A Fine Line

In the darkened rooms emanating fumes of vigor and lust and grass, four in the morning never used to seize such slowness. Yet, dressed in its idiosyncratic silence and unwelcome, the hour has oozed into my bedroom again. It would be unbecoming to not mention how its hush tonight, however, is less brutal than the ones of the past many. The only reason for that being: I am not alone in my indisposition. There is the tangible warmth of someone a few sky-bound steps away. I can feel it in my forehead and lungs. She accompanies me into the looming sunrise with her distant, yet strikingly heavy hums. At this time of eve, however, everything assumes loudness — whispers, hums, thoughts, flushing sounds. The encircling silence accentuates the faintest of notes, and every single fleshy wall in this building suddenly becomes paper-thin, as though the concrete, too, sends its particles off to rest. It must be the refugee neighbor's youngest daughter, the one behind my ceiling leaking Arabian tunes. By the sound of it, she, too, is in her chamber, right atop mine, wrapped in piles of bedding, attempting desperately to summon the molecules of sleep. She and I are not so different. Wide-eyed, I stretch my loins atop the bed I have rarely left since the dawn of March, and listen to her sound waves dripping from my thread-like walls. I envision myself a child of nine, lying supine in a field blanketed by unending purple lavender, wild rays of summer sun piercing into the filaments of my cheeks, being serenaded by her, a distant sister, into sweet freedom. Goodness. How I wish I could tear the ceiling open and ask her what song it is that she is humming to, or speak to her of my love for the distant ocean and the open road. Only, she doesn't know me, and neither do I. I do not know the color of her eyes. We set about our evening dreams only seconds away from one another; yet, we have never, not even once, smiled at one another. Only in the brief instances when life was yet up and running we would, at times, share the elevator space, or diffidently present it to one another as one of us departs into civilization while the other returns to the calm of home, and in reverse and repeat. “When this is over, I'll make her a friend,” I think to myself. She must know. It happens now. The metamorphosis into newness. Through dreams ripening me rough into day, and after what tastes of unfinished sleep upon my tongue, the piquant scent of burnt frankincense and myrrh tickle my waking nose. I unfasten my eyelids to my father's silhouette in thick rings of smoke curling by my bedside. With the ancestral, almost seraphic brass incense censer he had gotten from Yerevan Vernissage Market when he spent his 20s frolicking in the distant motherland, and which he brings out on the days he feels sentimental, he draws a gentle cross atop my head. “Irents hishadagin,” he says softly. In their memory. Today is the day of the dead. Merelots. “We cannot visit them this year, but we will think of them,” he says. Pray for them. He knows, but he also knows I would for the memory of his brother. Could this be another dream? I cannot help but wonder, within my own. The field of purple lavender beneath me suddenly feels macabre. I squint my eyes and the image again returns. Myself at twenty-two, hair in loose braids, softened bones, my fluttering fingers placing three lavender stems in my uncle's cold hands right as they eternally shut his casket, three years ago. I remember his details intensely. All of them. I remember the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen — his blue eyes as they purged of all remaining life. How I wept breathlessly for not having told him how he could be the poster child for The Velvet Underground's song. I think that would have made him smile. I must instantly roll out and go visit where he, too, is confined, in the comfort of his earth home. But I cannot. I can not. God I absolutely must when this is all over. I get up and wash my face with cold water. Might the songbird upstairs hear the sound of the running liquid, or have the walls regained their density? I must make a note to ask her when she deems me a friend. Stepping into the kitchen, I kiss mother good afternoon, and we both smile at the crisp irony. Will I be having breakfast or lunch? She asks. “Brunch, of course,” I say, camouflaging my restored grief in small talk. With a cup of warm lemon and ginger water, I head to the balcony overlooking the abandoned streets of Beirut. I remain there for a few minutes listening to a bird rub its wild in my faces. “Mom, come listen-” I exclaim into our home, pulling through the disguise. “Meg Vargyan,” she says from the inside. One minute. Within the rooted dance of the rising smoke, I find her leaning over my mattress, instigating a motherly mission to wrap it in a new floral bed sheet adorned with comforting gardens of yellow daffodils. She must have sensed it. She knows. Laundry day was yesterday. Everything is clean.

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