I just woke up.
A great shadow of emptiness looms over Beirut, and I'm standing on the edge, knee-deep, not knowing where to run...
The thought was circling in my head as I drove back home at 5 in the morning. It was over: the Beirut that I knew all this time, was forever gone. It was only at this particular hour, the city empty and silenced, that I felt at home. Cautiously, the ghosts of my hopes and memories emerged from their hiding places. The shy followed the brave, and soon enough the streets came alive from under the shuffle of their feet. Playfulness in numbers.
But with the movement of every car and human figure that charged from the darkness, the dream would burst into a cloud of feathers, and the colourful televised image would slowly fall to the ground in shreds. And as the inhabitants and pollutants of the city rose from their slumber, their dynamic manifestations would propel bullets that punctured this magical canvas until it hung by a thread, a shredded, disintegrated origami, twirling in the rising air that parted with the black asphalt.
During the day, I cannot recognize the city anymore. Within minutes I am consumed by the multitudes of cars and faceless people that I imagine to be driving them. I cannot recognize myself.
An umbilical cord of smoke and noise and poison sucks the life out of this urban embryo. Aside from the wheezing and gagging, there are the frustrated palpitations of an angry broken heart. We beat this child that our grandfathers raised, that our grandmothers sang lullabies to. We beat it all throughout the day, its fragile bones crashing into 4-floor-deep car parking basements. We cut, we drill, we scrape, we delete, we fill, and we are tired. We tell this child we love her and that this is for her own good, Li Beirut, 7abibti.
And then we dress her up like a Hollywoodian Virgin Mary, and send her stumbling into the night, to light the way and lead us to our chambers of perversion, where we rape her, rape her, irreversibly. Then sew her up again.
Yet we still insist she stand tall in 50 inch heels, a glamorous, glitzy, promising catch. We are selling our virgin daughter repeatedly.
Forgive my Parisian tone, but I'm sick of tourists, of tourists who have no idea of the price we are paying. Of happy, chatty white faces who will come back home with stories of shirtless ribbed men at Cotton Candies, of brightly made-up Solider-ity, of beer and wine flowing in the gutter, of the beautiful buildings that are being torn down, of the crazy traffic, of beautiful girls who seduce but, leave the European hanging, of handsome boys who seduce you and leave you waiting...
Will anyone ever stay long enough to come back and let everyone know that we are lost, our past crumbling, our culture in dusty books about Phoenicians, our boys waiting eagerly to dance with other boys once a month because it's the fucking pits being gay here, our girls saving the last dance for boys who can afford to keep dancing and dancing, our parents who will never forget who shot who first, our artists who are struggling to fill a void within and without themselves, our g0vernment who _____________________ <---- insert every offense here. Will anyone come back with stories and pictures of a Beirut more divided than ever?
My only hope is to vomit everything I know and to stop pinning hopes to where there is only empty frustration. To better navigate the city, to better filter the people, so that I can grow more efficient and not waste energy and time, so that I stop avoiding, start facing and do something.
I am hopeful, I heard a pin drop a couple of nights ago. I am not alone. There are people who have built fortresses against this perverse invasion and I stand in awe and admiration. I have much to learn. Thank you both.
-I'm getting out of here.
- Where are you going?
- To the other side of morning.
(speaks Jim Morrison in "The Movie")