month later, and I am pacing through Crescent Street in Montreal, hopping between people, dodging the human traffic headed up from St. Catherine’s. I hold myself securely within my heavy coat, locking my right hand against my left shoulder, comforting myself through the hustle-bustle, the noise pollution, the madness. Suddenly, a stillness comes over me. I smell the Gulf of Oman, I hear her. I stop against a corner of the street, rest my back against the walls of a creperie, and I tell myself: “Evaporate”. Although Montreal forces me to entirely condense myself, I start to fight her. I touch the wall, let myself feel the thump-thump-thump of people sinking their teeth into nutella drizzled over bananas and strawberries, rolled in cinnamon-sugar, wrapped in the thin skin of a warm crepe. I notice, for the first time that evening, the light rain falling against my face. I stop shielding myself from it; let each drop fall and cool down my warm cheeks. A man who is zooming through the crowd pauses and locks eyes with me. He smiles, and slows down, but keeps walking. A smile, just for me, in Montreal! I am, once again, infinite.

MD 02/11/2013

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