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I’m sleepless in the jabal.
“Tu sais qu’en deux jours sera notre anniversaire de 30 ans?”, she asked, the smoke following each word.
“Wow”, I replied. Should I tell her that I wowed all relationships that lasted up to and beyond 3 months? The words were about to fly out of my mouth, but I withheld them just before take-off. Keep your commitment issues to yourself this time. The last time we spoke about love was half a year ago, when I was still attending mass with The Pope. Only recently did she find out that The Pope and I were long ago committed to the pages of history.
“Is there any difference between say the 15th year and 30th year of being with someone?”, I wondered out loud.
“Bien-sur, ca evolue, ca devient plus fort. C’est tres fort.”, she answered, leaning her head forward and turning her chin towards her left shoulder.
I looked across the table at her husband. He was still handsome, with gray hair and a whitish beard, slightly tanned skin, eyes tired but sparkling and a gentle smile that was hard-to-read. He wore a stylish double-button jacket, its light blue colour brought to life by the mustard yellow leather strap of his wristwatch. His kind deep voice was worth just as much. He considers me as his daughter, but I sometimes wish for him to be unmarried.
I looked back at her. I couldn’t imagine either of them with somebody else, they fit really well. She was the kind of lady who always looked elegant, who encouraged me to be strong, but who never confronted her husband in public, who never spoke about herself in fact and here I was witnessing a foxy dreamy smile that spoke of a different woman altogether as she uttered, “Rien n’est plus beau que la passion” under her breath. I barely grasped the words they were so hushed.
I have seen that look on her face once before, and have wondered ever since if she had not taken on a lover during some point. I have also seen, a countless number of times, the way she looks at her husband and I cannot imagine her allowing herself anything more than a stray thought.
30 years! A war, three kids, a grandson and a granddaughter in the belly. 30 years. That’s longer than I have been on this earth. WOW.
I tried to remember what the 3 months with The Pope were like, how did I not suffocate, how did we keep it afloat?
All I can recall is the beginning, the love-making and the moments we had taken pictures of. The rest is a blur, or not long enough to fill up a span of one hundred days. Give me a couple of moments…
…it’s all coming back to me now.
We woke up the next morning broken. It had been an exhausting yet loveless night. Not only had we gone back home late, but we stayed up talking about the La Connasse incident and talking about us. He tried to hug me when I had put out the lights, but I resisted until I felt his abs and chest on my back: his skin was killer. He could overthrow the Johnson & Johnson baby. He certainly made me take back my words. See, I was one of those prejudiced cretins who thought that chest hair was the zenith of attractiveness…until I touched The Pope that is - it was then that I forgot the nightmare of the hairless rat I lost my virginity to.
Neither of us wanted to leave the other. He didn’t want to leave me alone with my thoughts, and I didn’t want to be left alone to them. We went to Paul for a late breakfast; it would only take a couple of please before the waiters would give in and bring us bread and jam, which is idiotically served till midday only. Full and lethargic, we plunked down with the rest of the Sunday crowd to watch Avatar in 3D. That was our romantic afternoon.
Back home and alone, everything came back to me, including my pride which I had somehow managed to shut up the previous night. How could he do this to me? How did I let him get away with it? And all other fairly typical questions that cross a cheated gal’s head. So how did I deal with it? I wrote him a letter.
I wrote him a letter that was a little extravagant, a little too poetic for the simple message it was trying to convey. His English was good, very cute when spoken, but not enough to read me beating around the bush with a Shakesperean quill. Alas, he never understood my text messages that ventured beyond “Where are you”s and “I miss you”s. It went the same for me; I thank Larousse and the French slang online translators for allowing us to communicate over the phone. So to understand me better, he came over the following day.
We read the letter together. He would read a paragraph, ask me to explain a certain this or a certain that and then give me his point of view. We did this for the nine or ten paragraphs that the letter was made of. I was travelling to Paris that night and I wouldn’t be back before two weeks. We separated on a positive, yet uncertain note.
I missed him, he missed me, and before we both knew it, we couldn’t wait for my trip to be over.
“Je veux te rammener de l’aeroport,” he told me. It would be the first time a lover would greet me! I don’t know what I was more excited about: seeing him again or experiencing a movie cliché.
I landed twelve hours later only because I lost track of time in the duty free shop and missed my connecting flight from Frankfurt. An extra six hours of waiting for 50ml of skin foundation, guilty as charged.
He was waiting for me just as how I had picture him, in his leather jacket, with his tousled hair and looking out of place because he never waited for anybody.
“Tu m’as trop manqué,” he said squeezing the air out of me.
He had to return to the airport in a couple of hours to see his friend off. We dropped of my bags at my place, I grabbed a fresh change of clothes and we headed for his flat. His friend was already up, packing his things and shooing my cat out of his suitcase. I said hello before disappearing into the bathroom. Nothing comes between me and my shower.
They were ready to leave by the time I dried my hair. We loaded the car and went back to the airport. By the time we got there the sky was already beginning to show signs of a new day to come. They hugged, exchanging a couple of words and his friend trundled off into the departure lounge to return to Paris.
I offered to drive; he looked depleted. I suggested we go to Tyr and he did not resist so long as I agreed to drive us back and forth. He fell asleep by the time we reached Khalde, and he would wake up every now and then just to see where we were. The highway was practically empty after Saida and the desolate scenery that stretched out before us basked in the splendor of the rising sun. I hadn’t seen something so beautiful and moving in a long time.
I’d turn to my right every once in a while to take in the comfort of the sleeping Pope. He was entirely at my disposal and whatever upper hand I gained through this, I wanted to use it to take care of him and shelter him. You could say that as my lover fell asleep he awoke the mother in me.
We walked around the old town for a while. Our camera attracted a small group of kids who took it upon themselves to show us around. They showed us where they lived, where they played, where their families went shopping in the old souk and where they went diving in the summer. The walking, the intensifying sun and the hubbub of children wore us down. We found ourselves a table at a café overlooking the sea and ordered some coffee. It was January, but the heat, the azure blue waters, the sandy shore and the palm trees spoke of a different time and place.
The coffee gave us enough energy to walk back to the car and drive to the entrance of the Tyr Nature Reserve (separated by nothing more than a street from what seems to be a plastic bag and tire plantation). We dragged our bare feet along the path, over the wooden bridge and unto the warm sand of the shore. The Pope collapsed as soon as we spread a piece of cloth on the ground. I threw my clothes into a pile next to him and ran straight into the waves. The first contact with water was like running into a wall. The cold seized my entire body in one tight shockwave and I let out a noise that is usually reserved for The Pope’s and insomniac neighbours ears only.
It only took a couple of moments before I felt one with the sea. All my senses opened up: my eyes saw high and wide, my ears heard every drop crash and every shell drag, my nose smelled the sea, the tall grass and the city, my tongue collected the salty droplets and brought them in to spice up the traces of coffee and dough, my body felt the push and pull of the sea, its cold grip, its soft caress, its mass and its foam and I felt limitless and alive and I ran into and out of and along and I jumped and I rolled in the sand like a madwoman.
I collapsed beside him and he woke up for long enough to put his arm around me.
“T’es toute mouillee, et froide. Viens, viens…”
I heard voices. I raised my head to see. There was a family, or two. One kid was carrying a kite, the other a plastic bucket and the parents were carrying small backpacks. They did not look local, which was a relief since I was in my wet underwear and trapped beneath a sleepy arm of a male siren.
It was then, with my wet and shivering body against his warm side, that I felt the desire I had kept locked up for two weeks suddenly jump out and lock me in a trance. The entire world receded in a big whoosh, like water retreating from a rising submarine. I wanted nothing more. At first I allowed myself a nibble on his ear, a few kisses on his neck, but I hadn’t vouched for the same beast to take over him as well. Lying on our bellies we struggled and the only force keeping us apart was the sharp children’s laughter only a few meters away from us. Just enough decency not to perform.
Defeated and famished, we got back into the car. He fell asleep with his head on my lap, and I held him close against me whenever we approached bumps and dips in the road. It felt nice to know that I had it in me to be gentle and caring. There is so much aggression out there that it hardens you up and rapes you of your altruistic instincts. Before The Pope, I was at a point in my life where I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to succumb to my feminine nature. With Mr. Keller, I couldn’t stand being in the same bed as him, if he’d touch me, my breathing would become pronounced with rage and he would ask me what was wrong, and I’d tell him to not touch me and he would retreat into his black hole of rejection and I would stay awake all night wondering what the hell was wrong with me. It took his tears and a look of complete dejection to move me. Now, I only needed to look at The Pope and my blood would turn to wine.
That night, like so many others, we spent stealing each other’s hours of sleep. I could summarize those three months as a constant state of sleep-walking in a day dream. I am still compensating for the lost hours with afternoon naps.
Three months. Thirty years. How wonderfully exhausting.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

I'm on the balcony. Another power cut. There is the setting sun and the headlights of a car parking. I hear distant beeps of electricity being held hostage. One building lights up, the neon lights in the kitchens flickering for a couple of seconds. Then the next one. Then mine, the light from the room washing unto the balcony tiles to touch my heels.

I cut off Hugg completely. It's been one month exactly. I've been ice cold, unwilling to call or see him. No wish whatsoever.

The last time I saw him was at his place. He was lying down on the bed, laptop on his stomach, headphones on full blast. I sat and watched him. He could see me smiling, he could see me talking.

"What did you say?"

"I said that it's very nice you feel so comfortable around me."

"I'm waiting for you to finish with your phone."

And then it started. You are selfish. You are selfish. You are selfish. In all the colours of the dictionary. I left the room, and through the walls and under the door, the colours were still flying.

Message incoming.

"Finish with your phone."

"I can't look at you."

So he hugs me and I cry and he feels bad.

"You can't help it. You are still stuck in your adolescent stage. This is who you are. It's okay."

He hugs me tighter. I turn round and nestle my chin on his shoulder, I want him to feel the hot tears, but most of all, I want to forget this.

He starts to kiss me, softly and gently at first, but within moments his breathing becomes heavier, his face changes into that relentless expression of hunger and I lose all my senses except that of disgust.

I don't move, I don't respond, my mind runs into the distance, stops and then turns around to watch. It's almost witness to necrophilia. My body, on its side and rigid, and him like a tadpole on acid, wriggling and squirming. Euw. I move away before he finds his way.

He drops me, rolls over and falls asleep. Just like that. Nasty. I want to jump out of my body, grab it by the hair and drag it through the streets until there is nothing but shreds.

I sit in the stuffy living room, the hard armchair doesn't let me fall asleep. I open the window and look down unto the street. I lean forward as much as I can, as though to induce the thought of suicide so I could feel sorry for myself. I even think of a scene where Hugg would wake up, come looking for me and see me leaning out the window, the tips of my toes barely touching the sofa and him feeling guilty... I catch myself before I fall into a cheap adolescent soap opera where I am the victim and he is the good cop/bad cop. I gather my things and leave. I'm done with being polite. Polite never got me anywhere.

He called me a couple of days ago. I haven't gotten round to calling him back. If I did, it would be out of courtesy and out of fear that I would make an enemy.

Our relationship only worked because I going too fast to stop at each قف sign, and there were many. But the single most obvious one:

I did not like his smell.

And no matter how hard I tried not to inhale, he was suffocating me. Smell aside, there was always something fishy about him, something I couldn't put my finger on, something that didn't fit. I cut him off and my life bloomed.

The kitchens are lit, TV screens flicker on the 2nd and 4th floors, but most of my neighbours have switched their lights off long ago and are sound asleep in a darkness chosen. Peace reigns.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

I just woke up in the gutter. I want to go back to sleep and forget that I have a body, that I live in a house, that I live amongst other people. My state of being is perpendicular to my state of existing.

I am at peace within, nestling softly in the pillows of Imaginary Extraordinary Him's midnight songs and cellular poetry and tender sweet-talk before bedtime. Yet, I wake up to a bird-nest hairdo, crusty mascara, crackling bones, glued-up skin and Babylon towers of cat shit and swamps of cat sick and the humid breath of the summer beast and the spews of rage from an overflowing washing machine; physical evidence of a hangover clash with memories of a sober night.

The harmony of a divine ritual of bathing in the pure springs of intellect is suddenly broken by the clumsy gallop of a dumb body running around aimlessly, like a headless chicken, and tipping over buckets of hormones that taint pure-white fields with ammonia-yellow. I wish to lose my senses. I wish for smoke without the vulgarity of a cigarette stick.

Whisk me away into a pure night where we are naked and bodiless.

I remember the night I met Capitalyst...

But let me start at the beginning.


I decided to break things off with my boyfriend at the time. He was a man, a smart-talking boy rather, in a perpetual state of PMS. I had my own share to deal with.

We hadn't seen each other for over a week. He was busy, I was busy, but it was necessary to establish the end of the affair immediately. That night he was filling for his friend at a bar in Gemmayze, and I unwilling to appear little and cowardly, went down to see him.

He was happy to see me. The place was packed. I sat at the bar to wait for the orders to slow down.

The breaks in the sizzle of Latin beats were filled with "economy", "stocks" and "Middle Eastern market" exhaled by the two men sitting next to me.

One of them turned to me, "What do you think of Dubai?", as though knowing that I had lived there.

I regurgitated an answer that I had composed for such occasions: something about the wearing thin of the glamour-effect, lack of soul, the sidewalk deficit...

He pressed on further, "What about its economy?", and that's where he lost me. I couldn't avoid appearing ignorant, but I hoped to do it nobly, "I'm sorry, but I find nothing more boring than talking about economics"

He answered, "Me either, we were bored until you came along".

"What do you do?", I inquired - it seemed that PMSboy would be mixing drinks for a while.

"My friend here works at the stock exchange in New York, but I work with Sukleen. In fact, my shift starts after midnight."

"Did you just say that to see whether I will still talk to you if you're a garbageman?"

"Yes, I'm looking for a wife."

"I'm here to lose a potential husband."

We talked for a little longer. They must have established that I was too young for them; there wasn't much flirting going on, only niceness. PMSboy motioned for me to meet him outside.

"I have to go. It was nice meeting you both."

"I think you would like my nephew. He writes here and there, you should check him out on one of his websites." He gave me the link.

"I will do that", I smiled.

"I don't really work for Sukleen."

"I gathered this much."

He showed me his card, "General Manager of Bank X". Funny man.

Outside, I told PMSboy that it was obviously over. We wished each other the best, hugged and I walked away. Khaiii, nice and clean.

Once home, I typed in the link. I loved it. I sent him this [gotta love Gmail archives!]:


I quite enjoyed browsing through your website, there's material in there for everyone. I'll be sure to keep tuning in.

I most likely wouldn't have found your page, were it not for your uncle. He made sure to insist I visit your website, and that's something seeing that we were perfect strangers. Thank him on my behalf.

Looking forward to reading more from you,

Here was his reply:

Snowstorms make even grown men smile giddily.... I'll write more when the
storm subsides.


"Finally," I thought.

The next day I was pleased to find an second message from him.

Perhaps you'd like to see a piano concerto with a perfect stranger?

I must have squealed with joy. I had only been living here for a couple of months and I had, not without defeat, given up on the idea of meeting people who attended concertos. Never was I more overjoyed with being proved wrong!

I had to refuse his invitation, but we continued writing to one another for a week or so. By then, the stranger was perfect, and it was time to burst the bubble.

I'll be at Cloud 9 with a couple of friends. Look out for a yellow trench coat.

I'll be wearing yellow shoes.

My cousin picked me up and we went to Cloud 9 as planned. It was one of those nights of forced conversation and forced laughter. Back then, I felt it my duty to try and fit in. Fortunately, those friendships have been put to rest. Amen to that!

I bounced a little as a guy plonked down beside me on the low velvet sofa. It was Capitalyst in his black frame non-rapist glasses and yellow shoes. I introduced him as a friend, which was more loose definition than lie.

Was it awkward meeting someone I only knew through letters?

Not as awkward as an arranged marriage, a blind date or having drinks with people you'd easily pass up for a good book. I immediately felt myself switch courts, Empty Banter & co. vs. Perfect Strangers.

I had promised my ex, who was with us that night, to come with him to Batroun for his friend's birthday. The nature of the promise is enough to indicate how desperate for company I was in those days. Don't get me wrong, I love Batroun, but for its narrow streets, accessible rooftops and rock pools, NOT its nightlife.

I asked whether Capitalyst wanted to come along, and was I grateful that he did. He followed us all the way to Batroun, not without comments from my ex about Capitalyst's sinusoidal driving skillz.

Naturally, the club was bearable for a limited amount of time. As soon as the cake arrived, we excused ourselves. Capitalyst offered to drive me home...

...and as horror movies go, he turned the car in the opposite direction.

"Where are we going?"

"You have to trust me. Do you trust me?"

He'll kill me if I do, he'll kill me if I don't, there was only one way out of this and it was to listen to the voice within and not to fall victim to Hollywood fiction. I guess I've been lucky; I still believe in the good of the people.

We drove off into the night, into the Hamet tunnel, past Chekka, and into the surrounding mountains. There was a bit of Coldplay and a lot of laughter. We were two minds copulating, writhing with joy at having come together. It felt pure. It felt sincere. It felt like fitting in. It felt like an iTunes visualizer.

This lightness, this incorporality, this transcending of what is tangible, this flow of spirit, this is the highest degree of human interaction and if you don't know what I am talking about, then that is what is missing and I wish for you to find it.

I found it with Lulu, I found it with Capitalyst, I found it with Imaginary Extraordinary Him. It's out there.



PROJECT: Beirut, I love you [Mar Nicolas]

The first round will take place in Mar Nicolas, the neighbourhood between Gouraud Street and Charles Malek avenue.

To commence the project, a better known corner of Beirut was chosen, so that you could all get a taste, be it on the Saturday eve's pub crawl or Sunday morning stroll.

Objects in the making.

[the first round is postponed; the shop that was supposed to deliver the objects didn't deliver - empty promises. see you next week, and let's hope that the heatwave subsides!]




I’m sleepless in Beirut.

It was Sunday night, and Freud was due to arrive in an hour. I didn’t know where to put myself. In one big swallow, all the air in the house had been sucked out and I was left in a vacuum of anxiety.

I consoled myself with scenes from Lolita. Technically I was no longer eligible for the part, but I knew that when faced with him again, I’d collapse into a little girl. Obscured by my insecurities, I had somehow missed the fact that I was in the power seat. Here was a man putting aside his marital vows, here was a man whose life I could turn upside down if I chose to. He was 41, ripe and tested, and I was 20, and able to count the number of times I made love on my two hands. Tainted to some, I was still every inch the inexperienced rosy-cheeked nymph that a forest of mature hands danced to every night before sleep. I could afford to be picky, and I had picked him.

But I didn’t see it that way, and all the better. Freud, a polygamist only true to his nature, was and is a good man; he did not deserve to be subjected to the vanities of a little girl.

Did I ever think that I was doing something wrong?


Did I ever think that he was doing something wrong?


They have been married since the day I was born, and if I take his word for it, happily. None of his affairs had been discovered and that’s enough proof that he takes his role as husband seriously. What she doesn’t know doesn’t hurt her. Period.

Freud advised me, “Never marry someone you love, marry someone you get along with.”

Love is spring, companionship is cement.

Frankly, I don’t even want a “husband” in the general sense of the word. I want an amazing father for my children.

Recently, my own dad has begun the oiling for the impending ceremony. To him, it is an inevitable end for me. I squirm at his imposing tone, “…when you marry…”.

“Dad, what if I don’t find someone?”

No answer. Someone is bound to find me, of course, “You have potential.” He is even ready to upgrade my car and my closet so I can bag the right bastard. “I like you to look elegant”. I fought it at first, and maybe that’s why I picked up smoking, as a sort of rebellion against my hoity toity future, but with time I feel his wishes become my own. I don’t know whether it’s because he has always proven to be right or whether I have read and watched too many love stories where women are ladies and men are gentlemen, and they live happily ever after in countryside mansions. I do want to be a lady, and I do want a gentleman, but I don't want frolicking in the grass or running around barefoot to be taken away from me. I want to be a lady-of-all-sorts, not a Stepford Wife who is held prisoner by purchased shells, if broken, able to unleash the screams of a sacrificed lifestyle for a pretty position in society that is empty with decency!

I don’t blame him. Things were different in his days and even though I still sneak upon my parents kissing, I know that he is proud of having provided my mother with a more abundant lifestyle. Yet, even if my mother is not unhappy, I recognize her spurs of rebellion against abundance. She loves her panther that wins her green traffic lights, she loves not having to worry about the number of curls to her grocery receipts, she loves to be able to travel on a whim, she loves to be able to help my grandmother, but she is most happy watching us build sand castles on the shores of a free beach and seeing dad running around in his underwear while we chase him around the house.

What I know for sure: Freud is a great father and him ringing my doorbell would never take his greatness away from his kids. I’d rather bag myself a Freud than a priest in briefs taut with frustrations.

I opened the door after a deep breath.

He towered above me in the entrance light. Wow. We kissed on the cheeks.

We sat for a while in the living room deciding where to go and waiting for the formalities to slip away. My posture was tense as I evaluated what I had just let into my life.

I gathered up my things, and we went into his car. We drove off into the night with the Sultans of Swing and wind in our hair.

Naturally, we had to go somewhere safe. Jbeil. Who would know us there?

We had dinner in a cozy little place with dim lighting. I was relaxed now and him impish, his hands tickling my knees.

We walked the pizza off through the cobbled streets. The flow of conversation, the autumn breeze darting back and forth between our coats, the playful brushing past arms, backs, thighs, the scattered yellow orbs of light, the forgotten dark spaces in between and the anonymity of a faraway place smelled of a honeymoon in Paris.

Two hours had gone by, his friend gave him signal and it was time for him to head home. He drove me back and I invited him to come in for a bit. I showed him my room where, to his pleasant surprise, he came across a Serge Reggiani vinyl.

“Lola, we have more things in common than you think.”

He sensed that I had withdrawn; my room was too intimate for me to handle. Suddenly, I was hoisted into the air, and before I could retaliate, our lips met. A wave of pleasantness and relief rippled through me. The burden of initiative dropped to the floor.

He put me back down, gently. He had to go.

“On se voit le dimanche prochain?”




I’m sleepless in the jabal.

Wow. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the stars. It’s been so long since I’ve been alone with the world that was made to nourish me and for me to nurture.

I drove into the nowhere, past cars parked in the darkness, until there were no more lights from nearby villages. I stretched out on the roof of my car and fought back the tears that were tickling my lower eyelids. The children of the city have been denied the universe; the universe of far away suspended snow-flakes that will never reach the ground in our lifetime, the bottomless limitless globe of black glass that holds us in its steel silence. One tilt of the head backwards and man is humbled. Man is diminished into a speck on a speck and he is drowned out by the sound of crickets and the wind in the grass.

Would we not be more pleasant a race if every night before going to bed we’d see the sky peppered with countless twinkling fireballs instead of “Dancing with the Stars”?

A shooting star.

I should make a wish. Should I wish for world peace? Or should I wish for you to see this arc of the Milky Way and come across your insignificance?

Oh what are men compared to rocks and mountains?

I’m humbled.

Looking towards the sea, I see an endless stretch of clouds, bottoms of which are illuminated by villages, towns and a city. One peak juts out, like a black iceberg in a sea of white icing. Above it hangs Venus, passionately preening in the light of the sun. Further to the left is Mars, blushing as he watches her. Lastly, there is Saturn, a little lonely, a little mighty, yet ready to provide the rings if…

I’m in the company of gods and goddesses, isolated from the dirt and grit and sweat of people as a general! This is the top of the world. Skybar, anyone?

I feel like I belong. I shrivel up as cars drive by. It’s not the night I fear but the people she has cast her spell on. They leave me in peace; nobody wants to mess with a weirdo in pajamas, offering herself to visible gods on a metallic tray that makes bending noises as she rolls from side to side.

I’m spilling with awe and joy, and the only thing that is missing is a voice that would wow along with me and a warmth that would glow beside me.

My phone rings. The one who is missing. Imaginary Extraordinary Him. My rock, my warm bed, my curled toes, my special only, my my my…let’s be humble now, I only own my words and actions and never, anyone.

The emotion is mine, however. He is the cause, the emotion is the effect, take a deep breath, the two are separate. The two are halves. We are wolves beneath the unphotographable indescribable sky, howling into the receiver, tails between our legs, humbled by the force of love, they call it?