I Went To Discover Heaven…I Discovered A Woman

22 تشرين الأول 2015 | 00:00

She never leaves the chalet that is conjoined with the famous restaurant. Not even on stormy days and nights. She simply makes sure her two daughters are safe. She sends them somewhere else. And she stays. Alone.

On a beautiful morning like this one, it is hard to believe that the sea can become so threatening. Ready to devour whatever stands in its way. Whomever. And yet it does.

But Maguy is not afraid of the inevitable storms. The inescapable mood swings of the sea. She simply makes sure her daughters are far. "I stand still and plan how to reconstruct whatever damage the storm creates". She says quietly.

People from all over the world come to eat fish of all kinds "Chez Maguy". That is the name of her restaurant.

And on that Octorber morning, whilst my car slowly and cautiously pushes its way in the tiny streets of the old coastal city of Batroun (Located in the north of Lebanon), we are transported into what looks like a Greek Island.

We...as in me, my mum, fifi, and my aunty Thereze, alias Tarrouza.

The static sea holds the tiny white houses in what looks like a virtual embrace. The water almost touches the contour of the idyllic houses.

It is very early morning and I badly need a cup of coffee. Suddenly I do not want to interview Maguy to know her story with that world-renowned restaurant. I want to throw Fifi and Tarrouza out of the car. To quiet their constant "Hallucinating" gossiping.

Then simply sit by the sea with an espresso.

But that can't be done. Maguy has a story and I promised to listen to it. I respect people's stories. Sometimes, they are all that is left when things have ended.

And here we are.

Chez maguy.

A young dog big in size greets us. She nudges my leg with her nose demanding a little bit of attention. A little bit of love. Later when we are comfortably seated in the small living room overlooking the inner part of the restaurant, Bella, that is her name, would go from corner to other casting glances at me.

Waiting for a sign to come curl up in my arms.

There is no telling where Maguy's chalet starts and where the inner part of the restaurant ends.

The sea.

That is the main "ingredient" that stands out. It pops from all over. Parts of it, that is.

The plate of fruits and Arabic coffee are ready. Maguy is joined by her two faithful friends. Siham and Amal.

I have never met her before, and yet Maguy hugs me when I introduce myself.

She looks so tough on the outside.

All of Batroun knows that this tough looking woman has been diving to catch her fresh sea food since many, many years.

When her husband died, she had to find a way to raise her first daughter. She was living in that same chalet we are having coffee in, on that October morning. She says my name a lot during the conversation. It is her way to establish a connection. "I pray you never have to go through what I did when my husband died. We had been married for three years. And we lived here. Time stopped when he died".

So, there was love in this place. It shows in her eyes that it was love.

"Later I remarried and had another daughter. Then I divorced. They are everything to me, my daughters".

The locals took habit in passing by to see what Maguy's catch of the day was. Winter, spring, fall, or summer. Maguy never stopped diving regardless of nature's moods.

She would be in the water from five A.M. until Seven or 8 P.M.

A woman alone in the water. Searching for the day's catch. On a daily basis.

Then as time passed by, some started asking her to fry or cook their choice of sea food catch, on the spot, in her own kitchen.

She had a way of adding spices. Of incorporating the seasoning with the food. "I just cooked for others whatever I enjoyed cooking for myself", she recalls.

The kitchen she uses now for the restaurant is the same she uses for herself and her family. Her life is simple.

She lives for her daughters and for the sea.

I have to take at least one sip of my coffee by that window overlooking the sea. At least one. So I leave everyone and slowly place my cup on one table. I take a picture and a sip. Must go back inside. Must not leave Maguy with her memories.

With time, the restaurant saw light. And with the inner half ornamented with windows, there is the outer half. A small stair leads to the first glimpse of the sea. What looks like the remains of a historical building overlooks the outer half. The tablecloths are colorful.

"On this table I have my wars with the octopus. Look. You can still see its ink", she says laughing as she shows me the different kinds of fish happily swimming under the outer half.

"We cannot catch anything at this time of the day. Not with the hook anyway. The fish can see the transparent string hooking the plastic bait".

Amale, her long-time friend joins us outside. She recounts how Maguy has stood by her in different times throughout her difficult life. Maguy, it seems, is a humanitarian in addition to being a fishing and diving champion.

Bella, strolls next to us. Still waiting for a sign. A hint that gives her permission to throw herself in my arms.

Maguy makes sure her daughters live like queens. Her parents live nearby. This small neighborhood overlooking the sea is filled with seafood, memories, love, and family.

She shows me the huge board where she hangs pictures of celebrities who love her food. They also love her. Everybody is there.

Wait....is this my love the actor John Corbett hugging Maguy in a picture????? She laughs, "I am Maguy! Everybody comes to visit me".

As we head outside, she accompanies us. So does Bella.

"You must promise Maguy to bring your mum and Aunt back for lunch one day", she says. Then she quietly adds, "All my life my only concern was to never leave this place and to provide my daughters a life fit for queens".

Mum hugs her.

Bella approaches me and gives me a final nudge from her nose as if to say, "So now will I get some love and attention?".

نقطة ضو تصنعها إليسا مع "النهار" ومعكم

إظهار التعليقات

يلفت موقع النهار الإلكتروني إلى أنّه ليس مسؤولًا عن التعليقات التي ترده ويأمل من القرّاء الكرام الحفاظ على احترام الأصول واللياقات في التعبير.

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