This is my happy place.
Darting up the ancient, stoney stairs up away from the road, I approach Nasser House. Down in the city we jostle in and out of traffic and ignore the catcalls, shake off the stares. Up here, tucked behind the behemoth of a Nabulsi mansion that belongs to the landlord, things are quiet and they are decidedly different. We all love this city, we love the crazy roads, the bustle of the souk. We love these people who have taken us in and allowed us to call their land home, despite their home shrinking every day.
Still, when I pass through the gates of the Nasser house I feel a shift somewhere deep. It’s safe to shed my cardigan. My bare shoulders greet the midday sun which filters down through the leaves. These trees give me the privacy I require for this act of rebellion. In the few short weeks since we arrived we have eaten, smoked, made fires and taken refuge on this patio. We burned sappy sticks on the plastic table and accidentally created a fireball, leaving our place of communion in waxy ruin. We cleaned it, carefully, lovingly. It was like a christening, now this table is ours, all of ours. We’ve started to carve into the soft plastic. A tree, a feather, a Palestinian flag.
This house is ancient. The elderly woman who lived here passed away, she was the mother of a friend and so the house feels different than the rented flat that most of us live in. The other flat is cold and always empty despite 8 residents. We’d rather be here. Nasser house is vibrating with life, uncontrollable and unownable. It’s history is bigger than all of us put together.
There’s a mobile on the patio now. Alex, a goofy bespectacled Wisconsinite, who seems to have lived countless lives in his 24 years, made it of sticks and found red pantyhose. Spencer, a quiet, funny ginger from New York put up his prayer flags. There are scraps of paper taped up on the walls inside, a great college of found writing, sketches and memorabilia. Every time I come over, the collection has grown.
Today it finally feels like fall, I woke up from a cat nap on the patio to return my cardigan to my shoulders, and all around my little glass of tea there were yellow and brown leaves. It could not have been mistaken for the autumn I learned to adore in the United States but maybe it was better.