Sunday, September 21, 2014

meet me in the middle

I wrote this to my close friends exactly one year ago, when I first arrived to the Bay Area from far, far lands that I often miss. Consider this my tribute to all those who cross oceans and seas to seek and lose, and then find themselves, maybe.

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I’m happy to report that I am spending considerable amounts of time in the kitchen now that I’m a grad student without a job (yet), and operating on limited ingredients sure makes whipping up a meal worth looking forward to on par with working on an art project in terms of the innovation required.

I gotta tell you though, I’m in love with the skies. Here they feel a lot closer to the ground, a moving canvas that draws you in while it rearranges its parts. San Francisco welcomed me at dusk. And as I sat in a speeding car on the highway with my back to the airport, I marveled at the beautiful eeriness that accompanies fog as it proceeds to envelop mountain tops and skies. It rolls in like a soft avalanche everyday at dawn, and I wait for it with the eagerness of the uninitiated. It is beautiful.

It’s been exactly one month since my arrival, and I find myself slowly slipping into the crevices of what makes everyday life, everyday life. I talk to people I don’t know and I smile back at those who smile at me.

My corner liquor store owner, who is Arab (I haven’t figured if he’s Lebanese or Palestinian yet), goes out of his way to infuse Arabness into my life - either by refusing my money when I dash into his store for a quick grab of gum/water essentials before my bus arrives, or by playing Najwa Karam (Lebanese singer, look her up) sporadically when he glimpses me approaching from a distance.

My days are often punctuated with unexpected gems that manifest while I listen to the most random, most profound, conversations on the bus as I make my way to and from school. Like the elderly man who wore a grey suit and matched it with an olive green checkered scarf to go with his grey-green-striped hat, who commanded everyone’s attention as he drawled in his thick, deep voice the beauties of the Rembrandt painting he held in his hands. A black* man. He said he was an artist and I was certain he was a nutter, despite his handsome attire. ’You know what this is? This is a Rembrandt painting, and it’s going on my wall. Ooooh yeah, it’s going right there on my wall’. At that moment, he appeared to me as though he was sitting on top of the world.

Or that other time when I sat across from a pretty girl with dimples, also black, who was talking to her friend about things I wasn’t present enough to pay attention to, until she suddenly started talking about one’s roots. She addressed her friend, a white girl, and declared that she was confused by her friend’s roots. That they were ‘thin and long, yet they were strong. That the roots were not proportional to the trunk of the tree, which is huge, and that they ran deep into the earth, but that they were slender.’ She thought that was weird. She had her eyes closed the whole time she was talking, as if she was imagining those very roots. She was slightly smiling. I smiled too.

* My references to skin color have more to do with my ongoing observations of race dynamics in the US than anything else. I’m also still learning about accurate forms of reference so if anything I say seems un-PC, please excuse me. It’s a process.

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Happy to receive emails and tips on your favorite ways to make coffee.

Salam

Al.
a.barzakh.a[AT]gmail.com
San Francisco, California

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