Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chapter 8b: Could anything be harder?

I went to talk to the Landlord. I remember clearly the day, it was right at the beginning of the year. It was cold! That year during the holidays we went to the Chaldean church service, the Greek Orthodox church service, the Syriac church services, the local Catholic church services. We even almost went to the Evangelical church services but we showed up at the wrong time and couldn't figure out what the right time was.

It seemed like inside the house was closer than outside the house so we went to all the church parties, we walked around the souqs pretending to shop at least twenty different times, and to celebrate Christmas we went to a nice restaurant and drank tea. That was a fun outing. It was in another one of the Arabic house restaurants in the old city, and we chose a table right in the middle of the courtyard and asked the waiter to bring the big gas heater right by our table. Rashad wouldn't sit: he just stood under the tall umbrella shaped heater and reached his hands up to feel the warmth.

But even though we kept ourselves active, to keep warm, to forget, to depend on God, or for some other reason... we still seemed to spend most of our time at home, huddled together around the little old electric coil heater. We watched lots of television, and chatted. My sisters were just moving up from children to women and I remember clearly some of the things they said that seemed so wise and beautiful. I was proud of my little sisters, and vowed to myself to look out for them until they met men who deserved them.

I knew during this season that we were not going to have enough to pay the next month's help. Up until then, my salary, plus what Mama made sewing, plus a chunk of cash taken from the savings box, had covered our expenses. But the savings box was now empty. It was just me and Mama, and we were not going to be able to make rent. It was the holidays, though, so I kept quiet about it and avoided the Landlord as best I could. He was busy with his own holiday - all of Syria was celebrating that December because the Eid fell on the same week as Christmas - so it would have been aieb/shameful for him to have come bothering us about the rent. So I just enjoyed the season of goodwill with Mama, Teta, Marwa, Nour and Rashad. We missed Baba, but the way the cold brought us all together seemed to lessen the pain of his absence.

The Landlord could wait, but he wouldn't wait much after the New Year. My plan was to appeal to his humanity, to his sense of charity. At night, awake at night, I would rehearse what I'd say to him. I will work harder and hopefully make more next month. Teta is sick and our UNHCR check hasn't yet come. It would be tragic for my sisters or brother to have to stop school. Soon we'll get our resettlement call and be on our way. I'll write my uncle in Canada again, but the poor man has his entire family in exile. We really like living in this flat, you've been so good to us so far. God bless you, kind sir. You have shown us that you truly are our brothers by welcoming us in... He seemed like a dignified man, surely he would give us a more reasonable rent. What else could I do?

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