She enters her parents’ home; looks at a portrait on a table crowded with portraits. It’s just another one standing the test of time. A black and white photo of her parents’ wedding; they are cutting the cake. The groom is lean, tall, a handsome classic look; the mustache is a mistake, she thinks, but it’s her father’s most recognizable signature, a mustache. He refers to it as a standard of the respectable male; it lasted longer than it should. The smile; her father has a smile in this picture. For many years she hasn’t seen photos of him smiling. His grandkids have changed him; soften him, at least on pictures. Her mother dares to wear a mini dress with a hood as her wedding gown; she has always known the reason. That face; the face gets all the attention in the black and white portrait, the hood covering the hair makes it even stronger. She smiles as well; however, she is always smiling and crying, or crying. The perfection of that face, she doesn’t quite understand. She looks at her own profile and can’t see that grace. Mother and daughter are the same, not physically; they don’t even resemble each other. However, they are the same. For years, she has fought against their character’s resemblance. She wants to be smarter; she wants to be independent; nothing like her mother, or at least, nothing like how she sees her. She lingers her gaze at the picture like she hasn’t done in a long time. The portrait – that smile, that face – has haunted her since she was a kid; admiration, yes, but one that was never exposed. Now, she is married, she has kids, one of them is a girl; like them. She looks at the picture and realizes how much she has judged that woman, her mother, that marriage, her father. Never understanding how someone can possibly believe in endless love. The irony in long marriages is how they create a disillusion on “fairy-tale” romances for their children. The kids watch their parents going through the endless ups and downs of a relationship. The pain of routine, the tireless rediscovery of the person that shares the same bed; the disappointments. She remembers how many times she wanted to end her marriage but never could; remembers how many times she condemned her mother for not ending her marriage. The times when she looked at the picture and screamed inside: “liars.” She hears her mother talking to her kids. She looks at her from a distance; say an inaudible “I’m sorry.” Like her mother, she isn’t ready.
She is anxiously waiting. She is releasing her biggest musical project to date, one that reflects on the life of a woman – it’s a proud moment for her. Lately, her career has been spectacular. The media and the public absolutely love her. They buy what she says; they look at her more maturely. She isn’t the same puppet girl dancing on stage waiting for claps; she is here for more. Her new music transcends people’s perceptions of her. One more minute and the album is out. She has one more minute to breath before being judged by her work. She feels secure about that. Artists must use their voice, that is the reason for their fame, and the reason for millions to engage in their life existence. She is giving a little bit of that. Her life somewhat manifests in her music, not just with what she feels, but also in a description of what she lived. Audiences crave for that small piece of information that makes “super-humans” into regular people. Everything involved in her life becomes expectable; it’s just one life. One made with mistakes and glories like everyone else. The difference is the price tag of the clothes she wears. Personalities are more than just that. Still, everyone just wants to know the inside gossip of their personal life. It’s a lack of perception of the hardship of training one’s talents; how one works hard on a piece of entertainment to be more than a fab. She fights for her creation to be out, for people to enjoy more than a frivolous beat, for people to relate to her testimony of the current world. She questions how many people from the thousands she reaches will reflect in what she is saying. Art is a matter of reflection. Through art entertainment exists, becoming mundane when the society is more reflexive of what celebrities are drinking than what they are saying. And they have a lot to say. The media isn’t helpful as well. They give the fans an unrelated idea of who the artists are. They use the audience’s admiration to portrait an exciting life when in reality, it’s just as tedious as anyone life. A catharsis created to give a little bit of satisfaction in knowing that someone better – better? – has a life full of difficulties and challenges, for the whole purpose of making the spectators feel better about themselves. She hears a bang. The champagne is open; everyone is celebrating her new music endeavor. She shakes the hands of her inner circle. She smiles like the beauty pageant everyone wants her to be. She knows just that – give them brioches.
She wakes up, goes to her kids’ room and wakes them up. Check on her phone, She has some messages. She doesn’t read them yet because she has much to do. Her kids are still sleeping. She wakes them up. Puts on her robe and goes prepare the breakfast. Her house helper is running late. She doesn’t like that. Still, she puts up with her; she does a good job. But so many problems surround her life.
Another bomb explodes in the world. Another political scandal surfaces in the news. More messages, she checks her Facebook. She places some comments. She thinks about her kids, the well-being of her family. She feels unsafe. She goes to her pilates class, feels stretched, feels strong, goes back home. Driving back, air conditioning on, she sees some kids, she looks the door. Pick up her kids from school. At home, she oversees the work of her helper. Her husband is having lunch at work. She takes a nap.
Wakes up scared, she looks at her phone, and nothing changed – more messages, more Facebook, more bombing, more political scandals. She goes to the kitchen, asks her helper about her kids. The helper tells her they are at their afternoon activities. She is not asking about her kids, but the helper’s kids. The helper says they are fine, and thanks her for asking. She checks her phone while the helper is talking. It’s just her habit after all. Before she goes to pick up her kids, she asks the helper to make sure all doors are locked before she leaves. She lives in a high-security building; she feels unsafe. In her car, she sees a homeless man. She thinks he is also intoxicated. She passes by a wall that called her attention. It’s written “wake up” on the wall. She doesn’t understand; why people vandalizewalls like that. She checks her phone, someone buzzes her. They have to go.
Her husband is still at work. She picks up her kids, takes them to dinner at a high priced fast food. She goes back home, she oversees the work of her helper. She puts her kids to sleep, turns on the tv. She asked what’s going on. Her husband arrives from work; finally. She serves him dinner; she hears him talking about the bombing, about the latest political scandal, about finances. She agrees with him, tired, she goes to bed. With her eyes closed, the graffiti wall comes to her mind. In the end, it’s just another man judging her.
As I lay in bed, I can feel his hand moving towards mine; his breath relaxes when our fingers interlock. Interestingly, we don’t hold hands in public. The constant need of showing affection is not what I believe a relationship should be. We agree on something. However, we couldn’t be more different. He likes the sun; I like the moon. He likes the ocean; I live for the concrete. I like Diet Coke; he drinks only water. When he wakes up, I’m still sleeping. When I go to bed, he holds my hand. With our fingers locked, I know we are ok. Love is still there; our mutual admiration continues to thrive. Still, it’s a battle to be with someone every day. We fight as antagonists of one another. We discuss most of the time, for the most illogical reasons. The garbage I refuse to put outside; the iPhone screen he gazes when I am talking with him. The little things we try to be better at, but we keep failing to do so. I pass by the trash, “I can do it later” until the bin is full. Wait, I’ll take the trash. His anxiousness says I won’t. When I get home, the trash bag is by the door. He leaves there to remind me of my reluctance. I take the trash bag to the recycle bin – “if he brings to the door, he can take it outside” – this is not his responsibility, it is mine. I ask him not to leave the trash bag by the door. Please. He asks me to repeat what I just said. I sit at the table and grab my phone. Leave me alone. He drops his phone and sits opposite of me. Look at me. I pretend he is not there. I ask, “Do you have something to say now?” He speaks for 10 minutes. In the end, we’re laughing at the stupidity of our life. Every night when he holds my hand, I revive the detail of our relationship. The longer we sustain each other, the more I observe how our love progresses; how much love is mutable. I want to know the person I live with and who I live for; discover the nuances I still don’t know: in his body, in his being. We are constantly laughing; he makes me laugh. We teach one another how to be better. We believe in us. I don’t need to show he is with me; I don’t need gifts; I don’t need to hear him say, “I love you.” He touches my hand under the sheets for five minutes or less, and I don’t need anything else.
He had a big sister. Through his eyes, she was a most beautiful ballerina. He didn’t want to play football; he wanted to dance with his big sister. Ballet is for girls, they said, he could see as well. No boys allowed. So he kept that to himself. Like many of his thoughts, he never seemed to be like anybody else. The outside world was too trivial. He tried hard to be like everyone else. Like everyone, he wore blue, like everyone he played tough. The slightest attempt to be himself was a disaster. Either with laughers or reprimands, the outside world felt boring and unimportant; the world inside was louder. The world inside was brighter. He could dance as much as he wants and no one would judge him. He wasn’t different because he was himself. Inside there was no difference between what a man can do or what a woman can be. They were different, but they lived as they wished. People could love who they wanted without the fear of being transgressors. They just love each other with no labels; how beautiful that is. They could pray to god, to God, to Allah, to Buddha. Maybe they decided to not pray at all. There was no reason to force beliefs and behaviors. The inside world wasn’t real. It was just a dream. In fact, he searched for that place in many places. But no matter where he was and what he did, the outside world kept showing him people was just what they were told to be, not as they were. As people grew older, they ended up forgetting whom they are. He didn’t want to be part of that anymore. He escaped, but there were nowhere to hide. He did try to live in both worlds, but the outside was the one he needed to be. He couldn’t just be living comfortable inside his mind. He had to face his difference, his desires. He had to be himself not someone else.
It doesn’t matter which side you are, we are losing it. All we do is using our hate as consequence for our fears. We hate those who agree with us, and we refuse to listen to those that don’t. We hate the conservators, but we think the society is too accepting. We hate the rich for having too much, the poor for not being ambitious, and the middle class for being in the middle. We hate the man for their supremacism and the women for their persuasiveness. We hate homosexuals for choosing who they want to connect, transexuals for choosing who they want to be, and bisexuals for choosing too much; while hating heterosexuals for being conventional. We hate all those that skin color are different than ours, the culture from different communities, all those who we can’t communicate. We hate religions that differ from our beliefs, often condemning their practices when all religions preach tolerance. We condemn those who use hate jokes for exposure. We praise those who use hate rhetoric for a vote. While we disguise our hate speech for personal opinion. The future generation that is born without any hate is taught to be like us. We will destroy our bodies in the name of being likable. We will destroy our environment in the name of comfort. We will destroy our humanity in the name of our benevolent faith. And we will lose until we learn what is love.
Here’s to you, my dear friend Happiness. I raise my glass to the moments you bring me every day. The times you made me smile, the times you made me cry. We are all here together praising you, my long dear friend. You were there on my fifth birthday, and I can still remember when I got that ball bigger than me. It was made of plastic, colorful, beautiful; and it bounced, and I jumped, and laughed, with a simple ball bigger than me. You were there on my first trip with my friends. When I first discovered we are all connected somehow. We hiked for hours to reach the top of a mountain, with our heavy backpacks pulling us back. We had a hard time walking; the incline was slick at times. All the pain was forgotten when we reached the top of that mountain; the orange-pinkish sunset was mesmerizing. We inhaled the fresh air; we felt you there, a moment of happiness. Do you know when you look at someone and you feel happy? Yes, you were there when I felt in love. That moment when you know you are not alone, someone is there to share the smallest aspects of your life; someone you can look at and feel you, Happiness. The slightest touch of hands and you are there. I can’t express my gratitude to have you by my side. Even in the moments of difficulty, I knew you were there supporting me. You were there for me, and I felt you guiding me through those special moments. There’s just no small place for you to be because you are everywhere. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for bringing me a sparkling happiness.