This week one of my friends left Lebanon. She was one of my closest friends here, and the one who lived closest to me, just across the street, almost literally a stone’s throw away as her daughter proved yesterday, dropping tiny pieces of gravel through the gap under their 9th floor balcony, while waving goodbye. They didn’t reach us on the 6th floor opposite, but the bulb of garlic, thrown by my friend a few months ago (to rescue me from a culinary crisis), very nearly did, landing on the ledge below the terrace, just out of reach.
We once joked that we should rig up a zip wire between the two apartments and send our babies to and fro, whenever they tired of our company, and wanted something else, someone other than their mothers. (I realised recently that when my daughter says my friend’s name it sounds very similar to the word she uses to mean ‘other one’ or ‘over there’. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence). I imagined our babies swinging back and forth in a wicker basket, like the ones you see lowered from Lebanese windows, to be filled with groceries below.
A basket like that would also have come in useful for all the things we passed between us over the past year, lending and borrowing until we lost track, including:
birthday balloons and cough mixture
pie dishes and cake tins
weighing scales and whisks
bath water and board books
butter, lemons and risotto rice.
But never a stereotypical cup of sugar , which you so often see on TV or film, as a way of intertwining the lives of neighbours in some way.
In our case there was no need for sugar, our lives were already intertwined:
stitched together in the long hours we spent in each others’ houses,
woven with the bright threads of listening and learning and laughing,
flecked with tiny tear drop jewels,
and tangled like the jasmine they left on their balcony, sending its tendrils slowly but surely in our direction, (making a zip wire after all) and all the while waving its delicate flower-tipped fingers, the way our girls waved, stretching into the sky and never doubting they could reach.