Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing.
— Cormac McCarthy
What’s strange about my friend Hrair is he keeps writing posts for this blog. He doesn’t write them intentionally. He just responds, in long emails to me, to what I write here. I write him back and ask him if I can publish his response.
First he says, no.
Then he says, yes.
“You should write a memoir,” I said to him recently.
“Nobody reads memoirs,” he said.
They’d read yours, I thought.
The mysterious Hrair, readers may remember from Childhood in Beirut, is a man of many nations who speaks seven languages. Raised in Beirut as a Christian, his family is from Armenia. He lives now in California.
Recently, I wrote a post about Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road. The story concerns a father and son walking a road of unimaginable terror. Unimaginable, at least, to me.
Hrair sent me this email in response:
By now you know my relationship with my dad.
Let’s go back to 1977, in the heat of the Lebanese civil war, when every one was hiding from a shrapnel, sniper or unknown vicious disaster. I decided I wanted to visit my dad whom I had not seen for a few months. He had fled with my mom to our country house located in a beautiful valley. This multicolored fertile land that others eyed to control for centuries.
So I hop in the car one morning with my friend and drive past numerous check points manned by thugs and all sorts of crazy animals who consider your life as expensive as the price of one bullet. Besides the check points, there is no one on the streets.
We reach our house. I try to hide the car in an alley, and climb the stairs to see my dad with joy and anticipation that I am going to hug him and spend the weekend with him.
I knock at the door. My dad opens the door. I had never seen his reaction so tragic and deceived. His face turned white as if someone drained all the blood out of him. He barely spoke. Under normal circumstances I would have hugged him like a little kid but something was awfully wrong at that moment.
His first words to me were: what are you doing? why did you come?
I was shocked. Of course I did not realize his fear. I wanted to see him. He immediately took us in. He said we will have to go back at the crack of dawn the next day. One faction was going from house to house and killing all the Christian young men.
I had never seen my dad so scared. We barely spoke to one another that day. I could not wait for morning to come so I can leave and relieve him of this awful sensation. Obviously I made it safe the next day, because I am here now writing this note.
On a different note, watch the Russian movie The Return if you have a chance.
Love your blog.
AN UNLIKELY PAIR
I read the above with many emotions, including a sort of shock that the truth of McCarthy’s novel could be so easily validated by someone I know.
I think about my friendship with Hrair. He and I make an unlikely pair. It’s not too far-fetched to suppose (had some grandparent of mine left his one-horse town in the Pale and headed south instead of west) that we could have ended up on opposite sides of an Arab-Israeli war.
I thought of leaving out the last three lines of Hrair’s note. But I’m struck how the easy transition from I made it safe to watch the movie to Love your blog. Cheers. reveals something in his character. It tells me that Hrair’s experience has made him a philosopher, not a warrior. I find few things as pleasurable as talking with him leisurely about issues close to both our hearts, and contemplating how two guys of such different backgrounds can be so alike.
As when Rick and Captain Renault walk off into the night together at the end of Casablanca, it sort of gives me hope.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
The trailer for The Return. (There’s an American film of the same title, which you can skip):
Art Passions — The illustrations above (“The Eastwind Flew More Swiftly Still” and “Hidden by the Sleeve of Night” by Edmund Dulac) are taken from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists. Among them are Rackham, Maxfield Parrish, and the Preraphaelites.
The ending of Casablanca. The link takes you to You Tube. (They won’t allow an embed of this one.) If you haven’t seen the movie, drop whatever you’re doing, get a copy and immediately watch the whole thing.
Any thoughts about Hrair’s story? Add your comment below. I always respond here. This just in: you can be notified of responses to you by clicking “Replies to my comments” in the drop down menu under your remarks.