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ment and distress, and periodically turning her head to hide a tear that had trickled down her cheek unbidden. Other times she would bathe me in gazes of loving affection. I don’t remember what we talked about. The words were few, surrounded by a silence that joined us in what felt like an embrace. As she was getting up to leave, I blurted out: ‘I love you more than anything in the world, Anisa! You’re a priceless treasure.Your friendship is healing, Anisa. It’s my healing!’

“‘Of course,’ she said, looking surprised but happy. ‘Our friendship is dazzling, abundant, like no other, and it will always be pure no matter what happens. No strings attached.’

“My voice weary, I added: ‘My body seems to be sabotaging me on all these fronts, Anisa.’Then I fell silent.

“‘No,’ she said. ‘I want you strong. Don’t worry about anything but your health. I want you to face your illness with the power of your will, just the way I’ve always known you to do.’ Nodding, I replied:‘I promise not to give in to being sick. I’ve always overcome suffering.You know how passionately I love life!’

“After Anisa left, I lay down on the couch, thinking back on how we’d met. It was July 1980, and she’d written a wonderful article on my debut dance performance.We were in the middle of the filthy civil war, but in that performance, my body had glorified life, love and peace. I’d called Anisa to thank her for the article, and we’d arranged to meet for coffee.The day we met, she brought her friend Amina, who headed the archives section of the magazine they worked for. The three of us became fast friends, and we’ve been tight ever since. (Despite my fondness for Amina, Anisa is the one I got closest to.) We were all so young back then, our bodies explosive and our heads full of dreams, the war notwithstanding.

“Anisa married young. As for Amina, the image she’d conjured of the man of her dreams had been erased by the years. All she hoped for now was some suitor who could satisfy her emotional cravings. However, nobody came knocking, despite her decent looks and her huge heart. Although she didn’t dress conservatively, her religious views prevented her from pursuing a physical relationship with someone she wasn’t married to. For some time, she’d found satisfaction in making use of her spiritual energy and her prophetic dreams. The presence of an unseen spiritual guide in her life had given her the solace and happiness she sought, a sense of having

BANIPAL 70 – SPRING 2021 93

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