Let me know if you're reading by joining the Sleepless in Beirut page




I'm sleepy in Beirut.

My phone rings: Hugg.

"Where are you? Come and pick up your things from my car. I'm tired; I need to go sleep, yalla. Where are you? Hello? Hello?"

He's standing on the corner as I come out of Huvelin Street. He sees me, turns around and starts walking. "How old do you think I am? Never do this with me. Yalla, come take your things, I want to go home."

I was walking a few meters behind. His walk was brisk and punctuated with nervous shoulder shrugs. My shadow was long, and he would occasionally step on my head.

The cruelty of a teddy bear.

I felt silly and spoiled. I didn't intentionally walk away to get a reaction from him, but I was acting out against something that had happened that evening.

He spoke of his ex-girlfriends, girls I knew, the type of girls everyone knows, popular girls, personalities. My jealousy didn't come as a thought, but stealthily, in the way I held my chopsticks, the way I was searching for something to say, pretending to try to keep the conversation afloat. I knew jealousy was irrational, because it was a jealousy of shadows, of ghosts. Those girls, they were crazy, mad, he said, and I couldn't imagine him with none of them: with me he's so calm and contained, but maybe that is a sign of…


We left as the restaurant closed. I wanted to take a walk – the weather was lovely, and we were in Achrafieh, a place that I loved and was familiar with. He obliged.

At about the same time last year, Clooney and I walked the exact same streets, at about the same time, in about the same weather. And it was during that walk that I swore to never go for the good-looking ones, ever.

The crowd at Crystal was dispersing, my friends were busy dancing and I relished sitting by myself, observing the people from high above. I was tired, the alcohol, the high heels and the dancing had worn me out.

Suddenly, an apparition: Clooney. What a face, what posture and what a smile! I couldn't but smile back. He was moving towards me, I looked away so as not to jinx it.

"How can I not do something when I see a smile like that?"

He was still very good-looking from up close. He looked like a Hollywood star playing the charming Italian: clean shave, neat short hair with a slight peppering of white, a set of perfect teeth, tailored suit, crisp white shirt and a gorgeous laugh (the kind of laugh you'd hear over the phone and think of elegant cocktail parties in some penthouse overlooking Central Park).

We spoke for a while. He was in his early forties, though he didn't look it, called his father "Pappy", nearly got married at a very young age to a European girl and was suggesting we go have a cup of coffee some place.

My friends were getting ready to leave and I wasn't leaving without them. I didn't want to make it too easy for him; he must be used to instant house calls.

"I'd like to see you again"

I took his number. The act of someone taking down my number at a nightclub really puts me off. It's cheap. He walked out in front of us, like a teaser for a blockbuster movie. His walk was suave, well-paced and intriguing.

By now we were in the car, waiting for our drunken friend to finish his conversation with the little warde boy. Clooney approached the car window, drew his number in the air with his index finger and motioned for me to call him.

I got home at sunrise. It must have been a very beautiful, fantastical spectacle because I was inspired to live life to the fullest, to grab it by its balls, to seize the day and all that jazz.

What I did instead is send Clooney a message, suggesting that we go abroad for the weekend, a strange trip with a perfect stranger. At that moment, it felt like something beautiful and sincere.

Right now, it feels more like the past-tense of a DIESEL ad.

That afternoon, he replied, very enthusiastic about the idea and very keen on discussing it over dinner: tomorrow night, Centrale.

I was, indeed, very excited.

He picked me up in his delicious coupe, we both looked the part and it felt like a chapter from The Great Gatsby.

"I didn't want to call you, to hear your voice. I like the idea of not knowing."

He spoke my mind.

We turned heads as we arrived and the heads kept on turning back towards us throughout the night.

He talked a lot that evening, apologizing here and there for speaking too much, and then talked some more. He spoke well and of interesting things. I was charmed, except for his frequent bathroom breaks. That was when I thought of coke…maybe?

He kept on saying that I was cute. Cute. Cute. CUTE.

"What a cute little young thing. I find it very exciting."

"Gosh, you're cute."

My friends were out in Gemmayzeh, and I wanted to show off my arm candy (my arm candy, for a change). I got us lost, he took the wrong turn, was obliged to turn around, and while looking me in the eyes, stepped on the pedal to reverse. I felt so beautiful as I heard a scratch produce itself all along the left side of the car. He waved it off, smiling, and that right there was the most original romantic moment of my life.

My friends thought he was cute, but perhaps a little too old for me. I thought that they couldn't be more wrong.

He dropped me off to my car and then followed me until we had to split ways. I used to find the whole I-will-follow-you-in-my-car-even-if-I-live-on-the-other-end-of-the-world and call-me-as-soon-as-you-get-back thing really silly. It wasn't as though they could stop the world from being a nasty place. But with Clooney, I couldn't but appreciate the gesture.

Hugg is a little bit like that too. He gives the evil eye to guys who look at me, he calls me to make sure I get home safe, he tells me off for walking away into an empty street in the middle of the night…

Having walked half the distance to his car, I apologized. I could see he was smiling and my sense of relief was a huge wave breaking. He scolded me for a little longer, but it was just long enough to not become a lecture.

In fact, I appreciated his reaction; it's exactly what I need, a little bit of self-respect from his part and a lot of unwillingness to take my shit. Had he not reacted the way he did, he would have gone straight into the folder along with Mr. Keller.




I’m sleepless in Beirut.

Hugg moved into a new apartment yesterday. He wanted me to be there when he would first open the door.
I love the place! The building is located on a quiet street in Qoreitem, not far from the sea. Birdsong in the middle of the city is a definite plus.

We rearranged the furniture in the living room, brought in some accessories from the bedroom, dimmed the lights and voila, we had completely changed the mood of the space: cozy, yet chic.

We came back from the supermarket quite late, past midnight actually. I made the bed, while he worked in the kitchen making us a light labneh snack. I felt like I was living here and it felt so normal, too normal. He agreed.
With The Pope I used to be so cautious about everything. I didn’t want him to feel threatened, nor did I want myself to become too comfortable – he would be leaving the country in a couple of months, for good. Even though at times it did feel like we were living together, that feeling was lacking a certain overtone of “household bliss”.
And here I was, in a stranger’s new house feeling more at home than in my own flat.

I stayed the night and then the rest of today. I had brought along my share of work, so I didn’t really need to leave. When he left at noon, I made myself some coffee, smoked a cigarette on the balcony. The sweetheart that he is, he left me the key, “Do whatever you feel like, stay, leave, come back, whatever”.

I had never had “the key” before.

Botticelli used to be so anxious about leaving me alone in his apartment. The only time he did that was when he ran out of cigarettes in the early hours and I was deep in sleep.

I wanted to do something nice for Hugg. The bathroom needed cleaning. Earlier in the morning the plumber came to fix a leak, and he had left it in a mess. Trying my best to avoid touching the soiled floor with my feet, I climbed onto the toilet seat and started spraying the floor with the showerhead. I leaned towards the door to grab the mop…


One foot in the toilet, one on the dirty floor, one hand on the wall and the other hand on the mop. Perfect.
He always claimed that he doesn’t care about material things, because they are only that: things. I shall soon find out how valid that claim of his is.

Oh and I think I flushed the little hanger thing unto which the small shower head next to the toilet hangs. Yes, I definitely flushed it.

I think it’s an unconscious way of showing that I’m no housewife material.

It’s ironic, we get along really well, I can actually see myself living with this guy and it could/would/should never happen.

We promised, in all seriousness, not to fall in love with one another. The zenith of liberty.





I'm wide awake in Beirut.

What do you do when you can’t connect? With what do you fill the seemingly comfortable silence? When you look around and you are part of a mural, looking like an angelic fresco, with curls and sparkles and pastel clouds drifting by in your pupils, what do you say to yourself – I’m sorry says the elbow that poked you – to make it alright? Tu veux y aller?, Hugg asks. Non

The light is a skin falling soft on the wooden stools and the voices are a movie playing in the background and the thumbs twiddling beside you mean that you’ll be asked what is wrong and the music filling the void between your ears is the only answer.

The dress is pulled tight on my body, I can’t move. I’m in a gorgeous straightjacket that binds my body and thoughts. When does the body listen to the cloth it is wearing? When the mind itself wants a justification for its lack of purpose, does it turn to physical explanations? The jazz – tu ecris quoi, tu veux pas me dire? Non – the jazz and the dim lights and the barely visible brooks of free space flowing round the bodies call forth a vintage New Yorkais scene and perhaps it is in this specific invocation that I allow myself to feel disconnected amongst all these breaths and heartbeats.

Beards entangle to say hello and he wants to go.

We drive as I sing to “Walking After You” by the Foo Fighters under my nose. I am not trying to be discreet; I really dislike walking behind someone. I was walking behind him most of the night, and even if my high heels were partly to blame, we were never in a hurry.

We smiled at each other in the elevator. The silence was light, we kept on rising and we arrived at his door.

T’as un T-shirt?


Je peux l’avoir?


We lay next to one another in the darkness, my legs a light brown against the sheets. We stay like this for a moment long enough to call it a night. I run my fingers through his hair.

J’en peux plus.

De quoi?

Je suis tellement loin de la societe.

I remain silent because I understand, and he continues talking. He jumps out of bed and turns on the light. I close my eyes, the light is so violent and I feel harassed by the remnants of his abrupt movement.

He opens up his suitcase and pulls out a tattered brown envelope. We sit together looking through his childhood photos. He looked like a girl.

Je ne les montre pas a tout le monde.

He puts his arms around me and I close my eyes. I feel his arms, their largeness, their strength and the smoothness of his skin. I feel his beard settle into my shoulder. We do not move.

I imagine the weight of his arm enter mine, I imagine his beard on my chin, I imagine the length of my legs stretch out to the end of the bed and I imagine the shape of his head take form over mine. I lower my breathing and I imagine my body strong and masculine and I imagine it to be mine. I stroke my thoughts against my skin and turn them into a reality so close to my own that I can feel a soft and malleable bulge form between my legs.

He’s asleep by now. I turn towards him and nestle my face into the curve of his neck. His skin evaporates into a tempting aroma and I press my nose to scoop it all in. Chasing butterflies.

I want to wake him up now, so I draw his body, paint his lips, brush his beard and bite into his ear. He takes my hand with a hmmm and his breathing is regular.

I bite harder and cover my traces with butterfly kisses. His body starts to move and his neck stretches and I dance over his lips until I feel he’s between sleep and desire and I know I’ve won because he will choose me at any moment.

We kiss and roll and writhe and sigh and play with losing control. Desire glues itself to us and fires our loins, but we don’t verbalize our limits. When he’s about to jump the line, he gently turns me away from him and I tease him with my forceful hands, bringing him back to me. He pins my arms behind my head or pins me to the cold white wall to buy some time, to cool his fire, to cool mine…we struggle at the edge for over an hour until it feels like we have fallen and our bodies need to reenergize.

A week ago, in the same bed, during the same intense wrestling with our natures, we stopped to talk.

We shouldn’t.

I agreed. I realized that when we thought we were making love, we were in fact having sex. Our emotions and our relationship was worth more than sex. But it wasn’t love. Tenderness would be our new choreography. Tender was the night.

We fell asleep.

It was dusk, there was a building, there were two women and there was a secret I was keeping. I think I was writing about it and someone’s hand crept up and found it and I relished in being found out. I moaned with pleasure. It fired through my body and I was now aware of mud, humidity, heat and sliding fingers. There was a building, and there were two women on different floors and the elevator kept on going up and down until it stopped for a second and I felt his fingers caressing me and I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t care less. It wasn’t my fault.

When I recovered, I moved away and said:

Comment s’est arrive?

Je ne sais pas. J’etais en train de rever du pain. Je te jure je dormais.It must be the frustration resurfacing. Pause. You are so hot when you sleep, why can’t you be like this all the time?




I’m sleepless in Beirut.

The Pope was on his way to my place to keep me company while I worked on my outfit for that night’s party. It was the first time we were going to be one-on-one in a more intimate setting. I hoped it wouldn’t be awkward.

Worries for nothing; we got along extremely well. He was a real sweet kid.

What I loved most about him was his ability to perfectly time and tune his presence. One moment he is right there with you, present and intense, but as soon as that moment between you two is over, he steps back and allows for that pause, that drift, to take you to another place. He is the social butterfly whose skills we all envy.

That night, the party was wild. I had too much to drink, too much to keep it all in. I remember him getting a lot of attention; to the inbreds of the underground scene, he was a new face, he looked like he tasted of honey, he was magnet, la chaleur du Sud. I also remember shying away from getting too close to him because I didn’t want him thinking I was yet another girl to fall under his charm.

I did however fall for someone else, albeit briefly. He was my best friend’s childhood friend and even though I had met him before, that night, I was +ve, he was -ve and the electricity fired through our bodies. I teased him for ages until the alcohol teased the smugness out of me and we ended up too close, too warm and I succumbed to the kiss I was resisting. The more we kissed, the faster the room spun and I felt like I was being sucked into a black hole. Our lips danced like they did in Dirty Dancing, but nevertheless, the spinning of my head made me think of prom kiss scenes in American movies and the Dirty suddenly morphed into Slow and Soft and I, I, I…gasped for air in my head and finally pulled away.

Only to be sucked back in, until I was too sick and dizzy.

There was no way I could drive; I had to sober up first. The Pope and I joined my friends for manaqeesh. When we split from the group, it was 5am and I was much better. I drove us back home and told him that he was welcome to sleep in the other room. So he did.

The sun was coming up and I went to close the shutters in his room. He was sitting in his Calvin Kleins, pulling the covers over his honey skin. I was now in the awkward “Good night” situation. Shake his hand? Hug? Wave?

I opted for the motherly kiss on the forehead. How “Pope” of me!

Confusion followed, and his lips met mine. I leaned back, more puzzled than reluctant, “No”.

When I reached my bed, I heard my phone buzz.

“This bed is too big for me”.

I replied by laying down the terms of our friendship. My generous hospitality should not be confused for something else. I felt sorry for him, poor baby, drunk, cute and confused.

He left late in the afternoon. He had borrowed one of my bigger T-shirts for the party and it lay curled next to the bed. I picked it up and instinctively brought it to my nose. (Unbelievable, but I can smell it as I am writing this)

My veins filled with warm golden honey and my brain was pickled in sweet juice.

From very early on, I noticed a strong link between a guy’s smell and the direction our relationship would take. To test this, I would come up with ways to discretely smell the opposite sex I had only just met and see whether or not we would get along in the days to come. Result: the correlation was very strong!

So even though I never really allowed my imagination to travel too far with The Pope, convincing myself that our relationship was purely platonic, the intense effect his aroma solicited was an acute indication that we would be fireworks.





I’m sleepless in Beirut.

My first real boyfriend was real because our relationship somehow slipped past my one-month threshold.

As with Hugg, The Pope was immediately tagged as “restricted”. His hair was rock n’ roll, his V-neck could have exposed a third nipple and his lips were so luscious that if you looked long enough, you could see the honey drip. The Pope was the embodiment of cool and everything that came with it i.e. obnoxiousness and arrogance.

I avoided him at first, but the more I observed him from afar, the more I realized that I had perhaps judged him a little too harshly. After all, he was new to Beirut and his air of superiority was more of a defense mechanism than a chronic disease. I decided to let down my guard and give the guy a chance.

He reminded me a little of myself actually. He was in unfamiliar territory trying to build a world for himself. It is not as easy task and I could sympathize with him on that level.

To my surprise, The Pope turned out to be friendly, interesting and loads of fun! He was what I had always hoped for from Beirut: an awakening.

I began to see the city and everything else from a different perspective. It was refreshing and inspiring; it gave me hope that I had it in me to paint over last year’s wallpaper, that I had it in me to trade in my glass menagerie for flower blossoms.

The city, I learned, was never meant to be static, it was never meant to stay as did your old room, delicately mummified and watched over by your mother, it was never meant to be a skin, pierced and tattooed, or a refrigerator door covered with post-its and magnets that never move. The city is a moving sand dune that brings along and leaves behind, a whale that swallows you and spews you out.

I wish I could see Beirut from up above, see the paths I’ve travelled, see the knots I’ve tied, see the tangles I have caused and those I have avoided. I wish I could see the paths I took during the day and during the night, the paths I walked and the paths I drove through. I wish I could see in red the paths that no longer slither, the buildings that no longer penetrate and the memories that no longer have a place to sigh. I wish I could see the paths of Botticelli, the paths of Hugg, the paths of The Pope and I, the paths of you and you and YOU. I wish I could see how close we got to one another. I wish I could map the ways we tease, the seductive steps we dance round one another and find those intersections where we felt alone together.

Imagine yourself moving through the city with a 15,000km string (about a year’s worth of coming and going). You start at point A and from there on wherever you move you would leave your string behind. In about a year’s time, you would have spun a web. Some lines would be thicker, some circles would be larger: a map of your year. This is web1: it has a mood, it has impressions, it has a story, it has lessons and it has addresses.

Now imagine that this is the web you had to forever follow. In reality, most of us do. Our routine is our web. Would you be able to evolve as much, learn as much, love as much, hurt as much as you did the first year you were spinning it?

By the third year, your throat would dry up, your fingers would wither, you eyes would glaze over, your nose would turn inwards and your tongue would shrivel.

Showing The Pope Beirut by day and Beirut by night and what lay beyond Beirut proper, helped me see that I had choice, that I didn’t have to live in web1, that I had it in me to have as many as I wanted and that I could see Beirut as a stack of webs. I could choose my Beirut.