After his January exams Ramis going to drop out of collage, work from 9am till midnight 6 days a week and save money so he can try and move to France and study art in Paris.
Rami earns 50 SY an hour – 68p.
‘But Rami, you’ll be even tireder than you are now. And you won’t be able to chill out, or paint, or anything.’
‘that, is the life.’
I’d brought some beers and munch over and chilling out was framing the lesson, which was a particularly good one. France isn’t really where Rami wants to go, he’d prefer Italy, but as France has relatively good ties with its ex colonies and is deepening its relationship with Syria Rami says it’ll be easier to get a visa. I dunno if he knows this, or just thinks it.
I tried to warn him that Europe hasn’t got the answers, and although it’ll be easier for him to fall in love with someone who loves him to nothing else will be easier and might be harder. Rami looked at me like I was totally failing to comprehend life in Syria, and I looked back at him in the same way, a gulf of experience and expectation separating us despite Ramis English.
Personally I think Rami wants to move to Europe for the girls. not for the sex, but for the opportunity to fall in love with someone who loves him to. I think he wants to be able to wander around hand in hand talking about everything and nothing without having to think about whos watching him (Syria is allways watching) and what they’ll say, without the girl hes with thinking about how they should be behaving. Rami, being Syrian, can’t dip in and out of Syrian culture like I can. Its not optional for him.
Rami would be great at living in France, or in the France of peoples imaginings. He smokes moodily and does that Gallic thing of shrugging his shoulders while making a comment that would sound banal with an English accent, but as it seems profound. I can imagine him on the banks of the Sien, betraying his francophone sophistication by putting Arab quantity’s of sugar in his coffee. he’d be really good at being incomprehensible and intense, someone for girls who want him to give something away to have ill advised affairs with.
But even if that Paris still exists, if it ever did, its a Paris of student loans and daddy’s money. Ramis Paris would be working long hours in a restaurant (hes a sous chief in a French restaurant hear) or sweeping the streets with the Algerians in between classes, living miles out on the metro that costs an hour and a half’s work on Ramis Syrian wages to ride.
I find myself switching from trying to explain that European life is hard and that its incredibly expensive to enthusing about Paris’ art gallery’s and telling Rami he should visit me in the UK so I can take him to the Hunters.
Sophias was going out with a French artist – she knows just how much work being an artist is and how few people get lucky. Rami comes from a culture where representational art was banned for 13 centuries and the French are very ‘exsactamant. I do not know the word in English,’ as Sophia puts it. We both know how much of the wealth, freedom and time Rami envies we have because although we are of Europe we are not in Europe. Although our hearts are breaking over the unfairness of the world were trying to talk Rami out of this plan. For all his western ways, his innate goodness and his coolness Rami earns 15 Syrian pounds less than a Euro an hour.
I’ve just lernt an important new life skill my friends. If in Syria you want to sample some Lebanese wine (Sophia, who is ‘tress exactamont’ about wine says its almost as good as the french stuff) but you do not have a corkscrew you dont push the cork into the bottle with a lighter, alla UK. Oh no. you get a pillow, hold it to the wall, then bang the bottom of the bottle against it. The cork flys out! Amazing, and prahaps an explanation for why the lighters are all the wrong shape for the bottle pushing thing.
Sophia and I went round with some wine, Rami got Sophia to translate his extensive collection of french music, I read everyone TS Elliot poems, Rami (who it turns out, spells his name Ramy. i’m trying to do so as well, but failing) coped us some Fayrouz and the three of us danced allot. Oh yeah.