Letter 1

Dear Gabriel,

I have forgotten what a question is. I was thinking about it all day, and it is evening now, but I just cannot remember; it is the strangest thing. And what is stranger is that throughout the day, while trying to remember, my mind kept coming back to you, returning through these long, meandering trains of thought — thoughts about nonsense and trash and fragments of things. Throughout all that, my mind kept returning to you, so often that I just had to tell you … in fact, I could not imagine not telling you after this long day of trying to remember.

Funny how things are: when you have lost something, or when you cannot do something on your own, your mind, since it has nothing to do in the present, has a way of shutting everything down, of turning down the lights, of making loud things whisper, all just to start the process of remembering — someone, usually; objects also, but people mostly. And that’s how I sat all afternoon: my eyes were open, but I was not seeing anything. I kept returning to your face.

Anyway, back to my problem. All I can remember of what a question is, is that when you have one, it means you want something, or that you need something; so when you get it, you are satisfied. I also remember that some questions take a while and that other questions pass away really fast. That is all I remember. That is it.

You know, I do not think I remember the last time I saw you; I remember the occasion, sure, but not the quality. Come to think of it, I do not remember very much about you at all! I just typed your name into the e-mail address box and up came your name with a picture — weird ghost of a closed off place. I moved the arrow away and there you went: poof!

I know that I have probably said many things to you in the past, all of which I cannot remember today — and maybe it is better that way; otherwise I would spend a lot of time like I spent my day today: remembering. But despite all the things I remembered I could not remember what a question was. Maybe you do not believe me — it sounds crazy, even to me.

I mean it literally. I forgot. Maybe I have had too many in my life. But I am sure others have come across just as many — if not more; and I have never heard of anyone not knowing what a question is. It is one of those things, you know, when you forget your mother’s name for a minute … but it has been all day, and I am embarrassed to let anyone know — except you, of course. Maybe because this is a letter and I am not facing you; or maybe because I have not faced you for a very long time and probably never will again.

I am old now; I bet you are too. I stopped taking walks a year ago, and aside from getting out of bed in the morning, all I do is sit near the window, type on my laptop and maybe read the newspaper — even if it aggravates me.

I just thought of something else: I think I remember that questions that take a long time, you know, the type that do not end quickly, well they turn into obsessions; like when you cannot find something that you thought you knew you had put somewhere specific. You get crazy. You start searching. It takes over you. I feel that way now.

In fact, that is a little bit like how I felt earlier today when my thoughts were taking me to you. I will admit, it took me a second to remember your name. I cannot explain it, but your face came up, and even before your face, there was just a space in my imagination that was sort of inviting me with its emptiness; I could feel there were some things moving behind the emptiness, like details, facts and things like that. Suddenly your face filled it up and I remember a silly song you once sang a long time ago. I spent some time looking at that face, surrounded by all that emptiness, with all the details flowing in (things I cannot remember again now, sadly), and then suddenly, Gabriel.

It was exhausting, but something kept me going. And when your name finally came into my head a ton of other things started washing over me in a sort of deluge of remembrance. I have to thank you for that, because sitting at my window and not seeing anything was never quite as remarkable as your slowly emerging face made it today.

I am getting stiff typing this. I forgot myself for a moment in the description. I hope this letter finds you safely and I hope you can set me straight on what a question is.

Your best friend,

Muhannad

[Letter 2 is now available here.]

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Originally published at idiomsearch.wordpress.com on August 6, 2016.

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