Peeling the Layers

On a cold Christmas eve in 1914, somewhere in Europe

Photo by David Ballew on Unsplash

My friends. My brothers.

The mightier the adversity, the faster the peel, and it looks as though the layers are indeed peeling off, one after the other, and fast.

Assertiveness, confidence, politeness, civility. Gone.
Kindness, humor, sympathy. Gone too.
Carelessness, compromission, cowardice, greed. Yup, we’re past them now.
All protection pads in a way, all expendables. All eventually peeling off.

Sadness, anger, rage. Wrath.

And then you reach the Blade. Naked. Sharp. Ready and willing to cut through anything and anyone standing in its way.

The Blade is the main driver, behind all others. It is the firewall of survival, inscribed in your deepest self since the dawn of time, and ultimately defining what you are, a mortal in conflict with mortality.

In our dire situation, it may seem to you that the Blade is the only master worth obeying. That bowing to it is not even a yes or no alternative, but a where and when one. That giving in to the Blade is redundant. It already has you. It already owns you. That it is just a question of peeling enough layers. A matter of pressure and time. And time is nearly up now.

Dear friends. Dear brothers in arms. It is getting dark and cold and I have little time left. I will cut to the chase before it is too late.

I pray that whatever the Blade is screaming to your ear right now, you can still hear a whisper of reason, you know, the one trying to tell you that it does not have to be this way.

Listen. It is carried by the wind across the no man’ land. Christmas Carols in Deutsch. And a distant voice calling for a truce. A Christmas Truce.

“Good evening Englishman, a merry Christmas, you no shoot, we no shoot”

And so it went on this Christmas eve in 1914, somewhere in the trenches on the Western Front amidst one of the deadliest conflicts, a moment of peace and fraternity against all odds, which went down in history as the Christmas Truce, thanks to a few men who turned a deaf ear to the calling of the Blade and chose a different path.

Let the board sound

Rabih

Surprise In the Elevator

En Français because it happened in French. But not in France. True story

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Hop on folks, there’s still room for more people.

Em… We’ll take the next one. See ya later…

Hmm. That’s weird! Why did they snob us all of a sudden?

Bonjour!

Ah! Bonjour madame. Vous parlez français.

Oui! J’adore cette langue. D’ailleurs, j’ai fait mes études en France.
Et je dirige la boite.

Silence. Stupeur. Un ange passe. Et la lumière fut!

Ah! Nous sommes donc avec la CEO de la boite!

Eh oui, c’est bien moi.

Puis, se tournant vers la seule personne dans l’ascenceur dont les oreilles sont sourdes au français, et très élégamment:

Oh I am so sorry to be speaking in French but I love this language so much and have very few opportunities to speak it.

No worries, I still have to learn it. Procrastination, you know… (avec un grand sourire, et ne réalisant vraiment pas ce qui se passe)

Et vous venez de France?

Oui!

Et que faites-vous chez nous?

Nous sommes les consultants du vendor, nous sommes là pour la définition de la phase 2.

Ah! Oui! C’est un programme très important pour nous! Bon courage à vous!
Je descends ici. Très enchantée!

Nous de même! Bonne journée!

Dude! You just missed a conversation with the CEO of the biggest bank in the country!

What?!

Dude! You should really learn French!

So, dear readers, maybe you should consider learning French. You might never bump into a French speaking CEO in an elevator, but then again, who knows? And at least, you will be able to enjoy this story without google translate.

Let the board sound

Rabih

The Locker from a Previous Life

And a walk down memory lane

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

She opened the locker. Three years had gone by. So much had happened since the last time the locker was locked, so much had changed in the world. In her world too. She did not remember the lock code anymore and had to have it broken. She would come to remember later that it was the birth date of someone dear to her heart. 0804.

You could write a book about the locker and its content. It was a microcosm of her life before the pandemic, before the illness. But first stood out the names. Dozens of names, some old, Germaine, Pierre, Eugénie, some younger, Nicolas, Aurélie, Chloé, and some from elsewhere, Farida, Evgueny, Mauro. They came from all over the world and from all walks of life. They did not share much, except having been really ill, at the doorsteps of the world after.

She would stick their names on the back of the locker, praying for those undergoing surgery, remembering those who did not make it and cheering for those who did. Many of the names were testaments to the miracles that modern medicine and its practitioners were able to achieve, especially when all hope seemed to be lost.

Those she cared for were here on a last chance. They came to undergo the stuff of magic, which are procedures closer to science fiction if you fancy a less irrational description, but all the same if you asked her, because magic is what it really took to save these lives in dire situations.

People on whom medicine would have given up a few years ago, or even a few kilometers away, had a chance here. A reasonable chance. And I like to think her touch contributed greatly. She was the last face they saw before the great ordeal, a great responsibility which she did not take lightly.

She did everything she could to get them smiling and fearless to the stuff of magic which was supposed to mend them, and most made it through because a smile, a pinch of hope and a prayer are powerful spells too, maybe the most powerful of all.

She stood there, in front of the locker, memories rushing through her. She remembered her colleagues, most of whom had retired or moved on to other endeavors. She remembered the pandemic, her illness, and felt the toll that these three years had taken on her.

She remembered the old days, some happy, some sad, and all the hard times that had shaped her into the sharp professional she once was and never stopped to be, even with the past three years weighting on her shoulders.

All she needed to do now was to enter into the cold white light and take her place in the magic procedure of wizards bringing life back to those who had no other alternative than their magic.

She closed the locker, scrubbed up, donned the gown, and with her magic wand in hand, she went on saving lives, in honor of the names in the locker from a previous life.

To my lovely Rita, and to all the wizards, Elie, Stephan, Saïd, Emre, Joy, Olaf, Dominique, Philippe, Julien, Ramzi, Sacha, Régine, Sebastien, Bechara, Iolanda, Pierre, and the many others doing miracles at the edge of science and magic, to save lives which are otherwise doomed.

Let the board sound

Rabih

You’ll See

Don’t even blink, it will be so fast you might miss it

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

All my life I’ve been running. From bullies, from teachers, from shame, and later from hunger, from bullets, from cops.

I’ve been running after elusive hassles, and more often than not after a loaf of bread, when you’ve been running the course of honors. I’ve been running on an empty stomach, bare feet on the cold concrete, when you were running after a world record in 500 dollar-running shoes. I was running after my life while you were rushing to the podium, running for gold and eschewing silver.

But now, things have changed. I am the underdog. It took a lot of blood and tears. It took a lot mockery from people like you, to whom I may not look like much, with my tired borrowed sneakers, to whom I may not sound like much with my weird accent, in this lingua franca of the 21st century I can barely speak. I can hear it in your laughs.

You’ll see.

The Olympic games were never the same ever since. This guy just came out of nowhere and destroyed the 100m sprint in just 33 steps, with a headwind of -1.6m/s.

The time it took him? 07:81 seconds. The previous record of 09:58 seconds had stood unscathed for more than thirty years. The 100-meter sprint lost its shine after that, and most sprint athletes turned to other disciplines. No one could fathom this new world record. It was too great a goal to reach. It was way beyond what mere mortals could hope to achieve.

One can only wonder. He had been racing great contenders day in day out, maybe the greatest of all contenders you can encounter in a lifetime. Misery. Adversity. And for once, just for once, he was not racing for his life.

That gave him wings. The rest is history.

Let the board sound

Rabih