In the midst of her chaotic world…not my photograph…
The consequences of someone’s life, observed, by the individual’s friend, translated…
Every time I’d met up with P was always in a café, and, there was always that light smile on her face without the makeup on.
Actually, this girl from Palestine, at most, was the white powder and a red plastic nose for her to turn into a clown. As her coffee was presented to her, a simplest cup of espresso, no longer than two euros, but sometimes, it was a-third of P’s daily spending. Hanging out with P, I’d needed to keep my desires in check, to keep myself from ordering the more expensive, extravagant cappuccino or the café Vienna with the whipped topping.
where the woman was, photo from online…
I’m used to finishing a cup of black coffee in just two gulps, like swallowing down two gulps of my own bitter saliva, exhilarating. P enjoyed leaving a sip inside the cup, playing with the cup, until that last sip had stained up the inside of the cup. We rarely spoke of our pasts, where we’d, come from, what we’d talked on, was the performances, on her creativity that stemmed from nowhere, along with gossiping about the classmates of the drama course, along with how we both felt so helpless over life, and how we wanted to, keep on persisting in it.
P sung that song of the drifter, stayed in Paris, while I’d moved nine times in six short years, P had, changed her places of residences once every two, to three months, the couches offered by her friends, she’d loved crashing there. A torn up bicycle was her means of transportation. Every time we’d met, she’d arrived, worn out, her almost disassembled bicycle, taped and tied together, by assortments of ropes and tapes, it’d made me feel funny.
In 2006, before I’d decided to move back to Taiwan, I’d met up with P one last time, it was six in the evening, we’d made a date at Montparnasse, it was drizzling lightly. To get out of the rain, we’d selected a café inside the alleys.
Before the waiter brought the coffees, I couldn’t help but present her with a box of English cigarettes with seven colored tubes, wanted to give to P as a gift. She’d selected a green one, and started acting like she’s famous, lifted her chin, turned away from me, asked me, in strange English, “hey baby, do I look sexy?”
I’d burst out laughing, then P changed to a serious tone, stared at me, said, “Shang-Der, don’t say goodbye to me when I leave for the door.” Before I can understand what she’d meant, she’d continued, “Let’s just treat this as the end of our first date, and maybe, I’ll call you tomorrow, or you’ll call me up, we will still hang out, go to the square by the library, to drink café, but just, don’t say goodbye!”
As we exited the café, we’d not said anything at all to one another, just hugged, a gaze, then, she’d gotten on her bicycle, with the rain, out into the traffic, slowly, vanished from my field of vision. I’d not stayed behind for longer, I’d, hastened my pace, gone in the opposite directions, left the city of Paris behind me.
The few years after I’d returned to Taiwan, I’d received a letter from P, with whom I’d lost touch with. She said, she was about to, return to her homeland—Palestine.
Over a decade ago, P and her father had dodged the controls of the Israeli army, and became refugees, and they’d passed through Turkey, Egypt, and ended up, settling in Paris. Her father passed away, in less than a year after they’d arrived in Paris, ever since, P carried the status of a refugee, lived alone in the city of Paris.
“I could never forget how my uncle strapped himself up with bombs in front of us, and gave us each a kiss before he’d left.”
P’s uncle used the most radical way to rebel against the long-term oppressions of the Israeli army. That very night, P’s parents took their two children, escaped from home.
P didn’t tell me where her mother or her younger brother had ended up, she’d just said, that it was time, to go home, at all costs. At the end of the letter, she’d lightly described a skit she was working on, about a happy clown who went up to heaven. Then, she’d wrote, in all caps, to stress: Shang-Der, don’t worry, this is still not a story of goodbye.
So, this is the story of the writer’s friend, finding her way, back to her roots, and, no matter how dangerous it will be for this woman, she has the faith, that she will, make it there and back again fine, and this, is the kind of courage that we all need to have over our lives.