Abu Nuwas, on Meeting an Old Friend
A young man, Badr by name, had in his youth gathered with the other gay blades of Basrah, even serving as go-between at times. Abu Nuwas had been one of his lovers, under cover of the friendship which tied them to one another. Later they drifted apart, much time passed, and they saw each other no longer.
Many years later he told this story: One day, when I was in Baghdad together with my children I ran into Abu Nuwas; he was riding a gray mare, and had obviously recognized me. He seemed familiar to me also, but I could not think of his name for the life of me. He greeted me, and as I was standing there looking puzzled he exclaimed, Misfortune upon your head, O Badr! dont you recognize me? No, I said. I am Abu Nuwas!
I started asking him about his life, but he only wanted to know one thing: Who are these young boys you have with you? These are my children, I answered. There is no God other than Allah! he cried out. And to think that once upon a time you might have borne me children, which would certainly have happened had I only stayed a bit longer with you, and had our deeds come to fruition.
Go get lost, and may Allah strike you ugly, I threw back, and may he curse all your doings! Nonetheless the truth is as I have told it, he replied with restraint, and rode off doubled over with laughter."
Retold after the French version of Ahmad al-Tifashis The Delights of Hearts, tr. Rene Khawam.
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