my sons, if i could i would spin the clouds into yarn and make you a sweater each (but the clouds are out of reach). or maybe if i made blankets instead, then I could wrap your dreams in clear, bright skies, where rain is just a rumor to scare the butterflies.
On a beautiful spring day in 2012, I entered an authentic Mexican restaurant in Toronto and ordered a burrito. The waitress asked me what sauce I wanted on it.
There were three sauces, of increasing intensity. I don’t remember their names, but the spiciest one was called Aztec Lava. The name itself should have been a clue, honestly.
I asked for Aztec Lava on my burrito. The waitress calmly and matter-of-factly said, “Don’t take that. You’re a white boy.” My friends and I laughed.
“Don’t worry about me. I’m an Arab, we eat spicy food.” I said this while recalling eating fresh spicy peppers or the red “shatta” we have with falafel. “I’ll take the Aztec Lava.”
“No problem,” she replied. “Just to let you know, you will have to pay for it even if you don’t eat it.” That’s a second clue that I missed.
The burrito arrived covered in a light green sauce. I took a small bite of it and immediately felt the deepest pits of hell open up inside my mouth.
Sometimes, when you eat spicy food, your mouth becomes accustomed to it, and the next few bites become less aggressive, and eventually you just enjoy the heat.
Not the Aztec Lava on this burrito though.
It was so spicy that it was bitter. It was so spicy that it eliminated all taste buds in my mouth. I couldn’t pick up on anything from the burrito. And it wouldn’t calm down. No beer, no milk, no water could stop it. Oh, and the tears!!
I managed 1.125 bites of the burrito and then stopped. The waitress, upon picking up our plates later, gave me an I Told You So glance. I avoided eye contact.
I have not, since then, ever tasted anything as spicy. Nor tasted that level of humiliation.
In the winter of 2012, a group of us was walking back home one evening along a busy street in Montreal. We passed by a small pub where two men were standing outside having a cigarette with their beers. No smoking indoors there.
As we approached them, one of the two men shouted to us in excitement. “I got married!” He lifted his hand up to show us the ring on his finger. His drinking buddy gave out a semi-enthusiastic “woo-hoo!”
My group of friends returned the “woo-hoo” as we walked along, but I couldn’t do that.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I walked up to him and give him a big hug through our thick winter coats. He hugged me back nice and un-embarrassedly.
“Congratulations, man!” I said. “All the best to you both.”
I joined my group of friends and we continued on our way.
Not only was I the only married one in the group, and therefore understood his happiness at getting married.
But at that moment, watching a man stand with one single friend outside of a pub, in the cold, calling out to strangers that he got married… that made me realize something.
It isn’t only sadness that is heavy to carry on your own. Sometimes, even joy itself means nothing if you cannot share it with someone. Even if it’s only a stranger.
I learned my name on the first day of creation, before it all, when every corner of the universe was quiet, and the first blades of grass lifted their heads from the soil in whispered prayer to the young sun.
From that holy silence you emerged, stood at the edge of the cliff and sang softly, your voice meandered over the calm waters of the ocean and found my ears.
I woke up knowing that you were calling me home, and that your voice was my name.