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the in-between: Nef3a


The receptionist’s cubicle is surrounded by men tearing away at their tawouk sandwiches, it’s hard to tell who is in charge, or if there is anyone in charge at all. 

I approach the guy who isn’t eating,

“Where do I go to pay the Mecanique?”

“Where’s your car registration paper? The lines go by numbers now. I need to see it to tell you where to go.”

I give him the laminated document.

“Go to the last window on the left. You have all your papers?”

I nodded and climbed the couple of steps towards the entrance.

There were three guys in uniform, not exactly in charge, rather in conversation. There was no hall, just a room with a low ceiling. The paint must have been white some decades ago, but now it was smeared with God-knows-what-people-bring-to-the-Nef3a-for-lunch. There was a bundle of people inside, some waiting in front of windows and the ones behind them hoping to be next. Their clothes looked shabby and worn out and the few dusty bulbs were doing them no favour. The majority were men, and their dark hair and skin only helped to dim the place even further. It felt a little bit like a cave.

The smell of smoke pervaded the air. It was that stench of forgotten ashtrays and unswept floors and cheap tobacco and smoke particles nesting in hair. There was no escaping it, within five minutes, my clothes gave up my perfume and adopted Marlboro in its place.

Behind the windows, I could see the tops of heads of the staff. They were balding men, the rest of their hair graying, and behind them were metal shelves caving in from stacks of folders. The folders were torn and frayed at the edges, factory-coloured blues, greens and pinks that ought to be holding information from the Dark Ages. A donkey or a wooden carriage wouldn’t seem out of place in this world.

“What hole did I fall in?”, I thought.

I went to the far left window and waited. The man behind didn’t pay attention to me, which was weird because I looked like the cleanest face there. I saw that he had a computer, nothing fancy, but a machine that would spare me a place in one of the soft, split-edge faded folders. A cord of smoke was dancing somewhere in front of the screen, his waiting-to-be-seized cigarette, not a burning keyboard. I was wrong. He picked up his pack of Winston’s and lit another one. The cord was still dancing, happy that for the next few minutes they will be two.

He gestured to me to hand him my papers. Shlick, shlack, staple, pa2 pa2,

“Khaliyoun ma3ik.”

He then handed me a square piece of paper.

“3aleyki malyoun w miten w khamsa w tis3een. Dfa3iyoun 3a sandouk w rj3e.”

The numbers weren’t lying: 1,295,000 with my name under.


“Manik def3a mecanique. Alfen w tis3. Alfen w 3ashra.”

Ha! He thinks he can trick me because I look like the cleanest thing here! My eyes still large in shock, I go outside. I call Lumiere.

“Is this a logical sum? One million?”

Apparently it was. Apparently I wasn’t smarter than a fifth grader. Fuck my life.

With the fresh wad of liras in my hand, I went back in. In my absence, a line had formed in front of the cashier’s window all across the room and I had to place myself at the end, on the opposite wall. Naturally, people chose to cross to the other side between me and the guy in front, because nobody was going to excuse themselves, or break the line of sweat, smoke and testosterone lining up to leave this place a few hundred thousand liras lighter.

In Dubai, they always let the women skip the line, it’s a given. For a second, I expected someone to spare me the painful wait, to say tfadale and just step behind me. From the moment I had walked in I was expecting a special treatment because I looked like I didn’t belong to this world, but I had forgotten that this was a world I had chosen to ignore and on which I had turned my back. Why should they even notice me? I looked like a thing to push over, a thing to walk on, because I had no idea that this is the world for most people here. A world of waiting, of aggressive gestures, of stench, of faded colours, of lost causes, of lost hopes, of tawouk breakfasts, lunches and dinners, a world of push and shove if you ever want to get anywhere.

And then, not without the residue of vanity, I felt proud to be down here, to not have run away, to do the necessary, to face the ugly…

…but it was a questionable pride. In less than half an hour or so, I was back in my cushioned world of tfadale and tikram 3younik and the prospect of waiting in line was an entire year away.

I really have no idea.




I'm tossing and turning in Beirut.

All this scrolling has made me nauseous. I know I shouldn't have. 

Oh the shouldn't-haves! The taste of paradox on the tongue of your mind! The sweet temptation slowly reeling you in, the senses wide shut in anticipation of a shouldn't-see, a shouldn't-hear, a shouldn't-speak. And you could've walked away, but you wouldn't. Too close to fight the smell of dead-thing-in-the-corner, too curious to not turn it over, too disappointed to discover it to be just cat. Categorical sinner.

Sin-half-full. Not quite capital, but wrong at the onset and the outcome wronger still.

I knew I shouldn't have the moment I knew.

[phone buzzes. London calling. He should be on his way. Smell of something-in-the-corner.]

I don't know how he does it. How does he cope with living in a museum of my raw and naked past? Perhaps if it were a file cabinet in the basement of a library, the ex-files would not take on a role heavier than baggage but I'm one of those sentimental people who dare not throw anything away. I just throw everything around. My dirty laundry hangs above me like a cartoon cloud, follows me around like a red balloon, escapes through my mouth and lands on the ears of others where it doesn't matter. How does he not want to pop it into silence? 

I did it. I could say I stumbled upon, I could say it was coincidental, accidental, never intended for, but I would be lying and I shouldn't. I shouldn't have rummaged trough his file cabinet. I shouldn't have seen that picture. I wouldn't feel nauseous now. I wouldn't feel stupid, because

"Hey, I am not an envious person."

And of the old dusty past too! About two years ago, a hand on the waist, the smile I know, the smell of the neck I can summon at will, the girl he holds and who looks nothing like me and maybe I had a long day, shaky limbs, outdoor shivers, shaky grounds for insecurity? 

A cold, glass facade, impermeable to rain and reflecting sunshine 300 days a year, blocking UV, blocking views to the inside, mullions like knives up and down, across, insensitive at best, if not short of a technical term for apathy in modern materials. Ah, but if one could walk through walls and see the condensation on the other side - the winds of irrational jealousy that shake and quiver and make the droplets flow in streams, what a show of all-day-AC-ON problematics one would see!

How does he walk through the glass museum, the curator hiding in between the panes, exhibits of steam and memories in random rooms, open and coming soon, none of them really over, just covered in dust, or with traces of my nostalgic fingers running across?

The case of rummaging through the X-file. A bout of nausea. Never again. A shouldn't-have that should be learned from. Again and again.




I'm sleepless in Beirut.

I better watch out, I better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why, London is coming to town. They have made a list, they're checking it twice, they already know who's naughty and nice...so try and be good for goodness sake!

Imaginary-Extraordinary-Him and Balding should land in Beirut in the coming days. Or so they said. Or do I say this because I care?

I do remember.

I met Balding at Art Lounge. He was here on vacation. I was ordering drinks. He stood a little behind me to my left. I felt his gaze. He later explained he wasn't looking at me. I turned to ask for a light. He told me he didn't smoke. I used the candle instead. He made fun of my "do you have a light?" line. I retorted that it wasn't a line, I had in fact lost my lighter. He asked me what I did in life. I let that slip and I answered and reciprocated the question. He continued the conversation. I did not have anything better to do. He seemed like a nice guy. I seemed like a nice girl. We spoke until I left. I gave him my number. He said he'd call the next day. I then realized that he hadn't even asked for it. He must have thought I was eager. I thought I had made a terrible mistake. He waved to me as I drove off. I hoped that was the last I'd see of him. Ma2ele jlede. I had Imaginary-Extraordinary-Him and a plan to go to London.

Imaginary-Extraordinary-Him used to sing to me. He would play on his guitar and sing and I would replay the voicemail a  hundred times. We would both pour wine simultaneously and our video conversations would become increasingly frivolous as the drops collected in our blood. We would share the sounds of bath water, afternoon jogs and kitchen utensils and we imagined that the other was right there. We knew how we would feel one against the other, how we would fit, because the weight of our words made us corporeal. We would stay up for hours, past bedtime, past logic, past reality, past the present, past the future, absorbed in conversation, absorbed by the pixels sent via cables and satellites until we were close to collapse and sometimes past that. When Skype was beyond reach, we would pour ourselves down letters and text messages, and every moment would be missing something until we had exchanged a message or a comment, till we made poetry bleed from between the lines.

"I'm at Deir el Qamar. There is a girl on stage playing the flute."

"I'm at a really pretentious place called Kensington Roof Gardens."

"So much. So so much.   [pretend I am your ground]"

"I don't need to pretend...it's all relative. You're real."

"So are you. I don't even miss you."

"I do [saying the same thing as you in a different way :) ]...

...the next morning... 

...I woke up with bits and fragments of yesterday's attempts to read parts of your e-mail. Finding myself often scrambling for an imaginary pen and paper to pin down important thoughts I wanted to share with you before they slip out of my mental cavity or sucked back to some hidden parts of my brain. Your existence seems to be unleashing a dormant creature in me, like a third eye of spirituality, almost like I cannot imagine a world without you because it's so much more awake with you, Sleepless, a new dimension...well, in blunt honesty I'm not sure what it is but hell I can't wait to write you back. I hope it's not just out of curiosity, but even that is fine in our world..."

"To read that and try to reply...I'd only be lying."


To share that and try to unbelieve it, would have been a crime against every fairytale I had ever read before going to bed. I had to believe it. I had to think that I had found that other person who could read my mind, who could navigate it and who could love it, because if I had been cynical, I would have died then and there. All hope of that special something extraordinary would have left me.

But maybe the trick of that extraordinary special something surviving was to abstain from ever touching it. Like a surface of glass, still and impeccable, mirror to the sky, ode to strolling clouds, a plane to a reflection matrix, once touched, even if by a wisp of air escaping the mouth above the water surface, would be perturbed from shore to shore for days, maybe weeks to come. And only when its unfathomable stillness would be restored, only when the earth would appear as though it had never moved, only when the last grain of sand settled at the bottom, only then would it be beautiful again and the eyes that looked upon the lake in awe and fascination would be long gone.

I think we both knew that, but the possibility of us never meeting became a projection of possible anguish and pain. I justified everything with a "What if?"

"What if you're the one? The one I could spend the rest of my life with? Wouldn't that be something? Wouldn't it be something to have caught a frivolous thought of you being my man, my forever before ever having touched you and then discovering it to be a prophecy that came true?"

In the end, I just wanted to know. I couldn't weigh the What if? question in my head anymore. It became an obsession and all the signs, the dwindling communication, the change in tone, the broken promises, they never reached me through the fog. I succumbed to a sort of Saramagian blindness - my eyes were licked over with a milky whiteness through which I could never see past, but I always insisted on squinting in the hope that I sooner or later would.

So I bought my ticket to London. Willingly and consciously, the most beautiful thing was tarnished, and I think we both knew that, but the excitement of the trip lied to us. We were deceived by our very own lie. 

The truth was ugly. Or it didn't fit. It was two sizes too small. Or was our lie two sizes too big? It doesn't matter. The pantylines were obvious.

It's strange to know that we will be in the same city once again. It's strange to not feel the same excitement that I did last. It's strange to acknowledge that something extraordinary was but a figment of the imaginary. Or was it? Can something be dismissed as a hypochondriac's fancy once you have felt it in your bones? I refuse to think that the line between tangible and intangible is that clear. But the strangest thing is that I have come to terms with the failure. I admit to having knitted a sweater two sizes too big. I admit to having tried to wear it. I admit that the largeness of it did not bother me, but it was the prickly wool that made me take it off and stow it away.

I admit that I sometimes wonder why it plummeted and I admit that I cannot pin down why. I admit that I am curious. I hope it's just that, curiosity, because that is fine in our world. 




I'm sleepy in Beirut.

I read to you poems about little monsters; about little hearts ignored and rejected, about the cruel world that turns its back to anomalies. I read them out loud with a British accent and a Mexican tang gone wrong and you had nightmares about Mexican prisons and I don't know whether that comforts me to know that I can slip in between the pages of dreams that you flip through at night.

Furry from the waist up, I clambered beside you into bed. I don't know how it began, but we sealed ourselves in, me and you against the world, two anomalies that maybe fit. I say maybe, because it's hard to see past your suit of skin that I cannot but liken to glue, an all-purpose adhesive that can stick a glove unto a foot. Our lips separate like two fingers smudged with UHU, stubborn to yield to the fact that they belong to separate bodies. The wish to be one, the wish beyond any physical capability, the wish that would come true in a factory-size blender is becoming a frequent visitor in the back of my mind. If I were a Burton poem, I would blend us two together.

You spoke out against a lot and I thought of running. I know you need to run, but you anticipate walls before the start line. I think those walls you can run through, but you must start running soon. Abstract shit, huh? You light being, so much weighs you down and you never weigh it down on me. What grace you possess! You are graceful without moving, here laying still beside me in bed, talking about everything that should not go wrong for you in this world. I don't know why things should. I don't know why Oyster Boy had to die in the end, I thought he should turn into a merman instead. But does it matter what I think when he ends up as ground aphrodisiac powder anyway? I cannot make your world good, but I think it should be good to you. 

I see you now at work, reading what I wrote to you and tears well up in my eyes at the thought of it. If good things don't come your way, then dog exists instead. And I will be heartbroken as one would be in face of a lost cause. Too many lost causes...and I will sound like half a pound of Brie boy, but there is no need to be lost 'cause there is always a route, even in a routine. You can uproot or you can uproot the traffic lights that stall you.

[And I should probably do away with the tone of tha preacher man.]

I guess I just want you to be happy and I admit it is nothing but a selfish wish. You are already a pretty big problem. The kind of problem that stuffs a handbag with rehabilitation program brochures.


Sleepless in Beirut will be televised

Tune in on the Mazaj show on Future TV this Monday, the 13th of December, at 19h00, to get in between the sheets with Sleepless in Beirut.




I'm sleeping in in Beirut.

Kinder surprise wrapers, lighters, dying cigarettes, finished drinks,
melting ice cubes, wrist games, electric feel, broken record, toilet
trips, do what you feel now.

Lumiere goes to the bathroom, two steps higher. My boots on the stool,
my left hand across my stomach clutching my right elbow, my left hip
uncomfortable from the unnatural twist in position.

Unnatural situations.

The place is filling up. Someone switched on the AC.

Lumiere writes: it's getting a warm feel of cold

He hands me the phone.

"Write more!", I insist "fesh khil2ak"


He doesn't like being told what to do. Natural reactions.

Naturally, I'd push further, but he disappeared to the bathroom. And
when he returned he divorced me from my phone with a kiss. My centre
dropped to the leather seat and rose back up to my throat.

Some guy moves through the crowd and they kiss.

"This is my brother's best friend"

His bent leg weighs down a slight bit. I want to take it further.

The room could be on fire, the red light, the smoke burning my eyes,
the heat of his leg, the lighter being lit, the cilia dying in his
trachea, the cilia choking in mine. Put out the fire with those wet
lips and I'll drop to the floor with those ashes. Easily. False
libations. The wine is swimming in me.

"Do you know what I want to do?"


"I want to kiss you and smell you till the morning"

We were on the same level. I couldn't stop playing with his hair,
sometimes pulling harder out of frustration, but most of the time
dancing around his neck and earlobes.

"I have to go. I can't cancel out on them."

"And what are you going to do after?"

I leaned forwards, stretched my neck up and kissed the labyrinth of his ear.


"Lesh la2? Since when is a kiss a la2?"

"I thought you were trying to smoothen the goodbye."

And then I realized that kisses are probably worse than smiles. A kiss
ridden with guilt and planted in your lover's skin is acidic compared
to a guilt-ridden smile.

"I'll see you at my place?"

"That should be a statement not a question."

"I'll see you at my place."

I swam through the crowd and into the wet street. I walked briskly to
my car and headed towards the suburbs.

Three hours later, I was back. I parked my car close by; my umbrella
and shoes would be useless in the upcoming storm.

I saw a female figure head up the stairs that lead to Lumiere's. She
looked like his friend's girlfriend or just a friend of the

On the landing, the light from beneath Lumiere's door fell on a human figure.

"Hi!" I said, thinking it was the girl I had met a couple of weeks ago

We knocked on the door simultaneously. Į found that bizarre, shouldn't
she leave the knocking to me since I'm the one who walks around in his
boxers? Her boyfriend must have been inside.

The door opened and I exclaimed, "Ta-daaah!"

But it was only Lumiere. I dropped my things on the sofa and went back
to my car for my forgotten phone.

When I came back she wasn't there.

"Who was that?"

"Where did you find her?"

"I didn't, I just saw her go up the stairs, thought it was..."

"She was in my school, we had a thing. The last time I saw her was
five months ago... She messaged me 15minutes ago asking me where I
was. I didn't reply. Bad timing."

"Perfect timing! She'll get the message. What happened when I left?"

"She asked who you were and I said you were..." he cupped the air to
the left of his chest.

"What did you tell her?"

"Khallas, ma 7a ilik!"

"Tell me, tell me!"

He swiveled round in his chair trying to escape the tight corner.

"Mabadi ilik."

"You told her I was your boob?"

It didn't matter. Those words don't matter. Titles, orders, names will
not add anything. Who needs to know? We know what we live, and it may
be called a boob for all I care.

Silly as it may sound, mystery prevails because.




I'm sleepless in Beirut. One, two, three, checking. Tuk, tuk, tuk. Is it on?


Everyone covers their ears.


*whispers to the other* Can I address the audience directly? Isn't that against, like, you know, every law in literature?

*whispers back* Are you Tolstoy? This is a blog. Chill. And after post-modernism, you whatever pretty much do can want...

Clears the dust off the screen and keyboard. Ahem, ahem.

Seeing that today my life took an unexpected turn, I am at a loss, at a crossroads, at the start of ten thousand possibilities. I am at a loss for words. I feel like I'm driving towards a 7ejez, a road block, a writer's block. I've always been driving myself, writing for myself, but 10,000 miles, 10,000 passing views ahead, I can't help, but want to go further and take you along with the journey.

Where would you like me to take you? Somewhere old? Somewhere new? Somewhere borrowed? Somewhere blue?

My indicator is on, blinking...


the in-between: so long December


I say so long December, 'cause I've reason to believe that this month will go by faster than the last. A new year to come? My new year has already begun, I guess I'm still stuck in the tradition of new beginnings once the official summer months have passed. 

But the seasons seem to have forgotten their cue, or that there is a queue at all, that spring is a period of fornication, that summer is a time of sun worship and whoreship, that autumn is a fall in speed and folly, that winter is a weight and wait for summer. The seasons have forgotten us, they have left us with a constant climate, they have left us without hope of change.

Days are flying by and I'd like to ask time for seconds. I want more. Another round please, because this time I'd take it in spoon by spoon, I won't devour every possibility only to get a little taste, but never the full experience. But if the leaves are evergreen, the bananas ever fresh and the skies forever blue, where should I go looking for change? Where do I climb to see the world shift?

And what is world to a little me? Is it the room I'm sitting in? Is it my last phone call? Is it my last love? Is it my dream I'm sitting on?

Hell, don't preach to me about internal change because if all is relative than everything outside my mind is static, even the constant flow of blood through my head is static in its cycle, even the possibility of tomorrow is still because it's always the same 50/50 chance of something or another.

Two more days to go and then I'll know. I'll know if change will shift me across the universe.