Thursday, July 7, 2011

Talbot Square

In a little square by Sussex Gardens in London, two young girls played all day finding pleasure in the littlest things. Amazed by the great weather they were not accustomed to, Talbot Square in London became their haven: trees, grass and benches. It was situated right next to the motel, in which they stayed in with their parents and their baby sister who was too young then to play with them.
I heard this story several times from my Rasha and Tamara, who spoke about London with such love and warmth, and that square in particular. I knew that one day I will visit London just to see what Talbot was all about. Years passed, we grew older, and Rasha got married. She left the nest, and went back to the homeland with her husband.
Some more years passed, and on an idle Friday we received a phone-call from Iraq telling us of her death. I remember this day clearly like I remember what I had for breakfast today, the details of what my mother was wearing, and the smell of freshly cooked Iraqi lunch from the kitchen. I remember that my hair smelled like the new Johnson's baby Shampoo, a product I never used since then.
Fast-forward to year 2011, and 9 months into my life in London, I finally found the courage to visit that square in Paddington. I went there with so many high expectations, and excitement that I will be visiting this magical place my sisters believed was the best place to be in the city. To my pleasant shock, the square was less than ordinary, a very small green piece of land situated in the midst of motels and dark old ugly buildings. I looked around trying to find the ‘scary’ lion statue they often spoke of, and there it was a tiny statue of a gold and red colours right next to the square.I sat on a bench, and took a deep breath. I was a bit disappointed to tell the truth, and a little bit angry as well. I couldn’t quite understand why the anger when I believed that I would be smiling like in the end of a movie when the heroin visits her sister’s playground and makes a little prayer for her. The feeling of serenity escaped me, and tears started suffocating my eyes trying against my own will to leave. It was when one managed to escape my control that I realised that all I wanted to do was to pick up the phone and scold her for such exaggerated description of the square. I realised how much I wanted to have her number saved in my mobile phone, you see she died well before technology took its toll on us. Oh wait, she did manage to see my father’s first mobile phone, you know the big black block back in the 1990’s. Oh yes, I remember she laughed calling us privileged elites, since she lived in war-torn Iraq now; food and security is what she worried about.
I found myself wondering if my sister would have had a blackberry, she had to. I would send her images of myself in every spot in this city, she would have loved southbank, and would probably reply with a crying face wishing she was there with me. She would also send me a message late at night to check if I was ok, you see she loved playing mother so much reminding me all the time that she changed my diapers. I would also send her an image of the so-called great square and laugh at her lack of imagination. I started thinking about her Avatar, she wasn’t the type that changes her picture every day, or maybe she was I don’t know, I will never know.I will never know! There, right there I started to let go of my tears and surrendered to crying. I was laughing and crying at the same time thinking about the absurdity and beauty of the human mind: the mundane details that help us survive.
It has been a while since I’ve cried for you Rasha, not because I haven’t had the urge, but because like everybody else, I pretend that death becomes easier by time. You always used to annoy us with your constant ego-trips: “ How much do you miss me? How much do you love me? Am I your favourite sister/daughter?” we used to always nod and ignore you.

But here you go Rashawi, I am not ignoring you anymore. I love you more than you can ever imagine, your absence has made you my favourite sister, and mom’s one and only. I miss you so much and the thought of not messaging you in the middle of the night scares me still. Oh how I wish I can tell you about my life in London, and about my good grades. I wish you can tell me again how special you think I am, and how different you thought I was from everybody else. The day you died, you took something away from me that will never come back. This pain of losing you has raised the bar so high for other mediocre pains in my life; nothing can break me like your absence did. Even your death made it easier for us to endure other pains, you were right Rashawi,
mako mithlich*.
I will visit Talbot again, look at my phone and think of you.

*mako mithlich: Iraqi for ' there's no one like you'.