We are sitting on a balcony, bursting with laughter, yet trying not to make a sound. I wipe the tears out of the corner of my eye and desperately gasp for air. The suppressed laughter gurgles too loudly in my throat. Again and again during this night a quite decisive PSSST! comes from the neighboring rooms. With time, fatigue lets our words drop more softly but not any less frequently into the night. We can hear the cows move idly in the stables next to the inn where we are staying. It is one of those summer nights that makes it feel impossible that there will ever be another winter, that there will ever be a new morning, and a hangover. It is one of those summer nights filled with stories. Mussab’s stories. He sits with us on this balcony, stares into the clear night skies and talks about his village, about his childhood, about his family, and about the war. Crazy images form in front of my inner eye. Like the Iraqi version of a Kusturica film. Images of hordes of little children playing wild tricks. He tells us how they all went fishing one day; without fishing rods, but with dynamite, that they threw into the water, to then fetch their prey off the water’s surface.
I am now sitting in front of my computer screen. We are talking to each other, into our computers. He sits in his living room in Saarbrücken. I in my kitchen in Vienna. Just as back then, in the summer, during the workshops, at night on the balcony, we talked about memories and experiences that we turned into texts. The weeks before, he had sent me his impressions of the L.A.S.T., the state refugee center in Lebach. I admire him for the strength and dedication with which he attends to his work. His observations are like his stories; precise and yet slightly removed at the same time. For Mussab, reality turns into these utterly funny and sometimes sad, but never hopeless, chains of crazy events. His texts touch me, they make me stop and laugh.
You gotta cook yourself something nice!
Cooking is important,
especially when you are sad, Anna,
he says now.
We missed each other again, in Berlin, in Stuttgart, in Southern Tirol. Why is it always these important things that we keep postponing/put off until the future? And again we’re not in the same room, again we don’t sit on the same balcony, at night, laughing. But at least I get to see him smiling supportively through a Skype window. I try not to let it shine through, I um and er, I answer his questions reluctantly, but I can tell that even with all this distance between us, he reaches the right conclusion: acute sadness. And just a few days later I find a little package in my mailbox, with a blend of spices in it and a recipe for an Iraqi dish, and incense. The food for warmth and the incense to smoke out the sadness.
And when the sadness has dug itself into my bones, like right now, I think of that night on the balcony and I cook. An Iraqi dish with seven spices. And every time I set a plate for you, my dear Musaab.