by Maniza Naqvi
I'm in turmoil when he is there but always sorry when it is time to let him go. And why not, he is after all, such a complicated man; a beautiful man. He would have to be. After all– I have created him. Quintessential: American hero. The one, everyone hates but never quite as much as he hates himself. Still, still—certainly not as much as I, hate him. Love will do that, you know.
So, a beautiful man, my creation: gone. Gone, until, he resurfaces again suddenly. And he always has these past so many decades when the news has been and is all about dictatorships, war and the violence of subverting whole societies and I have traveled for work to places torn by war or about to be. And in this time alongside the work, and witnessing the world and watching BBC and CNN— I have written poetry and fiction. But the time for this has been limited for I am overwhelmed with visits to villages and planning and designing programs to tackle misery and poverty.
So the time I have spent with him can be stacked up as a few short chapters or even dots on the point of a pin—in relation to his and my entire lives and yet in hindsight those moments seemed to be in emotional volume disproportionately more meaningful than all the others. When he leaves, as he always does, he says: Hope to see you at some point. What point might that be? I have always asked. Those points—in the past have been scattered. Each point, in the moment, as is the point of all of this, was all that there was at that point—and breathlessly all that mattered—as in, without full stops and commas, without pauses—the time spent with him, in the margins of moleskins was always, constant and seamless. And in hindsight was always pointless.
The only thing that goes forward is what we make. That's all that lives on. He said that to me once, as consolation, during a leave taking at one such point as we lay in bed—it was afternoon—my favorite scene with him. The sunlight came across the white sheets in a slant. I had finished my rant about how he was leaving me again to go back to another life—and that I had only this—these moments before departure—this leave taking—this need therefore to hold on– to remember. And so this, this thing that goes forward—that lives on, was all he had–or could have offered. Well naturally, it was all he could offer, given the circumstances: my life lived in trysts with him in his triptychs of before the war, during the war and after the war. So it is only natural now, as it was then, perhaps more so now, that when it all seems to be about the drums of war, leave taking and endings that I should set about, once again in search of him.
And when I do find him again, he will enter as he always does, into the scene, seemingly about other things but always in my mind about him: He will limp across the lobby of a hotel, the lobby remarkably intact and film set worthy, he will limp across it in the direction of the Maitre de, and without being asked, once there, will offer, “I am alone.” Not by way of a statement but rather in a tone of a confession. In hindsight, I will remember it more as an explanation, not an alibi, you understand, —–no, more precisely, a lamentation. Yes, if I were to now give it the precision and accuracy of hindsight, as I am prone to do, it will indeed be just so –his voice will have the tenor of being wracked–a hoarse whisper of regret. It will be him. No doubt about it. He would have arrived. Of course he would, after all I was there wasn't I?
And when I do find him, at some point—when we hook up again—whether our thoughts pivot to Central America, or Central Asia or Central Africa—where ever there is oil, or rare earth or much water, wherever, we once again intersect, we will, as always, note that people here—-and we say this to each other in wonderment steeped with emotion—not love, not hate—not lust, but some exquisite recognition—-always over dinner over wine and in candle-light—in an exclusive restaurant for people just like us—–we say this about the people of that—this country, wherever it is that we find ourselves—- people here smile more than they do anywhere else—we'll note with reverence as our little sacred shared observation, that people here—they laugh all the time it seems despite their hard lives and poverty. I'll say that you see—to him—just like I say that everywhere—to him. I'll say to him, my eyes shining—do you know the first thing people tell you about here, is that, —-this peaceful country has never fought or engaged in conflict or war with anyone. He'll look at my face—in a way that'll make me feel as if I've been running for miles—and he'll say with a grin: Well, we'll see about that won't we? Then he'll reach out and take my hand—caressing the length of my fingers with his thumb, and ask: Tell me are you writing something?
And so here he is again: limping, hoarse, tired and graying, my killer, my lover, my muse.
Other writing by Maniza Naqvi