Author Farimah Fiddy
I went home at 1 am and I saw my husband drinking a whiskey with a stranger in our living room.
I had gone out after work with colleagues. Very tired, I had finally returned home, eager to sleep with my husband, who, I was sure, was already deeply asleep.
Instead, I came in and I find him sitting with a man who looked a bit like Andre Agassi when he had his head shaved and a goatee.
What a strange situation. Why was there a stranger in my house at 1 am when I desperately wanted to go to bed? Out of respect for my husband and his new friend, I should stay awake and exchange jokes, which I was in no mood to do.
They both looked at me in awkward silence, Agassi holding his glass of whiskey a few inches from his mouth.
‘Good evening,’ I said, hesitating, waiting for a presentation or an explanation.
They did not say anything. They just smiled like two idiots. I had the impression of having interrupted some kind of secret meeting.
‘So ? What is going on ? I asked, politely.
My husband, always smiling, said: ‘I made a new friend in the pub. It’s André Agassi! ‘
Very funny. I was now annoyed. It was late and I had to get up the next day to go to work. This was not the time for childish shenanigans.
They continued with their idiotic and evasive comedy even a little longer. Frustrated, I announced that I was going to bed.
Agassi stood up and sat next to me on the couch. He looked at me intensely. It made me nervous. I really wanted to hit him.
He put his hand in his back pocket, took out his wallet and looked for something. He took out a picture. ‘I’m not André Agassi, but you know me.’
‘The last time you saw me, I looked like that.’ He showed me a small black and white photo of my cousin Ali, at the age of five. I had neither seen nor spoken to him since my childhood.
At age 12, I left all my family behind to escape the revolution in my country. My mother, four grandparents, four aunts, three uncles and five cousins. We were a very united family. Always together.
My parents were divorced, my father had our custody and he had decided to take my brother and I to the United States for our own safety. It was the right decision, but it meant saying goodbye to everyone.
It was difficult. I was homesick for a long time and they missed me terribly. They sometimes came to me in my dreams, where we were happily gathered. I would wake up from those dreams in such a state. Happy, but in tears. Perdue.
However, little by little, the gap between me and my old life widened and calmed down. Letters and phone calls stopped. Finally, as I plunged into my new life on another continent, they all became a distant memory, locked in this box of loving moments in the attic of my mind. They were characters from another life. A life that no longer existed.
For about twenty years, I did not have a family. I never talked to them or talked about them. It was easier.
Ali was the baby of our family at the time. An adorable little angel. One day we took a picture of him. He looked so cute on it, his expression was so serious, like a person facing the Spanish Inquisition! This photo has become one of the favorite photos in our family. Everyone had a copy to put on their fridge, in their wallet or in their photo album. I had one too, which I took away when I left my country twenty years ago.
And now, here is this adult man, sitting on my couch, holding this same photo ID before my eyes. He knew I would recognize it immediately.
I did not say a word. Not one.
Instead, I buried my face in my hands and just sobbed. I cried and cried. I felt like my heart could explode. Honestly, I can say that after the birth of my son, it was the most moving moment of my life.
Ali and this little picture he held represented my old life, my whole family, my story! And here he is sitting a few inches from me.
Apparently, my husband had come home from work that afternoon to find a weird man with a backpack sitting on our doorstep. Ali had received my address from another family member and had decided to come to the UK, where I live now, and pay me a surprise visit. It was before the days of cell phones, my husband could not contact me to tell me to go home quickly.
All they could do was wait for my return. So they went to the pub, drank a lot of whiskey and imagined their joke on Agassi.
When I finally stopped crying, we kissed and kissed again, talked and revived our memories the rest of the morning.
Suddenly, a bridge connected me to them again. They were all real, no longer a fairy tale or a vague memory.
Since then, I have found several other members of my family, including my mother. But no other reunion moved me as much as the one with Ali, because he was the first. He opened the breach.
Add: Some people have insisted that I include his photo ID, which I can do with Ali’s kind permission.