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Spoiled at Andala

From my Cambridge journal:

Today, I spent the day in solitude, alone, at home, in the shade of my laptop, typing rabidly to professors with the same attachment; my doctor's note excusing me from school. It worked for some and didn't for others. I felt confused between feeling the need to rest and give respect to this body, and between of course, the usual, attending to others' expectations.

I left my laptop to sleep and biked to my favorite spot in Central Square, Andala. I entered and there he was, that fifty-something Palestinian man who is not allowed in his own homeland, yet offers a spot so much like home for so many far away from their own. I wonder what made one person come up with the saying: فاقد الشيء لا يعطيه (who lacks something, can't give it). So many times, this saying is shattered to pieces.

As I opened the door to his café, he was there among his employees, rhyming his words to me (translated from Arabic):

Don't you know that you are missed when you don't visit us? Don't you know that the sun does not shine when you are not present? We missed you. Would you like an eggplant sandwich, the best eggplant you can find around.? I'll make you one.

I left a giggle behind him as he walked down the stairs, and he left with these words echoing down the line:

hwa atany burnayta, hwa atany burnayta...

...هو عطاني برنيطة، هو عطاني برنيطة

This brick basement, these trays and this textile, these carpets, and that same old scent of home. With time, some 'things' transform from their materiality to their emotionality, and they become feelings filling a space rather than stuff filling corners. Doctors, I am recovered. I am healed.

He put a plate with an eggplant sandwich cut in half in front of me, and I knew it would be 'the best egglant I would find around' from its smell.

I said: This is the best dinner.

He said: only to the best human (بس لأحلى إنسانة).

Eggplant bloats my stomach, but I finished my sandwich cause it was 'the best eggplant you can find around.'


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