I’m sleepless and still in Dubai.
It’s my last full night here. This place here, I never really liked it, but I would be a liar if I were to say that I was never happy. It is a home away from home. These streets that I used to walk, I used to feel like I owned them, and walking them again, brought back a lot of memories. It’s the act of walking that brings you close to the urban fabric of the city. Your movement is relatively slower now that you are moving on foot, your field of vision is broader, your sensitivity to your surroundings is heightened and you yourself become part of this urban monster that from a distance appears to devour anything human. When you walk, you are aware.
Every time I come back here, I grow more and more confused. I tell everyone that I do not plan on returning, but those are just words. In reality, who knows?
Who knows, maybe I could even be happy here. Happiness is unlimited by geographical coordinates; it depends more on the kind of people I would meet and form bonds with. One of the reasons why I was able to survive this place was because of my close circle of friends. We were the world within a world. Nothing outside us mattered, so long as we were good on the inside of the bubble.
So when I told Mr. Keller that I didn’t see my future in this place, he looked disappointed. Unlike me, he loved it here, but that’s because he lived in his own world inside his head, a world of fantasy and hope and love and of dreams. In addition, he was also one of those people who didn’t like Beirut; a clear sign we would never work out.
I met Mr. Keller in Beirut, at my best-friend’s (Belle) brother’s engagement party. I was still getting over Botticelli at the time, but it had been over a week after our fall-out, so I was much better. In any case, I’m not the type of person who broods on the bad things in life, so if we were going to celebrate love, I wasn’t going to be all cynical about it. I wasn’t going to refuse the invitation, nor was I going to come to sit and sulk and declare marriage the silliest tradition of the human race. No, I was going to have fun!
I saw him at the lobby, soon as I walked in, but to be honest, I didn’t give him the benefit of a second glance.
Later on in the evening, when we had all sat down for dinner, he came over to our table, to say hello. We started talking…
Later on, Belle pointed out to me that everyone had noticed the attention Mr. Keller was giving me. Apparently, he didn’t really do that.
Up close, I had to admit, he was quite handsome. He wore his suit well, his hair was longish, but the detail that really won me over were his glasses. Seduction by spectacles.
He was also quite interesting; we discovered that we had quite a bit in common. However, to my utmost dismay, he didn’t live in Beirut.
Once the party came to an end, the younger crowd took the after party to White. I looked around to see if Mr. Keller would be joining us. He was.
When I was driving up to White, I saw him crossing the road. I rolled down my window, and called to him, “I have to go somewhere before, would you come with me?”. He was a sweetheart and obliged.
We drove to Hamra; I had a few things that needed to be done.
We returned to White in over half an hour. Naturally, everyone was wondering where we had disappeared to. From that night on, the incident became known as “the voluntary kidnapping” and was told over and over again when we were asked how we had first met.
Despite everything, I still wasn’t sure whether or not I was attracted to him. Even if I was, what then? He was leaving Beirut the very next morning.
We didn’t stay there for long, everybody was tired and only a few were drunk enough to dance to the music (which I must admit, was the same music I had heard every time I went there – today, as soon as I hear one of those songs I instantly think of those summer nights on the rooftop). I tried to dance, but I really wasn’t feeling it. My focus was elsewhere. He had a dashing smile, slightly shy, slightly knowing.
Some guy behind me burned my back with his cigarette. I brushed it off as a nuisance, but the pain wouldn’t go away. Mr. Keller put his ice cold glass on the wound, and there it was: the spark that I was waiting for.
Everything froze for that moment to express itself in all its intensity; we were now removed from the crowd, we were somewhere else and we were so present. I could feel the dew drops run down my back, lose their momentum as they bounced from one goose bump to the next and stop at the edge of my dress, only to evaporate in the next couple of seconds.
He gave me his business card with the handwritten address of his website. I promised to check it out.