The following texts are part of a series of letters I wrote while I was grieving my first true love, Numan, who passed away from cancer in 2017. You can find the previous ones here.

05.07.2017

Dear Numan,

I’ve surrendered. I’ve decided I cannot write to you everyday; it just takes too much from me. My emotions were all over the place this week and I couldn’t seem to get to it. I’m really down these days. I thought I was getting better but sometimes it feels like I’m just kidding myself and pretending for the world.

I’ve made new friends, and they’re amazing people. I’m at my lowest at times and I think it shows: I’m clumsy, shaky, forgetful and shy, and I deeply lack self-confidence. I don’t know where the once strong girl who’s been to Palestine and has done all these crazy things is. It doesn’t look nor feel like I’m the same person. And yet, they accept me for who I am, where I’m at. I hadn’t had that since Nablus, and it feels nice. Like a family. You would have loved them, I think. Some like-minded people, the kind that were not always so easy for you to find. We’re doing all the ‘haram’ things you did with us, the internationals, that we had to hide for.

We had so much fun, all together. Throwing parties and getting told off the next day, stressing we’d be exposed about the alcohol and the other sneaky things we were doing. We’d go to the Samaritan mountain, the only place in the area where they can legally sell alcohol, since they are not Muslims. Living peacefully right next to Nablus; so much for that supposedly impossible coexistence between religions… You understood that.

Remember when that Israeli guy came to our café with a group of Americans? He was trying to hide his identity, but we all kind of knew. He found the right group of people though. You and your friends were super cool with the whole thing. When you saw him later in the streets, he admitted the truth to you. You stayed in touch and he even went to check on your friend Jamal when he was transferred to a hospital in Tel-Aviv, after he got shot by a soldier. That is inspiring. People like you are the future of Palestine & Israel, you know. I loved that in you. There was some hate for your situation (there was some in everyone, including us volunteers), but you saw past that. You wanted to build bridges. Whenever I tried to present my opinions to you, instead of closing off like many, you admitted things were not black or white. You wanted peace.

Shit. Why did you have to die? It’s so unfair. You could have done so much. I’m crying again. I know you would want me to be strong. I know you often felt helpless too. Images from Jordan are coming up; it feels so fresh in my mind. Those last days together. It’s just so sad Numan, I’m just so sad still. I want to go back to those moments, I want to see you, talk to you, hold you one last time. You made me strong. I feel so weak right now. The shock, that shock of your illness, of your death, I feel like I’m reliving it again. I guess I’m gonna need a bit more time still, to get over it. Over you.

At least you’re here with me. I can feel you.

Dir balak ya habibi ❤️

Sophie

12.07.2017

Hey Numan,

It’s been a while. Quite a lot has been going on in my mind for the past few weeks. It’s been hard, but I think I’m finding more strength every day. At least, I’m trying. I’ve got amazing friends and that’s helping a lot. I’m not the only one going through some hard times, and it’s beautiful because we don’t have to do it alone.

I feel less alone; I even feel you here with me, more than before. Maybe it’s in my head, I don’t care. It’s nice to know you’re here. The other day, I think I entered a new phase of my grief. I woke up with a particular feeling in my mind. I was realising that when it comes to you, it’s not just a bad phase that will get better. You’re not coming back. I know it seems obvious, but I’ve been struggling with that idea. I guess I wasn’t ready to admit it. So it wasn’t a very nice feeling, but it was in some way liberating, like I’m slowly accepting that I can’t change what happened. It pains me to write it, but I can’t keep living in denial.

You were grieving too, when I left Nablus. I wonder how it must have been, dealing with that and with you own sickness very soon after. You must have been confronted to some pretty deep, philosophical stuff. I wonder if it made you a lot wiser, or if your mind wasn’t really clear enough to truly face those things. I have the feeling I’ll be a bit wiser, when I get through this.

A friend told me yesterday that the hardest thing for people like us, something that’s never going to go away in our lives, is to stay true to ourselves. I believe that. It’s always going to be a struggle, but I’m not going to give up that fight. You fought that fight too, I know. Being a breakdancer, having tattoos and even being the only rasta in town for a short while, it made you stand out a lot in your society, your judging, conservative society. It was inspiring.

Your parents were quite amazing for that, too. They accepted you for who you were, for the most part. I remember when you told me about that time your dad stood up against the sheikh, at the mosque, for criticising the young guys who danced. He said that there was enough fighting around, that there was no need to add to that by making it difficult for people like you, who just wanted to create and find ways to express themselves. I thought it was so badass. Your dad is really cool.

I promise, when I’m ready, I will go visit your family. We’ll talk about you and remember the good times. Your mum will cook one of her amazing dishes. I miss Palestinian food. And hummus. Hummus! I’ll also go visit your grave, tell you proper goodbyes. And see your brothers, your sister, your cousin, your friends. I miss them all a lot. I’d like to see the other volunteers, too. Some of us have had a really hard time since we all left, like we left a piece of our hearts there and it’s not easy to just ‘move on’ with our lives.

I wish you could be there when I come back. You won’t, I’m starting to accept that.

Anyway, I’m a bit tired today. I’ll write to you soon, insha’allah.

Take care,

Sophie

Imm El Jacket – Mashrou’ Leila
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