You Don’t Notice Until It’s Gone

A few weeks ago I traveled to Sharjah, a nearby emirate, for a quick overnight business trip. I arrived in the wee hours of the normal after a frantic day working in Qatar that ended only shortly before my one a.m. departure. I arrived, got into bed, and tried to sleep for the three hours I had before it was time to get up and get dressed. A shower made everything better but then bad news: the blue leather make up bag always at the bottom of my purse, at the ready for a powder touch up or lip liner redo was missing. I had switched bags before leaving for the airport and not even noticed that old blue didn’t make the transfer. This was a mounting crisis because earlier that night, upstairs, I deliberately bypassed the travel make up for the touch up set in old blue. An overnight, I reasoned, meant traveling light – something anyone who has seen me to the airport will tell you I have perfected.

No makeup was a crisis at eight a.m. because I was in the GCC. If I had been at the Frankfurt Book Fair, no problem. Bookworms in the west are supposed to be a little counter beauty culture and a fresh clean face with good credentials would have been acceptable. I wasn’t in Germany, however, but in the middle of the Arab world where women are expected to look, dress, and smell like the feminine people they are. I pulled myself together as best I could and went down to the hotel lobby. Luckily the gift store my travel blurry vision had taken in the night before was open; and they had makeup. Cheap, flaky, overpriced foundation that barely approached my skin tone and waxy lip pencil but it was better than nothing. I grudgingly paid too much for mascara, eye and lip liner, and lipstick; the foundation fell out of the compact and onto the mirror when I first opened it. Take it back only to find that it was the only one that was anywhere close to my skin tone without making me look ashy. Resigned, and insisting on a discount that the attendant informed me I had already received, I went to the taxi. The day went well and my presentation in the VIP room of the expo center went well. When I needed the makeup I used as back up all the time it wasn’t there – because I never consciously think about needing it.

I come home, wiped out, about twenty four hours after I had left. I go upstairs, get into bed, and sigh into our lush Egyptian cotton sheets. A luxury that rewards every one of the few minutes I’m home to enjoy them. At five forty five the next morning a sound like a jackhammer going into the foundation of our house woke my husband and I up. Before six a.m. in a Muslim country on a Friday was unheard of. Why were the guys working on their day off? The reason we could hear the work on the new hypermarket going up next to us – sure to complicate an already horrendous morning experience with even more traffic issues – was because while I was away the compound transitioned from generator power (which we had been on since May) to the city grid. The constant hum of the three generators that kept the lights on in all of our houses was gone. And with it any shield or white noise to balance out our friend the jackhammer user. I asked my husband to turn on the air-conditioning which provided a small but not as substantial cover and also put in earplugs. I could still faintly hear the noise – apparently they are fusing each of the bolts in that building with a solitary hammer on a hol
low pipe – and I missed the generator.

We miss things that help us in our everyday lives but not until they are gone. I’ve tried to be more conscious of who and what help me through my day. Because one day I will be gone and I want to be missed.

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