Extremely Happy Things

"Souad Salem"

Nostalgia rubs against memories the same way my father rubs copper pots with a lemon and a handful of dirt; everything distant can be made to shine again. 

  1. Salem

We didn’t attend my father's games, but as his sons and daughters, we fell in love with football and organically learned all about the sport. Was my father a good player? By the time we grew up, his football career had become a distant and bitter memory. All we got were a few brief headlines about that period of his life. I hadn’t yet been born when he was injured in a game with his team, The Police. (He was also a member of the police force.) Tragically, that injury ended his professional football career early. For the rest of his life, he kept his knees bent, 90 degrees from his body. 

 

In the faraway place I live in now, football seasons are reminiscent of home. I turn on the TV and let the sounds of the crowds roam across the living room as I go about my day. I read, write, or cook in anticipation of the voices of my father and my brothers, rising in anger or delight as a player passes the ball. I go to sleep and leave the crowds chanting, the commentator speaking, the specter of my father reclining in front of the TV soothing my heart, easing the loneliness of its slumber over there in Shatt Al-Henshir. 

My father started coaching my brother Bassem when he was five-years-old, and in the 1980s, when Bassem was around 10, he became the top scorer in Ben Ashour’s street tournaments. Teams in nearby neighborhoods started recruiting him for their games. Was my father really that good? Yes, I think he was. 

I relinquish some evenings and late nights to the music of Abdel Halim Hafez. He lights the chandeliers of my heart, cultivates the weak herbs in my legs, and blesses the threshold of my house. His voice proliferates like a bouquet of wild stars, to which I yield my waist, my dark coffee, my diaries, and my mind. His lyrics awaken the silent garden and the white wooden bench in my small balcony. 

I dedicate these enchanting nights to my father, who loved Halim. We used to listen to him together and sing along; "And the years pass between us, and change the color of our nights…"

My heart, like my grandmother's house, has no roof. Spacious, with windows looking inward. Old, with a hand-shaped handle on the door. It is never without bread, noise, and prayers. 

  1. Aisha 

"Money is the dirtiest of hands." On this unstable boat, I delved into a semi-domestic life, open to the sky and filled with the evening myths of my grandmother, who was born after her father died. My grandmother, Aisha, became a proletariat after the wind swept away most of her inheritance, but wise and patient, she would always say: "To bear life without money, turn it into trash; sweep it at your leisure outside the house." Then she would laugh sarcastically, most of the laughter trapped in her chest, which shook and vibrated along with her shoulders. 

 

I always got on her nerves, but the wise woman would open my palms and give me a few pennies she had wrapped into the folds of her handkerchief. I took them and ran to Uncle Al-Zawi's shop across the road, imagining her coins had carved the dusty alleys into the sea.

The family courtyard was our favorite destination in a hundred bygone summers. 

Pulling my suitcase at Tripoli Airport in 2014, I thought I was leaving everything behind forever. 

Born in Tripoli, she is a journalist and poet. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tripoli University and has worked in journalism and media with several Libyan newspapers and magazines. She has published two poetry collections: “Bani Yathhamas Jazar Mumkinah” and “Al-Sudfa Kullu Ma Ana”.

Souad Salem
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