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Fiction: ‘Drink Plenty of Water’ | Leigh Cuen



Ori was a painter whose work was always pensive and occasionally brilliant. He’d recently graduated from art school in Jerusalem. Remnants of his teenage depression and eternal sensitivity were still scribbled across his bedroom walls in black-sharpie poems about love and death. When Ori leaned over to kiss me, I moved away and read his letters.

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[This personal essay is the next chapter of a micro-memoir published by the International Museum of Women. Photo of syrup and kanafeh by Idit Keren]

We left Nablus’ ancient bathhouse. On the way to eat kanafeh, we somehow ended up at a Palestinian professor’s house. He was hosting a small gathering of international volunteers and a few men from Nablus, including teachers from the nearby school. The house sat perched high in the hills. The backyard balcony offered a sweeping view of the city below. The home itself was built with smooth stones and stretches of white marble with gray swirls. From the balcony, we gazed out at hills speckled with olive trees. The sunset draped the world in a blood orange glow.

I don’t know how the joke started, because I wasn’t paying attention to the group. I was busy nagging the school teacher with jowls and an untamed moustache. The one who brought us here.

“Let’s go, you said we were going to get kanafeh in the shuk,” I whined. He had promised we would just stop by this house for a minute to “say hi.” My host, a school teacher I met that same afternoon, told me the taxi would take us to kanafeh in the Nablus city center. I bit my lip when it drove us somewhere on the distant outskirts of the city instead. I had no idea where we were now. We entered a huge white home without any real furniture or shelves in the living room. Inside it felt like a skeleton without organs.


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