Omar. He spoke English, French, German Arabic and Russian well, and a few others passably. Born in Jordan of ‘ethnic Russian’ parents, he was my ‘exotic flame’.
Omar’s passion at the time was writing plays, and he supported himself as a tailor. He was even brilliant at that – he made clothing like sculpture. My friend Judy wanted a white, “Grecian”-style dress. After a few quick sketches, he began to cut and sew, occasionally trying it on her as it evolved. Sure enough, it became that elegant classic robe-like dress we see in iconic pictures of women holding jugs on their shoulders.
He made me an outfit – pants and vest – from some internal vision, created like the finest of men’s wear. That was important at the time to a feminist like me, pushing for the right to wear pants at work. I had a romanticized view of myself as a kind of Marlene Dietrich: masculine and feminine at the same time.
He knew a lot about history and its lessons, which fueled many of our passionate conversations. He was very familiar with writers from Shakespeare to Thoreau to Henry Miller, to Beckett – ‘Waiting for Godot’ being one of his favourite plays. He was well-educated in many languages, including the languages of love.
I often say that I received some of my best education by picking other peoples’ brains – and his was one of the best. We worked on a play together, we cooked together, we laughed together. And fought together. A lot.
Omar’s fatal flaw was other women, especially plump ones. He found them irresistible. As long as we were together, he was fine. But let him spot an attractive woman in a café and there was a good chance he’d soon be in a rendezvous with her.
I was not into sharing him, especially when he picked up gonorrhea during one such date. In the end, despite his many attractions, it was too wildly unpredictable for me. We were able to remain friends, and a few years later actually shared an apartment for awhile: separate bedrooms of course.
I was enriched by having Omar in my life in several ways: I became more flexible; I learned a lot about history, the world (especially the Middle East), and cooking. But above all, he proved my belief in the tremendously greater potential of the human mind than we give it credit for in this culture.
I’ve always thought he probably died of Aids in Montreal, though you never know. If I were to bump into him today, I would hug him with great affection and appreciation.
~ Here’s to Omar ~