Here is what it is about being 30, I feel as if I am back to that condition of being on the cusp of something, yet another transformation, the same way I felt when I turned 16, but without the raging hormones. It is a point of transition, where again if you don't let go of the impetuousness of your twenties, which were charming, and embrace the more adult version of yourself, you are preceived as completely ridiculous. Not to mention completely immature or rather juvenile.
I was coming to the terms that I was slowly morphing into another category. One that I don't know and I don't like. One where there are no inspiring role models. One where people my age are already daddies.
The expectations, the criteria against which you are being measured as an "adult" are only heteronormative and capitalistic to the extreme, but also dangerous as they define our ideas of propriety and accomplishments.
I don't have a regular job, I don't own my own house, I don't drive and don't have a car, I am not a hippy or a hipster and I think the only thing the left are good at is securing more rights for the working class and producing interesting critiques of capitalism. But that does not make me a leftist or even remotely political.
I never was.
At such a point one is compelled by immense outside pressure to somehow pause and reconsider or "re-evaluate" what one has been doing and why.
I could offer a critique of my twenties but then that would be a boring post.
All I remember and know is that mine has been a constant attempt to resist the shackles of discipline and not in a hippy, flower-power fashion, as I am an introvert, but through actual investing in alternative family structures, in trying to create different experience of human relatedness, of being helplessly idealisitic and very lazy also about how the world actually run.
Those are all my accomplishments as a matter of fact. Those impossible human configurations that all somehow dissolved and could not stand the test of capitalist heteronormativity, or just plain human selfishness.
But then did I effectively contribute to the betterment of someone's life? Did I find a cure for cancer? No. And that for that kind of evaluation my "accomplishments" will falter miserably. If I can describe anything I did as an "accomplishment".
I was back in Brussels, where it all began, the first European city I ever visited. The first artistic context I ever participated in. An astonishingly prophetic experience on how the next six years of my life will be like: nomadic, disrupted, patterned with with impossible choices and chronic displacement. Not refugee like displacement (because that kind of displacement leave little room for reflection), but potent enough to engender a constant state of insecurity.
I was having dinner with an old Brussels friend, one of the first people I got to meet when I was in Brussels, a woman of extraordinary spirit and with an intellect to match. And she herself has been going through a lot of spiritual and emotional changes. And we sat and talked and were catching up, and afer a long series of discussions and tarot card readings, the conversatoin turned to love. And she asked me, "how do you perceive love?" and what is my relation to it?
And I couldn't answer her. I had nothing to say. I could not be more far than where love is. Last time I went on a date in Egypt, Mubarak was still president.
I told her about generosity and compassion and she irritatingly dismissed them as have nothing to do with love. And inwardly I knew she was right, but what can I tell her?
ماذا أقول له؟ على رأي نجاة
I am part of a subculture that is entirely populated with people under 30 who are still taking very primary steps towards asserting their rights and existence?
That the only time that I can go out on a date or have an interesting conversation with a man is usually in some European city or another? And even that is changing as my age group is changing.
That the gay community is so obsessed in challenging heteronormative parctices and habits that is questioning the wisdom or efficiacy of any kind of meaningful attachment to one person at a time?
I don't understand it, because it is inaccessible to me, it has eluded me for far too long and for some reason I stopped wondering about it.
I kept thinking of Um Kalthoum's playful jab at love, in Sallama (1944), and I even started singing the song in my head.
But while I was trying to be as playful as Um Kalthoum was, my friend was not being playful at all. She was quite serious.
And as we were joined by another very dear friend, I sounded and looked completely out of place. They both spoke of past relationships, former lovers, the meaning and place of love in their lives and I could not be more far from that. Just like Sallama, I didn't know. And I didn't know how to answer them or what to say.
I never lived with anyone, my longest relationship was with a fictitious character that only existed in my head. And I loved this character more than anything, that I refused to acknowledge that it only existed in my mind. So interesting was my creation that I could not escape its allure.
But that is a completely auto-erotic or solipsistic arrangement, that tells people very little about my own exposure or experience with love.
The idea of sharing and witnessing someone's life through an intimate arrangement, and a close proximity is something that I never witnessed myself (it has to be "durational", a week or ten days can not be described as a relationship) and I have seen it very little in people around me.
How can I then answer this question?
What do I know of love, to answer it?
I never managed to tell him that I share his desires and even some more.
Years go by, he becoming even more attractive and me hitting 30. And in Brussels, in that same city (I knew that he lives there) and right after that long night de questions d'amour, he invites me to come over to his place for a drink.
My mind was still muddled with all the conversations of the night before, and if ever there was a moment where I was concious of my mortality, it was this moment. And in attempt to brush aside my own sense of incompetence or inadequacy, I decided to go meet him.
I walked the narrow streets of Brussels with its confusing bilingual signs and even more confusing its Arab faces that passed me by. This was the first time I see him since a long time. I kept wondering if his desires and feelings are still the same or not. I know mine are.
His was an old house, that he beautifully renovated, with a enchanting little garden and a solid dinning room table, to die for. I am a furniture-whore, and anything made out of strong wood is actually incredibly sensual for me.
So as we sat to sip tea at his sexy dinning room table, it became very clear to me how much I was attracted to him. And it also became clear how self-absorbed he is in himself. In a charming and boyish kind of way. He was infinitely animated, as he kept gesturing and jumping and walking back and forth talking about everything and nothing.
We talked for almost six hours non-stop. This gave me hope that maybe he found in me an interesting or exciting interlocutor. But then maybe also he is such a fascinating subject that he wouldn't tire of talking about it, regardless of whom he's conversing with.
And I realized that when he unabashedly declared his desires in Cairo, I was still a 'young boy' as my friend tells me (I almost bitch-slapped her right there).
As I sat there with hope and trepidation, there it seemed that those desires have migrated elsewhere, and prolonging my anxiety would only increase the weight of truth that was beginning to dawn on me, that I felt it might hit me like anvil all at once.
I decided that it was time for me to leave. I was not only far from love, but at it seems that at my age, even desire became complicated.
He insisted on walking me to my friend's place, where I was staying. He said it was time to walk the dog. And we event talked some more along the way, and I found him 'madly attractive' (as von Livenbaum would say in the 1956 make of Anastasia) and I couldn't help myself but think maybe I should French kiss him goodbye. And as I tried, he turned his head to call his dog. It ended up being a chaste kiss on the cheek.
He then said, call me sometime while you are still here, so we can meet. But then we never did.
....but then again, it might have been imaginations' plan..