I Asked You, My Love

Landscape with village and cedar trees in Lebanon

I was sitting in a small coffee shop with my laptop, listening to Fairuz sing, “I asked you, my love, where are we going? Let us be, let us be, and the years threw us off their scent.” I checked my email from time to time. On TV, the 2006 war of Israel against Lebanon was being broadcasted. I therefore remembered Jakhour, the young lad living in the south of Lebanon. He was also the brother of my Lebanese friend, Reema, whom I talked to every now and then. Our friendship had brought me closer to him. In the end, I was talking to him every single day, every hour, sometimes even every minute. We fostered and cemented our relationship over time. The idea was for us to start seeing each other over there, to be able to enjoy the most precious of times, but the siege of Lebanon was prolonged, the tensions between the countries escalated, and then the war erupted. I described to him the magnitude of my passion for Fairuz and my commitment to the Lebanese mountains teeming with cedars as well as the rest of the tourist sights.

I said, “Hi.”

“What’s up?” he replied.

“I am worried. I fear for your safety with the war that is raging over there. Are you all right?”

“I am fine. You should stop tuning in to listen to the whir of combat aircrafts and the whistle of missiles. Your alarm clock shouldn’t be blazoning the death of children and the indigence of bereaved mothers. You have had enough of that. Just know that I am okay. In a few days’ time we’ll be celebrating our victory!”

The word “victory” to us meant the ribbon of salvation. It would set me free to see him and my cherished Lebanon. I had some beautiful memories of my childhood and my teenage years. Back then, my father believed leaving Lebanon and running off to Egypt was the best way to escape the doomed future lying ahead of us. Meanwhile, my mother feared for our lives, and since I was her little sugar pie, she decided that we would stay in Egypt until the war had come to an end. We would not return before then. Jakhour and I had decided to get married, so just after the war ended, I set my sights on making the journey that would allow me to be together with him once again. However, my mother forbade my traveling, saying, “You are still too young. If you leave now, I won’t be able to recognize you when you come back.”

My mother’s reaction shocked me. Why did she want me to marry an Egyptian? I tried many times to convince her that I loved Jakhour, but she didn’t seem to get it. She clung on to her stance even though my father gave me all the freedom in the world to make up my own mind.

I tried to catch up with Jakhour over the phone but was unable to reach him. His phone was switched off. What was going on? Lebanon had just won the war against Israel and the whole nation was on cloud nine. I asked my dad for the opportunity to return in order to visit the house we used to live in. I was hoping that I would bump into Jakhour. My family and I were over the moon all the way there. I left Jakhour a message telling him that we were flying to Lebanon, but I did not receive a reply.

When we arrived, we found out that our old house had been razed to the ground. My mother felt an ache in her heart. My father stroked her shoulder lovingly and said, “Do not worry. All that matters is that we are fine and that we have a house in Egypt.”

I phoned Reema, but nobody picked up. Jakhour’s phone was still turned off. Suddenly, Reema called me. In tears, she said, “Jakhour is dead.”

 

Written by Nourhan Abdallah.

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Choose your own adventure

She had always wondered why the Arab World

a) tuned Fairuz’s voice out as soon as the morning became the afternoon.

b) constantly sought parental permission for its actions if it was going to conduct itself as it pleased anyhow.