BY ALEX SARDAR
When I sat down to write you this letter, I was not certain that I would meet you in this lifetime. You see, you’re not born yet, and perhaps you won’t be born to me, but you will come to this world, and I’m hopeful that one day you and I will meet. In the event that our lives should not intersect, however, I’m equally sure that you will read this letter. These are words that were given to me by my parents who I never met, and my grandparents who were gone long before I arrived. My birth wasn’t certain either, but it did happen and these words were given to me on paper and in the flutters of swallows, in whistles of flying bullets, and they reverberated in the bass of exploding bombs, and they even echoed in inaugural speeches of presidents. Yes, these words were given to me, and I, too, shall pass them to you, but I will change a few phrases and erase a few words, and the ending…well, the ending I have not yet seen, nor have I thought about it, but I have resolved to allow you to write the ending. This chance was not afforded to me and I’m sometimes grateful for that, but today, as I watch a flame burn from here to beyond eternity in the midst of a fortress of flowers, of one truth I am certain; the ending to this story is only its beginning, unlike what my grandparents, who I never heard, left in their inheritance.
You’re the daughter of a tribe that has met death and invited it to supper. And with every piece of bread offered, there have been more lashes of the whip—each leaving a mark as painful as the hills and the rivers that only history creates to drown the innocent, and to give rise to the soiled. This is the truth that was whispered to me at weddings, birthdays, and in pews of worship, where each word conflicted with every other sense, and every sense celebrated each word. You see, each word I write, I have not created for you, because this 95-year old ritual of each sound chained to the next during spring twilight is one that no one wanted to begin. In fact, before this requiem of the ages befell your family, they—your grandparents and great-grandparent—had known the ending of the story, or perhaps one version of the ending. When their bare feet hit the grains of the sand dunes that would give them temporary refuge from the solace of being on the move, until they shed the rubber skin that took them too far and gave them too little comfort, they already knew that the ending of this story may not be anywhere but the words and sounds that create the arbitrary laws of man, conflicting with the primordial ethos of all that’s holy, but that is the story with the ending that was created and told again and again, night after day in a cradle of mud and excrements, that would for long be the only home that the children of your family would go to sleep in and the breakfast that would nourish them for yet more heartache.
And although the ending was meant to be for the ages, the story meant to be written by others, alas against all that was right in those arbitrary laws, your grandparents dared to pass on a piece of the parchment that would be a new page, one more try, in the legend that is, much like that extra layer of skin that took them another stretch under the spotlight of the heavens. And much to their surprise, the ending that was unwritten began looking unlike anything they had ever dreamed of.
When I was a child and the words of my grandparents scolded me into picking up a brick of history and one of guilt, and build a refuge of fear, I would look to my friends whose parents used the words of a King who dreamed of his own hill, and I read the cries of an outcast comforting his disciples like Milk does an aching heart. And now that I can write this letter to you, I have resolved to do it in no whispers.
I recount to you this tribe’s story under domes of democracy and I yell it out; I walk down the streets of a city far away from here, and ask complete strangers to listen, because after this letter it is your turn to put pen to paper in a foreign tongue and tell the story of your tribe in your mother tongue. You are to write the ending of this tale that wasn’t written by others and that ending is to serve as the beginning for your children, repeating it over and over again, until there is no more memory in this world to be able to forget; until there is no tribe in the pages of history to speak of.
And so, the story didn’t end, and this story has more to give. And for 19 years your tribe has been waiting for a new story teller to begin uttering the first words to the ending of this saga, and none has emerged. You see, we’re impatient about the ending of this story because the moment you receive these words from your father who will be unknown to you, you are to move from the enchanting pentameter of loss and grief to the consequential lore of hope and creation; and since the ending to the story is not beginning to take shape yet, so many in your family are traversing roads and neighborhoods of lost worlds, and familiar turfs, searching for your birth. We’re beyond doubt that you will be born, and so today, this letter is the declaration your burden of hope.
Take these words and know they were written by those who you’ve never met, because they weren’t allowed to speak to you. But, take them and know that you carry their lost names and their bare hopes. Take them knowing that you bear the responsibility of creation; this time, the first sentence of this narrative will not begin with yearning for those who you never met, but will set off with their dreams of arrival; and the dreams of those who stand by you, and the dreams of those who are yet to join you.
As I conclude this letter, I wish nothing more—we wish nothing more—than for you to pick up a brick of hope, and one of dream, and build the new window, a sprawling gate to a 3000-year old fortress of courage. You’re nothing like your parents and grandparents, who were not unlike wooden windows imprisoned in an eternal brick wall, looking out to their hopes cemented in the blue skies of others. They knew they might not reach their destination, even if their collective brick prison came crumbling down.
So, do so in their stead. Go ahead, it’s time.
There is no other choice.