Sunday, September 24, 2006

stolen words

OK, OK. I didn't write this. At All. But I feel it.

And I'm hoping it will make you want to come to my wonderful city . . . (If you want to read more essays on Portland, go the the link.)

You walk down the streets of this city, the city you realize you have fallen in love with, as hard and giddy as falling for any lover. Is that possible? You touch a concrete wall. In this city, you smell the river, which smells like the ocean. You think: my rainy city. Stop it, you think, try to curtail the love drug in you. But again you think, my rainy city. You watch sparrows slant through the plum blossoms, clouds everywhere. You've just returned.

It was last spring when you decided to leave your city. Spring rises up from the earth; in this city, it is like dipping your fingers in the icing. Spring feels like you are getting away with something. Spring--how is this possible? Spring in the softest city in the world--where people don't like to get up so they wear clothes like pajamas all day. Where the sky is gray and soft as flannel.

A year ago you were walking back to a hotel, explaining to yourself why you had to leave your city. It's time, you'd said. You'd sold your house, packed your things, now you were staying in a hotel room, waiting to go. Outside a bookstore, you ran into your friend S. You told your friend S. everything, about how it was time, how you'd decided to leave your city, and he laughed. And of all of the people you know, his is your favorite laugh, a sweet sss, a wisp of breath. He said to you, don't go. You shook your head, smiling, walking backwards toward your hotel, waving.
A city is a city is a city. But in this city, everyone is in love. People lean toward each other during conversations, as if they will kiss. You look at your hands, they look round and bright as pearls under this marble sky.

Last year, outside the hotel, a young girl had asked you, where do I get the No. 15? And you, who had no idea, you could not bear to disappoint her, so you turned around and gestured and made up detailed instructions that would make her unimaginably lost. Finally you confessed; you said, don't listen to me, I'm moving away. Why, where are you going? she'd asked, as if she did not want you to go.

The heavy glass doors to the hotel had swung open when you pressed on the gold bar. In the elevator, the young man with the big white tray on his shoulder blushed and told you it was only his second day delivering room service. He was bringing room 438 their coffee. You told him this was your last night in town; you were spending it in a hotel room. For some reason, he'd said to you, don't go.

In the window of your hotel room, the rain has gotten great and round as pearls, it fills the glass with its shining. You put your head down on the smooth gray sheets--this hotel smells of a thousand years--and you hear the rain and inside the rain you hear something speaking. It says: home.

Diana Abu-Jaber's recent novel, Crescent, won a National Endowment for the Arts award in 2003. It was also named a Notable Book of the Year by the Christian Science Monitor and won the 2004 PEN Center USA Award for Literary Fiction as well as a 2004 American Book Award. Her newest book, a memoir entitled The Language of Baklava‚ will be published in 2005. Abu-Jaber's work has appeared in such publications as Ms. , Salon, The New York Times and The Nation, and she frequently is featured on NPR. Her first novel, Arabian Jazz, won the Oregon Book Award in 1994.

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