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?
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?