I’m sleepless in Beirut.
Checked my schedule and it looks like I will be free to pick you up from the airport. Natrik.
Red had always been a man of few words, but he was also one of the few men I could depend on. We went out back in 9th grade, we barely kept in touch and the last I saw of him was over a year ago, but here he was waiting for me. I gave the memory of him a tight hug.
Technically school sweethearts don’t count if they don’t survive graduation, but Red was a little different. He is so careful about what he expresses and to whom that when he opened up to me back then, I knew it was a gift I was to cherish, safeguard and take with me to the grave.
He was one of the “cool” guys. His pants hung low, his walk was signature, he played soccer during breaks, he didn’t talk much, he listened to rap, he carved stuff into his desk, he would talk back to the teachers and he was dating one of the girls from the group I hung out with.
I was the introvert of the group myself and maybe that is what drew me to him. We became friends, if friendship meant chatting on MSN or talking on the phone for hours after school. Soon enough, I realized I was attracted to him, but he was “in a relationship”, if being in a relationship meant holding hands in the cinema and having access to the bra fastener. Definitions and boundaries were different in the –teen years.
We felt that we had a lot to share with one another and that we genuinely cared. Following complaints from our parents regarding the long hours spent on the phone, we came up with a solution: a notebook that we would use as a cross between letters and chatting. I’d write in blues and pinks, and he would write in black and red, and we’d sign with tags that took up half the page. Within a week, his girlfriend/my friend grew suspicious of the intention behind the notebook. We played innocent. I wasn’t going to break them up. I wasn’t going to break the unspoken rule. I tried.
And failed. I lost a friend, but got myself a boyfriend. He was the jock, I was the nerd and we were cute. We were so cute in fact that our first kiss came six months after the official start of the relationship. It was an issue we talked about, but the more we did, the more nervous we became and less capable of making the first move. It didn’t help that most of our dates were group dates or that my mom just happened to want to watch the same movie. “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” was different. We went to sit in the back by ourselves, and somewhere near the end of the movie, I finally lingered close enough to his lips for him to kiss me. Sigh.
What followed were make-out sessions in the staircase of my building or in the boys’ bathroom at school. Keep in mind that this was Dubai, before the world knew about it.
Our relationship was limited by parents, school and society, but surprisingly it lasted for a little over a year. We broke up because I had met Lulu and wanted a man and he met Rebound Girl and fell in love, but it never ended on bad terms, we just drifted apart. He changed schools the following year and ever since, I haven’t seen much of him…
…he did however come to Beirut last summer, and it was a punctuation mark to an open sentence.
I wonder whether he’ll be expecting another exclamation mark when I open my mouth tomorrow