“Death by Arak” by Diego Gomez Pickering, Damascus

Love and Heartbreak July 14, 2011 00:02

topic: LOVE & HEARTBREAK medium: TEXT

as shared at an Event themed “Great Expectations”

Get to know Diego better by going Behind the Story

During full moon nights she is never able to sleep. On those erratic nights, which might well happen more than once a month since her calendar does not follow any preestablished rules or astronomical patterns, she remains static and at the same time moves all over. Her eyesight is fixed on Qasiun Mountain but her spirit is restless. It is only on those silent and impassive nights that she has time to come to terms with herself.

She cries like a newly born and consumes herself in penance, waking up the morning after just to fall again into a long and beautifully painful sleep. It is only during full moon nights that she truly finds the true meaning of her existence. She is blind but wise. It is her wisdom that makes her blindness the main source of happiness in and otherwise sad and sinful existence.

– Did you understand it guys? – She asked the class in a soft almost imperceptible voice, yet a stern and proud one.

– Yes – A choir of irregular voices with a plethora of accents answered unanimously.

– No further questions? – She insisted to her silent audience.

– Are you sure? – The students, foreigners at the end of the day, just nodded mischievously.

– Ok, see you next week then.

She pretended not to look when the place sooner than she wanted emptied completely. “Bye, take care, enjoy your weekend, study, come and visit, yes, please, you are welcome. I like you, do you like me?” fruitless thoughts that she never had the chance, nor the will, to put into words while each of the students left hurriedly their weekly meeting space at the soberly cold and generally soulless classrooms of the university. Her energetic smile and lively eyes ran out of bright, following the sudden migration. She had been covering her hair for over a couple of years, when her family’s insistence on a marriage grew louder, as if trying to mitigate the noise coming through her ears with the cotton piece of cloth of the headscarf. Now it felt like an uncomfortable extension of her body, one she dreamed of ripping off every moonless night but did not dare to.

-Hey! Why do you always stay in going through your papers as if the class was still here? Come on, hurry up, it is Thursday, lets go for a tea before you catch your bus.

– Hey! You know I was just waiting for you. – The bright came back to her eyes but the sadness inside never left.

– Yeah, sure you little liar. – Her friend said talking her by the arm and changing her gloomy midday into an unforgettable full moon night.

The commercial street outside the university was flooded with people, the Holy Month was about to start and the little shops and overcrowded restaurants knew their business quite well. Her city, just like her, could not avoid succumbing knowledgably to the earthly matters even when her essence was rooted in transcendence. As usual, the conversation was meaningless; at least to her, she never managed to pay attention, she could not see beyond those lips, fleshy and pinky, that mouth of desire that burnt her soul and made her blind.

– What? – She mumbled reluctantly, breaking off her dream but staying hypnotized by that sort of Stendhal Syndrome that ruled her mind.

– Didn’t you listen to me?

– Oh, yes, sorry. You are right. I couldn’t agree more with you. – The trepidation menaced to set her heart free. But she could not allow herself to do so, she was ephemeral, she had too.

– Well, thank you. You are the only one that understands me. I really appreciate it. I don’t know what I would do without you.

She silently replied “What could I do without YOU?”.

– Oh my, it’s getting late. You better catch that bus back home girl if you don’t want to get into troubles. And I rather go back to my husband. See you on Sunday, God willing of course. Bye for now.

While her friend turned and started walking, like carried away by the clouds that invariably came along with the sunset wind, she kissed her goodbye in the lips. It was a warm and long kiss, like the ones that long to be given but are kept for oneself.

By the time she got home the full moon timidly appeared on the horizon. She was sure it was going to be a sleepless night.

– What did I do to deserve this? Look at the time! Your brothers are hungry and your father….well….you know him. – Her mother had the unique ability to make her days seem like bottomless hopes.

“If you knew that I really DO know him” she yelled back at her without opening her mouth.

– By the way, before I forget. The mailman brought you yet another letter. You are lucky I got it before they could put their hands on it. You better tell whomever it is to stop. Snakes are untrustworthy and they speak in tongues, you have to stop playing around.

The touch of that paper brought the smile back to her face. She checked the postage stamp, it arrived as she had plan, exactly a day after having posted it at the university’s post office. She laughed out loud silently. The opened envelope confirmed the contents of it had passed through every corner of that hideous old house, through the fountained courtyard and up to the roof. She unfolded the rosé-colored piece of paper and started reading aloud yet not making a single noise. The anisette scented letter felt like silk to her hands. Its lovely smell intoxicated her, just like arak.


I have been meaning to tell you this for a very long time but I did not have the strength or the confidence to do it. Moreover I could not stand the idea of maybe being rejected. But now I can not remain quite anymore. I feel I would die if I keep it to myself a single second more. I need to tell you what has been troubling me and little by little killing me. I love you. I am crazy about you. I simply can not live without you.

Herewith a kiss since my heart is already yours.


“I love you too” she said with her eyes while pressing the letter against her buoyant bosom until her lungs ached. Then she rested her head on the battered pillow, ready for another full moon night. Sunday would come and the students will find her as usual. They would be fascinated by her, by her eternal beauty and unfathomable story; by her oriental looks and demeanor and her elegant ways. They would, as they always do, fall in love with her without knowing the reason. She would bewitch them. She did not understand them and continuously repelled them still she knew she could not do without them.

She was blind and wise. She was a piece of paradise, desired by all but owned by none. A virgin violated and obliterated repeatedly but always safeguarded by the Qasiun.

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