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The in-between: #notamartyr

“AAAAAAAAARGH!!!” – the sound of animal, from the center of the gut through my burning mouth. The wrenching pain is excruciating and I can’t feel anything else, but a high-pitched burning that simmers every pore to cinders. It’s unbearable, it’s too much, and I close my eyes and fall into a numbing blackout.

When I unglue my eyelids, I’m still exactly where I was a second ago: bodies rolling around in blood and ashes, anthracite smoke billowing into the clear blue sky, the oranges from my grocery bag still rolling away from me…

I get up and look down: my body, my beloved beautiful youthful vessel of skin and muscles, is lying there open, gashed and mauled and practically unrecognizable. I admire the scarlet of my blood and flesh; I look healthy! And then, I realize that the news has happened to me. I cannot believe it. Boom, gone, just like that, in the middle of fucking grocery shopping. 

I check my pockets for my keys and phone, but cannot find them anywhere. If only I could just call everyone I love and tell them that I’m okay, that it’s okay, that I’m here, but not really…that I didn’t want to go, that I love them and I loved my life, that I was taken away by force, that they should probably avoid going to identify my body – it’s looking bad, it’s not me, I’m here, I swear, I can see it all…people running to see what had just happened, victims screaming in pain…but the sound is fading away, little by little…

I feel that my time is running out, so I turn into the side street away from the chaos. I see my car parked at the entrance to my building; it needs a wash as usual. I think of my building and of my neighbors and I hope that they’re all okay. I climb up three flights of stairs and come to my door, but I cannot open it. And then, I hear my cat meowing, meowing like mad and scratching at the door. Oh my poor cat! What is going to happen to you?! Will anyone remember that you lived here with me and come to rescue you?

I hear my phone ring from inside my house: must’ve left it inside!!! I know who’s calling, I know it because it doesn’t stop ringing and ringing and ringing. He just wants to hear that I’m okay. But I’m not really okay anymore. This is it. In between rings, I hear a message of concern pop up on Whatsapp. She must’ve heard news of the blast. And then another one…and another one…

I collapse at my door. The world is silent now and I’m helpless, without any physical grip, without any physical presence.

As I wait for the grace period to terminate, I think of my love, my little sisters, my brother and my parents, my friends and my silly cat. I think of my unfinished projects, I think of my happiness that I will never feel again, I think of my oranges lying there in the street, being stepped on, being crushed by boots that are trying to save other lives. I know it’s useless to ask “Why me?” as much as it is useless to cry. I wasn’t the first to go nor will I be the last. We all go eventually…


I feel grateful to be able to sit here and write this. Up until now I’ve been counting the blasts, observing their frequency, their locations, their timing – calculating their distance from me. The car bombs, so far, have always gone off no less than 3 kilometers away and that gave me 3000 meters of setback. Unable to really feel more than disgust with the current situation, I threw my imagination forward as a bystander too close to survive. That’s when it hurt so much I cried, cried in remorse, in fear and with an unwillingness to experience even an ounce of the pain that the friends and families of the victims are enduring and will endure for years. I only hope that they be spared more losses as much as I hope that I be spared as well.




I’m sleepless in Beirut.

It’s back to the usual around here. Only two out of sixteen bulbs in the house are lit, my cat is curled up in a bundle and glued to my left hip and I’m at a crossroads of what to do with this evening. Mom texts me to announce that they’ve landed safely and that this time, they really enjoyed their visit.

A few months ago, I finally took the leap and moved out of the parents’ house. Dad was more accepting this time; end of last year I had attempted a two-month long camp out which was met with a “Never do this again.” I had not planned on repeating my felony, at least not so soon after, but when the opportunity prostrated itself on the table the eve of my birthday, I would have been a fool not to jump it.

Three months into living here, and I could not be happier. Home feels like home and it’s been a journey back to enjoying the little things, like walking out of the apartment instead of taking the car, like displaying my little knick knacks from here and everywhere the way I want to, like walking around in nothing or talking to my mind out loud.

But what made me happier still was having my mother and sister choose to stay at my place rather than our house when they came for the weekend. They saw what I saw when I first walked into this apartment, years ago – a space to be in and a space that inspires. What a joy high ceilings are, and what a loss modern day housing has suffered in dropping the room height from 4.00 to 2.80. Here, there is almost enough air to not have one seek it outdoors. Indeed, I have become quite a homebody and that has caused me to be the butt of criticism. Hell, when I was living in a place that did not feel my own, I was never home. And that is the misfortune of most other people my age who fill the streets and sidewalks of Beirut – back home is no more the place where they belong.

It’s wonderful when family is accepting, but growing up entails a pace of change that usually outruns the people that have raised us. At some point in the race, we feel the urge to break away and that is most often than not met with anger or dismay, “Why do you want to leave us?”

My mother puts it well, “I have raised you to be your own person, and as much as I love you, I do not own you. I only hope that I’ve provided enough for you to start your own journey. If you ever need us, we are always here, but do not feel accountable to us. Your happiness is the only thing I want from you.”

And it is because of this particular philosophy of hers that I have been able to summon the strength to do what I really really want this time. In a short span of time, a series of subliminal messages piled up into one big awakening – “The life you want, you have to create it. And the time is: now.”

So like all life turning points go, I went all out: I fell inappropriately in love, I moved out of my nest, I quit my job and I bought myself a new set of wheels: a bicycle.

A month had passed since I last clocked in and by the end of it, I was beginning to panic and ask myself a panel of questions:

Did I quit for a good enough reason?
Isn’t misery just a part of life?
Am I acting like a spoilt brat?
How am I going to pay my rent?
Am I talented enough to do this?
Has my ego brainwashed me?
Do I even know what the fuck I’m doing?

By the end of that week, I was close to falling apart. As I was about to send a kind reminder to the last office I had applied to, my doorbell rang. It was Turns. He never came unannounced, but this time it seems he had felt the urgency for an intervention. After about an hour of pep talk, I was more or less back on my feet, with an elbow on his shoulder for support.

And then, the Universe happened. The following day, I received a request for a meeting from the one and only, The Man – if I ever wanted to work for someone, he would be it. And then, I got a call from my only client who needed me again on a short notice. And then, all heavens broke loose. Suddenly, I went from nobody to somebody everybody wanted.

When I told my mother the story, she replied, “What you experienced was that critical moment of faith under fire. It is at this point where people choose to stick with their gut or cave in to their insecurities and it is one of those decisive moments in the story of your life that make it a story you want to tell or skip through.”

And it is because of this particular philosophy of hers that I decided it would be a good time for my frowned-upon-choice-of-lover Turns and my dear mother to meet.




I’m sleepless in Beirut.

I just woke up from an ill-placed nap. I should already be getting dressed. I grab his shirt and wrap it around to trap the warmth of sleep against my nakedness.

The weight of wanting to stay home pulls my every move backwards. Fidgety fingers slide over the sheets to find the ice-cold smooth screen and the home button and the white light illuminates the entire room.

“Awake?” I text my +1, on whom I’ve placed a heavy bid to drag me out the door, and hopefully have me come with him in his car, because mine is so sweetly parked just below the entrance to my building. I like to keep it there for days, even though it attracts every dust speck from the nearby construction site. I like to keep it there, away from parking tickets and side-view mirror thieves.

He tells me he’s awake, but unable to go out, as he has to be on call for work. A continuous influx of Syrian refugees is expected on the northern border and he might be needed at any moment. We became friends through foursquare, so I don’t really know what he does, or how seriously he can affect this influx, but I know enough to not ask any more questions and leave him be.

“Too bad.”

“I know.”

The pull to scroll down and text my usual Friday night’s company is growing. How did I become so attached to him?

Tomorrow will be our 9th month milestone. I have never dated anyone this long. Partly it is because I don’t date anyway. I fall into immediate tightness of being. And because of this instantaneous intimacy, my need for space and fresh air sucks me out before being becomes dwelling. I would rarely dwell on anyone.

But this time, it’s different.

So different, that ever since the story of him and I began, I couldn’t put a word down to describe it. I was blocked and scared to package it into concise sentences and paragraphs for fear that I might jinx it all. But now, awake and hungry for an excuse to stay in and do something that would one, keep me home for a good reason – and self-expression is always the best reason – and two, keep me from texting him, but keep my mind on him, I remembered Sleepless in Beirut – the blog that saved me.

The gap between my last story and today is beyond wide. My life has been transformed so greatly, that it looks like a before and after diptych for a plastic surgery procedure. I’ve had a spirit lift, a heart lift, a sex lift, a lifestyle lift, and a smile lift. I have never been so happy.

However, for the past week, the high I have been feeling without end seems to be losing its momentum. And maybe that is why I’m turning to Sleepless in Beirut for guidance, hoping that it will walk me through this rough patch as it did before.

I do not want to promise a dear diarrhea of writing, but I do feel like I owe Sleepless in Beirut its happy ending and the After Me a clear beginning. So without further ado, I’d like to serve you the in-between – the stuffing for my absence, the ending to Sleepless, lonely nights and the clearing of the table for a new chapter.




I’m quivering in Beirut with the rest of the community.

The TV antennas are swaying in the wind like burnt fennel stalks and likely causing additional anguish to the huddled families hoping to capture a clean signal for this evening’s program. Wooden shutters are banging on the walls hoping to be reunited with their better halves. Ugly and torn curtains throw themselves out of balconies, but on second thought draw themselves back in, now cowardly and ugly, torn between wind promises and balcony comforts. A lonely frozen raindrop lands on the windowpane and melts my heart, past all the layers of clothes worn in the wrong order, past my prickly cucumber skin, past my thawing flesh and in spite of the basic discomfort of feeling cold at home. This little spitball of ice unlocks my longing to see Beirut dressed white, its icy veil trailing through the streets, its crystalised eyelashes sparkling in the street lights and then weeping in the rising sun, yes, I want it to snow! I want to wake up in the morning, right at dawn, and run out into the street like I used to as a little girl, barefoot, braveheart, squeal with joy at leaving the first footprints in the immaculate blanket of silence. I shall even set an alarm. I shall even risk slipping. If it snows tonight in my street, I will experience a happiness so profound and inexplicable that if I were to later talk about it at work over morning coffee, I will risk total social quarantine.

The headlines we’ve been reading and the photos we’ve been sharing move me to wonder whether crippling thunderstorms as the current one could possibly be the messiah we’ve been waiting for. If only it would linger, stay a moment, a moth life, a month longer, perhaps the imposed house arrest would humble us and our people, the flooded roads would ultimately cripple even the most highly perched snobirds, and perhaps as an outcome, our catastrophic infrastructure and transport system would receive as much attention as do our billboards - torn away one week, slick, sleek and back up by the next. What mighty deluge must we suffer, how many death counts must we swallow, how many bloated cars must we fish out of the water, how many tires must we replace, how many more hours must we steam in traffic, how many buckets must we buy for leaking ceilings, how much longer do we have to sit and wait for this Leba-non to become a Leba-oui?

In this light, waiting for snow seems less ludicrous…




I’m sleepless with wet feet drying.

Looking out over the roofscape of chipping paint, antennas, water tanks and cranes, we saw two flocks of pigeons circling. They drew a corkscrew from low to high, from dense to barely visible, from two to fused and then in a split second, they disappeared completely. Somebody had won the pigeon war and somebody else was probably smacking his forehead in the name of momentary loss.

Is it not strange to breed pigeons, to live amongst the infamous aeronaut rats of modern cities, to paint their inner wings red, to make them bead collars, to stand on roofs circling large wooden sticks, training them for hours for the mere purpose of stealing someone else’s pigeons at the risk of having one’s own stolen?

One man’s passion is another man’s bewilderment. Pigeons aside – for they are quite a beautiful quirk to our city, and their shit has yet to become a problem soliciting spiky sculptures and window sills – what bewilders me the most is that in spite of all the passions I have ever called my own, I have yet to find the one that will salvage me, and of course it will, from this certain numbness that follows me around like a stray dog that finds something in me to feed on.

And looking around, piercing as deeply as I can, I see that I’m not alone in this predicament. Have people always been this way, morally adrift, ardently astray? We do a little bit of this, a little bit of that, a dabble here, a dally there, johns, jacks and marys of all trades, masters of none, masters of sidewalks, intake and launch parties. I mean really, how can I sustain a passion if I keep it strapped to the backseat while I drive from one worthless distraction to the other? I think it’s time to start placing the building blocks towards something constructive, time to empty the boxes of dusty memories, time to stretch the mind to new limits, time to work the mind and plant new seeds in it, time to carve meaning into every gesture and decision, time to start making sense to myself first before others, or just a time to do while I am still sane.

There come the pigeons again, flickering little eyelids of white, black and brown, winking to the perched single cooers who join in and split at their ease. The flock turns and then splits into two, seven beneath the long nose of the crane, seven above, so playful for a scatter of pea-sized brains. Their rhythmic motion has an allure of a campfire; I could watch them for hours, buuuut, that’s a distraction I can keep for another day, when I wake up early enough to not look up in surprise and wonder where the day has gone to.