Thursday, February 14, 2008

Eid l Hub

I found a new café today, set up in a vaguely Japanese sort of way, with eight benchlike chairs set up in squares. It seemed to emphasize when someone was sitting alone, suggesting that there should be seven other people sitting there with you. Presumptuous. A man in a maroon djellaba was sitting by the door watching the girls. They were all wearing headscarves and smoking. I drank half of my juice and finished my book and watched the Al Jazeera report on the bombing in Lebanon. The only fus’ha words I could understand were “walikin” (but) and “aydun” (also). They said those words enough times that I felt like I was catching on.

Back at Café Paris the crowds have already started to gather, mostly Spanish. There are usually a few elderly women sitting with young men, perhaps their sons, and a few young wives with their husbands, or maybe brothers. I learned from a library regular that Café Paris used to be known for its fine breakfast menu, and perfect martinis. She used to sit in the wicker chairs outside and watch the crowds and have a martini. The same goes for cafés all around town. I can’t even imagine this.

I’ve been listening to people more, trying to understand the peripheral conversations. Dean’s is good for this because the men are usually talking too loud, and I accept the risk of using their slurred speech as a substitute for an Arabic tutor. And in any case, I have to start speaking Fus’ha. It feels like moving backwards. And unnatural, because it is not really spoken anywhere.

My old neighbors miss me. I heard it through the grapevine. It’s just as I’d planned. And I miss them too. I went to the Fnduq today to peruse the rug selection and rekindle a small relationship from last spring, with Mohamed the custom-scarf maker. I found him after passing through several shops asking men “Do you remember me? Do I know you?” They all answered yes, but a few minutes conversation would prove that I did not know these men at all. When I found Mohamed he was younger than I remembered him, but I recognized the bright blue countertop of his display case. We discussed possibilities and eventually got to designing a rug that fits my financial limitations, inching down on levels of comfort and beauty gradually until we reached my lowly dwelling place. It was like measuring my worth in rug-form: not exactly what you would expect of a rug, but makes do.

I am allergic to the flowers I bought myself, so my eyes match my shoes and I look awfully sad. Maybe I'll score a free pack of tissues or something equally as good.

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