Stories that don't really happen are also love stories.
...And all that I have of him is the black shawl he sent me as a present a long time ago.
And hundreds of emails recounting the days of a thousand lives lived.
A story that never really happened.
I never touched his face. He never held my hand.
At times I wonder what it would feel like to lay my head on his shoulder. I quiet down for a few minutes. Would i recognize him if we are to accidentally meet? If our paths happen to cross for no reason at all other than to obey fate's game, would we fall in love or forever depart from each other's imagination?
I think he is a loner. And yet he knows so many people.
The shawl is carefully folded and it engulfs the back of my chair at the newspaper where I work since almost 22 years.
It has been resting on the chair for almost ten years.
Sometimes, when I need to feel glamorous, I throw it on me and I let my body sway underneath its simple glamour.
For nearly twelve years now we have been writing each other emails detailing our lives.
And yet, I still don't know what he looks like.
For nearly twelve years now, I make myself a cup of coffee and I place it carefully next to my computer. And then I start all my emails in the same manner: "Habibi Imado, I miss you".
And then I take a small sip from my coffee..
I miss you.
How can I miss a man I have never met, I do not really know.
However, there it is.
This small phrase that summarizes the story that was never lived.
The story yet to be lived.
I take small sips from my coffee. And I make sure I finish only when am writing my last habitual phrase:
"I love you habibi".
That way, I feel we have sat together over a cup of coffee.
When Beirut becomes too small for my forgotten dreams, I find myself in New York.
We are walking hand in hand. It is snowing and yet I feel warm. Imado is giving money to the homeless as is his norm. We have coffee in the small hideaways he knows so well in my favorite city. We listen to Jazz in the hip pubs, and we virtually write a few more lines in our story never lived.
The story yet to be lived.
We are in his apartment. The haven he turns into his refuge from this cruel world. He is reading. As ferociously as only Imado can manage to conjure whilst reading a book. I watch him as he reads on and I smile.
...And I make sure I only finish my cup of coffee when am writing the last line: "I love you habibi".
Yes, when Beirut becomes too small for my forgotten dreams, I find myself in his "Chess Forum" – the cultural space he owns in New York.
I am elegantly watching the players as they fight their inner wars on the chess board. As they direct their fragile resilience outwards...Those inner wars I have fought a million times and in a zillion way.
In my mind, I move to New York to be closer to him when Beirut becomes too crowded for my minimalist mind.
Some stories are lived differently. Nevertheless, they are love stories.
He loves mystery. Perhaps that is the reason he never sent me a photo of him.
I continue writing my emails.
My life seems prettier and richer when I turn it into anecdotes, especially embroidered for "Habibi Imado".
Over the years, I stopped imagining what he looks like, and I find myself writing without thinking of his face or how his hand would feel as it protectively holds mine.
When am writing to him, I do not think. I simply drift into my life as passionately as I can in order to entertain him.
Perhaps my anecdotes will make him know me better.
Almost twelve years have passed, and I never caught a glimpse of his face.
We "met" through our mutual friend, Zeina.
"There is someone you should interview. Imad. He lives in New York and he owns the best chess forum in the city. All the stars play chess in his place".
The first email was to ask him for an interview.
The second to send the questions.
And then the story that never happened, began.
Sometimes weeks pass without any news from him. Or from me.
And then suddenly I find myself making a cup of coffee. And I carefully place it next to my computer. Only to spontaneously write : "Habibi Imado. I miss you".
Then I lean back on my chair, and the black shawl touches me.
And I smile.