Darling Boy

Jay didn’t really intend to draw so much attention.

He was just bored.

“I know your eyes in the morning sun…..”

He sings, unable to stop himself from smiling when the small crowd gathered around him coo and sigh. Most likely they know the song and even if they don’t, it’s hard to resist swaying to the melody or clapping along to the beat Jay makes against his guitar in between plucking the strings.

I feel you touch me in the pouring rain.”

Everyone around him is enjoying, wearing fond smiles and holding phones, the cameras pointed at him. He’s aware he’s being recorded and watched; he doesn’t mind though. It’s just funny to him that this started with him trying to stave off his boredom while he waited for Aunt Nisha.

His ride into the city had arrived ahead of schedule and The Burrow had been easier to find than his aunt had warned him, even with the bag and guitar he was lugging with him. He was a bit hesitant to wait inside when he wasn’t buying anything, even when the staff insisted upon hearing who he was.

“Your aunt talks about you all the time,” the barista had said, smiling at him. He even pointed out the table Auntie always sat at and he recognizes that corner of the quaint coffee shop.  It was almost always the background to the pictures she sends.

“You can wait there for a while.  Nisha usually comes in with Rhoda in about an hour or two.”

Jay sat on a two-seater leather couch, placed in a very cozy corner. Waiting made his mind wander to his aunt, sweet, stubborn Auntie Nisha who would not follow her brother’s (Jay’s father’s) demands for her to leave the city and stay with them. Family arguments usually spawned tension among its members but growing up, his father’s and auntie’s squabbles were great entertainment for him.

His father would insist upon something, concerned for her and she would reply with a witty remark or brush him off altogether. She always insisted she can take care of herself, that her “bratty, baby brother” had enough problems himself to fuss over her. She’d turn to Jay, watching the exchange and take him out for ice cream to avoid any further confrontation. That, or she’d ask him to play piano or his guitar for her.

A smile forming on his lips, he had pulled out his guitar from its hard case, recalling all the songs that Auntie said were her favorites that he could play. Often they were love songs from the 70’s and 80’s, ones he never forgot and started playing on that couch.

A few songs later and people were gathering to listen. A few more people later and the barista noticed he was attracting customers. The two microphones (one for him and the other for his guitar) and speaker were set up soon after that. Jay didn’t mind, he just enjoyed playing.

“Oh this is wonderful.” Jay heard a woman in the crowd croon while he finishes the song. He’s only barely able to pick out her voice among the crowd and out of the corner of his eyes, he spots her, standing next to a younger man who most likely be her son.

She is an elderly woman, surely older than Aunt Nisha, but with a similar air about her. She is wrinkled and lined but not by stress or worries; those are smile lines and crow’s feet on the corner of her eyes. Her eyes still hold a shine to them, one that’s prominent as she listens to him play.

Her son seems nothing like her.

He is definitely her son, they look to much alike to negate the fact, but instead of swaying and smiling like her he scowls. His foot taps against the pavement repeatedly; he keeps checking his watch, his phone. From the way he’s dressed, Jay deduces he’s a business man.

“Okay, song’s done. We should go.” He says to his mother, glancing at exit door. When his mother doesn’t reply or move, he taps her on the shoulder.

“Mom. Let’s go.”

The elderly woman smiles, patient in contrast to him. “Oh just one more.” she insists. “I want to ask if he takes requests. We rarely go out together like this anymore.” She pats his hand on her shoulder but. It does nothing to placate him.

“You know what? No.” He snatches his hand away, scowling.

“This is why I don’t take you out anymore!” He gestures, drawing the attention of other in the crowd. Jay was about to finish tuning. Seeing this, the man heaves a rough sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“You always do this.” He begins slowly. He’s trying not to cause anymore of a scene than he has but it’s hard to ignore. Even Jay has stopped what he’s doing, he’s not looking directly at them because he doesn’t want to be one of those people feeding off of others’ drama. Still, Jay listens, and watches. Out of the corner of his eye to see how the mother is faring.

“We have somewhere to be but you insist on doing so many unnecessary things, making unnecessary requests. You always waste so much time and now you want to waste money when you don’t even know if the boy charges or even plays for-“

“I do actually.”

Jay looks up at them, giving the elderly woman a kind smile, the kind he would give Auntie Nisha when she asked him to play for her. He completely ignores her son, who’s glaring at him now.

“I do take requests,” he says, standing up and going over to them, guitar still in hand.

“No charge.”

“So sweet of you, dear.” The mother smiles back up at him. She doesn’t seem the least bit disturbed by her son’s outburst or by the sympathetic stares sent her way. She’s oblivious to it all as she gestures for Jay to lean down to hear her whisper her request.

He knows it.

Unable to contain his grin of anticipation, Jay goes back to the couch, quickly tuning his guitar back to standard. He leans in to speak into the mic.

“We have a request. A first an last one.” He adds the last part quickly, knowing more people would come up at him asking for their song after this.

Their collective groan of disappointment gets buried under the first chord he plays, and the words that follow.

Close your eyes, have no fear,

the monster’s gone he’s on the run

and your mommy’s here

He looks over to the mother with a smile as he sings. But soon his eyes slide shut without meaning to.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy.”

Mothers and fathers around him smile. They melt into each other, holding their children both young and a little older closer. It’s likely plenty of people haven’t heard the song or those words before but they didn’t need to, to feel them.

Out on the ocean, sailing away.”

Jay sings, but somewhere in the back of his mind he hears the mother’s voice again.  She is still smiling at her son, even then.

“Do you remember?” She asks.

“Your father’s voice was horrible but he played the guitar even better than this boy and I sang.  You asked for it every night, every time you felt scared or even just sad.”

“I…do,” the son says, so quietly Jay barely hears him. “I remember”

Before you cross the street, take my hand

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

The mother hums contentedly along with Jay singing.

“You were so little,” she says, pride colouring her voice.  “And look at you now.”

The son said nothing. Neither of them did for the rest of the song.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy

Darling, darling, darling, son.

Applause.

Jay sees tears in some eyes, happiness and warmth in more. He looks over to the mother and her son. His eyes are shining, lips heavy with many things he wants to say.

“Mom…I-“

“We can go now,” she says, taking his hand once again. This time he’s too stunned to say anything; he doesn’t pull away.

“We don’t want to miss your first job interview after all.”

The son just nods.

They walk out together and Jay watches until their figures blurred in the distance.

Beautiful Boy – John Lennon. Cover, By Micaelah Dawnbeautiful boy

Amna & Mona – A Short Story

Amna was good at memorizing faces.

At the age of forty five, her health was the best it could be; mentally and physically. Eating right really does do you good, especially in the later years and lots of exercise. Amna herself took morning yoga classes every Friday, and afterwards had a relaxing lunch at On The Wood, a cafe that was halfway from the gym to her flat.

On The Wood had been around a long time, and Amna had been going there as long time; so much so the staff knew her favorites and could just tell which among them she would choose depending on the mood she was in when she entered. And, of course, she knew them too and knew almost everyone who’d come in more than once.

So she will know a fresh face when she saw one.

“Welcome to On The Wood!” The staff greeted when a girl, college age or maybe younger, pushed past the glass doors of their café. Friendly and welcoming, the people here always were, which was one of the reasons why it’s a favorite hangout.

The girl shyly smiled back, obviously surprised by such a warm greeting and quickly crossed the room to find a table. Amna didn’t mean to be watching her but there was something about her that seemed different. A majority of girls her age came in here in groups or with boys and if they did come alone there was always a certain aura, a kind of similarity between them that told of bold and adventurous city girls who weren’t afraid of anyone. But this girl who came in that day was too, timid, too sweet to be from the big city and the poor dear looked almost scared.

She must be from somewhere far.

When the young girl picked up the menu, Amna remembered that it actually was rude to stare and so she went back to her own business, reading the newspaper which is always accessible since her favorite space is right beside the rack. But curiosity got the better of her and out of the corner of her eye she watched as one of the waiter’s went away after receiving her order and left the girl who pulled out a book. And if that wasn’t surprising enough, Amna actually recognized the cover; Orwell’s “1984”. This girl had pulled out a classic, not some romance novel and not her phone.

At that point Amna was debating whether to come over to this girl and start a conversation. This was the kind of person that seemed to be easy for Amna to get along with.  Someone deviant from her generation, didn’t adhere to their selfie-taking, social media obsessed culture. She was ready to stand and introduce herself until the waiter from before came back carrying a delectable shawarma sandwich and laid it out for the girl on her table and then, to Amnas utter disappointment, the girl pulled out her phone and began to take pictures of her food.

Amna felt like a child who’s balloon had been popped.

Of course, this girl was just like all the rest. Maybe a little different but still an attention and approval seeking millennial.

When Amna left the cafe that day she couldn’t help the disapproving look that she cast in the young girl’s direction.

Mona was her name.

Over the course of the past three months, young Mona would be there every Friday at noon like Amna and the staff loved her already.

Amna noticed that she always left a tip, always said her hellos and goodbyes, complimented people and even picked up things the staff dropped without hesitation. She was such a good girl.

If only she didn’t have that peevish food photography habit.

Amna really didn’t get the point. Wouldn’t it be better to just have your food rather than waste whole minutes looking for the perfect angle or lighting just so you could get “Likes” or hearts? Where did that silliness start anyway? And how could such a lovely girl have picked up the horrid habit?

On the first Friday of the fourth month since Mona started coming to On The Wood, the place was packed. Understandable considering it was summer, everyone is on holiday  and tourists from all over would be coming to sample the cafe’s fine fare. Amna even recognized some old faces she hadn’t seen in a while, and definitely recognized Mona’s face when she came into the café and frowned slightly when she saw how full the place was.

“Hey Mona.” A lady behind the counter smiled at her when she entered. “The usual?”

Mona had nodded but reluctantly, her attention on the bustling establishment. She looked around and for a second Amna met her eyes before Mona’s focus shifted on the empty chairs at Amna’s favorite space.

Amna pretended to have not been paying attention as Mona approached shyly, her head ducked down while her big brown eyes regarded Mona respectfully. “Excuse me, ma’m.” Her smile was as sweet and endearing as ever. “Do you mind if I sit here with you?”

“Not at all.” Amna gestured to one of the empty seats and Mona reluctantly settled into the one across from her.

Mona nodded. “Thank you.”

Amna just smiled and went back to her paper and, predictably, Mona pulled out another book, Shakespeare this time. They read in silence that was most definitely more awkward for her than it was for Amna and for a while, nothing was wrong. Until a waiter came by with Mona’s food and her phone was again taken out.

It was difficult to fight the frown that made its way onto Amna’s face. She bit the inside of her cheek as she watched Mona routinely take pictures of her four cheese pink sauce pasta, trying to keep her comments and thoughts to herself until she just couldn’t hold it anymore.  “Where do you post those, dear?

Mona looked up from her phone, momentarily stunned and unable to reply with anything other than “What?”

“The pictures, dear.” Amna pointed to her phone where the image of her meal was already processed. “Where do you post them?”

Mona seemed to catch up and shook her head. “Oh no, I don’t post these anywhere.” She shyly tucked her phone away. “I send them back to my family.”

“Your family?” Amna set down her paper. “You don’t live with your family?”

Mona smiled sadly, shaking her head. “I’m from the Beirut. It’s pretty far but the university I got a scholarship for is here so I’m in the dorms now.” She fiddled with a lock of her hair, avoiding Amna’s eyes like she was afraid she might thought ill of and immediately a twinge of guilt twisted Amna’s stomach.

“It’s silly.” Mona smiled down at her lap but it isn’t her usual, sweet smile. It’s sad, sentimental, the kind of smile you had when you missed someone dearly and thought of them fondly. “But I’m used to having lunches on Friday with all of my family and while I was looking around for somewhere to have lunch I saw this place. Food is great so I kept coming back and I send my family pictures so it would still kinda be like eating together.” Once the words left her mouth, she flinched slightly as if she was embarrassed to have said those things out loud.

She looked up at Amna with those big brown eyes. “Is that silly?”

“No. No it’s not.” Amna swore.

And she meant every word.

Amna’s favorite… Labneh Pesto Sandwich

Round and round it goes.

You’ re stressed.

Work is rough, life is tough, and the heat doesn’t help. 

There are times in your subconscious you tell yourself , if you can… drop whatever you’re doing right now.

Take a walk.   Breathe.

You’ve left the office, gone down the elevator and out the doors. You’re walking through the parking lot, the sun beating down on you, burning and shining bright overhead. No one else is out, except the guards watching the lot; everyone is at work back in the building. You could’ve felt guilty about that but you didn’t. You’re fingers reach out and brush the smooth spiny leaves of the plants lining the parking lot in their cement plots.


You ponder on getting in your car and driving somewhere when you reach it but then you remember the fee you paid lasted the whole work day; plus you could use the exercise. So you walk, the guard nods to you as you pass him.

You’re in no rush. You’re enjoying the semi-fresh air and taking in the sight of the two buildings that are the same but different at the same time; faces and voices fade in and out.


You cross the bridge and from afar you see the old boats calmly parked in the canal down below.  It’s been there but today it’s like you’re in a trance appreciating the sight perhaps because you’ve been ignoring the beautiful scenery all along, spending so much time staring at a computer screen and office desk.

One thing’s for sure though, you’ve never been on that ferris wheel before.

The operator is just leaning on his control panel, looking bored out of his mind. You can see some of the carriages have people; mothers with their children, teenagers, young couples.   I am the minimum must be reached for the the ride to be started. You can’t remember the last time you rode a ferris wheel so you approach the operator and pay your fee. You’re carriage is clean, the only kind of blemish in the interior being the speckles of dirt on the white flooring.


The world is beautiful at the top. You’ve reached the same height of the surrounding buildings but seeing the world below you and people appearing as ants and trees as dots of varying green shades, it’s breathtaking.

The air is better up there, cleaner.

Then your stomach drops when you look down.  It will end soon though.

When it does you thank the operator who looks surprised and then smiles.

You walk away feeling refreshed. You continue down a path on the bridge, back to work.  Glad you chose a good day to take that spin.

 

Because it’s a holiday— The Jabal Jais Adventure

Camping up in the mountains…

It can be the easiest and most difficult thing at the same time. Easy because taking some time during a holiday feels easy, freeing even. Difficult because there’s a distance to travel, a journey to take and the obstacles that come with it like the cramps that will come later.

 It’s easy to feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin and savor it; be, if only for a short while, away from the daily grind of computer monitors and cellphone screens. No signal, no public solitude. It’s difficult to keep taking step after step, to put one foot in front of the other even though it’s something natural, something that should be easy and having to deal with the sunburn or backpain later will probably be a little less than what it’s worth.


 It’s easy to lay there and look at the stars, to unwind beneath their light and remember what beauty is lost in “progress” and time; to know you succeeded in the climb and worked hard for the view.   It’s tough to find the right spot to camp especially when you realize half of the city decided to camp as well.


It’s easy to sit around a fire, telling stories, sharing laughs and making food that you bought from that corner store because it would be rude to ask a pizza delivery guy to climb a mountain for you. It’s difficult to make that fire, get it to the right size and then even more so to put it out, to signal the  end.


It’s easy to get up and enjoy the morning air, then start to pack up; the descent is less challenging than the climb surely but it is also much more difficult. Because it may be easier to go back but more difficult to be back.

 And to have to deal with that backpain.

 

A Small Space And Some Pretty Little Things

People who come to UAE for work would probably have shifted accommodation minimum 3 times depending on how long the contract is or in my case for an indefinite amount of time.

Those who are blessed with a good salary package also gets a good crib on top of that; some will have to allot part of their income to renting  a flat and most survive by sharing space (housemates/ roommates).

Being that I moved into a new space  recently,  it was in my mind to already plan the essentials. Calculating every move.  Which items I should take with me and which are the ones to go for storage.

It is a  3 x 3 meter room— what could fit in it?


These were my concerns:
Where my bed should be? Feng Shui much…. Do I need a bed?

Where to put my clothes in?  Do I need a closet?

Is there space for toiletries?

What about my shoes?

I started with a rug.  A smart purchase I believe because it was on sale, 50% off and on top of that it was the last piece- I asked the store manager to give me another 10%.


Then I found this charming and somewhat unusually fashioned sofa bed on Dubizzle for 300 Dirhams ($82).


This is when it dawned on me—i need pillows.  Lots of them.


It’s kind of like a therapy; seeing an empty space with infinite possibilities, no matter what the size and then turning that space into something that can become home.

It has been almost a week now.  I am adding little pieces every day.  Most are my old stuff; some gifted.

And if there’s one thing I really enjoyed, those are the  cheap buys from Daiso, Tchibo and Dragon Mart. I was on a mission and I can say I came out swinging.


Now I have to rest my soul as I begin to settle in because yeah my room has reached it’s limits.

 

Thinking Twice- On Eating/Blogging

IMG_8763“The struggle is real.”

I hear this line from the girls a lot.

Everyday I get an sms, asking…..

“What to eat?” or

“Where to eat?”

The truth is, I am in the same predicament.

Shall I cook?  Shall I order?

Zomato or Talabat?

Ok, too much thinking. I will just go out.

While driving – I’m contemplating.

Chinese or Indian?

And then when seated…. it’s a like a quiz.

“Chicken or beef Ma’am?”

“Spicy or mild spicy?”

“Cold or room temperature?”

It’s not that I am complaining.

Let me go to the food court instead.

“Here or to go Madam?”

And then comes that thought…

Are my struggles for real?

What about those who have eating disorder?

And the less fortunate?

Those who cannot afford to buy a decent meal.

Those whose land are all dried up.

Those who are at war.

Yes, deep down there is guilt.

But the fact remains I have to eat.

So to end this— let me just cook here at home

and then drink tea.

Hmmmnnn…..Black or green?


Confession:

At the beginning of this writing I really thought I finally found an opening; a door.   A chance for me to share some of my food photos.   Maybe next time.  So indecisive.

 

 

 

Purse Lover

Money.

I do not enjoy spending it.

Does anyone really?

Sure luxury is a thing and people do it to make themselves feel good or on the other side of the spectrum, they do it so it will look like everything is good, but come on! All of us inwardly cringe when we take a look at the price of something we want that’s just a little too rich for our blood. And we buy it anyway. In my case, it needs to wait until the next pay day.

That said, let’s appreciate here the free stuff!

First of all we must agree that using something we got for free is not being cheap.

Let’s say for example you book a flight or a hotel and they give complementary stuff like travel kits or toiletries. You see that the quality and the design of the freebie is actually pretty good. Practically you use it, and most of the time people will ask you where you got it from.

In the case of my everyday purse, I reply-  it’s free from Etihad.  And they’d comment that it’s actually a pretty good purse, not that they think I am some sort of hoarder or moocher.

Really, just because an item was not bought from an upscale boutique it doesn’t mean it’s not good enough.

Just because it doesn’t have some brand name sewed on, it doesn’t mean that’s it’s not stylish.Louise And Rain Purse

It’s not being a cheapskate, just practical.

I can say I applaud companies who give out good freebies. They can have my business.

It’s good marketing. They treat their customers right by handing out “gifts” that are usable.  It’s like planting the seed of trust in that person’s mind, making them subconsciously think, “Hey, these guys were good to me the last time, why not go back?”

It’s smart and a win-win situation for everyone; especially for me!

Plus, it’s just plain nice.

Just when you thought you had it… Winning The 50K Golden Sound.

What are the things normal people obsess over?

How to stay young-looking, how to keep in shape, how to lose weight, and even how to keep in touch with the times so you don’t miss out.

But what did Liz obsess over?

The Virgin Radio 104.4’s 50K Golden Sound contest. Then again I never said she was normal.

Picture this. It’s 6 a.m., what would you be doing?  Probably having breakfast or going on a morning jog but Liz?  Nope!

Last May 25th, she sat in front of that radio listening intently to every word…watching it like it’s a house pet that’s gonna try and run away.  I don’t even remember when all this started, I just realized one day that she’d been having me listen to an audio clip almost every day for almost one week and asking me what I thought it sounded like. It wasn’t anything too drastic until one day she dropped the bomb on me.

The 50K Dirham bomb!

It was a radio show, a radio show of all things! And yet that prize was so, so tempting. So, of course, I fully supported her in her little endeavor or quest or whatever it was but honestly by the end of it I think I might have been just as pissed as she was.

It started May 14th at 10,000 Dirhams, and for every time the golden sound was played with a wrong guess a thousand Dirham was added.

LOUISE AND RAIN 1

May 24th, when Liz realized she knows the sound but she couldn’t wait until the next day when the winning answer gets to bring home the 50K cheque  (50,000 Dirhams=13,612 USD), so she sent a message to the host of the show.

LOUISE AND RAIN 7

She din’t sleep well that night.

Morning of May 25th she sent a message to our group chat (to different parts of the world of different time zones)—

LOUISE AND RAIN 8

The fact was there were too many calls- the whole UAE must have been calling that time.

Note that I did not even try to keep up with this craziness till later… And soon another batch of people’s wrong answers started pouring in and boy did I start to question my sense of hearing. But Liz seemed to still have faith, she said “I got this!” and that having the list of wrong answers was actually a good thing.

She insisted.. she sent a message to Virgin Radio via the messenger app…. https://appsto.re/ae/MHYX5.i

LOUISE AND RAIN 6.PNG

Going back  to May 20th  when I scheduled an appointment with an ENT doctor, I remembered she just kept on guessing and grew more and more frustrated.  Like “pull my hair out and save money on a haircut the hard way frustrated” which, in turn, made me frustrated.

Remember back when 4 pics 1 word was huge and your friends would both entertain and torture you by asking for help on a puzzle they couldn’t do? Only for you to end up stumped as well and then you’d spend every waking moment of the next few days wondering just what the hell did those four pictures have in common.

It turned into that for me.

She’d have me listen to the audio again and if I couldn’t pin down exactly what that sound was it gave me an incredibly irritating itch worse than those sweaters your grandma knits for you every Christmas.

I went bonkers! I thought about it in the shower, at work, in the car, on the toilet!

Basically, I got pulled under.

Then finally the clues came.

LOUISE AND RAIN 9.JPEG

Immediately right after the first clue we both realized just how wrong we were with each guess. The result was just plain depressing; I imagined Liz with her collection of pillows on the couch as she melted into a mass of human goo and just blankly stared at the wall.  As for me, it would have been funny if I hadn’t realized I was exhausted by the end of it.

In case you are wondering how the sound was like, here’s a link https://www.audioblocks.com/stock-audio/banana-peeling-sounds.html

And of course there was Jake..  the lucky and unassuming Jake. Congratulations!

 

Why I Didn’t Get Flowers On Valentine’s

DMG 1 www.louiseandrain.com

DMG 2 www.louisenadrain.com

DMG 4 www.louiseandrain.com

DMG 5 www.louiseandrain.com

DMG 6 www.louiseandrain.com

DMG 7 www.louiseandrain.com

February 14th is that time of the year where your man buys a dozen of red roses for about AED 200.00 or more, depending where he gets it from.

But I say bring her to Dubai Miracle Garden on Valentine’s day and you both will get to share the “flowery” experience together for less the price.

Click here for more info  http://www.dubaimiraclegarden.com/visitors-guide/timing-rates/

Photo Shooting A Friend’s Wedding… Fingers Crossed

A while back a friend of mine got married, both of them being old and good friends so you could only imagine how excited and euphoric I was for them.

Especially since I was photographer for their pre-wedding.

Whether I was asked or volunteered or volunteered myself for the role; I don’t exactly remember, but either way I enjoyed every second of it. Given, I’d never done it before and it would be my first foray into photography for other people and one of, if not the most, important event in their lives (no pressure there) but really, it’s fun to try new things.

And I did have fun. It was all so beautiful and wonderful. The place we chose was a very quiet park in Green Community DIP, a place teeming with life and colorful flora, so there was practically no need to decorate. Bright and cheery was the theme, things that reflected the nature of my two dear friends and their relationship but also quaint and simple because truly it doesn’t take extravagance and material possessions to nurture a good relationship.

I wasn’t nervous if I remember it right (on wasting their time and mine and of course the “moment”) , because these two were my friends, people I care about and hold close to my heart.  It was a labor of love.

Prenup Photo Shoot www.louiseandrain.comReception Photo Shoot www.louiseandrain.com