Dear Bella: 2019

My grandmother slept in Christ in the early hours of the morning on December 26th, 2006. I wasn’t with her during her final moments in the body. There was no goodbye and there was no time to transition from her with us to her not.

Her memory has faded over the last year. Once a regular patron in my dreams, I see her less often and think of her less.
Yet, she’s alive. And present. 

She’s present during certain meals. I can still taste the ghee, the garlic, see her wooden spatula move as I make scrambled eggs. I can hear her as I bite through potatoes baked under glistening chicken. People can live inside those kind of memories. I express this sentiments less, thinking that they have no purpose or meaning. But they do. They keep the person alive. They don’t allow the memories to fade. So, I’ll express these out loud next year.
Whenever I experienced biting loneliness or choking sadness, I used to dream of her. In the last three years, this has happened less and when it has, she appears as an image rather than a person. It’s almost like a figure in a diorama rather than a person. That sudden sinking feeling, followed by a flushing of cold water in my stomach, doesn’t happen anymore. She shows up and then disappears a few seconds later.

I still visit her apartment in my dreams. It has no furniture, no icons of the saints, and there are no lights except over the door into her bedroom. It is dark. The balcony door has been shuttered. It is a grotty, cold bedroom. In one dream, I ran back and forth between the bedroom and the kitchen, looking for her. In another, I tried crashing through the shuttered balcony door and I ended up being thrown off the curb by unknown hands. In another, I walked out from the bedroom into the dining room, finding myself in a makeshift morgue, covered in white marble with blue streaks. Then, I got locked out and found myself on another floor of an unknown building.

I was in Cairo in September and I didn’t visit her apartment. Last time I was there, I felt bigger than the bedroom. Everything seems dwarfed and cold. My memories of her and that place are enjoined to me, only as a child. So, I will return there during every visit and make new memories as an adult. I’ll sit on the bed and eat on the wooden table that was kept behind her bed. I’ll make new memories in the apartment, to chase away the cold dreams and nightmares.

I am growing up. I don’t need her, to keep me together in my thoughts and dreams as I used to. She was safety, comfort, and home. She was a secret stash of liquor in my dreams when I couldn’t handle waking life.
Recently, my mother gave me her engagement ring as an heirloom and I now wear it around my neck.
Pray for us, Bella.

The film I made about her last year: 

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