Saturday early afternoon.
It is a rainy day and the glass of whiskey has gotten straight to my head.
My family is eating and drinking the late March day away. All crammed up in the small winter room my sister built outside our village house.
Beethoven and Mozart, our cats, are begging, in more than one meow, for meat.
I am sitting on the couch outside Mostapha's house.
Mostapha is our garden keeper since over twenty years.
I am hiding from the rain under the half – ceiling. Yet, I can feel the cold penetrating my bones.
And the glass of Whiskey I slowly sipped earlier during lunch is resting happily inside my head. It is making its way inside my soul.
I watch the March rain as it steadily falls, wetting the land, and part of my shoes. The cold wind is penetrating my body. Every inch of it. I am so cold. Yet, somehow, I feel happy sitting quietly under the half – shelter – of – a – ceiling.
And this cold wind. Slowly merging with the glass of Whiskey happily settling somewhere inside my head.
I am leaving home.
In every way I can.
Mum and dad are frightened of my newly acquired strong and independent personality. They know I have left home.
In more than one way.
At almost 44.
I am no longer their little girl. Suddenly, they can feel that they cannot reach me anymore.
I am happily growing into the woman I finally have the courage to be.
The wind on that late March day is playing with my hair.
Mostapha screams protectively at me : "Come inside the house. It's too cold outside".
Reluctantly, I obey him.
His house is small and always dirty. He likes it that way. It makes him feel independent. When he is home in his far away village, he has to obey his wife's cleaning rules. Here, in my father's land in Koura, North of Lebanon, he feels free. Perhaps, this is his way of leaving home. This disorder. This chaos. Dad won't allow any of us to ask him to clean his house. "It is his. It is his HIS house. He is free to do whatever he wishes in it".
I feel lighter when I drink my daily glass of Whiskey.
Have been doing so since December. All members of my family – on dad's side – drink. I started drinking at 43 and a half.
My dad desperately wants to pretend it is okay. But he cannot help it.
He cannot help worrying about everything I do that seems out of the ordinary.
Anything that does not resemble the old safe me is unbearable to him. Even if it is a glass of Whiskey every day.
"You must break the concentrated alcohol with a bit of water. We don't want you to turn into an alcoholic". He suddenly says. Out of nowhere. As we all sit in the small winter room talking all at once. Nobody really listening to anybody. Just talking our fears away.
One glass of Whiskey and suddenly I am an alcoholic.
I never left home.
That is the problem.
I remained the dreamer in the house for endless years.
My jaw tightened as he observed me earlier during lunch.
I took small sips from my glass.
He managed half a smile every now and then as he stared at me.
But his eyes betrayed his fear.
He knows I have finally left home.
Even if, technically, I am still living with him and mum.
Everyday I take small steps towards independence. And this frightens my parents. For a long time I simply took care of them.
Now I am awake.
Every single cell in my body is awake.
And I have a glass of Whiskey each day.
Mostapha's house is warm.
And the loving gardener is now busy fighting with Mozart.
Or is it Beethoven?
Both want too much attention.
Too much love.
Exactly like mum and dad.
I button the jeans jacket and I quietly write inside Mostapha's home. His dirty, disorganized home.
somehow, it feels okay just the way it is.
Even for someone, i.e. Moi, who is fighting OCD.
It is his declaration of independence. Exactly like my glass of Whiskey.
I can hear everyone's voice, all talking at the same time. They are still eating and drinking.
Today I am wearing too much make – up for the village.
But I like it that way.
I smudged black eyeliner on my lids and I emphasized my lips with a dark brown liner.
I put my notebook aside on the couch and I walk outside Mostapha's house.
I reach the white sink built on the wall parallel to his living room, and I take a long look at my face in the mirror placed above it.
I like the new me. I am enjoying leaving home at this age. The beauty of life, I have come to realize, lies in its ability to give us repeated chances to make it better.
My make – up is a declaration of independence.
Some raindrops wet my face and they fluff my hair.
I stare at my reflection in the mirror for a long time.
Lately, I have stopped seeing the people around me. I simply concentrate on my own life. I haven't really stopped being a good woman. However, my reflection in the mirror is a pure sign of changes inside of me. I cannot get enough of life. I want to experience every drop of it. To turn each day into a piece of art.
I search for my cousin Jules.
"Let us go take pictures of Little Greece in Anfeh" I exclaim breathlessly when I find him.
"You're crazy. It is pouring with rain. The road will be muddy and slippery" He answers.
The glass of Whiskey has added color to my cheeks and giddiness to my reason.
"Oh! come on Jules. A few photos to laugh and enjoy looking at later when we are bored. Where is your sense of adventure?".
I beg him.
And with each passing moment, I am resembling Beethoven and Mozart.
Minus the meow.
He finally agrees to take me to the nearby village Anfeh.
It is home to a small island by the sea that resembles the Greek islands. Small white houses built on rocks overlooking the cleanest of seas.
It is a strange location as it hosts a cemetery and a historical church next to the houses. Or maybe they are chalets.
In all cases, they are beautiful. With their roofless tops and the turquoise blue stripes embroidered on the white walls.
Lately I have been adding daily adventures to my life. Not major ones, really, just deliberate small adventures.
And that gives me confidence.
Mum accompanies us.
Maybe Jules is right.
How will we reach this small paradise with all this rain?
I drive my car, Jules sits next to me, and mum relaxes in the back seat.
The sea is so calm and so inviting.
I suddenly stop the car and I take a quick picture of it.
We haven't reached our little Greece yet.
I click on not caring about the rain.
"Well, there you are. Now we can go back to the village. There is your pic of the day". Jules says with a sigh.
I stubbornly drive towards our destination. Slowly the rain quiets down.
I laugh. There it is.
The first glimpse of the white houses and their turquoise blue stripes.
We move forward until we reach a turn.
Narrow streets and beautiful houses welcome us.
The car drives on.
And here is the muddy section Jules talked about.
I stop the car and jump out.
There is our island.
Built next to a cemetery. Dead people and this much life together in one place.
I take tens of pictures and I nearly fall in the sea from my excitement.
Jules catches me at the last minute.
I frolic in the narrow pavements and we visit the historical church built midst the rocks.
I don't ask God for anything.
I simply thank him.
I am here.
I have reached this point.
I have declared my independence.
"Dear God, I promise not to take this happy phase for granted. I promise to live it until my last breath. I will accompany it – this phase – by the hand until it is time to live another phase".
On the way back to the car, I catch mum staring at me with a mild shocked look on her beautiful face.
"What are you so happy about?" she asks in her high – pitch voice.
"Can't you see?" I answer with a loud laughter "I have left home!".