Years have passed since I met Nassima. I feel happy in my expatriate life that allows me to feed my devouring passion of travel and discovery. My new social environment fulfills me; I meet people from all over the world, we become friends and build strong and unique relationships that still exist today. From business trips to Sydney, Shanghai, Seoul to weekends in Bali, on a white sand beach in Thailand or parties in Hong Kong, I go through these years with pleasure and a certain airiness. I don’t often return to France, once a year at most. Every time I transit by Paris, I go to see Nassima.
We are both aware that we are bounded by something powerful that sometimes surpasses us a little. The day of our meeting is engraved in us as a unique and intense moment in our lives. We also have our differences which often result in a form of clumsiness or confusion on both sides. For my part, I am not in a position to make up for lost time or to try to build a family bond. I know and I feel that’s what she would like. There are words and attitudes that do not deceive. Many times I felt that she needed to treat me like a son, emotionally. After all, she is a mother -Mediterranean, moreover-. As touching as it may be, I’ve always carefully dodged it. I already have a mom. From my point of view, it is important that I give Nassima a big place in my life, but it’s still not enough compared to what she would like me to give her. Our common history is unusual so I can only refer to my instinct, my feelings and my own sentiments. It may sound harsh or cold, but I can’t offer what I don’t have in me. Nassima is the woman who gave me life, and for that I would have an immense tenderness for her until my last breath. A mother and a mom can be two totally different women, I am the living proof of it.
Nassima is unique in her own way, I told her many times. But her motherly instinct prevails sometimes and I know that the distance I put between us hurts her. I call her very rarely. Yet I think of her every day.
My parents would like to meet her. They often told me so. Nassima too would like this meeting to happen. I can’t imagine it for one second. This would be the encounter of two worlds that have something in common at first glance, but that can’t understand each other. My parents are in the happiness of having me and the gratitude vis-à-vis Nassima. She is in pain and feels guilty for abandoning me. There is a river between them. I am not the one who dug the stream bed and I don’t want to build a bridge between these two shores. The water will continue to flow abundantly, and only me can sail from a bank to another. What could they say to each other anyway? Nassima has always refused to see pictures of me as a child. Too hard for her. So how could she hear my parents tell her about the kid I was?
To find Nassima was a personal and individual crusade. Selfish, even. Thomas meeting Elyes. I had the answers I wanted about my origin and the story that explained why I came to the world. But what is the meaning of all this? Does knowing my origins at last helped me to know who I really am?
To know where I come from and to know who I am formed in my mind the same whole, until I met Nassima. One depended on the other, to elucidate one would enlighten the other. But it didn’t happen. Even if I was happy in my new life these questions of identity didn’t leave me. The obsession born while I was a teenager in front of the mirror came back slowly … It took me back into feelings I already had years back. I was still stuck in this, despite my meeting with Nassima. Which one was I really, Thomas or Elyes? Or was it the same person?
I aspired to happiness in my life, which offered me everything a man like me could dream of. Yet I had to fight internally to suppress these identity issues that emerged in a nagging way. It was my melancholy. Thomas wanted to move on and Elyes wanted to exist even more. These two parts of me had not yet learned to live together.
I had to act to escape these issues and finally get rid of them forever. Should I go further in the research? After all, I still had Algeria and Mohammed to discover and encounter. I wasn’t at the end of the road yet.
For Thomas and Elyes to be one, did I have to meet this country and this man?