Friday, December 5, 2008


Last night was Nora’s birthday at Smokin’ Pete’s in Ballard. (I highly recommend this barbeque place that serves local, naturally raised meat.) I sat next to Nora and talked with her and her friend Betsy, while The Poet, on my left, was engrossed in a raucous banter with the people at his end of the table. We heard occasional snatches of their conversation—they were all laughing.

“Look at him,” Betsy said, not knowing The Poet was my boyfriend. “I don’t know what he’s talking about, but he thinks everything is funny, and he’s getting everyone else to laugh, too.”

She was right, of course, and she reminded of me of how lucky I am. The Poet and I have been through difficult times, but now our relationship is stronger than ever, and the past several months I have felt wrapped up in a continual conversation with him, one about reading and exploring ideas and caring for people and never forgetting to laugh.

Every day I think of how lucky I am—to live in our beautiful apartment, just big enough for the two of us, with a view of downtown, Lake Union and Mt Ranier, and to be in a neighborhood that’s a few minutes’ walk from everywhere I need to go. I have my friends around me, I am starting to write again, and when I walk up the hill to our house I can feel strength in my body that for years was gone.

Everything, everything, is in its place right now. But today when I woke up The Poet told me he had finally made a decision: at some point in 2009 he will go back to Egypt and stay there for a year.

I wasn’t surprised. For the past year he has been coming closer and closer to burn out at his job. He likes working in software, and he likes his company, but he has enough work for two of him these days, and the weekends are not enough time for him to read and write. He misses Egypt, and has been trying any way he can to take longer vacations in Cairo. He comes back from Egypt saying he can’t wait for the next time he goes back, and he comes back from work each day exhausted and complaining about how drained he is.

Ghusun and I have been encouraging him to make a change. Go back to school for a doctorate in literature, or Arabic studies. He likes the idea, but feels he can’t afford it. His plan to go to Egypt is a compromise—a way to live on little money, and finally have enough time to rest and write and see his mother. When the year is up he will be able to find another job in software.

This is a good decision for him. He needs a break. He has spent so much of his life doing everything for other people, and he feels worn down by it. I am glad he is finally thinking about what he needs and how to take care of himself.

The only problem in all this is me. I would love to go with him to Cairo, but I can’t. It is a brutal reminder that although I am making a steady recovery, Lyme Disease still has me in its grasp. Before I got sick I had lived in Buenos Aires and Mexico City. As a reporter I pretty much went somewhere new and saw something new every day. Life without at certain amount of chaos, pollution, and dancing was not that interesting to me.

Now I am a different person. I spend ninety percent of my time in the same 800 square foot apartment. My constant preoccupation is with how much sleep I get. I can’t breathe when I’m around cigarette smoke, car exhaust, or perfume. (The Poet assures me that in Cairo, like Mexico City, the air is composed primarily of these three elements.) I also stay away from loud noise, sugar, wheat, any trace of food additives, crowds, and a host of other things that might be impossible to avoid in Cairo.

Still, I told The Poet this morning that if I were well enough when he decided to leave I would go with him. He said he would love that, but he didn’t think it was realistic. It all depends on how fast and how complete my recovery is. I don’t know if I will ever go back to being the person I was before I was sick. Right now I certainly can’t imagine myself willingly moving to a polluted place.

We talked some more, about whether I would stay in Seattle while he’s away or move back to DC to be with my family, how he would visit me during the year, and how perhaps I would visit him.

When he left for work I thought about how hard it will be for me without him. He has been my support through every step of my recovery from Lyme, and it has been a long, hard fight that is not over yet. Besides that, I can’t imagine how lonely I will feel when I won’t be able to talk to him everyday, hear his snoring when I’m falling asleep, or read a book with him sitting beside me, reading his own book.

The morning was slipping by. I tried to focus on my to do list, but I felt more tired than usual. I thought, for once, it might be tied to my emotions. I threw myself down on the chair and felt the heaviness of my limbs. I sobbed.

I sang: you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray, a song I taught The Poet a few years ago. It couldn’t seem more true to me right now. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.

1 comment:

S. said...

I'm so sorry, Naomi.