6 AM. The first rays of sun start shining across the horizon, the stars fade out, the roosters start crowing, what a typical morning! Wait. The roosters! I have to feed the chickens! Oh goodness, life here in the village is still a bit hard for me. As I quickly get prepared and head out to do my chores, I remember what other things I have to do. Feed the chickens, collect eggs, cook breakfast, water the plants, clean the house. I should’ve thought twice before coming out to my parents. Oh I remember that day as if it was yesterday, when I first came up to my mother and father and spat out the truth. They kicked me out and threatened to kill me if they ever saw me again. I decided to seek asylum at my aunty’s house. She lives in a far away village in the mountains. I remember seeing her in some family gatherings. Quiet, never speaking to anyone, staring into the air. I hear from many cousins that she went crazy after her divorce. Some others said she was raped. Other aunts say she was physically abused by everyone in the household ever since she was a child. No matter what the reason is Auntie Layla is always mute. She never leaves her house. No matter what the reason is. I decided to seek her help since we are both devastated people. I never told her the reason why one rainy winter midnight I knocked her door, crying and beaten up, begging for help. A smell of burning eggs snaps me back into reality. I must’ve been daydreaming for a long time, I left the eggs frying on the pan and now they’re spoiled. I’m about to throw them out until I heard a familiar voice.
Good morning, Amir.
Said Auntie Layla with her usual rusty voice.
Good morning Auntie Layla.
I say, a bit surprised, I see she noticed the eggs.
I am so sorry, I forgot about the eggs and now…
She interrupts me, keeping both the same blank expression on her face, and her usual monotonic voice.
I want to cook today. Meanwhile I have a task for you.
She hands me 2,000 L.B.P.*
Can you please get me two jars of milk from the milkman?
I say, a bit unsure. This is the first time she asks me to go to the milkman, I always buy the powdered milk from ‘Ammo Kareem’s dikken. Regardless of that I head out to the milkman.
I hum to myself.
Now where does the milkman live?
I start to wander around aimlessly. This village is too small, I can’t get lost. As I pass houses of townspeople I wonder how dumb can they be for believing my lies. Me? Having a fight with my parents because of my “girlfriend”. Psht! Those villagers could buy anything for gossiping.
I start to wander off and I feel like I’m getting lost. Just as I am about to turn back I hear the mooing of cows and I know I’m in the right place. As I walk in I notice the stench of the cows, yet it’s not worse than that of the chickens. Oh I wonder how am I going to pay him back. Would he accept eggs? What about helping out with his farm? I’ve done both for ‘Ammo Kareem, yet my debt is still not paid. I notice a big man carrying a huge metal container. I guess he’s the milkman, so I go up to him.
Marhaba ‘ammo, may I have two jars of milk?
Sabaho, of course. Just go ahead and get it from my son, Ramzi.
Two jars of milk for the young man. That would be 20,000 L.B.P**
Ugh, the price. I hate this part of shopping. Now comes the awkward part of asking for any other way of payment or if I could pay him later.
Here you go. I will pay the rest later.
I say, handing the minute amount of money to the milkman. He is clearly not pleased about this.
On whose name should I guarantee this?
Layla the Mute.
I sigh. I hate how nobody knows her by her family name, everybody calls her by this name.
Alright. So you are her nephew, huh? I heard about the fight with your parents. Brave thing you did; any who, go ahead and get your jars.
He says, noting down my name in the IOU list.
I ignore his remark and walk down the path. I start noticing this tall figure. A lean, red haired man is carrying jugs and jars of milk around. He is wearing a denim overall, nothing underneath that fabric to protect his muscular body from the rays of the sun.
The mysterious silhouette turns around, revealing a very handsome teenager. I get lost on the honey colored eyes of his. His chapped lips so inviting I feel myself leaning towards them unconsciously.
Two jars of milk?
His sensual, deep voice brings me back to reality.
I say, almost shaking. He hands me the two jars; and when our hands accidentally touch, I know I am in trouble.
*Equivalent to $1.30. Clearly not enough in Lebanon
‘Ammo: Arabic for uncle, used as a sign of respect. Somehow like Mr.
dikken: Lebanese for a small mini market.
Marhaba: Hello in Arabic
Sabaho: An informal way of saying good morning.
** Equivalent to $13.20.