I was walking back to my house in a hurry because it was already 10:30pm and I had nothing to eat yet. The night had already set but the streets weren’t illuminated since it was a Monday night in Beirut -The electricity only comes every other day- along the museum’s street. I had a tough day and I was ready to give up on the whole week, maybe even the whole year… I had plans and ambitions that fell apart after some rejection letters, or even worse… Deferral ones. I knew my capabilities, my strength but I felt unappreciated, undiscovered or maybe on the contrary overrated until the cursing eye got me – at least that’s what my mom thinks.
I stopped next to a construction site to tie my shoes. I placed my foot on those small black polls on the side of the road and while inserting one “bunny ear” under the other, an old man across the street intercepted my sight. He was originally 167 centimeters but the weight of the years had curved his back and stole at least 5 centimeters from his height. He was all dressed up in a black suit that seemed a bit tight on the hips and around the belly. He loosened his pink tie and exhaled a long breath simultaneously. In his hand was an umbrella that he used to balance his walk with, since it was definitely not a rainy weather. He stared at me, and without him saying a word, I could sense his need to call me. This feeling I got might be due to his constant staring or maybe from an innate compassion that suddenly awoke in me. I put my foot down on the ground, walked towards the old man and grabbed his arm to lead him to his destination. Suddenly, the old man removes my arm, and as I was going to apologize for the possibility of offending him, he stopped, raised his head and said: ” Life is full of choices, but sometimes the ones you pick are not the right ones for you.” Trying to grasp everything he was saying, he went on talking: “Don’t lose your confidence it’s the key to your success. Just know that some things are out of your control… But keep on trying until one day you see how everything makes sense. It all makes sense for me now. Unfortunately, it’s too late. I spent all my life wondering how things could be different, blaming others… It all makes sense now.” He handed me his umbrella and continued his walk.
Weeks after this strange encounter, I was invited to my girlfriend’s house. It was starting to rain unexpectedly, so I took the umbrella the old man had given me. My girlfriend introduced me to her parents, and as I was greeting her mother, I noticed her eyes shifting towards the umbrella. She was wearing a black dress garnished with white pearls on her neck. She smiled at me and then commented on how smart it was to take an umbrella during such weather. Apparently, her daughter never listened to her when she advised her to take an umbrella.
After a while, my girlfriend’s mom told me: “JP. I love how you had your initials engraved on the handle of your umbrella. Where did you have it carved?” It was actually the first time that I notice this detail and went on by narrating the story of this umbrella. As I was describing the event, her facial expressions were evolving from shock, to sadness, to excitement…
When I was done, her mom burst into tears. It took her awhile until words could come out of her mouth. In fact, her father had passed away after having a heart attack a couple of months ago. He had lived his whole life miserable, blaming his parents for refraining him from marrying the love of his life due to religious differences. This umbrella was the last memory of her with his initials on it “J.P”. She gave it to him on their last date during the summer of 1961. They both ended up marrying different people and never saw each other again. “It all makes sense now” said the old man after seeing me. He could never have married the love of his life because 14 years later happened the civil war of 1975, and the museum street was actually the border line between the two religious camps. However, 40 years later, on that same street, the old man met me, the grandson of the love of his life, madly in love with his granddaughter. “It all makes sense now”: Their love did not fall at the right moment, but it gave hope to a better one decades later… And his umbrella… Well… It might be the sign of the reconciliation with the past.