Monday, August 30, 2010

What I Would Tell You

By: Tala Abu Rahmeh

Today, I walked into a publishing house for an interview. On my way in, an article hung on a frail board caught my attention. A year ago, a couple of weeks after my mother's first year anniversary, my aunt called me to tell me that Amo (uncle) Salah, one of my parents' best friends, had passed away after fighting cancer for two years. Amo Salah, who is known to the world as Salah Huzain, a renowned journalist, writer and translator, had a piece written about him commemorating his first year, right there on that board.

A few months before my mom died she emailed me a piece Amo Salah had sent her; it was a story about Ghassan, his brilliant son who got in a car accident a few years back and has been in a coma ever since. The piece is titled "Ghassan, my heart." I still can't bring myself to read it. I remember three things about Ghassan, his writing, how tall he was, and how my dad, when I turned 21, told me that Ghassan was perfect for me. I remember a lot more about Amo Salah; how funny his dance moves were, and how when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, he hugged me and gave me his sweet-as-honey Arabic translation of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." After I got home, I noticed a little dedication he had written on the inside, it said, "to my friend Tala, may you always be a warrior of light."

I lay in my bed in Ramallah tonight, thinking about him and my mother, the world's softest warriors of light, and my heart hurts. It aches because of how much I miss them, but its aches echo deeper because of how strange Ramallah seems these days. In a way, it's catching on to the world's love affair with cosmopolitan-ness and superficial progress, but its core still seems so sad. Maybe it's because it has lost the ability to joyfully celebrate people like Salah Huzain, or those everyday heroes that we bashfully ignore because of a collective sense of misplaced pessimism.

If I could talk to you now, Amo Salah, I would tell you jokes, because your laugh was worth all those deep political discussions that were well-intentioned, yet, let me tell you, utterly boring. I would tell you that I'm trying to pursue happiness in Palestine and you'd laugh at me. I would tell you that when I was 6-years-old I really wanted to taste your home-made wine, and I would joke-kick you because of that time you told me to try prose instead of poetry (after I sent you poems). I would tell you that the sweetest apples I have ever had were from your backyard.

I would tell you that tonight, you are my heart.