Years, in double digits, have now accumulated where memories of images and events are getting faded. Occasionally, I get reminded with names but I often fail to place them on faces. What was once roses and, at times, thorns blanketing the banks of my memory trail are turning into wild shrubs in a tree-less terrain, where the stormy Qebli offers much dust and never rain. And, while the merciless time keeps-on stitching, it clearly and repeatedly tells me that life goes-on and I must forget...The going-on is noted but forget?! ...No! Not Fajria my friends, not Fajria; nor any of her abundant beauty.... For over thirty years and against all odds including that of oceans, continents and of political wickedness, Fajria remains dear and continues to be where she has always been - in a heart that violently refuses to forget and let her go...
It all started when Fajria, along with her family, moved into our neighborhood from the grayish hills of southern Emmsalata. It was her father's -an influential man with a notable social status- job that dictated the move and in turn awarded me the short-lived fortune... yes fortune! What else could surpass experiencing the marvelous artwork and design of the mighty Allah that is so generously detailed in her!
Ever since she strolled into our alley and beautifully marched by our three-sided home, Fajria squarely sat in my vacant heart and shared it with no one. It was her eyes with their majestic stare, her well-engineered walk and her remarkable and pleasant personality that captivated and held me hostage to thinking only of her. I vividly remember and I will never forget that ten second shock!
I am not sure what triggered the whole thing: the changing chemistry and the peeking facial hair of a teenager, a walking goddess just passing through or the two were well timed. I was very infatuated with Fajria. She was in mind anywhere I go and with me in everything I do. I thought it was one way feeling until a year later when it was finally recorded, stamped and sealed in faith that I truly loved her. It was in short and sweet greetings in one memorable morning when she greeted me with my name on the way to school.
Our love was deep and pure, distant yet closely felt. We were building our future nest only in thoughts and in dreams. We were constructing what it takes. Fajeria was handing me the straws and twigs and I was lining them and assembling them in place. She often directed me and at times showed me how it's done. Blueprints were sketched, labeled and hand delivered in the form of small pieces of paper that she drops when she sees me and I did the same, and that was the extend, my friends, of getting close to her.
I moved out of town to continue-on with secondary school while she enrolled in our local general teaching institute. We saw each other on monthly and sometimes bimonthly bases. We often waved to each other but only when no one can notice. A glimpse, distant or near, of her beauty was all I needed to further fertilize my feeling and keep the flame lit and strong. It was beautiful, a monumental in existence, yet, was a well kept secret -a secret known only to two; a third will bring much trouble.
The year was 1973, mid August of that infamous Monday morning when I last saw of Fajria. She was among my family and small neighborhood gathering wishing me well on my distant endeavor, studies in foreign lands...Fajria looked at me and said nothing but I could hear everything she wanted to say. She knew for certain that I would notice and I did. She was sincere in her good wishes. She tossed me smile and I caught it. She signaled that she would be there when I come back and I trusted her. She also singled she will be helpless and that is nothing but jungle around her and I should at least commit and go public before I leave or we will likely regret the procrastination, a part of her signal I misread and later severely grieved.
Life did go on with us two. Abbla Fajria married one of my primary school classmates, a good friend, decent and a hard working man, and, despite the hardships our home is experiencing, the couple managed to raise a family and make the best of it......and as a proof of Allah's fairness and a conclusion to his master piece, I know she is being treated well, but was it her choice or did she have a say on the matter?...If the answer is not the obvious, I need not know!
Chances are slim-to-none that Fajria will read this, but, just in case, the following is for her:
It's unlikely you read these lines and I am certain no one else has any clue as to who these two parties are and that is precisely my wish. For, no way on earth I take part of refreshing your old or any wounds you may have, but allow me, dear, to share with others how it all went on this end:
It was decided by Up-above to have your wedding week coincide with my school summer vacation. I was there. I attended all the celebrations. Your husband and other friends were thrilled and very appreciative to the idea of inviting my close friend – the musician from the neighboring town. You were not there yet when I sang three songs and delivered the only majrooda I knew. There was Monday through Thursday of absolute fun and festivities and we all enjoyed it. Time came when I stood there like a log watching the groom walk away to meet you, one-on-one, probably for the first time. If you only knew, dear Fajria, how much I wanted to dive onto and lock his feet, holding him still and not letting him take any more steps, but the huge rock, so it seemed, that suddenly landed over my chest numbed me in place. A feeling I didn't know what it was! I did not know whether it was a feeling of happiness for you, selfishness, or plain jealousy of a culturally handcuffed and muzzled ebdaewee.
I was awakened by four gunshots followed by few zagharoortas, -the inherited and must go tradition- the finding of the treasury that we both hid. Four pokes of a very sharp pain, dear, felt like they went through me first... I reached to see if any of my body parts have scattered around me and whether I should pick them up and go, run for shelter or just dunk, for I might receive more and lose a limb or two...
I never felt so lonely the way I did on your wedding night; the emptiness, the loneliness and the sense of loss were my only company. It was a long night with no sign to its end and dark with no promise of any light. I went home, climbed onto the roof to my makeshift bed that eased only the natural heat and tried, with no luck, to fall asleep. I knew it's all gone. I knew that the tree of life where our beautiful nest once stood is now nothing but reality of picking-up the pieces and go on with it. My mind was swimming in a sea of the unknowns, only to land far away from these already folded hopes and shattered dreams. ... From all the remedies, it was a lone option my dear, but seemed a wise and must take. Two and a half days later to the hour, I cut my vacation short and headed for the airport to go back to my overseas schooling...I have been here ever since.
Yes, life in general has been good to me. I was very lucky to meet my fortune. She is a good and lovely lady. We share good values and we peruse and enjoy common interests. We both started and are raising a beautiful family and we are blessed to have it as happy as it could be. I have four teenage kids, two girls and two boys. The oldest of them is a girl who will be heading for college next year. Her friends call her Dawn but within the family, she answers to Fajr... there is only one living being who knows where we got that beautiful name. We live and have melted in a nice neighborhood. We are enjoying what you, dear, and what our people lack; freedom, law and order, the main ingredients for prosperity ya noor-a'eni! May our creator soon deliver them to you.
Hope all is well with you and your loved ones!
The collection of these thoughts were triggered by a phone call to my folks back home in recent weeks, where I learned of the passing away of Fajria's mother. I asked my sister, who told me the sad news, to pass my condolences and my deep sympathies to Fajria and to her family.
"Fajria once mentioned, she wanted you" ... replied my sister.
What else but with silence.... and silence was my response... silence that seemed to have lasted for hours.
If you only knew, dear sister, how instant you brought that rock and positioned it back in place... if you only knew how rough you peeled the scabs off my long dried but not yet healed wounds and poured salt in them... if you only knew how much I regret doing nothing when the doing was most needed...I now can only imagine what Fajria went through in the last minutes.... if you only knew how much pain you made me relive, and yes, I will relive it!
The certainty is, sister, you have assured me the journey to my grave in the company of so much guilt and so much pain!..... You should have left a-tebin emm-ghaTee sha'eera...Allah e-samhek, sister, for you do not know what it was and what it is....
- Whatever the circumstances might be; there are many brokenhearted exiled Libyans
and much more are still at home!
- I would love to hear from Fajria.