I don’t even have a picture of him. All I have left is what he left everybody else: a couple of hundred pages bound and sold on bookshelves to get reprinted to sell some more copies with his ache inside, ever swelling on every page and always haunting me.
God, I want to tear my flesh off my bones sometimes when I reach that part. How did he write it this way? Sometimes I ask myself as I go over it, wanting to lick every letter as if it was one of his fingers. How did he know.
We should have seen 1970 together but he left us all a year earlier. He left me even earlier than that but it always feels that he never left. I knew how different we were as soon as I saw him and I also knew that resist as I may, I was going to lose myself in him completely. What I wasn't counting on was that I would drown in him. I sank into his smile, his boyish charm and his intensity which he flaunted around so casually he made you feel it was effortless to be so intense and heavy all the time. I sank so deep if he hadn’t left when he did I would have drowned.
Now, I'm a fish out of water.
I always think of him when I read this Margaret Atwood poem:
You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye.
That's what I always feel when I remember him, how he fit into my body, my arms – my deepest being and how much he scared me and tore me open leaving me up to stitch and stitch wanting to leave his scars.
I had no idea it was that bad. I knew he had his bad days but he never really opened up as I would have wanted him to. I gave him his space to be dark and mysterious and all so beautiful but then what, he left me. He went to live with her and she was older than him.
He took his life in her cave. Not mine.
Jesus, I sound so primitive. But it felt like that then. The news of his death went past me and all I could think of was that he didn’t die with me.
When I read the book she wrote later recording his last days and his suicide in her apartment I felt like a guitar so out of tune it doesn’t make music anymore.
Is that all that's left of him? His diaries with her. A novel selling with the shabbiest biography ever: this is Waguih Ghali's only novel after which he committed suicide. No fucking photograph.
I keep trying to keep an image of him in my head and the one which is so vivid is of that day after he shaved his head. His hair was all gone. The curls I always loved where swept off the floor of a barber shop and it was over. We were over.
We didn’t even speak about it. We just ended things – as intensely as possible of course but ending on this pathetic calm note. I never told him that seeing his head shaved meant the end of us before he even said he was leaving. I don’t know how and when he figured this out. So that every time I read his only novel I want to kick him so hard because he knew things about me before I did; he always knew when I was about to cry. Before shedding a tear he would be asking me why.
I read about Ram's love for Edna: together in Cairo and then in London and I know Edna is not me. It isn’t her either, the one he chose to die with. Edna must be a part of the crypts always surrounding him. But Edna is him just as Ram is. He is all of them especially Edna and Ram. Yet, that scene, Edna's locks falling into Ram's lap and how he knew that once they were severed so was the thread between them, that scene, he knew. He knew and that's why he threw his curls on the barbershop floor as casually as he threw his heaviness around him.
It was only at this moment in his writing when I want him in front of me drinking his bloody whisky so that I can ask him whether he knew what Ram felt then with the two braids in his palms. I want to ask him, I want to ask his eyes.
But all I have is a couple of snooker balls I want to crack open and Draught Bass because I have a lot of it here in the London pubs.
I don’t even have a photograph that says "All my love, Waguih" on the back. I have a red ball and a blue one and lots of beer. And a four line poem in my hand on the only record of his talent.