Oh goodness, not again! What am I going to tell her? Wait, it doesn’t matter what I tell her, I’m going to be telling Mute Layla. She doesn’t speak to anyone in the village. My heart is relieved. Maybe if I tell her I might get some advice from her.
Well Auntie Layla, I’ve always been attracted to males. That’s why I left my parents’ house. I have a friend who really needed my help so I did what a friend should do.
I explain. This time, the expression on Auntie Layla’s face changes from blank to sad. This is the first time she’s ever shown any feelings for me. She composes herself and readies herself for what I think is the most she’s spoken in decades.
Amir, I don’t know if you know this, but I have a son, Ameen. He used to be my everything, and he still is. After his father left us to serve in the military, we were both devastated. He was a teenager just like you, a bit younger of course. One day he comes up to me and tells me the same thing you’ve just told me, that he is attracted to males. I was enraged, I wanted to kill him with my bare hands for even trying to think of the things I thought of abnormalities. But then, he told me that I have two choices: either to get over it and continue our normal life, or that he will leave the house to live somewhere else. I was stupid and dumb, so I chose the latter. I regret that choice, Amir. I am haunted every night by bad thoughts of what has happened to my little Ameen. Has he been kidnapped? Drugged? Hurt? K-killed?
She says as as she takes a deep breath, then she starts talking in this hysterical voice. Her eye starts ticking. Then she says:
But oh I’m sure he’ll be back. He will be back with his father once this bloody was is over. Tell me Amir, have you got any news from the front? Have there been any peace talks lately? Have you seen my dear husband and my child?
I am shocked, this sudden realization hit me hard. This is why Auntie Layla is so quiet, and sometimes, creepy. She’s still stuck in the old days, waiting for her beloved family to come, thinking they’re out fighting in the war or dodging the bullets. She never goes out of the house fearing the war. Well this explains why she gives me little amount of money. Little does she know about the inflation and how expensive things are. Little does she know about my hours of work in order to repay ‘Ammo Kareem. Of course she won’t, she’s always in this house. The outside world is changing, but the house never changes, the rooms never change, the books don’t change, Auntie Layla didn’t change. I give her a hug. She excuses herself to her usual corner where she stares blank into the wall. I hurry upstairs, where I find Ramzi sitting up in my bed, leaning against the wall, with his hands serving as a pillow, lifted up behind his head. As soon as I enter, a bright smile shines. He pats his lap invitingly, winking towards me so I can come over. I put the jar of water on the nightstand beside him and then strip off all my clothing. I climb the bed towards his lap, in which I sit. I wrap my hands around his shoulder and he closes his eyes. I feel something rising down under, then it’s starting to poke me. Oh, Ramzi. He proceeds to hold his arms around me just like I always dreamt of. Then, he starts to passionately kiss me everywhere and he whispers: “Thank you, I love you.” I am lulled to sleep in his arms, probably the best sleep I’ve had in a long time.
I wake up on Ramzi, he is still awake, looking towards me. He grabs my hands, kisses them, and wishes me a good morning. I return his wish as I get dressed to do my usual morning chores. I finish quickly and head to the kitchen to cook breakfast. Auntie Layla is not around, I’ll just leave her usual portion on the table. I then proceed to make the best breakfast ever, putting the vase of flowers on the tray, and take it upstairs to Ramzi. He is still motionless, until he sees me carrying the tray. He jumps up to his feet to help me with it.
Habibi, you didn’t have to.
He says in his usual nice tone.
Sit down and eat. I have to get more food, there is not enough for lunch.
I say. He tells me to stay to have a nice time, but I have to turn this one down. Auntie Layla needs more supplies for lunch, I don’t want to let her down. Ramzi kisses me before I leave and tells me not to be late for he will miss me. Oh he is so lovely. I hurry to ‘Ammo Kareem’s dikken. Oh shoot, I had to go to work! He is going to be pissed. I reach his shop and, indeed, find him fuming.
Where have you been, young man?
He yells, the customers start looking at me.
I didn’t think that you were dumb enough to think that your debt was filled when I gave you Friday off.
He says, the customers start to gather around. Ugh, I don’t want to embarrass myself again, so I just say:
Listen, I am sorry, you’re right, it’s my fault. Now can I please have my usual supplies?
He starts to laugh and say:
And where’s the money, young man? Listen I’m sick and tired of you not getting any money. Your aunt Layla is filthy rich! She used to be a teacher, and she gets a monthly supply of money from the government because her husband was a high ranked person in the army, what else could you need? I am not giving you anything unless you pay your debt and have the money to pay, and you can tell that to your cheep-ass aunt.
I am left speechless. I do not know what to do now.
Layla the teacher you say, huh?
A customer says, he looks well groomed in expensive clothing.
She was my teacher for all my school years. She is the reason why I am who I am today. Now listen, I will pay all her debt and from now on, whenever this your man wants to buy anything, and I mean anything, you can leave it to my paycheck. Now you owe this man an apology.
He says. Everyone is left speechless, jaws dropped. ‘Ammo Kareem says his apology in between his teeth as he packs my supplies.
I tell the rich man.
No, my friend, thank you. I always wanted to pay Mrs Layla back for all that she has done. Now go on, tell her that her best student in class says hi.
He says. I am still shocked from what has just happened. I run all the way to Auntie Layla’s house, put the supplies where they belong, and run up to my Ramzi’s arms, where I finally am safe and happy.
I guess things do get better after all!
Twenty years have passed and Ramzi and I are still happily together. Ramzi decided to leave Foxy Rima and spend his life with me. I still remember when we went to Byblos the day after the dikken incident. I remember every single detail because it is so important to me. Our very own first date. He is still the jovial and amazing person he was. He has never left my side. Even when we fight, he always comes up to me and whispers: “Thank you, I love you” reminding me of our early years. This would solve all the problems. Ramzi’s condition was the same for the first couple of years. Paranoid, scared. He would wake up from his nightmares, screaming and shouting, then later crying. He would tell me he see his dad grabbing us both and throwing us from the cliff. I would kiss him and hug him and cuddle him and sooth him back to sleep. He is now improved. He finally stopped waking up from nightmares and is now acceptant and proud of himself. Auntie Layla sadly died two years afterwards. I was shocked and obviously depressed. I was there with her when she uttered her last words: “My husband, my baby, here I come…” Auntie Layla really considered us and left us all her fortune. ‘Ammo Kareem was right, she was very rich. We left the village for the city in which we are living happily. We have been thinking of leaving in order to get married; but then again, we could never leave this place behind. Because it is the place we spent our lifetime in. Because it is the place where we met. Because this is the place where we first kissed and we had our first date. Because every anniversary, we go to that very orchard to watch the sunset and strengthen our bond.
Habibi: my darling/beloved
P.S: This story is purely fictional, any relations or similarities is pure coincidence.
A big thank you to my close friend who helped me pick the title. You rock!