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I'm sleepless in Beirut.

Simultaneously, I receive a "BonZour" and "Hey! Ssup bad gul :p"

A collaborative resurrection. A coffin lid that slid an inch and expelled the smell of skeletons and withered, stiff forget-me-nots. 

The dead eyeballs roll forward again and looked at me accusingly, why have you forgotten us?

Leon and Hugg, a man and a half, two characters that I let settle to the bottom of my list of people I wanted to be connected to. There was something about them that just didn't fit.That smell of fish in the middle of the Gobi, that empty highway at rush hour, that sound of a stray firework weeks after New Year's - that something that made you turn around and head the other way.

Both were certified. Leon, reliably endorsed by being a friend of a friend of a friend and Hugg, (to be yet) legally declared insane.

I met Leon through work. What was to be a professional meeting for coffee, stretched into a drive to the mall, a shopping spree for a lamp for my home and a dinner by the sea.

His body was a paragraph of triceps, biceps, deltoids, pectorals, abdominals, latissimus dorsi, adductors and laterals written with roaring, ripping rhyme and rhythm and its poetry touched me like only a primal awakening could. He was the physical definition of man. His skin was tanned and rough looking, his cheeks chiseled to perfection, his lips thin and firm, his arms hairy, his face clean-shaven, but at the ready to sprout at any given moment and his nose tip dipped, recalling the shape of a pair of well-loaded Speedos. But his eyes spoke of something opposite. They were almond-shaped, deep wells of dark brown chocolate, laced with lashes that called for a two page spread mascara ad. They softened his menacing jaw-line, they looked at me softly and the twenty years between us evaporated as did the formality that we had swallowed along with our first cup of coffee.

He would always ask about my cat and give her love and affection the few times he had come over. I was soon classified under the feline species, "How are my two cats doing?" he'd message me. He lacked the royal mane of a lion, but he fit right in the serengeti of my imagination. I could picture him lying in a strategic spot, his body pertched up by an elbow resting on the ground and his other arm resting like a stamp of ownership on his bent knee, the horizon stretching out before him in four clean lines over which the satin bed sheets draped and spilled...the fantasies came easy.

It didn't take long to succumb to the primal laws of the savage plains. The fragile ecosystem depended on either one of us to win, to fight it out like only prey and predator could, to have the battle end in shreds and shrieks and a satisfaction of a prehistoric craving. But our roles were interlaced and we spoke in meows and purrs lacerated with what could only be pleasure and we fell back into the fitting curves of our bodies with a heaviness of a blackout.

But that was the only fit. Like two puzzle pieces that come together in perfect contour, but one a piece of sky and the other a piece of ocean. The way he..., the way it..., the way... I could not pin it down, I could not name why I felt uneasy about the two of us, so I blamed his few grammatical mistakes for my sudden aversion...even though I knew he had an iPhone and that his fingers were too large for the tiny keyboard.

Hugg was more didactical. Our relationship grew from him preaching to me his sci-fi dogmas and me listening to them avidly. I was eager to interact on what he called the third level of communication, to discuss abstract concepts and ideas, rather than who ate where and who did what. Cruising round the Corniche, we escaped reality, he encouraged me to dig deeper into my spiritual wells, to let go of social bullshit...

only so we could later show up, hot and gorgeous, at some drunk n' bass party. It didn't fit, even if we left early, even if we knew that we were above all that stuff, even if we dicussed how pointless, how absurd...and then we'd go back again the next weekend.

Our journey started as a platonic friendship. The blindiness of beautiful theory!

"I am looking for a friend. I need a friend right now. I want us to become best friends. I want to share everything with you."

Does everything include kisses and hugs and cuddles and caresses and moans and sighs?

It did. And I could never let go of the initial theory sold to me, because I am that person that gets caught up in details and finds difficulty in letting go of the story even when the book is over. He didn't practice what he preached. He was a walking paradox.

Flutterby messaged me last night: I got a restraining order on my ex-boyfriend - apparently I was a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.

Come to think of it, I think I was too. Hugg was abusive. He'd play me hard: raise me up and then tear me down. It's a cunning game and it works. You are trained to love your abuser. Hugg was a dog person and he wanted me to be his dog or even l'ombre de son chien. Within a month or so, I felt a cloud of bad energy begin to build up. I didn't feel good most of the time and I'd go looking for that better in Hugg. And he played me. The morning I walked out on him when he was still asleep, was the best move I had done for myself. It was checkmate.

But it didn't come with the pride and glory of a strong woman, I have to admit. I called on Botticelli. He had just come back from vacation. I wanted the safety of his arms and the safety of his appartment, far away from this street and this world that I really didn't belong in. I was already parked beneath his window when we spoke on the phone. He didn't know, but the invitation never came. I hung up, swallowed everything and drove off into the rising sun.

So don't supp bad gul me. Because I'll say hey. Because I'm too weak to send you away for good.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

He got up from his chair and laid down in front of me. We were quiet and his kinetic gesture, a habit that I have come to know in the five days I spent living with him, called to me to move from where I was sitting. I got up and sat down beside him.

I leaned forward and we kissed. My lips entered into the chamber of his mouth and I sucked the air out of his lungs.

"Imagine you died like this!"

He smiled.

"How would you like to die? In your bed?"

"That's so boring. I would like to die doing what I love."

"Which is?"

"Come on, you know."


"Like, say if I was free-falling..."

"What else do you like to do?"

"Hundreds of things."

"Yalla,what are they?"

He must have felt cornered, nailed down. He hmmmmed.

"Tayyeb, give me seven."

Eating sushi was one of them. Number seven was surprising.

"I'd like to have a son."

"What would you call him? Or would you name him after you see him?"

"I don't know. I'd name him once I see him."

"But they all look the same when they're first born! And so ugly. Like aliens."

"Ugly? Are you serious? If I saw a baby now, I would cry."

I felt like I didn't deserve a womb. I actually felt the phantom of an inflated void in my belly. I felt it rise to my heart. I quickly tried to human myself with excuses such as "but it's only during the first few weeks, then they become adorable" or "I remember seeing my brother and sister in the hospital, they were red and wrinkled...but I loved them anyway". Like that rectified the situation. Writing it down has just made it THAT much worse.

Some people have asked me, "What is it that you want the most? What is that goal in your life?". Naturally, if I find babies ugly I should like a glossy career, laughter-glazed dinner parties, champagne bubbles in flute glasses, New York streets beneath the red soles of my Louboutins, a vintage Porsche in my garage, Danish furniture around my loft and a dozen of scruffy one-button extra unbuttoned flock of Javier Bardems ready to sail me, fly me and take me. Amen. 

A men? That is grammatically and logically incorrect. Or was that morally?

I do have to admit that I have daydreamed along those lines and I'm still young enough to think that if Faraya can have a Hollywoodian sign in their front yard, so can I - a Holy more Woody ally scripted life. But I do know better than to believe that such a dream will culminate in nothing but a large gaping Hole-in-the-wood-of-my-future-construct.

The truth is, rip me apart or believe me, my answer was and still is, "The only thing I know for sure is that I want to be a mother."

Just not yet. Most of the girls in my family have had children quite early, some at eighteen, others at twenty-two and even if that has been their personal choice, or in some cases not, uh-oh, I don't think it right at all. 

Even if they love their kids, they will tell you now that they came too early. These girls, life was harsh for them and they were impulsive, fleeing their domestic autocracy for another, fleeing the high altitudes of stacks of books for the white peaks of underwear of Mt. To-yet-iron, I feel for them. Who knows, had life happened differently for me, I could be a sleepless Um-Karim.

They might not have travelled or graduated from some honourable college or graduated at all, but they don't need any of that to give to a child. All kids needs is love.

Right. I'll buy that on a 70% sale. 

I want to be a mother because I want to do something better. To do that, I need to know what is better and I need to know what is worse. I need more time. I want to raise them to wonder, to think and judge for themselves and to be free of the current shackles of iShit. I need to learn more to teach well. But that's just me, with an empty womb and no child to know the reality of things. 

My best memory of mom and I was the time she took me on the back of a bike and while we were riding along the street, a screw came loose and the wheel rolled down somewhere into a ditch. We discovered a stream and pretty blue flowers. Her hair was lose and she wore high-waist blue jeans, and I was clashing in a yellow T-shirt and purple overalls, one tooth less behind a perfect smile. 

I learned that if she could fix a broken wheel, so could I.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

We found ourselves on the way to Faraya. The road was empty and the villages we passed were close to deader than dead. It was hours past bedtime and our eyes too blinked like the flickering lights that lit our way higher and further into some memory of snow blanketed landscapes. 

It was the same desolate road and the same yellow light that punctuated my second date with Capitalyst. My salty sweat was still fresh from The Basement and the excitement freshly glazed with anxiety. 

"Btw, that invitation to the Cedars, or rather Faraya, is not half-hearted.  You do ski, right? Perhaps you'd join me for a day on the slopes this Sunday?  It would be downhill skiing, so no special equipment necessary.  We can even have dinner at Le Montagnou - Fondue and Pierrade, or for something more traditional Shaker's Bayd bi 2awerma would be plenty good.", he wrote.

The plan to spend the night in Faraya at his friend's chalet wasn't half-hearted either. At first I was hesitant. I was sure I wasn't going to be able to handle the where-to-sleep issue with grace. I was afraid of coming off as a prude, but I was also unwilling to put myself in a position where I would have to ward off any unexpected advances. 

But the awkwardness of the situation was too tempting to pass up. I was sure to walk away with a story. More importantly, I wanted to see him again.

So there we were, slithering up the mountain road, traces of snow making their first appearance within the first half an hour of the trip. On our way up, we made room in the trunk for a bunch of drunk teenagers looking for an easy way to get back home. 

He drove up to the deserted Warde station. We sat in the car, the sunroof open to reveal all the full-stops left by shriveled nebulas. I would tense up every time he would come within an inch's distance to my face. Looking back, one could say that I had a phobia of appearing as an easy girl

I know better now, I am anything but. Yes, if easy means that I have laid to rest all my complexes regarding sex in this society, then yes, I am easy, still, and forever will be. But I'm complex and complicated and I am capable of writing wonderful equations to justify A+B=C, because it's never C, it's always A+B. I don't have sex, I make love. It comes easy to me. White flag. I'm an easy girl. 

And it was this particular phobia that handicapped me for quite a while. I've let go of it, just as I've let go of potentially beautiful moments that I walked past like one passes a sex shop. Is7a...

My handicap wasn't invisible either. I wasn't sitting in the passenger seat of his car: I was in a wheelchair. I don't recall his reaction word-for-word, they were big big words one after the other and amidst anxiety, the inner battlefield and feeling intimidated by his to-the-point attitude I completely blanked out. When it was my turn to say something, I could barely muster a stammer. 

"Let's go to the chalet. They must be there by now. Maybe you will relax a little."

Relax I did. It was an authentically furnished cozy little nook with a friendly host and amiable guests. Up until then, I had had very little chance to meet the kind of people a mother would like you to meet: young, nice, educated, cultured. I wouldn't say I was in my own element, but it's an element I always wished to be a part of.

My cheeks returned to a rosy red until everyone began to turn in.

"Where are we going to sleep?"

"In the guest room."

That must mean same bed? I peered inside. It was a big bed, we could fit my invisible friend between us two. If only he could see him!

But Capitalyst was sweet. Bittersweet. He didn't want another friend. I had to make a choice. That night I chose to interject my invisible friend so as to better sleep on it.

Funny how things change. How big beds take the backstage, how society fades into the background, how we claim to want change when the way we think is backwards, how we preserve virginity by taking it in the back, how we stab each other's backs. Take the back door exit and leave this circus, the real carnival is yours to make.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

Lumière is in bed and I'm on his computer. 

"You should write something"

Should I? Who am I writing for now? I will write for the ghosts of my past who still haunt every precious corner. My precious ghosts who vanish as soon as I touch them.

I saw Botticelli tonight. 

"T'as vraiment changé. Douce.  Zen. T'es une femme. T'es une femme."

He was the same. I was myself now. We were different. No bitter history, just smiles and curled up legs on the sofa and the comfort of having known the before and the comfort of being able to be in the present. We hugged for a long time. No weapons of yesterday, no record books of who was left behind and who emerged unbruised, no dirty laundry. Fresh sheets, fresh shave, fresh stories to tell.

"Shoo betkhabrina?"

"I did something crazy. I went to London to meet a complete stranger."


"It's amazing how much you can connect without actually meeting a person."

"And find that the reality is different?"

"Non, pas vraiment. The first few days were great, but then there was a cut." I motioned scissors. "The last day was horrible."

"Tu tombes toujours sur des malades."

But it takes two. We named them des cas spéciaux. I'm attracted to impossible cases. He's attracted to incompatible cases. What are we running from?

But it takes two. I'm an impossible case and he's incompatible and together we are im- and in- and we can stare at the ceiling and think of the harsh light that obliges us to be frank and awake to our reality. Botticelli's will always be an honest space where nudity is just another mask on the wall staring down at us.

But my reality is not a moment and it is not really there anymore for me to own. But there, I can own up to it because there is nothing to lose anymore. The battle has been forgotten and the battlefield is an overgrown patch of wild field where leaves of grass are fresh and soft on our soles.

My reality is in this room where it has set up camp. A nomadic reality that shelters us and gathers us underneath the sheets, sometimes a bundle of writhing limbs and sometimes a body with four legs and arms breathing with one pulse and sometimes two pairs of eyes that look into the distance and do not meet. To be separate in the together is the impossible, but it is the element that makes us compatible. Lumière is dark and darkness I have always found appealing. To be blind and undistracted, to concentrate on peeling away the bed linen, the clothes, the translucent skin, the Myocardiocyteal muscle tissue, the opaque bones, the thoughts, the secrets, until there is nothing but light.




I'm awake in Beirut.

I run my fingers through my hair and his perfume untangles the nest that was built between the pillow and morning tongue slips. My naked wrist a nesting ground for his memory, a parcel of skin I will brush past my nose till dusk, till the yearning returns and the night blindfolds me.

We look at each other in the reflection of sunlight on the marble floor, intense and burning. Sleep still tugs on my eyelids until my blinks become closed doors and my skin receives him in compensation. How could a man be so softly dressed? A baby in a cloud shirt with bristles that prickle my cheek invite mother and mistress to the embrace. His tongue strikes a chord, his fingers seduce me with their melodious wanderings and the heat of his chest ignites a fire that I put out with my bleeding. My body, efficient and well-oiled for the chronic prospect of conception, flammable and fluent in want, diminishes behind red curtains. I don't think he'd want to paint. But I'd ravish on days like this.

His kiss is deeper and I sink further down below the elastic waistband. A wasteland of someone-said-forbidden tainted crimson, a landscape of always fresh days, a forest of billboards like pampered huggable babies pierced by javelins and lined for the public stuck in traffic. And I'm here in bed with another body that sweats, ejaculates and coughs, and the only difference is he bleeds when cut and I bleed despite it all. A scene from a biology book neatly laid out on glossy magazine paper that smells of nothing corporal. A corporate trick to make you sterile until you're nothing but a fresh breath, anti-perspiring, always fresh days, glossy, walking condom. 

Stretch. Stretch until our muscles quiver and then fall back into the trap of lethargy.

"I don't feel like going to work."

I felt like making love to you. Always.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

Lumière put out his cigarette.

"Should I turn off the music iza 3am tisma3e taba3ik? Ana feyit shower."

I can hear the water running and shampoo bottle lid popping. I occupy half the space of the sofa with my incorrect lotus position. And then I hear humming…who could guess that it's only been eight days?

Formalities, details, background checks, we skipped all that and got to the good part.

"If I park here, I'll have to wake up at 09:00 to pay the parking fee."

"You're staying?"

"Tab3an. Matafa2na?"

"Eh, bass, I wasn't sure…"

"That's why I was late, I was collecting my things."


Just to clarify, the woooo is the good part. It's a very good part. The sound of him brushing his teeth, the sticky kisses on the cheek, the bottle of Balkis orange juice I bought last night in his fridge, those too are included. That damn bottle of juice…

After dinner and the walking off of dinner around Hamra, in circles, in dizzying circles, I asked him whether I could spend the night at his place.

"Akid. You'll follow me?"

"Khallas, we'll just meet at your place."

"If you're hungry, get something now, I have nothing at home."

We got into our cars. On my way, I felt thirsty, so I decided to pass by MEDCO and buy some orange juice. I couldn't find my car keys (he's staring at me now as I type), I was only going in for a minute, so I locked the other three doors and ran inside. Nasee7a mini? Orange juice kills thirst and wets the anxious tongue that has begun to pulsate with the anticipation of a first kiss.

"Merci. Bonne soirée."

I pulled on the door handle of my car. Thuk. Nothing. The door doesn't budge. Somehow, the fact that the lock key locks all the four doors escaped me. Some kind of wonderful retarded 02:30:00 logic.

"Laaaa2! Shoo 7mara!"

The staff approached me to ask what was wrong. Embarrassed, but without a better alternative, I told them that I had locked myself out of the car.

"Ma3ndik spare?"

"Bi baiti. W il moufta7 el beit bi sayara."

"Ma3ndik 7adan bil beit?"

"M m."

Luckily, I had managed to memorize Lumière's phone number and asked for the man's phone to call him. Yes, my phone too was in the car.

"What's wrong?"

"Just come to MEDCO. I'll tell you when you get here."

He arrived within minutes.

"You should have seen how fast I was driving!"

"I'm sorry, I was too embarrassed to tell you over the phone…"

I explained what had happened with bites on the lip and guilty little girl glances. The only solution I could think of was to break the window. It wouldn't be the first time I'd file for that particular insurance claim…

Fortunately, even a contemporary damsel in distress is able to evoke the male hero. The teller had an idea. He made a phone call to someone who knew someone who knew someone who would know what to do.

While we were lingering beneath the white neon lights of the station, a white Tiida pulled over. Two oober-suspicious looking men climbed out, looked our way, exchanged a couple of comments that smelled of mockery and walked to the back of their car. From the trunk, they pulled out a metal pipe with a hooked end and started to move towards us.

"Moukhabarat", muttered Lumière under his breath.

"Really?! Wow."

The dude with a shaved head and hoody pulled out a set of keys from his pocket with his good hand – the other one was bandaged.

"Mara fete7 el Chevy fi", he proudly showed off a neat looking key in the light.

It didn't work and I let out a sigh of relief. I didn't want no multi-purpose key opening my car!

It had to be the pipe. For the next half-hour my car was rammed and fisted until it finally succumbed. No details of how-to-break-into-a-car will be posted here. Sincerest apologies.

Contrary to the urban myth, and thanks to my shorts, they wouldn't take any money. Must have been nice to do something good for a change.  Jokes aside, I owe these guys! Jokes aside, I would not want to cross paths with them again because as soon as their heads had popped out, I had a flashback from the movie "Eastern Promises".

Finally, we went back to his place. It felt a little like walking into a movie set for a second rehearsal. He sat down in the same chair and I sat down on the same sofa, but the quality of the space between us had changed. There was too much of it between us. The mutual awareness of something special knitting itself around us weaved us in with it, like a wool sweater tumbling and sighing in hot water for a week.

Beneath the warm covers and the warmth collecting in the pocket of air between neck and shoulder blade, we sunk into a deep sleep ignorant of the coming morning that was to become an Achilles' heel.

Nuits Beyrouthines

Finally tangible. Red read with a short story by Sleepless in Beirut.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

Whenever there were plans to return to Otherland in the summer, I would sign up on a local social networking site with the intention of making a couple of friends to spend time with once I got there. As if by default, most of the contacts I'd make would be guys. Tower was one of them.

We decided to meet the day after my arrival, at 16:00:00 under the bell tower of the city's cathedral.

I was excited. Prior to travelling, I had spoken to Lulu over the phone and he had agreed to come watch a contemporary dance show with me. Over a year and a half had passed since I had first met and last seen him. During that time he had succeeded to rise to national fame. He was elected as one of the sexiest men in the nation, he was rehearsing for a number of plays that were to open in October and not to mention he was the host of a local TV show. I'd call him once a month to talk a little bit about this and that, but soon enough Google had all his updates at my disposal. Thanks to the tabloids, I discovered that he was dating a woman eight years his senior, who resembled Uma Thurman, a lady with strong facial features and who just happened to have the same name as I. Our conversations were never flirtatious, but I clearly remember one texting session that filled me with enough hope to last a year. 

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita." - excerpt from "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

I hold these lines responsible for Lulu, for Italian Creep, for Candy Man, for Freud, for Botticelli, for Fuego, for Blue. Oh Vladimir, those encounters might never have happened had you not bewitched me with your words. I wanted to be a muse, to have someone think about me with such tenderness, with such forbidden desire.

I was still underage and elligible for the role.

Lulu admitted that it was one of his favourite movies and that the idea seduced him. Had I been a third person, I might have thought him a pedophile, but I was a melting popsicle.

I arrived to the ticket booth on time. They were about to close, people were shoving to get their tickets. I tried to squeeze in, to ignore my instinct to queue and wait, to be true to my Arab nature. Some old lady in an old-fashioned hat kept on rubbing against me. With some effort, I got hold of two seats. I paid and walked out into the busy street. Tower was supposed to meet me in an hour and I thought it would be polite to confirm. After all, the last time we spoke was a reasonable while back and plans are always open to change.

But, my phone wasn't in my bag. It wasn't in my pocket. I emptied everything out and it still wasn't there! Damn it, mom was right.

"Zip up your bag! You're provoking theft. This is not the Middle East."

It had to be that old hag. She kept on pushing against me. I remembered seeing the glow of my phone at one point. Fuck her! How can anyone take something that doesn't belong to them?

I felt violated and alone. The street was buzzing with people and nobody seemed to notice me. A tear rolled down my cheek. I looked up. The clouds hung like gray washed-out pillow cases. But there, at the end of the avenue, the golden cross atop the cathedral was glowing like a newly bought peg. It called to me. 

I went inside, a little shy, wondering whether it was possible for people to tell. Religion aside, the height, the light and acoustics of the space comforted me. I sat at the back, closed my eyes and waited for my breathing to calm down. Five minutes later, I felt a little better.

I had no way of contacting Tower, no way of getting in touch with my mom, who had the habit, like all mothers, to think the worst after one call unanswered. I walked across the street to the central post office. I'll buy a phone card, call my friend to have her call mom who didn't deserve to have a nervous break down right at the start of the summer holidays.

Having never used a pay phone before, I stared at it oblivious as to what to do next. There was a shop next door and I went in to ask for the shopkeeper's help. I must've looked distraught, because he asked me whether something was wrong. I bathed in the warm pool of pity pee and let the trickle of my measly tragedy reach his ears.

That lovely kind man pulled open a drawer and produced a large brick Motorola.

"There. You can use my old phone, it comes with a line and everything."

"Thank you, but I cannot accept. It's too kind of a gesture."

"Don't worry about it. You can return it when you get a replacement."

I was more touched than Botero's Adam. It felt a little like turning a corner and bumping into a mammoth. Samaritans are an endangered species. One must nurture their kindness.

I thanked him profusely and promised to return the cell phone as soon as possible. Suddenly, the world did not seem as ruthless and unfair, the clouds as oppressive, the people as cold-hearted and cell phones as important. 

I always go back to that day for inspiration. There is something so sincere in the kind gesture of a stranger. No hidden agenda, no benefits to reap. Perhaps after much dissection, one could find an underlying selfish intention, but feeling better about yourself by being an altruist is a malice of PG standards.

Tower proved to be a man of his word. At 16:00, I stood up on my tip-toes to kiss his cheek. His complexion was Twilight-pale, his eyes like werewolf's, his hair charcoal black and to his shoulders and his height neck-breaking. His face, his voice, his words radiated kindness. But kindness is a thing to be handled with care and as soon as I realised it, I recognised the possibility of my being careless and too childish and clumsy to sustain it without testing its elasticity. Perhaps that would explain my early childhood hours spent modelling plasticine; I would always knead it to the extreme to see how far a ball could be stretched.

We spent the afternoon roaming the city, hiding from the rain, drying our long hair over cups of tea and looking into each other's eyes for longer than necessary. It was a summer romance in the making...