To my beloved, to my losses

Rasha Khayat

Artwork by Mirza Jaafar

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop
Dearly Beloved,

We have gathered here today to look back on what we used to be. On what I used to be with you. And what I became, where I went, without you.

I came across Elizabeth Bishop's poem the other day. And I thought, felt – yeah, that is me, that is us. No?

I miss you, all of you. And I never really told you. I miss you. You all went away, or maybe you would say I let you go. I miss you. But it isn’t a disaster.

But today allow me to remember you for a minute or two. And maybe say goodbye.

I shall go on remembering each of you, one by one, for a minute or two. (Let me say the order in which I will proceed, no, it has nothing to do with which one of you was my favourite, or which the hardest loss; I want you to know that.) I want you to know – I loved (and love) you all, somehow.


You have to be the first. Because I think you were the first one that I missed, the first who left. I have no words. I owe so much to you. To your love. I owe you my life, really. I owe you the fact that I survived. And I will be – forever – forever sad that you are no longer there. To be a part of what you saw. What you wanted for me. And what you couldn’t, in the end, bear to see. That you were right. I could do it. Yes, I could. I was exactly as strong as you knew I would be. And I will be grateful for the rest of my life. For everything you gave me.

I always wanted to become the person you saw when you looked at me, the person you made me believe I could be. And guess what, now I am. Isn’t that just incredible? Your conviction, your love. And then – we fell apart.

I miss the tilt of your head when you laugh. I miss sitting on your couch, two socks of different colour on my feet, cigarette in hand, and feeling like myself. Like I don’t have to be anyone or anything. I miss the video games, I miss the Smashing Pumpkins and whiskey-filled nights; I miss us by the bar in Jonas, discussing football and critical theory. I miss your blue eyes, those eyes. . . the first (and maybe last?) time I saw eyes that could be so sad, so angry, and at the same time so loving and generous. I miss the terrible coffee from your strange blue coffee maker. I miss us. I miss us and Bowie and your battered old car, and I miss all the places and all the beds we shared. I miss how safe I felt with you, always. I miss you. The boy. The one boy. My eternal boy. I miss feeling small with you. Miss your jokes, your anger, your protectiveness. I miss your voice on the phone, I miss dancing with you.

I'm happy, hope you’re happy too (Ashes to ashes, funk to funky).


I am so incredibly sorry. I am sorry I dared to live my life. I am sorry that I hurt you. I am sorry for your sadness, even though it wasn’t my fault. I miss us. I miss travelling with you. The planes, the trains, the buses, all those strange countries, all the people, all the pictures. All the stories. Remember Aleppo? Remember Cairo? Remember Lisboa (“Everything we did, was right”)?

Remember. Remember how we put the mattress on our terrace and we slept there, out in the open, on the twenty-sixth floor, under the Cairo smog. I miss us. I miss your intensity, your coldness, your mind. I miss your confusion and sometimes even you, the freaking annoying know-it-all. I miss the girl on whom I could always count. Because I can’t anymore. It broke my heart to see you so sad, on your wedding day, of all days. We should have danced, islands in the stream –and in the end, we didn’t even speak. I’m so sorry I hurt you, and I miss you. But you wouldn’t let me live my life anymore. I gave you so much, but in the end, it was never enough for you, for the void in your soul.

I'm happy, hope you’re happy too (Ashes to ashes, funk to funky).


Your leaving, I think, still hurts the most. I never thought it would come to this. You were (did you know?) the only one I fought for, the only one I really wanted to keep. You were my best friend, more of a brother than anything, more family than my own family, more loved one than an actual loved one. We’ve shared so much – loves, losses, deaths, places, years. Almost twenty years. And you just let go. Let go when I might have needed you, maybe for the first time, really needed you. I miss you. So much. I miss the laughing, the talking, the bond. I miss this incredible bond we had. The friendship. Having someone who knows me so well, who now doesn’t know me at all anymore. It hurts.

It wasn’t my choice. I tried. You chose to stay away. And now, we're almost strangers, just two or three phone calls a year. Last year, we met exactly once. What happened, B.? Did we just choose to take different roads? Roads to what makes us happy? Roads that are so different that we ended up losing each other? I tried. So hard. I believed we could stay friends, stay close, even with such different lives. But you chose, too. You chose to believe (do you, really?) that the new life is more important than your old friend, your sister. Maybe you also chose to believe that I am no longer the same person. The same sister. And maybe it’s true. Maybe I have changed too much, too fast. Maybe it was just all nature’s way of telling us – the two of you don’t belong together. I accept that. But it doesn't mean that I’m not sad. And it doesn't mean I don’t miss you.

I'm happy, hope you're happy too (Ashes to ashes, funk to funky).


With you, I lost my daily partner. The one person who was so close to me, constantly being in each other’s lives on a daily basis. We supported each other, we provided each other with structure, we cared for each other. It was good, it was helpful, and mainly, it was practical. But something shifted, over the last year or so. I felt trapped with you. Felt stuck, felt like you held me too tight, like I was responsible for more than just being a friend who helps out with daily life. I felt like you needed too much from me. And at the same time, you disappeared, in a way.

You became this invisible person, someone who wouldn’t let anyone near then, and whom nobody was allowed to know. Your behaviour became so strange, you were so needy, so greedy, and I felt used. Like our friendship was suddenly some sort of job I wasn’t doing properly. Everything that came out of you was dark. Complaining and explaining and discussing, being annoyed and not trusting anyone, almost paranoid. You were a pain to be around, because you were so visibly unhappy, and at the same time, you made me feel like it was my job to fix that. You never even asked how I was doing. I didn’t have any room anymore, I couldn’t breathe anymore.

But still, I am sorry things went this way. I am sorry we couldn’t be honest with each other.

I'm happy, hope you’re happy too (Ashes to ashes, funk to funky).

To all of you.

All of you – when I say that I miss you, I mean it. I do. But it doesn’t mean I want to go back. It doesn’t mean I have regrets. I do not regret a thing. Everything I did, every step I took over the last two years, I would take again. I would do it all over again, fully aware of the price that I would pay – the price of losing all of you. It was the right thing to do, and the best thing I ever did for myself. I built myself a life, and I am proud, finally. But that doesn't mean that I’m not sad you couldn’t – for whatever reason – go along beside me, walk with me, stay in my life. I miss you all, some more than others. I miss the times we had together.

But you know who I don't miss? I don’t miss the person I was back then when we were all so close. I was so unhappy, so lonely, so empty. And you all made me feel less unhappy, less lonely; we were lonely together, mostly. Unhappy together. And then I decided to leave that ship. I left and tried, for once, for real, to be happy. To do something with my life. And I am so, so incredibly sorry this offended so many of you. I am sorry I couldn’t come back, I am sorry you felt betrayed by me. I am sorry you thought that I didn’t care.

It is not true. I cared. So much. And in a way, I still do. But I couldn’t turn back. I was too far ahead already, Elsewhere Now. I couldn’t turn around and come back to the ship of the miserable. I chose to leave, and maybe that means, I had to leave you all for good.

The big fish in the small pond. The pond simply became too small. The fish could swim no longer, could no longer move, or breathe (how does a fish breathe, anyway?) For the longest time, it couldn't find its way to the ocean. Was scared, maybe, of the ocean. But now, it’s here. The ocean. The sea. My ocean – I swim, I breathe, I live. The brave ones may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.

I don’t regret it. But I’m sorry you ever felt hurt. And I miss you all. Truly, I do.

We’re different people now, all of us. We chose different roads, different lives. And as we all know, we can’t move forward, look back, and stay in the same place at the same time. It’s simply not possible. We must let go of things that hold us back.

Forward is the only way God gave us, Kurt Vonnegut teaches us. And it is. But it doesn’t mean this letter, this prayer, this goodbye doesn’t make me sad.

(No disaster).

translated from the German by Susan Martin