14 Aug 2011

Old self

Since I’ve come to live in the UK I’ve sent my niece numerous presents on birthdays and other occasions, my older sister (her mother) probably felt she had to return the gesture, so for my last birthday she did, I opened a box that came in the post and found a small shiny red coffee cup. When I was still living in Kuwait I was a Turkish coffee addict, I worked hectic hours at the law firm where I practiced and came home around midnight with a mountain of cases to read, Turkish coffee (drank only in small cups due to intensity) was my only salvation. She must have made the connection; I like Turkish coffee and I like the colour red, therefore this red coffee cup must be the perfect birthday present, what was funny though was that I didn’t get it! Not right away at least. This is not surprising seeing how much I’ve changed; living in the UK, Turkish coffee became a luxury, even if I did find it in scarce Arabic shops it was never the good kind, I often didn't have time to make it, as it was – comparing to instant coffee – a bit of a hassle. Now I drink instant with milk in a large mug. However, these small - perhaps trivial - connections people have of us in their minds intrigue me; I am in my older sister’s mind a coffee drinker who likes the colour red! Which was once true, it is my old self, and it stayed with her all those years. But since I left home, I’ve had a child, divorced, moved house, done a postgraduate degree, had some of my poetry published, met people who have had tremendous influence on my thinking, and avoided my old life and my old home by not going back to it for as long as I possibly can. Thus, I’ve changed considerably, but how many old selves do I have? And who did I leave my old self with?
Am I to the doctor who treated my (vicious) asthma from the age of 3 to 14, still the frail, ill little girl who could not master the simple task of inhaling and exhaling? Am I to my old teachers still the obnoxious young woman who thought she knew everything, who always wore white cotton socks and glasses? Because I haven’t had breathing issues since I was 15, I’ve swapped glasses for lenses, and I only wear nude coloured silk holdups with lace tops, I like the feeling of lace and silk hugging my thighs.

I have shed my old selves, even though they were once who I am, I’ve outgrown them, or lost them. But they continue to live in other people’s memories - if a memory exists at all - otherwise my old self is swept away and forgotten like last autumn’s leaves. In most cases I am one of the many names that a person encounters, insignificant and similar, this perception materialized when I received my divorce papers in a DHL envelope a few months back, I was pleased to finally be unshackled after I had been separated for two years, my singularity finally validated, but what was astonishing is that the judge who signed my divorce paper is the same one who verified my marriage contract many years ago. Amongst the hundreds of women he marries and divorces every day, I am just another self, who had agreed to be someone to somebody and that agreement has now come to an end.