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bound to forgive in the end, even if it can’t forget the wound or the pain of parting. As I relate things to myself and to you, I suture my wound word by word. But its pain is still ablaze, etched into my soul. What a difference there is between the pain of loving union, and the pain of absence and illness! I remember Youssef telling me once: ‘I love you so much, it hurts.’ He likened it to the sweet ache spoken of by the Sufis, whose ardent longing is the source of such agony that it sets them wandering through the wilderness. But their pain is the balm of the joyful heart, O balm of my heart.

“Has my disappointment over Youssef become part of my disappointment over the broken dreams of the Arab Spring? It was a slap in the face that forced me to confront the changes he was going through. In my naiveté, I’d thought they were a passing phase, and that he’d come back to me again. But now they’ve opened up a chasm inside me, a chasm as deep as imperfection.

“Sighing, I sat back down on the couch, trying to figure things out.

“I started recalling the beginnings of the Arab Spring. Around that same time,Youssef had asked to be alone.Then he’d immersed himself in painting. He’d produced a lot of brightly coloured canvases, as though springtime had bloomed at his fingertips. Anisa and I were filled with a new revolutionary fervour as well.

“The only one who wasn’t fazed was Nizar, who insisted that there was no ‘Arab Spring’ anywhere on the horizon, and who went on clinging in silence to the perceptions that had taken up residence in his head.Youssef concluded gloomily: ‘When somebody buries his past and his memories, it’s as if he’s burying himself.’

“When I first started getting sick, even though I would go stiff in front of the screen, my body seemed to rise up and resist its tremors, as if it were saying no to them. Of course, they weren’t as severe at first as they were later on. My mouth would go into spasms, and I couldn’t control any of its movements. Then, as the condition progressed, my mouth would open all the way and refuse to close again. My tongue would go around and around in my mouth, then start twitching and loll out. I would grind my teeth too, and my voice turned thick and gruff on account of the medications. My chest muscles would tighten until I couldn’t breathe, and my wheezing would fill the room. I felt as though the various parts of my body were attacking each other.Then my condition deterio-

BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021 91

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