There's a strange quiet, a tangible vacuum in here. I want to pretend that this never happened, and it's easier for me to do so here. This is strangely reminding me of when my grandmother died. I wasn't there. Her death was sluggish to materialize. It took my going back home, to my grandparents house, for it to get closer to home. But even then she was simply strangely absent, like she just stepped out to get a bundle of bread and took a bit longer to return. Even seeing her grave didn't help that much in making it any more real. There was a marble slab with her name on it, her first name, which I never used anyhow. Just a name, and dates. But she wasn't there. I couldn't imagine her below, just like it was difficult to believe her to be dead. Her smell wasn't there, nor her ragged day dresses. There was just a strange absence, and nothing could be less tangible.
And here, I have only pictures. And voices. And words. There's the rubble, and here's my adamantly self-protective mind that wants to forget about it. And here's my world that is more than happy to conspire with me on pretending it never happened. Here's the concert in the park we went to last night, the refined string music, and the malevolently oblivious kids running around the pond. Here's this "civilized" culture that pretends it never killed anyone, it never paid for massacres, I never paid for massacres... It is easier to pretend that we're civilized when listening to violins in the night. It is too easy. I keep replaying old stale songs to remind me that this isn't it, that life is happening elsewhere, that life stopped elsewhere. But the songs with faded lyrics can barely compete with Bach. It is too easy to pretend we're civilized with Bach.
Yes, this is peace, this is serenity, this is affluence and plentitude, laying there, on the impeccable grass, pretending that it cost nothing. There's the rich of Chestnut Hill calling for someone to give their "meals on wheels" to. I pretend to forget my sister's message about the 500 or 5,000 that were stuck underground somewhere in the south of Lebanon without food for days, or the report about the people that had to drink from puddles of collected rain water that was closer in consistency to mud, and had started greening already with algae. I pretend this has never happened before, elsewhere, and will never happen again. I pretend that this is all there is, this concert, the good food, and my strangely silent company.
Mazen's mother's birthday was weighing on his mind. And on ours. He was supposed to be with her for it, in that World Before Any Of This Happened. There was the Peace my mother believed in in that World, the Life As It Was Happening Before. There was life as I remember it too vividly, as I try to will it again. The life with its infinite small details that have become strangely irrelevant now. And there's the silence, this unrelenting silence in my mind, that gets quickly filled, at the first thought of words, with old fragments of song, of Fairouz wailing, "Ya natreen el-talj, ma aad badkoun tirja'ou?" You waiting for the snow, don't you want to come back?
(Illustration courtesy of Ben Heine)