16. The Fire Within

Speaking of mothers, I just want to add that Fred loves his mother too.  He is very appreciative of the fact that she bore him for nine months and raised him from infancy.  For this fact alone, she garners all his respect and devotion until the day he dies.  He has always wanted to have a close relationship with his mother, and often looks with envy when he sees grown men have a good relationship with their mothers.  But the fact is, the war in Lebanon did more than change the political landscape of the country — it changed its people in very profound ways.

I also won’t go into the details of my mother-in-law’s transgressions, but suffice it to say, Fred often preferred the violent uncertainty of the streets of Beirut to the certainty of violence in his home.  Because his father was away covering the news, he was often left to deal with his mother on his own and because he knew that if she took the brunt of her stress, his little brother and sisters would be safe, he endured in silence.  The strong, silent type of man always has a history that has made them that way.

As he grew older, a fire grew within him.  That fire fueled his confidence, determination, and persistence.  That fire helped get him to France, and then to Montreal, and then to New York.  And by the time he arrived in New York, his fire had died down, but the embers that remained were hotter than hot.  They just needed a little fanning to get the flames going again.  I was wind that breathed him back to life, and his fire melted my frozen heart and warmed my soul.

You see, Fred was drifting when I found him.  He had dreams once, but those dreams seemed lost to him and he resigned himself to failure.  He felt that the less he tried the less he would be disappointed.  The more he played the part of the uneducated laborer, the more people would be surprised by his intelligence, and thus appreciate him all the more.  He played a part that was expected of him, but the more he played it, the more he believed it, and his fire died down more and more.

I was on a different path.  Yes, I had a bright future ahead of me, and yes, I knew somehow many things were expected of me… but I felt empty, cold.  I somehow convinced myself I had no feelings and that love was a creation of fanciful writers who knew how to sell their stories — a marketing ploy to fool the masses.  I was timid and shy, but desperate to prove I wasn’t.  Fred noticed the coldness, but never felt it.  He would often ask why I was so rude to people: always looking away from them, not saying hi, and burying myself in a book.  He thought it might be snobbiness.  I would reply my standard reply to many of his questions, “I don’t know.”  And through his observations he found that it was because I was shy, or as he put it, “You have no personality.”

You have to forgive his English sometimes.  He doesn’t hear the nuances of his statements sometimes.  What he means by “no personality” is not that I am dull or socially inept, but rather that I don’t have a strong will.  That I don’t stand up for who I am or what I want.  And I have to say I agree.  It’s a problem I still struggle with today, but thanks to him I am much better.  You see what makes Fred and me work, what drew us to each other, was that the weaknesses we have within are made strong by the strengths of the other.  We are much better together than we ever could be apart.  He is fire and I am wind.  I breath life to his flames while his heat allows me to rise.

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