Category Archives: Epiphanies

Nine years later: Home stretch

Larnaca, Cyprus

Firstly, I would like to apologize for my absence on this website. To those of you who sent me messages, emails and even Tweets asking if something had happened to me, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your concern, especially since some of you told me you’ve been a reader for more than a decade. I’m aware that my responses were somewhat vague and perhaps a little generic, but I do assure you that I’m fine, health-wise.

What I did not mention in my responses is that for the last three months, I have been in a transient phase of sorts. Dani and I have been trying to figure out our next step in life, exploring any avenues we can that will allow us to tie up our existence in this country as neatly as possible, set it on fire, and rebuild our life in a different part of the world. To that end, my mind has been on anything but writing, and I probably would not be writing this today were it not a very important milestone.

For today marks the end of my ninth — NINTH — year back in this country, and the beginning of the end of my life here. When I left my lonely but independent life behind in New York, nine years ago, and came back to an even lonelier subsistence here, it was with a vow to myself that, within a decade, I would find my way out again. Not to New York, if I couldn’t make it that far, but to anywhere else where I could start a new life on my own, away from all the reasons that I left here in the first place.

This date still holds its importance for me, because it is a constant reminder to myself to never get too comfortable here, and to never back down from my goal to be out of here before my 10 years are up. And if the last three months are of any indication, it’s that I have definitely overstayed my welcome in this country, and the time has come for me to let go of all the things I once thought I needed to live a life that meant something, but now seem so insignificant.

So here we are in the home stretch of our tenure in this country. We came, we saw, and we did conquer it for a little while, but we’re ready to go back under our rock now.

The continuum bubble

Frozen but flowing

Two days ago, I had coffee with someone who had discovered that I’m back in Buffalo for Christmas and New Year, and wanted to meet up because it’s been more than 10 years since we saw each other. We have somewhat of a history, this person and I, which left more of an impression on him (if the seven-hour drive up from Brooklyn is any indication) than it did on me. Still, we caught up over coffee and talked about what we had done with and to ourselves since we last spoke, and by the end of it, I like to think he had gotten some of the closure he’d driven seven hours for.

Yesterday, however, it dawned on me that he had never changed since we were in college, and whatever feelings of goodwill I had towards him the day before swiftly dissipated. While it made me a little indignant, it also left me with the same concession I had felt on my birthday: that this was just part of the lesson I had had to learn this year, coming full circle with the people who have stayed in or left my life for one reason or another.

2016 was, for me, like the coming-of-age novel I never wanted to write. I started it on a high — literally — thinking that I had found my way out of the cesspool that was Empire: Lebanon, only for that high to come crashing down around my ears within just three months. And even though things got a little better once work began on the restaurant, I was torn between being happy that I could spend those last months with Dani, but also dying for him to move back to Lebanon so that I could be free of the emotional chokehold his ex-wife had held me in for a full year.

And suddenly, before the year was half over, the tide turned and suddenly, we were faced with the very real prospect of being in a very real relationship from that point. And while it was everything that I had waited two and a half years for, it also meant having to deal with a fallout of sorts, and it’s a fallout that I’m still learning to manage.

I had gained everything I wanted at the price of so many other things I had already had, which was what led me to decide by the time I turned 32 that I would no longer hold on to the things I had to do without this year, and instead focus on what would be important for the future we always talked about. And as my bubble grows smaller and smaller with every decision that I make, my only hope for 2017 is that the world will finally open up to us again.

An old spirit, glimpsed

We got a Christmas tree!

Christmas at Byblos Café & Lounge

Christmas at Byblos Café & Lounge

It’s one of those bizarre occasions which I would normally never be excited about, but for some reason, this year I am. As soon as Dani talked about getting a Christmas tree for the restaurant, I offered to shop for it. One reason I volunteered to do this is that it’s been quite possibly a decade since I put up a Christmas tree, and another reason is that if it were up to anyone else, we would end up with one of those hideous multicolored trees from the ’90s.

So last Thursday, we followed Yen Tyng’s advice and ventured to Petaling Street — no matter what anyone thinks of this touristy abomination, it’s still the place to go when you want anything that you know would be grossly overpriced in a mall — which is lined with stores peddling their wares at wholesale prices. We went to Petaling Street with the intention of procuring not only a tree, but also party favors for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve dinner. Apparently, thinking of ways to lure the hoi polloi is what we do for a living now.

The weird thing about me is that I take to a project the way a hitman does: with single-track concentration and almost tunnel-vision precision. Normally I don’t like shopping with a man in town, especially a man like Dani, whose impatience is so palpable I could cut my teeth on it, but that day, I made him hanker along behind me with a laundry basket full of white and gold Christmas ornaments, all the while resolutely ignoring the increasingly dumbfounded look on his face.

Setting up the tree was strangely therapeutic for me. Walking round and round and round a tree, trying to figure out what would look best where, takes a certain kind of concentration that temporarily drives everything else from your mind, and for almost two hours, I saw little else but the tree, and the ensuing glitter that flew off the gold ribbon and stuck itself to my skin.

The tree was finally completed yesterday, after I proved my point that the gaping holes between the branches needed to be filled, and a tree topper had to be bought. When I stood back and surveyed my work, that familiar little feeling of accomplishment stole over me, followed by something I haven’t felt in a long time: peace.

I will admit that the last thing on earth I expected to bring me any semblance of peace was a Christmas tree. When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell me that Christmas was not about Santa or reindeer or presents — needless to say, I grew up with an acute awareness that Santa Claus most certainly does not exist — but about seeing the good in others, remembering the good things they have done, and appreciating what they may have had to give up in order for ourselves to enjoy what we have.

My own anger and bitterness towards so many things and so many people have long since eradicated every other good feeling in myself, but looking at my Christmas tree yesterday spared me a moment of clarity in which I saw how just how much I’ve lost to that negativity in my life. The circumstances of my life are such that I will never always have everything I want, but what I have at any given moment is what others can only dream about, and as sorry as I am for that, the only thing I can do is appreciate their sacrifice, and appreciate what I’ve been given.

So even though we have a ways to go, Merry Christmas, everyone.