A tribute to Youss

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On Friday 16th September we lost a friend, a house mate, a little brother. I say ‘little’ because he was the baby of our house even though he was one of the eldest.

Youssef Hassani.

There was 10 of us here. 9 foreign students and 1 Argentinian. Myself, 4 French, 1 Swiss, 1 Belgian, 1 German and 1 Moroccan. Then we were 9. . Literally speaking, 9. Emotionally we are and always will be 10. We are all more than friends. We are family. I would’ve never thought that I would be so lucky to live in a house so big and feel so close to every single person. We truly are an incredible house. We are all so different yet so similar. We have so much fun together and enjoy the time we spend with each other as a house and as the best-est of friends.

Thursday 15th September, 4 of us left Buenos Aires to spend a weekend away in Iguazú. The other 5 also wanted to make the most of their weekend and decided to take a trip to Mendoza with 2 other friends. After hours of driving and only 2 more to go to their destination, they crashed. The car skid and flipped 3 times. Everyone was wearing their seatbelt. Youssef wasn’t. He flew out the window and was crushed by the weight of the car.

He died immediately.

I will never forget the last memory I have of him. As we were rushing to make it to our 6pm bus to Iguazu on Thursday evening whilst the others were rushing to get to collect the rented car, Youssef was smoking by the balcony. I told him off as he was smoking half inside the house, as always. Even though we had a rule that smoking was only permitted outside, he never listened until someone told him off..typical Youss. He was staring at me through the glass door with his head resting against the wall. I looked at him and went outside.

“Habibi, why are you looking at me like that?”. We called each other “habibi” and “habibti” which is a loving term used in Arab speaking countries.

“I’m really going to miss you Bash, I wish I could come with you guys to Iguazu instead” he said.

“I’m going to miss you too Youss, but don’t worry, we’ll all be back on Monday and you’ll have an amazing weekend in Mendoza. We still have so much time together until we all leave, we’ve got so many places to go as a house! Don’t forget to take lots of pictures for me”.

And then we hugged.

The death of a friend so close and so unexpected has been very difficult to deal with. At first I didn’t cry. I couldn’t. I was like a cold blank wall. No emotion, just shock. No words, just disbelief. To think that someone so young, so full of life was no longer, well, full of life, was a struggle. It went on like this for approximately 8 days. But yesterday was the first day I could cry. I cried a lot. I cried until my eyes were swollen. I cried alone. I cried because i miss him so much. I cried because it didn’t seem fair. I cried because I just did. Then I remembered something he told me. A week before his death I was very moody one day. Youssef pulled me aside in the kitchen and asked me “Bash, porque tienes la cara de culo?”. For non-Spanish speakers that translates to “why do you have a face of an arse?”. I realised he was right. I realised how I had never seen him upset let alone cry. I had to stop crying as I didn’t want Youss to see me with the face of an arse.

Last week a ceremony was held at the Islamic Centre in Palermo, Buenos Aires. We said a prayer around his coffin. At first we didn’t realise his body was in the room next door. He was rolled out into the main room and the lid was opened. It was the first time I saw a deceased body. It didn’t look like him. His face covered with make up to cover the scars. We then read prayers in Arabic and tears rolled down the faces of all. His body was then sent to his distraught family in Morocco where his funeral took place.

Today marks the 12th day that he was taken from us. I still think about him everyday. I picture his innocent smile and beautiful eyes shining through those mesmerising long lashes. I think about all the good memories we had together. I think about all the childish and stupid things he used to say and do on a daily basis. How 5 of us went to a bar on a Monday night, walked under the pouring rain and played pool. In fact, we lost one of our playing tokens which Youss then found in his back pocket the next day. That’s when we decided that we had to go back to the bar and play our free round. I think about how he used to leave his dirty dishes for days and refused to admit they were his even when we saw him use them. How he would always make fresh orange and grapefruit juice but never gave me any yet still always asked to “try” some of mine when I made my own. How he spent nearly all of his money at the chino or on sushi take-away. How he told me off the morning after a night out because he was trying to dance with me the whole night and I completely ignored him (unintentionally of course). How he always used to say “dame…” (“give me..”) instead of “please can I”, and I always told him off for that. How he used to misplace his keys every other day and always take ours.. recently he lost his and shared with everyone for over a week, then managed to lose another housemates keys too. How he knew less Arabic than I do and how he didn’t even know the alphabet in order. How we always argued about him leaving the balcony door open in the freezing cold and smoking indoors. How he persistently spoke to everyone in French knowing that half the house couldn’t understand or reply. How he went to sleep at 6am almost every morning and woke up no earlier than 4pm then asked us if we had eaten breakfast yet. How he loved gin and tonic with fresh cucumber. How he loved Stevie Wonder and Madonna. How he was who he was. I wouldn’t have changed him for the world.

We spoke a lot. Even though he was sleeping most of the time I was home, we still managed to spend time together, but still not enough. We were very close. We always argued and bickered but he knew I loved him and I knew that he loved me too. He always told me that he did. We bonded a lot, especially over Motown music and Morocco. He was from Casablanca originally but was studying in Rabat. We always spoke about my year abroad in Morocco in 2014 and made plans for me to visit him when we finish our time in South America, and he wanted to come to Istanbul too. He promised to take me to other villages and cities which I hadn’t been to out there. I told him about my weekend trip to the seaside village, Asilah (the cover photo of this blog), and he went crazy with excitement and emotion. He told me how he spent his childhood there and how it’s his favourite place in Morocco..so I told him we would go again together one day.

I didn’t expect this to happen. As we spoke about the future, wether it be related to the following day or about the years to come, not once did it cross my mind that we would not have the opportunity to do the things we had planned. Youssef’s death really opened my eyes to the reality which is called ‘life’. It reminded me that as humans we have absolutely no power to stop life’s hated enemy, ‘death’. It can arrive whenever it desires, take whoever it wants, however it wants. His death to me is almost a miracle. There were 7 people in the car. Only 1 died and all of the others survived, without a single serious injury. No broken glasses, laptops, or limbs. Only one smashed iPhone and a few cuts and bruises. The way I see it is that he took one for the team. I believe he was the one who saved the others lives. It was his time and he prevented the death of our other friends in the car. He’s a saviour.

I have so many photos and videos from our night’s out and drunken antics. It really isn’t hard to see the happiness in his eyes. Sometimes I feel selfish for being sad because I know how happy he is. He enjoyed his life. He had no worries or stress…well at least from what we saw. I have no doubt that he’s up there somewhere smoking all the cigarettes he can find on a bed of clouds, sleeping for as long as he could have wished for.

Since Saturday we are now 8. One of our housemates had to return back to Switzerland after the accident. My vecina. We shared the second floor together and now I go to bed every night knowing that there is no one next door. Even though she had to go back home, she’s still very strong. They have all been so strong. I admire their bravery. We are all supportive of one another and have managed to lighten the mood in the house to a certain extent, but there is still a lingering darkness. Regardless, I still feel like our family is slowly falling apart. The absence of our 2 members is very blatant. Having said this, life goes on. Things can only get better, right? But I guess everything happens for a reason. I have to think like this. Not only because I believe it, but also because I would go crazy questioning everything that happened recently as well as everything to come.

I don’t want new housemates. I want us to be back how we were. A happy family. Literally. You know how they say nothing is impossible in life? Well unfortunately some things are.

But what can we do? We can’t get Youssef back. So we continue. We live life to the full, do what makes us happy and live with no regrets. Life is what we make it and we are what life makes us.

Buenas noches habibi. Te echo de menos. Nos vemos algún día…

One thought on “A tribute to Youss

  1. What can I say, very sad story and very well written emotions and facts 😥 May God rest his soul in peace and wish you mates and his family strength and courage to bear this loss 😔

    Like

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