During my visit to Shaqra, my hometown, about three years ago, I was on my way home when a gray coloured van stopped by me and the young driver asked me: Let me give you a lift home. I said: Thank you, as you can see the house is not more than a couple of footsteps away. He insisted and I got into the passenger seat.
He asked: Do you know me? This was followed by reminding and establishing kinship with the blue-eyed young man that were full of promise of rain. He was a late teenager, a second-generation cousin, Hussain Mohammad Abdul-Hassan Ali son of our great grandfather, Ahmad Zain Al-Khatib. I remembered the kinship and neighborliness, the land and some stories of relatives and strangers.
I asked him: What do you do for living Hussain? He answered: By God, my cousin, I work in gardening, digging, cultivating and keeping tidy the gardens of affluent absentee owners, and those who do not have time to take care of the land. In fact, I have just returned from such job in so and so town (I do not remember the name). I said to him: Your work is beautiful in itself and because it is consistent with my gardening hobby away from our homeland, how I wished to make the land and planting some of my work at home and not a mere hobby in exile. He said: I’ll give you some seeds to grow in your garden abroad. The van stopped at the entrance to our house and Hussain jumped out with the vitality of young people, heading towards the house of his family which is only a few meters away from ours. I stayed in the passenger seat waiting for him. I looked at the back hold of the van behind my seat and I saw several gardening tools lying haphazardly on the floor- a pick, a shovel, a trowel and a rake.
He returned with a smile on his face and gave me a small bag of Muloukhia seeds and elaborated description of the variety: Short stalks but with large, thick and deep green leaves.
We parted in the hope of another meeting, soon, in my next visit. Hussain was the only young man who did not ask me about opportunities and ways of migration from the country to countries of the wider world.
I received the news of his death in the Syrian war yesterday, I did not cry and held a sadness deep, because I remembered that beautiful meeting with him and I started to rummage through all its symbols, only to find them in every line and each word of the story above. It was a meeting which shall remain orphaned in the calendar of time.
I wish Hussain had been able to have a large garden in his homeland, to dig and cultivate and enjoy its fruit and beauty, rather than needing to tend others’ gardens. As he is being buried in this hour, my sorrow is deeper than the soil from which we were both kneaded and which will hold the blue of his eyes forever. You shall not be forgotten, nor alone, Hussain.