Home smelled like cinnamon the day everyone flew in.
Each one from a discrete nook in the world; & I, from Boston.
There was a lot of side chatter, silently smiling faces, clinking of cups & gift unwrapping.
It went on for a handful of days.
I remember thinking, “I need to take all of this in. It would make a good poem.”
But I was left with snippets of these moments
& decided that poetry was not the reason I was so observant.
It was departure.
Hello smelled like apple cake & fresh mansaf, looked like cigarette smoke & my siblings pressed in between the corners of two couches, tasted like ba’laweh & sounded like my mother singing along with Om Kulthoum late at night.
They all left one after the other, & my trip back was a week later.
That night, the house grew quiet. It smelled like goodbyes & half-eaten chestnuts. The beds were empty & the curtains pulled shut. I wondered why I attach to things. Why words are my time capsule & why everything beautiful comes at a cost.
I cried on the way back. Not for being alone again, but for the two people left to endure the absence of all the rest of us. The plane landed a few hours before midnight, & I was greeted with a different kind of hello.
The hollow kind that sounds like an abrupt farewell & leaves you in utter silence.
So I wondered why humans have the capacity to hurt people that they claim they love.
Perhaps love brings a false sense of security that justifies pain.
When I closed the phone I opened the jar of cinnamon sticks, closed my eyes & inhaled what was thousands of miles away from Boston.
I felt safe again.