“I could have fallen in love with her with my eyes closed.” Atticus.
There are two moons surrounding me, one on each side. Right and left. One of them tells me I should be grateful, be blessed, that I am still one of the stars in the sky. The other moon tells me that I should want more, that I shouldn’t settle for being one star in the sky. I want to be your sky, nothing less will do, nothing less will suffice. Caught between two roads, two paths, fearing losing you, and yet, also, the fear of never knowing, of not trying. This is my tenth attempt.
You have a dizzying effect, and a scent that is a mixture of Oud and French scents. There is a danger in that I cannot hold you, cannot stock up on you, cannot carry you in my pocket, spray you liberally whenever I need to. What is the danger? Am I exaggerating? The danger is of loss, of losing the possibility of you. Can you tell the two moons I would rather you choose the road for me? I have failed to light up your path or mine. I shrug my shoulders, in defeat.
But then you say Hello and I get a glimpse of what could be, of what was lost, and how there are things that are better left unsaid, unexplained, and that I cannot write. I cannot write you. I give up.
The sound of thunder bothers Flake, my dog. She barks and then quickly finds a hiding place. Usually, she will hide under the kitchen table and refuse to budge. The best thing I could do to convince her that it was safe was to join her in her cave. Once I crawled to her, I realized that she was shaking and very afraid. Heck, the sound of thunder is scary. For me, it’s beautiful and almost musical, but for Flake, I can’t imagine what it sounds like.
And this made me think of safety and security. We all want to feel safe, and we all have a hiding place. Flake’s is the kitchen table, that’s her cave. Mine has always been within myself- my hiding place was myself. I would crawl deep inside, refuse to communicate with others, and allow myself to feel secure in the knowledge that I was unreachable. In a way, I didn’t think anyone would find me there. Life was loud and scary and I just wanted to be safe and at peace.
You joined me in my cave, for awhile, and tried to explain that belonging to the world was okay, it was safe to be here. I needed reassurance, and you did it with such grace. And I want to do the same for you, let you know this is a safe place, and that I am your shelter, away from the rain, thunder, and if you’d rather hide in a cave, then I’ll sit by your side until you are ready to step outside again.
The classroom for me is a place of endless possibilities and meaning. But in one word, it’s a playground. You play. You play with ideas, with words, with theories, with stories. You get to really say what “shouldn’t” be said. You get to expose theories that are centuries old, and relate them to today. My newest class is an American Literature class, and I am experimenting with different ways to teach it. I decided to assign the texts to students to present, and when the time came to present the work, a student asked if they were supposed to stand up or sit down while they present. Now, normally, the idea is to stand up, to vocalize, to rely on body language. But I don’t believe in this rigid way of presenting. There are multiple ways to get your ideas across. As a professor who is not always able to stand up, I understand limitations very well. So I informed him that it was up to them, not me. I am not the authority figure. I don’t want to be the authority figure. You decide whether you want to stand up or sit down, how many minutes you want to talk, and the angle you’d like to tackle.
I was met with surprised faces. And then smiles. They loved that the power was not held by one person.
“As individuals, you are all different. I want you to realize this and realize that no one can tell you how things SHOULD be done,” I insisted.
The discussion in class that day was ultimately fruitful and a success. We talked about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” and related it to plastic surgery nowadays, whether one should alter the body, what constitutes a flaw, nature vs. science.. it was truly endless. I had to stop the discussion at the end of class because time was up, but some of the students took the argument outside!
And the other day, I attended Dr. Hanan’s class as a student. I used to be her student 12 years ago. She introduced me to the class as an ex-student who she “messed up” years ago. Funny how I wouldn’t have it any other way. My world view was forever altered when I read Plato, Butler, Cixous, Spivak, Irigary, and many others. Sitting next to her in class reminded me of my amazing undergraduate days. The uncanny part was sitting next to her, knowing what she was about to say, how she would explain this theory or that, and being able to predict the exact wording – especially when she was explaining mimicry, Plato (her favorite), and other gender theories. As I sat there, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions: nostalgia for Kuwait University days, gratitude, and happiness, knowing that I was also doing the same thing in my literature classes. Hanan’s policy has always been an open-door one, with an emphasis on participation and discussion. Twelve years ago, the classroom was the place I listened, was forced to argue, formulate my own opinion and voice, and today, it is a playground where everyone gets a taste of freedom. And how can that be anything but fun?
They say to forget is a blessing. But this is my answer today, as we grow older, day in and day out, weeks and months, a history of lifetimes:
أتمنى ان ينساني النسيان.. ولا أنساك
Words that I scribbled across a paper. Fold up the paper, rip it in half, ask you silently to light up my path again. The most intense type of communication is silence, across time and space.
I heard this song the other day where the words say something like واعتبرني طفل ومو كامل عقل
And I really thought about it. It’s no insult. At the end of the day, we don’t all grow at the same pace. We don’t all have the same abilities. I was, always, learning from you. I was the stronger one emotionally, you said my strength was different. You were the stronger one physically and intellectually. Your experience with life, people, obstacles. I am still learning, and you should know I hear your voice all the time.. And if I failed you, then think of me as طفل ومو كامل عقل..
Perhaps this will make you smile- and if it does, then I envy the eyes that witness it.
زعلي طول أنا وياك وسنين بقيت
جرب فيهن أنا إنساك ..ما قدرت نسيت
The truth is, you never really forget. And perhaps the first action is to want to forget.
من كلمات نزار قباني:
حبك يا عميقة العينين
حبك مثل الموت والولادة
صعب بأن يعاد مرتين
عشرين ألف امرأة أحببت
عشرين ألف امرأة جربت
وعندما التقيت فيك يا حبيبتي
شعرت أني الآن قد بدأت
لقد حجزت غرفة لاثنين في بيت القمر
نقضي بها نهاية الأسبوع يا حبيبتي
فنادق العالم لا تعجبني
الفندق الذي أحب أن أسكنه هو القمر
لكنهم هنالك يا حبيبتي
لا يقبلون زائرا يأتي بغير امرأة
فهل تجيئين معي
يا قمري . . إلى القمر؟
GUST’s English Department held its first Poetry Slam event- and it was a huge success. I was invited to be one of the Judges, alongside Nada Faris, an established writer, poet, and a friend of mine. The event was very well organized and there was great effort behind it, a colleague of mine, someone who has supported me endlessly, Ms. Ann Newman, was the head organizer of the event. She managed to put together a great team of slam poets, supporting their creativity and providing a venue for expressing poetry, ideas, and mainly, expressing voices that are sometimes muted.
My main concern was that although these poets were excited and very brave, they still struggled to speak up. I have read somewhere, I don’t recall which critic said this, but I think it was a Feminist critic (might be Cixous or Irigary) who insisted that we should listen to women speak. When women speak, they tremble. Why? Because society has silenced them for too long. I understand all of this all too well. As an undergraduate student, I always lost marks on participation grades. I was too shy, too intimdated by the entire classroom, and hated attention. Sometimes, I had so much to say, but couldn’t build up the courage to voice my opinion. Years later, I was able to slowly get over this fear. I can’t say I am an all-star speaker, but I can say, that at least it’s no longer terrifying to speak!
I loved the initiative, and I hope we can establish more forums, more venues to speak up, and as we go along, develop a stronger female voice, a collective voice that both speaks and listens to the other.