The night before I fly back home to New York, I look into the living room and see you alone on the sofa in your white tee shirt and pajama pants. You are carefully wrapping something with newspaper and tape, but I can’t tell exactly what it is. It’s late, and the rest of the household is in bed. I say goodnight and hug you, knowing I’ll have only one more chance to do this before I walk through airport security tomorrow and have to wait a very long time to see you again. You are my younger brother, born a good fifteen years after me, who until now, I’ve barely known.
Rakaan. Your name means Noble, what I called my first son in English, and the meaning suits you both perfectly. But the sound of it in Arabic is much more beautiful, rolls off my tongue, like the honey you collect on the weekends with your in-laws. Bee farming– the perfect occupation for someone willing to be stung for the sake of sweetness, which I suspect is exactly who you are.
What did I see in those light-brown eyes of yours the other day when you came into the kitchen? What did I recognize in you that made me cry so unexpectedly? Was it my own reflection? Maybe throughout your life, you too have felt things as intensely as I have– endured the same heartache of betrayal from friends; borne the loneliness of misplacement wherever you went; felt the unbearable highs and lows of living too boldly, loving too much?
You hugged me, searching for the words to soothe your floundering sister. “Everything is coming together the way it should,” you murmured. “Baba is watching over us now. He is here…” You must have said this in German, or maybe there were no words spoken at all, just the quiet knowingness of a grief and consolation shared by two siblings.
When I get home the next night, I unwrap the small gift you have placed in my suitcase. A full jar of honey, so pure that you can still see the tiny traces of life that went into its color, the same amber hue claimed by your eyes. I know that it will be long gone before I get to see you again. But I will savor its sweetness with the slow deliberation of one who has tasted for the first time what it’s like to come home.