Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Notes on Bibi: Death and all that follows

Death takes all that is full and renders it empty. We are comforted by what those we lost have left behind for us to keep. Kebabs and shops and art and salad sauces and books and jokes and strange habits we carry. Death is the indiscriminate execution of an inheritance to both the worthy and the unworthy. We are all heirs of great and mediocre heritage. Bibi, as Iraqis call their grandmother, died after battling too many illnesses to comprehend let alone explain. She died on the morning of a storm. Sand came early to take her away. Sand we walked on together. Sand I rarely glanced at while spending weekends at her house. Sand I buried her with on Saturday. We were both above sand and together for so long and now sand is between us. 

Bibi was a strong woman. She survived too much. War, migration, death of a child and a husband. She watched her brothers and sisters stay in Iraq and fall on times so hard that every bit helped. She watched her nephews called to a fruitless war for eight years. Some didn’t return. She lost her home and left overnight because my grandfather was rumoured to be pro-monarchy at a time of socialist democracy. In 2003, my mother and I took her to Ahwaz to meet her sister - she had been accused by Saddam of being Iranian and had their assets confiscated and banished there - after many years. My great aunt was younger than Bibi but she looked so much older. I remember Bibi almost scolding her - in that hardened tone that streams of love that only Iraqi women can do - “What’s wrong you?! What happened to you??!” But she knew: Saddam happened. One of my great aunt’s daughters had green spots on her arms. I asked her what they were and she said ‘Kemawi’. During that trip I met my great aunt’s only son. He told me that time had stopped since they were forced to leave Iraq. That he now intentionally lives in the past. Before the war. When things were good. 

I do not digress and I do not live in the past but I left a part of me with Bibi in that grave. I don’t know what it is but I know it’s old. I know it’s from the days of her salad and spicy bamya stew in her house in Sharjah by the green belt park in the blue living room where I slept too many times trying to stay up to watch Thursday night movies. Where I saw Enter the Dragon for the first time one afternoon after Akil dozed off.

Maybe that’s what life is about… a life-long attempt to build a collection of memories that can be curated into a final exhibition moments before we die. And then we exhale. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

To Be Long

What is this world that doesn't want to be anything long enough? What is this world that writes itself with no stationary? Who are we if not of each other... if not with one another. Old friends and new. Faint folks and brave. Why is it so hard to linger? Why has it become impossible to see it through. Coming and going. So many manys but few are left if any. I want to be long with you. Let us be long together. Let us make meaning here. And let us find others that will stay and speak and play. Together, maybe we can all be together. Let us dilate with each others' forms and navigate with our paces. Let us predetermine this. Let us not be true (and what is true?) but lasting.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Death reconciles sadness and joy. Achraf says it is the ultimate truth. And we are only capable of seeing anyone buried… or right before, on the washing slab, in a coffin or before they sail to burn. We look at them like it’s the first time. The last time is the first. We say hello as they wave goodbye. Eyes shut. Soul afloat. We only belong to them then. They conquer Achraf’s truth all while immortalising our memories. We eventually embalm them into a picture. One time. One moment. That is all we have left. Our misery is traded for the sanctuary of a single memory. Dear Bassem, I’m sorry I skipped Sir Bani Yas Forum and we never met like we planned. Dear Thamer, I’m sorry I didn’t press on you to leave to RAK after lunch like you initially planned that day before you got that on wretched bike. Dear Nasser, I’m sorry I missed your burial and didn’t shed a tear when mom called to tell me – though my heart broke and my lungs compressed at the thought of your loss. Dear Akil, I’m sorry I never took those calls just before the end. But I am not reconciled. I would trade all that truth and a thousand real moments for the company of your lives. I do not find solace for your wrong deaths in the greatness of your past lives. That doesn’t do it for me. I wanted more of you. Days and decades since, I still want more of you. I will always hate that you are dead. You deserve to be immortal. I will probably die a little sooner because you died so much sooner.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


A moment to catch my fleeting thoughts… am I too fast or are they too slow? I think both. 

I am excited at my acceleration but I am also nostalgic of time to be. Can we not be both?

Can we not discuss being both seriously?

Can we not all be highlanders?

Lives after lives to date not to find what’s best or even better… but to find it all.

I hope Ray’s right. 

I want to live a thousand years.

I want to be a highlander.

I want to be a poly-century-math.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Band Incomplete

It’s hard for a band of brothers to travel the same seas with a brother gone. He’s everywhere but he’s not. It’s hard for a band of brothers to walk the same islands with a brother gone. He’s with them but he’s not. It’s hard for a band of brothers to play the same music with a brother gone. His music is still loud but he’s not.

How hard it must be to be shaken from the busy that is everyday to be taken back to the very rooms of a brother. How silly they must feel… their dejections at once awake. How loud is his laugh among their silence? Books and apps and cards and plans and ideas do not prevail. His presence is so loud.

What to do with the present when the past seems this inconclusive? What does the future hold for those with inadequate pasts? What is there to multiply when ones's additions have been this subtracted? Divisibility abounds.

They are incomplete.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Loss to life

The only thing worse than losing a friend to death must be losing one to life. Death brings its five stages of grief but life brings more of it wrapped only in disbelief. The streets you walked with your dead ones are only yours but those of your living... those you still must share.

Tell me old friends that still roam… when did life overstretch our truth?
Tell me young companions… was it ever warm? Even in summer

I ask in defence of narratives we built together and values we pledged we'd stand by forever. I ask, with all the skin we've shed since, would we still recognise each other? I ask so that we may end our chapters with post-civil dignity. I ask so that our faking can stop. I ask to know if I fake it alone. I ask because I cannot tell anymore. Your eyes are dead old friend, but you are full of life.

I am sure you are sure but I must hope to be wrong. So that the past can still maintain and so that I can remember and we can still perpetuate.

I'll make you an offer that'll fill your coffers: I'll trade you our past for your future. Give me that and be gone again... but don't be generous! I only want my fair price, no matter how expensive or inexpensive.

Do it and die old friend. Do it before I murder the past, be full of a life nested in cold eyes. Do it before I become you old friend.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

في ثامر

* ترجمة لتدوينة البارحة الانجليزية Ode to a good man


أكاد ان أجزم أنني استطيع ان أجد عيبا في غالبية الناس والكمال لله وحده لكنني على عكس العادة أكاد ان أجزم بأنني وجدت في ثامر سلمان اقرب شيء لذلك. لكن ثامر رحل منذ عشر ساعات.

كان ثامر طيباً جدا. فقد كان من الأشخاص الذين أنعم الله عليهم بكل شيء من عقل وصحة ومال ووسامة ولكنه آثر حسن الخلق على ان يكون مختالاً فخوراً. كان ذكياً وخفيف الظل وناجحاً و مثقفاً ومتعطشا للحياة. كان ثامر رائعا.

قد يكون ثامر الشخص الوحيد الذي كان دمثاً في تنافسيته. كان يتقن كل ما يجربه. من الطيران المائي (fly board) إلى اختياراته الثقافية. كان فعلاً متعدد المواهب والقدرات.

كان ثامر أيضاً كريماً جداً. حين اتصلت بي والدتي في نوفمبر الماضي لتطلب العون لطالبة ثانوية متفوقة ولكن من عائلة محدودة الدخل لدخول الجامعة قام ثامر بإدخالها لفصل يناير واستخراج منحة كاملة لها.

كنا نسميه ويكي (wiki) لانه كان يعرف كل شيء أو يعرف كيفية الوصل اليه قبلنا جميعاً. بل وصل لمرحلة من الاحتراف في استخراج المعلومات أننا سلمنا له الأمر ولم نعد نسأل غيره عن شيء. كان يجيب عن جميع أسئلتنا.

فكرياً، كان ثامر مهموما بحال العالم العربي وكان يتوق للمبادرة بشكل إيجابي للمنطقة. تحدثنا كثيرا عن مؤهلاته الخاصة كداعم ومؤسس لحاضنات ريادة الأعمال في العالم العربي.

الليله الماضية سهرنا للساعة ٦.٣٠ صباحاً. تسامرنا ولعبنا كرة القدم على البلاي ستيشين وحين انصرف الجميع حدثته عن قرارٍ إيجابي كان قد اقترحه علي الشهر السابق. فرح كثيرا لي. ثم دخلنا غرفنا للنوم وكنا اخر من صحا من الأصدقاء. تناولنا الغداء معاً ثم انطلق هو واثنان من الأصدقاء على الدراجات قبيل المغرب ثم حصل ما حصل رحمه الله.

الموت دوما يبعثر أوراق حياتنا ويسحق أبجدية أولوياتنا. موته سحق حياته وأي حياةٍ كانت.

أؤمن بالله وأدعو له بحسن الخاتمة. كان الله في عوننا.