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Out of hundreds of Iraqi girls in her Baghdad high school, she is the only one whose name means beautiful. This is how I learned one of only two words I’ve mastered in Arabic so far. The other is the word for avocado . . . which is avocado. Factoid: She loves guacamole. As host-mom for a month, you’d think I’d have picked up on a few other words, but mostly she wanted to know how I say things. So I said things. And I took her picture often–with her permission.

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We covered figurative language as I unabashedly exposed my rabid disapproval of the Cheeto-Dusted Bloviator . . . Agent Orange . . . yes, him, the Assaulter-in-Chief in our White House. She was never entirely sure I should be talking like that about the president of this county. I think she would have changed the subject if she knew how . . . she was worried for my safety . . . she’s read terrible things about what happens to some Americans in this country.

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Well, someone else can (and does) stick to the company line. I’m keeping it real on my watch, although we did cover a lot of other territory.

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We fished for bluegill, savored ice cream, teeter-tottered, reburied some poorly-laid turtle eggs, nearly flew out of the speedboat jumping waves on Lake Michigan, and mutually crushed on Mena Massoud.

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She showed me how to make dolmeh and gave me too many presents. I met her parents thanks to WhatsApp, and Yes, of course, I’m coming to see them all very soon after the Screaming Carrot Demon is voted out of office.

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Soon enough, she’ll be back home. She has big plans that she’ll deliver on even when her parents choose her husband. She assures me she can say no. Well, don’t agree to anything until you kiss him . . . you won’t know everything you need to know without that, I tell her. She shakes her head vehemently . . . no no that cannot happen until after they’re married, and if she’s caught breaking that rule, her head can be cut off . . . or she could be shot in the head . . . headshot.

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. . . this head

. . . this beautiful head and fine mind

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Is she any safer here than she is there? Am I?

Every night I put my hand on this country,
It slips away from my fingers,
Like a soldier running from the front.

(from The Last Iraq by Fadhil al-Azzawi)

© by Leeanne Seaver, July 23, 2019

Lookism

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Finally, the wine finds a topic it likes and the conversation changes to his blindness…from a gunshot during his gang years…a look he wears very well behind his Ray-Ban’s at night in the sweater from the National Theatre Company of Norway where he just completed a tour of his one-man-show…I ask him what is the best thing about being blind… his face loosens, one corner of his mouth lifting a curtain peek smile    …he says he’s glad he’s beyond “lookism” altogether…that he doesn’t even wonder what people look like any more, in fact, he long ago stopped asking his friends to describe women to him, too…none of that mattered any more…he’d finally reached a calm resignation…this is the best thing, he says…that it doesn’t matter to him what anything looks like…then we go quiet…he adds that lookism is a blind thing…an attitude…and I say, well, it sounds pretty evolved to me…he shakes his head and shrugs…we sit quiet for a while longer…sure, I can take his picture he says

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Finally, he speaks again from that quiet place where the wine has settled…that maybe it’s just that he is so bad at imagining what he can no longer see…that he is really lousy at it and tired of not knowing and worn out with asking, so, like all blind people, he adopted the mantra of not caring…and I don’t know what I should say to that…but it’s too late cuz the wine blurts out “the linen on this table is white and the plates are black”…he seems to stop breathing, he doesn’t move a muscle…so the wine goes on… about what our hosts look like…their compact bodies in warm coats with wool scarves…Matt taking care of everybody cheerfully…and Su’s bright eyes always scanning the crowds…how they assess asses in seats…report to each other with knowing glances…lean into each other later still in love…after the show when they took us to dinner at the Iridium…buzzed and soaked with Freda Payne crooning Summertime … while he and I sat there like February… cuz it is February…it’s always February now unless it’s November… and now here we are just as cold as they were warm… so I pour some more… you know, Freda has aged well and the boys in her band watched her trancelike, their fingers touching the keys and strings the way their eyes caressed her…the room heating up eazzzy…then I describe the lighting in the bar where we now sit, near closing time, all stark chromed sophistication with dozens of clear vases mounted in wall sconces each holding a single bloodred rose like in a mausoleum…  that the inset lights are purple and orange fusing the air into fuschia…the exact color everything blurs to…it’s blow on your eyes at 2am in Times Square…the neon stepchild of Dr. Seuss and Andy Warhol…now he leans forward, bending his head towards me…yes, nodding, he could feel all of that… he can’t see it but he can feel it…and the wine smiles slowly into the direction of my voice and asks what I look like as he sits back, stretching his long legs out, puts his hands behind his head, takes a deep drag of Manhattan and blows it out with a whistle… he ventures that I am a tall brunette with dark eyes… and the wine says, well… I’m not all that tall…

© L. Seaver 2012

0805_NWS_LDN-Z-OBIT-LYNN-MANNING-OBAMA-LPost Script:  On 3 August 2015, my dear friend and colleague Lynn Manning (shown above with President Obama two weeks ago) died after a very private battle with cancer.  He was a force of nature–an award-winning African-American poet, a gifted performer, a brilliant playwright, the inspired and inspiring founder/artistic director of The Watts Village Theatre Company in Los Angeles, and the former World Champion of Blind Judo.  At our annual Bridge Multimedia meeting in New York City, I was with him for the premiere of the Reel Abilities Film Festival in March 2015. 

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It was another of those evenings when I had the privilege of seeing more than I ever do on my own.
I miss my friend Manning right now for the rest of my life.