A Step Closer to God
If you ask, you will never lose the way.
I take after my mother in this, the constant questioning about one's whereabouts in the different cities – even in one's own.
We moved calmly, enjoying the warmth that had finally come. The sun made the city glare back.
It's one thing to ask about a place you know and a completely different thing to ask about a place to which you have no name.
We asked and laughed and followed other tourists.
The slopes. The steps. Slopes. Steps.
We'd take breaks, Sherin and I and take a picture, or just laugh.
As we rose above the city, we could see it better. From all around as we rose in that spiral of steps and stones and slopes amongst the green. The turquoise squares, rectangles and circles which turned out to be swimming pools on roof tops.
Right before that last part, with all the steps, we stopped. With this woman whose bed I have shared my bed when my heart was broken, who has shared with me cities in the way she knows how to. We felt so blessed. We stopped and Athens was all under us, reflecting back the sunlight with her white walls and blue shutters.
If I were a city, I would be white washed with blue shutters.
Months later, we would be in another city and in the heart of a church and another moment like this would happen, one of gratitude.
The last steps, some more, some more steps. The tiny church. The sun. Athens at our feet and the Acropolis in the horizon if you look straight ahead.
We were on the tiny white church which we had seen from the Acropolis four days earlier.
I forgot everything. That he wasn't there, that I was a tad uncomfortable, that the pants were tight, that my hair was straightened. The sounds of the audience. I was not me. I was her. I was the younger Laurie. This woman whom I struggled to understand, to know to become – she had stepped in. She was enjoying the music, the excitement. Her whole life was ahead of me. It was so clear and this body wasn't even mine.
Through the thick curtains, some light came into this small corridor. This corridor was my path to the stage. It was here that I started to become who I am now.
Lasheen came. He was tense but excited. I've never seen anyone be so dedicated, so looking forward to act. His whole heart was in it.
Lasheen was the father I never had. He played the role of the parent whom I couldn't ever know. He filled the shoes of the other father whom I had lost months earlier – suddenly.
We danced. Not like we dance on stage. No. We danced closer to each other – cheek to cheek like Frankie would sing – to Moonglow.
He twirled me. I laughed. I no longer knew who I was. Laurie. Zainab. Is he Daddie or Lasheen; the beautiful boy who smiled like an unexpected rainbow in the sun.
He twirled me one last time and let me go.
I walked to the curtain. Me, Laurie Jameson, listening to Mada playing just for me. An old lover perhaps, at a friend's house in 69.
Mada played a song for me.
Nine Months Later
The ninth month of such a long, long year. It felt like a long tiresome pregnancy.
It was a month spread between cities, between borders.
The small Swiss town where people speak German. The final attempt at knowing that I was not making a wrong choice.
His face, his laugh, his serenity.
His back to me at the door as I called to him. His surprise at my return.
I didn't go to Berlin after Basel. I came back to Cairo and ate ashtoutaah with him on Habi's roof.
Berlin was downtown, Simonds, a walnut tart and strawberry juice, his brand new elephant and another long walk.
He turned 26 there. As he played his piano and his new blue melodica and sat in his underwear on stage, waiting to begin.
He was born on the 16th. Like my favorite poet.
He must've swept her off her feet for her not to notice, Mariz said.
His celebration on the 23rd. The surprise. The night was full of surprises.
I was uncertain of my presence there. But then, that smile, that smile that makes me hold my breath in surprise, I saw it then.
That smile. Shadi's little, big smile.
Then, after that, the last day of the month. The hug on Sahar's lap, Sonia's ribbon, Dolly's eyes and Amy's laugh. Seham, Samar, Mariz, Mariam, Ruth, Zingy, Reem, Moghazy, Moudy, Marwan and Amin, Gasser.
Shadi and his smile.