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Leaving Jerusalem: the very first draft

September 29, 2010

My good friend, Fatima, is taking her first essay class this semester at MIT.

I think it’s so exciting, and she asks me the most amazing questions.

I don’t really remember how I started writing, or what it was that got me to actually enjoy writing essays! :.)

I think one of the most important things about writing is to be brave and to forgive yourself.

Currently I’m working on a piece about Jerusalem. I decided to save it in drafts and then post each draft to kind of give a little bit of insight into my writing process (for sake of the blog and myself, blogging it helps remind me to actually do it).

It also seemed a little nicer than just blah blah blahing on this thing. It also goes against my rule of posting things that aren’t actually finished. I like breaking rules.

I wrote this draft on the plane from Israel to Philadelphia. When Fatima first asked me what to do and said that she couldn’t think of anything, I told her to just write. To just type “I can’t think of anything, the screen is blank.”

This is actually what I used to do and what a good teacher once told me. I once dated a guy that wrote exclusively like this and had this policy that he’d never delete anything. I’m not quite that extreme, and I don’t usually begin this way exactly anymore. These days I start with some line of an idea that I might write in the mini-notebook I bring most places. But from there it really is just typing the next thing and more importantly, being ok with what comes out! Even if it’s mushy and ridiculous!

Ok, ok no more chatting. Here it goes:

Leaving Jerusalem (8/11/10)

“I don’t know where I fit anymore,” you said. I listened. Said: “I know what you mean.” I don’t think you believed me and that was okay. Because right then all I really wanted to do was  listen.

Tomorrow I’m leaving this place. The streets are familiar now and I know where to park. I don’t slip on the steps of the Old City anymore and I can dodge the walking traffic without looking up. I’m ready to go and still I’m sad at leaving. Leaving is never easy but it’s all I manage to keep on doing lately.

My friend once told me that all you need when you go anywhere is a credit card and a passport. I hold onto both, and bring dad everywhere. Tell stories about him endlessly. Leave him nowhere.

Assemble anecdotes into his features. Each one a fracture of his personality. Some stories I know and some I’ve been told so that they feel like they are mine. The stories that are mine bring me back. Back to naptimes after school. White T-shirts and Scope. Smooth hands, perfect even. The perfect hands that my mom first noticed about this Brooklyn business-man. Fingernails perfectly kept.

If I close my eyes I’m right there. Smelling your stinky breath and giving you a hug. Watching TV and eating dinner at six. Always. Hearts of Palm. Manhattan Clam Chowder.

These are only tastes left in your mouth. Reminders.

Yesterday was the first day of Ramaddan. My friends say that fasting is easier if you  don’t brush your teeth. That your empty mouth will haunt you less.

But no matter the stories told, I am always incomplete. Like it is a fact. Fact not feeling. Feeling you disappear again and again and again. Like it was yesterday. I’m reminded of it whenever I feel for my heart because I can feel its holes.

Tonight is my last night in Jerusalem.

I walk around Jerusalem. I know its smells and how smooth the stones are. I imagine what it would feel like to walk on them barefoot. To absorb the heat from the day onto the soles of my feet.

Holes that I try to fill with my deepest memories. The memory of you can never be precise and is reduced to shades. I can’t keep you

no matter the stories told, I will never be complete again. I know this. I’m reminded of it every time I feel for my heart, feel its holes.

right after the morning meal.

But all i can do is to keep leaving.

Leaving all the places that don’t feel right.

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