Hani Omar Khalil

Between the second and third acts of La Rondine, after Magda seduced Ruggero in the bar at Bellier’s, but before leaving him in a plaintive exchange of Please don’t go’s and I don’t want to hurt you’s, before you pitched me a scenario where the Sputnik chandeliers high above us disconnected from their hydraulic lifts and crashed violently onto the audience below, before racing together from the Met in subzero weather to ring in the New Year at the Oak Room, before restraining me from every unprotected crossing along the way, no matter how empty, before saying, over venison and gnocchi, “if it’s 11:00pm, then my brother is doing lines already,” to which I had no response, before kissing me at the stroke of midnight, no different than usual, before catching the fireworks in Central Park from across 59th Street, with champagne (for me) and seltzer (for you), before spending what turned out to be our last night together, before declaring us over barely even to Epiphany, before all that which is no longer useful, you tried telling me something, over the cacophony of donors and dowagers amassed at intermission beneath the concrete and terrazzo double stairs, you tried telling me something, in your way, and maybe I tried telling you something too, in my way, but because our ways were very different, yours’ casual, confident, and unsmiling, mine risk-averse, sensible, and ill-fitting like the suit I’d worn, it became lost in translation, lost in anticipation of a third act which, unknown to me, was already well underway, lost in the succession of names dropped always so breathlessly, the circles you moved in, the places where you gravitated, but where I could only float, all your way of saying I need to be honest . . . , and because I remained dumbstruck by the impossibility of you, because I was raised to be good and not brave, I bent instead towards harmony, reconciled to the tonic, hoped out loud that I wasn’t complicating anything for you, my way of saying Not yet, please not yet . . . , but you insisted there was nothing, offered me another fig from your pocket, which I always declined, pointed out to me who in the room was a patron and who a spectator, who peerage and who merely arriviste, and with this disjointed ritual, with the glinting absence of any us in your eyes, we continued on to our finale, headstrong into the future: Ruggero, all swept up and about to be destroyed, and Magda, longing for migration to the sun, arms outstretched into darkness, ready to fly back to her gilded turmoil.

Hani Omar Khalil is a lawyer, writer, and photographer based in Brooklyn. He has written extensively for CultureBot on creative works of the post-Arab Spring Middle East.