They ask me to write about you. What should I say? What should I write? What is the use of writing about you, writing to you, while you are absent? I really have no idea why we write to people who cannot read our words. What shall I say in my writing? Shall I tell them about our friendship, or about what we did together? Shall I tell them about you and your personality? Shall I draw you with words? What shall I write? What?
A blank paper has been in front of me for two days. I look at it long enough, and I think of everything but you. I try to avoid picturing you. I make myself some coffee, trying to convince myself that coffee could sort out some thoughts. Nonsense! This is all nonsense. My head is more like a wall with your picture on it; a large one. Inside the picture of the wall/head, you smile. “Would you like some coffee?” I ask you, “Be my guest.” You reply: “God bless you,” to which I smile and say: “Blessed are your beloved ones.” You grin, knowing that we used to have such a conversation almost every half an hour. “Blessed are your friends,” you say. “Welcome, welcome,” I say, laughing.
I am thinking a lot about you these days, and I do not know why. What a damned memory; it picks out whatever it wishes and throws them right in our face. I always try to guard my memory against whichever afflicts it with fear and frailty, but those sudden memories overtook me and occupied my thoughts for the day. Today you occupy me, Rami.
I could dwell at length on my dissatisfaction with the world regimes, about my deep hatred of the world order and the misdeeds of governments and peoples. I think that I could write volumes about injustice in the world, about oppression and subjugation. I am capable of filling newspapers with statements on liberty and dignity. Regrettably, however, I am incapable of filling a single page writing to you. How utterly helpless!
This paper has been blank for four days, with nothing concrete written to you. I write two or three words everyday… Have I run out of words? I wonder. I might say things to you, I might talk to you for days and days when we meet again. Will we meet again? I dread this idea and try to get it out of my head. Or I might not be able to utter a word in front of you; I would rather hold you tight, weep with you over you, over us and over our country.
How do you spend your day these days, Rami? How do you drink water? Are you satisfied with the food they offer you? How does your cell look like? Do you know the faces of your torturers? I feel like your mother when I ask such questions. Will I ever see you again, so that you recount in detail the years that have passed since that horrific darkness blanketed you? Rami… How are you, Rami?
I have not dreamed of you up until now. Your picture is elusive to my dreams. If only I could see you once. If only you could tell me that you are fine, and that you miss my company and miss conversing with me about everything. Tell me once, in one dream, that you would like to dine with me, to eat lots of food at a huge table. Visit me in one dream. Do not be mean. Visit me.
Questions… Questions… Questions… Too many questions are swirling around my head, all revolving around you. You are all what these questions are about. You were the one to have taught me how to love everybody indiscriminately. You taught me how man can love others without much effort. Do your torturers, the interrogator and the prison guards know that, under other circumstances, you might help them if they were poor and in need? Do they know that you might support their families if they were starving? That you would do the impossible to cure them if they were suffering from a serious disease? And that you would do that without asking about their thoughts, backgrounds, opinions and actions?
It has been seven days since I began writing this letter. How are you today, my friend? Do you feel cold? I do not know why I think about such things. Perhaps it is longing that takes us to the farthest reaches of the world. It takes us deep inside ourselves, rendering us addictive to longing as if it is the only remedy of our bitter exile, the sole breather in a sea of our suffocations.
Why am I writing this letter while you cannot read it? Is it for myself? Maybe it is. “I am writing this for me, in order to feel myself,” I say out loud, in such a faraway room from where you are. “I am not writing about you, Rami… I am writing about myself…” How selfish of me! Even whilst you are in that dark I think of myself and your relationship with me, and only think of you in abstract. I do not think of you as an independent person from me, with a life, a girlfriend, lots of friends, loads of work and fun. I only think of you as a friend of mine… How utterly selfish!
[(Main photo: Rami Suleiman has been detained since July 2013 by the Syrian regime (Free Rami Suleiman Facebook page/Fair use. All rights reserved to the authors)].