I’m sleepless in Beirut.
The more I write, the more I remember. As soon as I formulate a memory into words, another one resurfaces. It’s as though they are stored in stacks, one underneath the other. Yet there is one memory which has a shrine of its own and that is the story of the very beginning, a story that predates Beirut.
I knew it was him, because my body started shivering; I couldn’t hold my cup, my feet were involuntarily tapping to silence and my lips were quivering so much, that I had to resort to writing to explain to my friend what was happening.
We were sitting in a theatre café, observing from beyond the immediate circle, a discussion amongst the cast and students of theatre production. He sat outside the circle too, though his head was turned towards them. He was two tables across from me. I would have probably shivered myself into a prune had he sat a little closer.
I recognized him as one of the actors that we had just seen perform on stage. Bizarrely, I hadn’t noticed anything special about him during the performance.
Our eyes locked thrice during the entire evening. They locked. It was the first time I didn’t shy away and I looked back with intensity so intimidating, that I myself was taken aback by my audacity. At that moment, I remember thinking to myself, “This is something beyond everything. This is something.”
Even now I wonder what it was exactly that I had felt. It wasn’t as simple as lust or infatuation because they are so primal in their definition that I would have recognized them immediately. The emotion was so strong that I was transfixed, so taken by it that I could feel it concentrate in my bones. I could feel my bones. It didn’t hurt, it didn’t feel good, my skeleton was just there like a thought. And with its presence, there came the knowledge that this man was very important to me. It was a fact. It was so clear and so true that I never questioned it, not for one second.
And I still know it now, even though I have let go of the pursuit of trying to make him see it and understand it. Even if he did, what could he do with me? What was he supposed to do with a 15-year-old girl whose eyes looked at him with a sense of direction for his life? How was he to place me in his world?
Why was he important to me? What was it about him that made my whole body and soul resonate? I tossed about the possibility of love in my hands and it didn’t feel heavy enough, it didn’t feel right enough. Love is not a truth, it is a choice, and I didn’t choose him.
Was I a victim of a panic attack and he the victim of my unoriginal explanation? Were we somehow connected in our previous lives, if such a thing exists? Will we be connected in an afterlife, if such a possibility exists? Will we cross paths again in this life? I didn’t know what to think, none of these explanations stood high enough to peer over the wall that kept me from understanding this state of being. All I knew is that I was his. If anyone owns me on this Earth, it is Lulu. I could feel my pride and ego gnaw at my bones as I surrendered to his spell.
It was getting late, the streets would start freezing over soon and getting home would become increasingly risky. I dragged my friend into the ladies’ room to discuss a possible course of action. I had to speak to him, I had to do something.
On our way out, we noticed that he wasn’t there anymore. I was beyond disappointed, on the verge of devastation really.
He was talking on his cell phone in the dark of the foyer. All I could think of was,
“See you”, he said.
When you’re young and naïve and quivering, that is sufficient to make you go mad with hope.
As we stepped outside into the snow, I was already imagining a happy ever after.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. My head kept on playing and rewinding the episode at the theatre. He had worn a Prussian blue sweater, which intensified the blue of his eyes. His hair was black, a tad disheveled and the lower half of his face was dotted with speckles of a beard-to-come.
I decided to write him a short letter which I left with the doorman of the theatre the next morning. I didn’t even know if I had gotten his name correct; the poster of the play was my only source and there were three males in the cast…it was a game of darts in the dark.
I was travelling in a week, and the doorman had told me that he was originally with another theatre, which was on the other side of town, so the chances of him receiving it in time to reply were slim. My hopes were fat. My next step had to be overweight.
With my fingers crossed, I flipped through the obese phone book and found his name, but it wasn’t his entirely, it was a lady’s. I called anyway.
“Hello, is this Lulu’s number?”
“I’m his mother. May I know who’s speaking?”
Never before have my neurons fired back a lie this fast.
“I’m a student writing an article for our school about young and upcoming actors, and I was wondering whether I could get Lulu for an interview.”
“Well, he’s not here right now, but if you want I could give you his cell phone number.”
“That would be perfect.”
“Thank you very much! Have a good evening.”
Was I fast enough to shut the phone before I screamed victory into the alleyway? I guess not.
I waited until I calmed down, and called the number.
I told the same lie once more, and it was bought without any struggle. We had a date the next afternoon at another theatre.
That evening, my friends and I sat down in a café to come up with a decent list of questions. We tried to be original, but because we were only fifteen years old, “Briefs or boxers?” seemed to be original enough for us. Of course, we had more serious questions to compensate for our childishness.
The three of us arrived in advance so as to appear professional. We eagerly watched out the window. He drove up in a little black Golf, covered in multi-coloured stickers. I couldn’t imagine anything cooler.
He was cute and funny and modest and we took pictures with him. During the entire time, I watched him closely to see whether or not he had recognized me from the other night. I was so nervous, anxious that he was in on the whole thing.
In a couple of hours, the three of us sat down to watch him in Chekov’s “Cherry Orchard” and I discretely filmed snippets of him playing the idiot. I still have those clips.
Once the day was over, I was still feeling empty. I needed something more. Answers and videos weren’t enough. I had to put on my fat-suit again, and I had to get better results. I had to play it shameless.
But what do you do when you stare the only purpose, you’ve ever recognized, straight into the eye?
How do you put it forth into the world? How do you make it alive?
How the fuck do you deal with simultaneous realities that exist in parallel? How do you reconcile a reality, that allows for petty details - of blue eyes, Golf cars and questions about underwear - to spin a web that becomes our idea of the world, with a reality that assigns ideas [of purpose, connection and truth] to particular details and particular people who, in the worldly sense, are petty?
Or simply put, how do you deal with worrying about unmanicured nails and the search of meaning and purpose and value all at the same time?