I will returnBy: Varak Babian | Posted on: 09.11.2012
As I put pen to paper, I close my eyes. I am hoping to envision a feeling, a moment. I am revved up by melancholy and the warmth of emotion as I long to conjure a short story. A brief snapshot of my consciousness- coloured in an array of shades, wafting with vibrant scents, the intangible heat of summer months and fragments of haunting conversation. With feet planted firmly in the New World, I am in Shushi… With my heart in the Old World, I am in Artsakh…
I can say that I have been here before. Before luck allowed for it to come about in the physical sense, I crossed the continents in dream like reverie and made bonds and connections without even being mindful of them. Second hand stories are told about many in my generation, hoisted up on paternal shoulders chanting “Karabakhuh mern eh” as we were used almost as accessories in community activism with the placards that dwarfed us in hand. I look back now with the exhales of satisfaction, and shudder at the fear of it all being taken away- a ghoul that haunts me in effervescent nightmares.
I have read much of the ink that has been spilled about the geopolitical state that our blessed homeland is in and I do not even attempt to parallel such well-constructed words and conceptions. I am just thankful for the chance to indulge in a plunge back, a few short months ago, and attempt to articulate some of the emotions, sensations and sentiments that I was fortunate to experience.
I stare at the table. It’s been an arena for nutrients and dialogue for the last 3 days. Maral greets me with a comforting gaze. Tiredness is etched on her face, yet the role of the doting mother is still acted out- almost robotically. She hands me a coffee, accompanied with a familiar, rose tinted smile. As I write this, I remember the smile and can invoke it in my mind’s eye. We were introduced during my first breakfast in their home, where she had offered me tea, and I had happily obliged. Moments later, she brought me a coffee treating me to that layered smile. Her eyes must have caught my not so subtle, wistful glance at the coffee being imbibed by another guest. She seemed all knowing in that moment. That was my first breakfast, and now I am enjoying my last. I stand proud on the 3rd floor balcony, peeking over the bannister with morning shaped hair. I place myself in the everyday of this home, and imagine it for a moment as mine. I attempt to observe the city like it was a daily ritual, just another casual Thursday morning. I replay the conversations from the night before. The homeowners are potential sellers: 40 k was the asking price. Their health needs consistent upkeep, their children have settled in Moscow. They’re thinking about joining them, to be close to their grandchildren.
I finally meet Smpad. Our separate windows of time had never been unshuttered at once. I had brought a bottle of vodka and flowers as a welcoming gift. He grips the bottle of vodka as he enters the common space. His grey pierced face seasoned with long winters and blustery times. He approaches me with an undershirt and that automatically reminds me of my father. I wish he was here with me. His weathered shoulders exposed, inked chest on display. After affable hellos, we sit across from each other and the dialogue is effortless. I speak about my time spent in Artsakh, how I feel at home here. I tell him about being able to see the front lines, how real everything was. How the threat of violence was almost tangible. He stresses the importance of unity, how Karabakh will always be ours. The statement triggers the nostalgia of my own “Karabakhuh mern eh” chants, held up high on proud shoulders…
We continue to discuss passions and find our shared love of literature. He explains how he always wanted to be a writer. He felt like his own writing would never live up to the sincerity of literature he’s used to expecting. After enjoying our coffee, we move on to a different liquid. Somewhere between a personal biography and Artsakh’s geopolitical stance, the vodka has started flowing, and now the final drinks had been poured and the bottle lead to its demise. We toast future generations, present Armenia, a love for Artrskah’s soil and the need for a place like Shushi. We conclude one of the very few, very true breakfast of champions and Smpad makes me pledge a promise. To promise never to forget him, to return one day, to pick up right where we left off… and to lay my emotions out on the written page.
I don’t think the first request is even possible, and the truth is- I often float back, under the cover of nightfall on the wing of visions and dreams. I can only hope to keep my third promise and come face to face once more to pick up, right where we had left off. And you have all indulged me, as I have clumsily tried to put on paper a series of feelings, thoughts and impressions.
Artsakh I love you, I miss you…I will return.