To My Dearest Friend L

Asalam allaikum Sister. I greet you this morning with peace and love.

I miss our weekend walks and our ranting about the hassles in our workplace. I miss drinking tea with you in that small cafe beside the gasoline station. I miss knocking on your flat, then you would tell me to come inside and ply me with cookies from that Iraqi bakery. I miss that you would call our Bangladeshi driver to take us to the souq where I would be making unplanned purchases just because it was so much fun.

“The Friends” by Gustav Klimt. Image from https://www.gustav-klimt.com/The-Friends.jsp

Sister, you voted for that pretender in the Palace. Yeah, I understand why you and your kin were so enamored of him. Remember we used to talk about Imperial Manila? And didn’t I agree with you that the Christians have taken lands you consider your own? I understand where your resentments come from — they come from the same place where mine used to reside. There was this place in my heart where I considered “others” to be the source of my pains. And you were one of the “others” until you became my friend.

I visited our country recently — and hey, we even bumped into each other at a conference! It was wonderful seeing you again; and I am happy that you are well and safe and thriving. Those three words, though, do not apply to most of our people, don’t you think? That is a sad fact. I used to believe, cynically, that being unwell, unsafe and un-thriving was just what most of our people deserved — because they are ignorant; superficial; they choose thugs or fools as leaders; and just because we are so clannish and clique-ish.

But I am here now, a land not my own, and I come to realize that nobody deserves to be “unwell, unsafe, un-thriving.”

I realize that one’s tendency to be superficial, to be ignorant, to make poor choices — can be rooted in one’s heritage, in one’s history. We are what our parents (our forebears) have made us. That is not an excuse for defects in our character and for the choices we make; but hey, it is a valid enough reason to explain why we are what we are.

I do not know if there is hope yet for our country, my sister. Though I know that I so very much want to come home.

I want to work for and build up things that are Mine (or will be). I want to see your lake, the one near your house — the house that was bombed and destroyed by ISIS; still to be rebuilt from the ashes. I want to feel Christmas — the fancy lights in our shanties, the carols of grimy kids, the parties where we sing and drink our sorrows away, the simple gifts we give just because. I want to speak our tongue — there are many of them and we make funĀ  of each other’s accents but we are all the same despite our differences.

Someday, inshallah, I will return home. I just need to learn to become the person that deserve it.