In my high school years, I used to go to this coffee shop near my house to meet a friend of mine. He was a portraitist, who used to draw a lot, mainly his friends and family. I enjoyed those sacred and shared moments we had together. The way he passionately grabbed the pencil, making it dance through that never-ending blank. The way his bittersweet coffee bean brown eyes would tingle every time he admired his masterpiece. It was his very own holy place , his prayers.
Before exhibiting any of his pieces, we always had this small talk about the person or the scenery he drew, the story behind it, the details he added or removed, the emotions and the feelings that lead him to eternalize a soul into this scrapped thin piece of wood. Our small ritual was meant to keep the drawing alive and to give it more meaning that it already holds, at least for someone who isn’t the creator; it was like saying our own grace.
Then came Malak, I never knew how or when, until I found him that day so engrossed in her, in his very own universe, drawing unperfect lines, scrabbling details, smiling each time he added a few more freckles. I wondered who she was, I never saw her, and she somehow didn’t feel like someone who should or would be seen. He convinced me that he never saw her either, but he somehow kept picturing her, not on his dreams, but in his day thoughts. Maybe he did but he couldn’t remember. She was meant to sleep on his subconscious and wake up as his masterpiece, but he would always forcefully deny. “with a beauty like hers, she couldn’t go unnoticed”. I believed him, but the mind is such a complex part whom we live thinking that we have a controlover, when we actually never will.
I never thought that I could see him more passionate than he would usually be, but I was wrong. The details were more alive than any of my cells would ever be. Her imperfections were as perfect as the alignment of the planets. She was unreal in a realistic way. He named her Malak, his very own Monalisa! He made sure one of her eyes were bigger than the other. With misbranded eyelashes, he meticulously added a small almost invisible scar on her upper lip. He drew her curved eyebrows, with a nudge on the edges, giving her an almost mysterious look, she had a little birthmark on the right side of her forehead, almost like an angel’s kiss while her hairline was unapologetically heart-shaped. He could never have been prouder than the day the sun finally rose on his finished gem. All he did was constantly talking about it, bragging about how his mind can get mysteriously creative in a fraction of second, giving birth to such a magnificent creature such as this masterpiece.
The fact that she wasn’t real didn’t stop us from practicing our little ritual. Only this time it was different. We would be the one creating her own story; we kept staring at this friendly stranger in front of us, trying to articulate her features into storylines and as I scanned her frozen visage, I remembered the day he told me about how weird his art teacher’s eyes were. Almost as if one was bigger than the other, the story about this girl he fell in love with just by playing with her soft misbranded eyelashes, the way he would talk about that cousin who talks only with his eyebrows. The story behind that scar his mother has on her upper lip, and even the day he told me about how fascinating his sister’s heart-shaped hairline was for him. Then, it finally occurred to me, he didn’t meet Malak, he never had to, she lived with him all along. She is fragments of an eternity of memories. Pieces of his past and present, she is a whole part of an assembled distant and close dusty pages who marked him. The details always appeared alive, because they really are somewhere. The features reflected years of events and stormy thoughts that never left his mind, demanding to be set free. At this exact moment, it hit me, we all have our own Malak -an ever-presence who breathes some parts of what-we-thought were forgotten, buried in us. A person who reminds us of all the good in the world, of all the happiness we sometimes believe we deserve, a piece of poem who sings all our deepest fears, hiding them in a multitude of scribbled lines and words, hoping they would lay there forever, a picture you took during a roadtrip, a picture so alive it reminds you of your father’s burnt but wild skin, of your lover’s blue and dark eyes, of your untidy mind .
We sometimes believe that we can detach ourselves from things, thinking that they will fade once they stop crossing our mind once they stop appearing in our dream, once we stop talking about them but the truth is, Malak will always find a way to you, always.