Strange how a tiny sound can bring back a whole moment, a whole person to mind, isn’t it?

I don’t know why I am listening to Tori Amos right now—yes, I’ll admit I am, but clarify that I’m not at all depressed. Perhaps it was my lengthy writing about apostasy in the previous post, but something put me in the mood. The album is Under The Pink and the moment and person who came to mind was an old classmate and friend, Chiraz.

She was a Tunisian exchange student I once, long ago, had a crush on, but of course I never told her. At first it was because I thought she was obviously just not interested in me, but after a talk with a mutual friend I came to understand that she was simply not in the right place, in her mind, for a relationship with anyone at all. She was just profoundly unhappy, profoundly uncomfortable, probably going through some culture shock—first at being in Canada, second at being in an English program which she’d expected to involve studying the language, and literature, and history, like in Tunisia, instead of studying Spivak and Derrida and whatever other craziness was foisted upon her, the poor woman, and third being in grad school, which was even a culture shock for me—and she basically lived in the library, and snarled at least ten times a day, which of course was very endearing to all of us who could see the other Chiraz in there, fighting through all that and occasionally showing through with surprising sweetness and humour. Once I really understood that she wasn’t really up for anything with anyone, once I accepted that, I was able to let my feelings go, and just be friends, which was for the best in the end, and good in itself.

We’ve lost touch—she’s dreadful at emailing, or at emailing me, at least, and complained that my emails on first coming to Korea were too long for her to read, which perhaps they were. Still, I remember her a sweet friend who kept a bottle of rum in her fridge in case Jessie or I visited, even though she herself didn’t drink at all.

But anyway, she had this saying she used to say, “Oh-oh!” She knew me in my second and third year in grad school, in Montreal, and this was when I was coming out of my shell a little more, becoming increasingly willing to really tell off someone who said something outright senseless or stupid, even sometimes in-class. Jessie and Chiraz and I would sometimes have bitch sessions about the stupid things people said in class, and whenever I reported some in-class comment to which I would have obviously replied nastily, Chiraz used to say, “Oh-oh!” with this kind of terrified glee, the joy of hearing something an idiot said before being smacked down.

Well, at the very, very end of the song “God”, Tori Amos sings this little “Oh, ohhh!”, the second “oh!” a minor third lower than the preceding one, and it’s exactly the interval that Chiraz used to use when she said her gleeful, anticipatory, so-what-did-you-say-then “oh-ohs”, and all those conversations in dark rooms, with Jessie’s African music or my jazz or Chiraz’s feminist world music anthologies playing in the background.

The other big haven for me was at Jack’s flat, glasses of whiskey in hand, but that’s another story, another flashback to be had some other time.

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