The Life Lived
The Life Lived
(Sequel of "The Life Dreamt" . Dedicated to my grandfather.)
"Oh starry-eyed one! Turn your gaze at me! Don't mind the come-and-goers... They're just shadows escaped from your blurry thoughts.
"Who is it?"
"Nobody, go back to sleep."
"When are we leaving?"
"As soon as the fever drops. You be patient and I promise you, I'll take you to the Misir! We'll buy hurma and raisins and we'll drink hot sahlep and eat frosty batiha! Would you like that?
And we'll to the old wishing well and toss a dime...
"When are we leaving?"
"Why, do you have an appointment!?"
"Is that a smile I see?! Oh just wait till you're all better and you'll see! We'll paint the town! I'll take you wherever your heart desires! Just hold on for a little while longer, will you?"
"My brother, where is my brother?"
The swallows have him. They got ahold of him a long time ago. He's well. He's roaming above the clouds! Do you remember the clouds? Just feel your chin with your fingers and you'll know! Froth of the freah sea and foam of hot milk and... ...water?"
"And I'll take you to that restaurant that serves pineapple sorbet! What do you think about that?"
"It's your daughter! Remember? Look at her! She used to have this rag doll... The one with the yellow string hair! Remember? Oh, she used to drag that old thing everywhere. And every Saturday night she'd take her dolly with her to bed, she would lull her, sweet talk her, tell her bedtime stories and then she'd fall asleep with it in her arms.
"Like Mother does! Sometimes..."
She collected all your old vinyl and she saved the old broken record player and all kinds of obsolete things; antiques and old parts of stuff that were of no use. She held on to them as if she was clinging onto the certain, safe, present and the dreamy, blush, rosy past. Old stamps and ferry tickets; she kept them as treasures. Most of all she held on to your old stories! She heard them so many times that she memorized them word by word. Most of people get tired of hearing old stories over and over but not her! She hung from your lips. In the end those stories melted into a parallel reality. She took them, loved them and made them hers. She rehearsed them in her head till she learnt them by heart. She went "there" when she felt lonely; after years of solitude and dreaming of a life never to be lived; a wallflower suffocating of affection in a kin bubble.
Your tales were of a life lived a life she wished to have as her own. And she did. She became part of them. She snuck into your stories and became their keeper. She appointed herself as your mouthpiece so that if you ever forgot she could recount them in your place and so they'd live on! She became a Historian of some sort. Her bedroom, a museum. Old photos of people she never met, of places she never visited.
She knows the secrets of strangers who don't even know of her existence. She has her own real-life doll house. "Nora, the daughter of Ibsen."
Her mother helped her trim her nails till her demise. The buck-teethed girl grew to be a martyr. She brought up a child that was never able to grow and died leaving her to you, oh starry eyed one. You, who could always appease her when she was most upset and frustrated. You, who made the tantrums go away, you the care giver, the mild-mannered aching-soul whisperer you, the proud head of the clan, you, the saint. You kept the child alive. And now the child is the care giver that's keeping you alive. And she does so as she was taught. She's glued on a chair by your bedside and won't move an inch, she's there to feed you, nurse you, lull you, sweet talk you... Like a mother does! Always..."
"When are we going home?"
"As soon as the doctors say we can."
"My sweetheart! Where is my sweetheart?"
"She's in your sweet heart!"
"And where am I?"
"You're here with me! Remember me? I'm the one who loves you!"
"Now I'll tell you a bedtime story! There once was a boy whose eyes shone like stars! Light blue; lighter than the air in the sky and bluer than the ocean. He did everything with those eyes, he smiled and laughed and spoke! He was born in the blazing stifling south, near The Big River. His first toys were fashioned of reeds. He got accustomed to breathing that red, terracotta dust thet hovered in the air and clouded the sky from sight... But with those bright starry eyes of his he could see past that! He looked upwards and saw the swallows flying in circles! He dreamed of... Water? Here. He dreamed of... Well who knows what he dreamed of...!
And the boy grew big and tall and he left the south. He became great; so great that in your darkest day all it took was a glance in those blue eyes that shone like stars, and you'd find the light. He was a fierce man who handled disaster without wincing, without bending, without sheding one tear though his heart wept. Earthquakes and sickness and impossible elderly kin. He never lost his patience, his suave smile, the stars never stopped beaming. He held his sweetheart's hand all well through life when they were soft and warm and still when they started wrinkling. And he didn't let go even when they grew cold. They had to beg him to loosen his grip.
He kissed his grandchildren's hair and stroke the enduring home walls lovingly and with gratitude; he spoke kind words to the air about all people! And..."
"When are we leaving?"
"As soon as the story is over!
And at your darkest hour all it took was one look in those blue eyes that shone like stars and you'd see the light...
"Who are you?
It is I! Pick whomever you wish you could have by your side and I'll be them for you!
"My brother, my sweetheart, child...water, water."
"Here, here, here. Here! Oh starry-eyed one, the life dreamt... It's here, it's all here!
"When do we leave?
"Not yet darling"
"If not today, maybe tomorrow"
(Words actually uttered by a senile 92 year old man in a split second of clarity)
P.S. You made me love Kavafy!