Raja is the friend that is the last to leave the party. The one who convinces you to stay out till sunrise with her. You feel so special, and so needed that you end up staying and it makes of memorable stories you continue laughing about and reminiscing about for years to come.
Raja is also the friend who never gave up on Lebanon. While everyone of her friends immigrated, cursed their country, returned reluctantly, she stayed. When the job opportunities rained down on her from abroad, she proudly said no, I am not leaving my gemmayze, I am not leaving my city.
Raja is the friend whose home is always open for anyone and everyone. We call it Beit el Katéib. When you go there, you know there will be laughs, there will drinking, sometimes tea sometimes vodka. There will be french obscure documentaries playing in the background, there will be silence, there will be love.
Raja is the friend that will support you. Till the end. Once you are in her inner circle, she got your back. She is protective over you. She includes you in everything, will even invite you to her honeymoon.
I know many are jealous I get to call Raja my best friend. Raja found me, or we found each other, at age 13 and 14 respectively. We found in each other an ease. lots of laughter. Always a lot of laughter. Raja picked me up from my melancholic depressive places more times than I can even remember. And I hope I brought some joy into her life, and care.
I called her the day of the explosion in Lebanon. She called me back the next day. She told me:
“My home is destroyed. We had to carry my mother in law from hospital to hospital. But things are okay. And now I help others.”
She also cracked a joke. Because Raja carries in her the Lebanese spirit, we all aspire to preserve from the destruction of tragedies, and the distance of living abroad. The spirit of generosity, of laughter, of community, of loyalty and of kindness.
Today I wish my Leo friend, a special birthday. I am so glad you are alive (literally).