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16.12.11

eighty-three


21:59:02

I’m sleepless in Beirut.

And bam, I miss my mom. It’s like the number of times you need to drive down a road to realize that there is a new building and it’s been under construction for months.

What is she up to? What is her life? Would she answer your tiresome child’s questions with the same answer? Would she distract you with a toy? Would she comfort you with a soothing nod? Would she tell you to wait until you’ve grown up?

For a large part of my youth, my mom was stability. My mom was the smell that would never change, the smile that would never wane, the cook that would never fail, the strength that I would never question. She was the point of reference for what was right and what was wrong or for what I could get away with. She was the threshold of behaviour I would expect from others.

“Not even my mom…!”

My mom, unbeknownst to me, unacknowledged by the rebel, was my idol. If I had ever mentally criticized her demeanor, or verbalized it at a later age, it is the demeanor I am now criticized for. If she had a vice, I have their double. If she had qualities, and they were and are plenty, I hope to acquire them.

If my education was heavily paid for, it should have gone straight to my mom who taught me more with her calm tone and gestures than did ever a pot-bellied teacher with his sheet of attendance tucked in between his wallet and belt.

If I succeed to fail enough to get anywhere, the spotlight should shine on my mom who never claimed to know better or rob me of my lessons, but was always there to remind me of what was most important and that was to clean up my own mess.

I owe it to her, the underdog, the silent mountain, the umbilical book, to ask her the questions she asks when she sees me looking blankly into the distance and to grant her every wish even if the only thing she has ever explicitly asked for was for me to vacuum every grain of happiness that lay before me.


14.12.11

eighty-two


00:00:00

I’m sleepless in my room.

“You’ve got a little ego throw-up on the corners of your mouth”, I tell myself.

Green in colour, liquid, with little substance.

We gather round to watch it sway and stumble, golden wings flailing desperately for a final moment of glory, and run around headless bumping into walls and furniture.

Rationale starts counting its last minutes.

Tick-o, tick-o,

Tact. Tact. Tact.

Tactile, slippery.

Tactic, mirrored

Butchered, butchered

Flapping, clapping

Up and roar

Rooting, hooting

Bridal shooting

Dip and lick and sip

This shit

Ego, echo, echo, echo,

Ergo ego go to bimbo

Limbo

Spin and throw your heavy turban

Fall and drown

And leave me nimble

Sharp alert one eye wide open

Thumb on hole

Lucid whole

Thinker tanker

Bombed your home

No more bunker

Tea hay tchee

Ee and ee

Lynched and hanging from a poplar tree.

7.12.11

eighty-one


18:51:00

I’m sleepless in my mind.

There are people that I used to know. There are people that I could’ve known, better. There are people that I can still know, because I didn’t cut them out.

As simple as these words are, the act of cutting someone out is not something I find difficult.

Social flux is in overdrive and has been since I first boarded an airplane. We move so fast and so far, it’s necessary to cut emotional ties, severe attachments, drop sandbags and spread wings. But over time, it becomes almost mechanical, as intuitive as flight or fight.

Fight.

Fight for what?

Fight for reunion. Fight for those that accept to harbor you when there is no place to land.

I had lunch with Freud and dinner with Leon. You know it’s been a long time since you’ve seen someone when each remembers something the other has forgotten: a song, broken glasses, the first encounter, an old salad recipe, the old apartment. Flashbackdance.

Freud! If only! All his wit and intelligence and spur-of-the-moment enthousiasm is condensed in one little imperfection that seems to lie somewhere between his incisor and dimple. I don’t even know if it’s something I perceive rather than see, but there’s a hook in that smile that pulls me back to the first glance I threw him in that dark low-ceiling club.

We had lunch in the waiting room, while flipping through our updates. After a ten minute interruption from a wayward appointment, he walked back in just as my soft tummy wanted to take on its instinctive role as mother pillow and he read my mind.

As the doorbell made itself clear that it was time for me to go, I thought that it wasn’t fair to have one meal per year when there is a necessity of three per day.

I rang the doorbell as I left for the sake of  that extra effort.

Hours later, I walked into the restaurant to see Leon sitting on the green couch, as tanned and crisp as ever. A taco on guacamole leather!

I would have rather stayed with my girl friend for the rest of the night, but it had been over three years since I had last seen him that a proper sit down after countless cancellations would hurt less than a hovering obligation.

But instead of being quick and awkward, the evening soon lost itself in a clock-free jungle. If there had ever been a slightly longer than necessary pause, the adjacent table of pubescent tantet-to-be provided enough entertainment. What nerve must an LV certified sixteen year old have to talk down to a guy who works ten hour shifts a day to afford commuting to work on a mobilette?! If you drive a HUMMER, the least you can be is HUMBLE.

Seriously now, where is the tantet training camp so I can kick some humility into it? In France, you’d be forced into hiding! But here…the red carpet matches the sole of your heels and licks them clean just in case they failed to recognize the price tag the first time you stood in line with one shoe on its tip so as to better bare the flaming baboon ass.

I have no problem with well-earned cheques, hell, I have a secret weakness for Maseratis, but please, if you’re barely legal, stop screaming like a seagull. We recognize, don’t worry. Your lack of humility is humiliating, nothing else.

Anyway.

I walked out filled with more love than I had felt in days and even though it had nowhere to go, it glued the cut-up paper strips that were impossible to stitch back but were worth holding together.

Do I have it in me to fight for Departed? I have a feeling I shut him out only to save energy and not to reset. But then again there is a part of me that hopes to be infected by a different virus, one that spreads uncontrollably, that never wavers, that consumes, that overwrites, that never stops because it always manages to reinvent itself, that never crashes because its capabilities are infinite, that grows into infinity, that…

ESC.

One command at a time woman, one bit won’t take as big a byte out of your greedy heart.


5.12.11

the in-between: la rue X


Oblique shaves of light illuminate the soft fine down a brilliant orange as it rises to its ends with the thrill of turning a corner. A narrow street, half ablaze, half in shadow offers itself yet again to a stranger a millionth time over. Eyes wide with dreams caress the smooth stones quarried from below, brought to light and cut some hundreds of years ago. The windows reflect the particular sky, a sky which a darker tone later will disappear as the light bulbs switch on one by one, illuminating the homes of the lucky few that call this street their own. With a furtive lick, the crumb of pistache crispy almond dough is brought down from in between the sweetened lip and gum to melt on the mattress of a tongue seduced. The air is still and warm, the only quiver is that of a heart skipping over the disbelief that it is finally here.

“…au cinquante six, sept, huit, peut importe…”

With each step, he counts me in.

“…de la rue X…”

And I see the door.

A silky ambiguity descends from the imperceptible and it’s as though all the scattered pieces I had left deliberately for me to pick up upon return condensed to complete this one single moment before they exploded back to different corners of the globe.

An unprecedented wholeness meant only for pious pilgrims came into being and then vanished as if to announce its existence and instill within me a craving to find it again.

I waited to see if it would brush past me a second time, but all that remained was summer air and l’eau a la bouche.

I looked up at the heavily curtained window in recognition and continued to the end of the street and around the corner into a blazing prism of light.

2.12.11

eighty


20:54:33

I’m sleepless in my bed.

The cat purrs at my feet drawing a sound barrier between me and the rest of the house. Sitting at the head of the bed, beneath an orgy of plaster-white cherubs, I slide my feet beneath the covers and the warmth-radiating feline. In turn, she gets up and slithers her way beneath the duvet only to curl up in the arch of my bent legs as though in a voluntary sacrifice of canine generosity. I really don’t know how she does it throughout the night sandwiched in between my hips and the heavy bed linens, in pitch-black darkness without a fresh supply of air. But every night, she returns. And I only need to lift the duvet a little bit for her to dive right in.

I thought I’d do the same once Departed came back, but he is nowhere to be seen on the landing strip. It’s a problem, but it might be a good one.

You see, I met Departed a few weeks before he travelled. It was a “Have you met Ted?” encounter at a gathering, which turned into last-man-standing party, characteristic of those people who talk and talk and talk and with each word the magnets are rotating a little faster, until they are spinning like gyroscopes, standing their hairs on end, creating an ethereal glow within the other and self, so bright it fizzes and whizzes and both feel the tension and the charges building up and both know that the only thing that will deliver relief is a simple –

But you know you want the tension building up, because the higher the tower, the more fantastic the fall. I’d take out a piece by sliding to his side. He’d remove a piece by placing his heavy arm around me. I’d pull out the middle part by placing my inner arm on top of his smooth hard knee. He’d strike out a tricky one by laughing hard and leaning into the core of my body. Little by little, the precarious tower began to lean until –

I wasn’t looking for anyone, but we were getting along like two buttered toasts. As the guests started to disappear one by one, it was clear that we were staying for each other. We left with the last of our friends who had stayed for us as well and who made serious effort to make conversation when Departed loomed over me, blocking out the annoyingly bright street lamp, and –

But we were under influence, exhausted, smelly and even though the tension was broken, I was too numb to feel that surge of ecstasy, so I pushed him away saying this was not the right time. So he immediately created an excuse to have drinks the following day.

What followed were beautiful developments. Departed was unlike anyone I have ever had as my Cupid’s target. He’s a big boy, buff as polished marble, with a myriad of facial expressions that change his name, his age, his sexuality. He can be sharp, he can be rounded, he can be rough and he can be cozy. Our tastes were polar opposites, but when we fell asleep the fit was perfect, every limb like plasticine sculpted over and under and around and every difference melted into the sleepy sea of creases, folds and rolling hills.

But my man is gone now. It is a problem. One, he is not mine. Two, it’s been too long. Three, I like my dish served hot. And this one has been left out in the open past its expiry date. So I surrender to impatience, I surrender to the possibility of this whole thing being a fluke, I surrender until his Arrival.

It will just have to start all over again. Or not at all.

18.11.11

seventy-nine


17:24:53

I'm sleepless in Beirut.

"Je crois qu'elle me plait..."

The Nth time I hear him pledge his love to a girl he has just shared the air in the room with.

I met Dot via a dot.com. We chatted briefly, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy and we agreed to meet the following day in front of a bar in the street where I used to live.

I got off the 21st, reliving the sweet taste of an old familiar routine, waited for the light to turn red, crossed the street before the crowd of tourists switched into gear, crossed the second light, but instead of going straight through the huge arcade, I walked around to gather some courage, to calm myself down and to freeze the feeling of nausea that never fails to show up in my stomach whenever I am meeting someone strange.

I saw him leaning against a street pole, casually looking into his phone and observing the surroundings through the blurry mist that lay outside his focal point.

He looked decent, but not as masculine as his photos promised, more retired ballerina than bull-fighter. And he was not the height he claimed to be. As I approached him with my calculative gaze I missed the equations he used to go up all the way to 1.75m. Soooo not his height.

We walked down the winding street, stretched by the setting sun rays and the languid shadows of people strolling, successfully making conversation, that felt genuine yet, still, slightly constructed. At Odeon, every cafe and bar within our view seemed either too full or too touristic or or or...so we settled for something neither of us knew, liked or disliked. A perfect neutral ground for social experimentation.

Dot was interesting. Interesting in the sense that his curiosity was still alive and a-poking. His manner was powder-room soft, his sentences well articulated, perhaps too much, rehearsed...? His best quality to surface within half an hour was his honesty.

"Je suis marié."

"Comment? Où est ta bague?!"

"Marié mais en train de me divorcer."

It's a funny feeling. So he was someone with whom some girl fell in love with and thought they could have a life together. Wow. But also, he was someone with whom the dream didn't take flight. Daaaang.

But I wasn't looking for a flight. I had two months left in Paris and all I wanted was a sweet ride to take for a spin.

I began feeling increasingly nervous, but I didn't immediately feel the anxiety, instead, I read it in my hands. My fingers were playing with my hairband, contorting it into spectacular shapes. This meant only one thing - I was losing control of the situation and I tried to restore some power to myself by moulding an elastic band. I had to get out of here.

"Je ne me sens pas bien."

"Qu'est ce que t'as."

"Je suis nerveuse..."

"A cause de moi?"

"Je ne sais pas, mais en tout cas, je le sens. Je ne sais pas quoi faire avec mes mains."

"Tu veux qu'on bouge d'ici? On peut aller chez moi, j'ai du fromage, des tomates, de pancetta..."

"Chez toi? Hmmm, je ne sais pas si..."

"Non, non, rien ne va se passer. Je te promet."

And that is how control was back in my deck of cards. I learned that in anxiety-ridden situations the best way to go is to address the anxiety. Most of the time, people are surprised by the claim. 

"You? Nervous?!"

Few people have the X-ray vision that your paranoia invents.

So over to his house we went. As with most Parisian apartments I had lived in or visited, it was on the last floor. He opened up the rooftop window, we climbed out, laid out the plates, cutlery, nibbles and a large globe of light, and suddenly the scene turned all gooey and movie-like. Minus the romance.

The romance was waiting for us lower below, contained by the warmly lit walls. As I sat on the sofa, he inconspicuously moved over to the piano and began playing one of my all-time favourite piano pieces. Smooth criminal.

After a couple of beautifully played pieces, he sat down next to me and it felt like the famous Hamlet quote, but in a naughty context.

It was awkward, I threw my cardigan over my head, in what I will forever remember as the unsmoothest randomest move I ever pulled out of my sleeve, and said that I had to go.

In the corridor, he said, "Embrasses-moi".

He was shorter than me, I knew it wouldn't work, but I leaned forward anyway.

And suddenly life was complicated by a simple desire to make that stupid cliche moment linger, a desire to avoid the greasy metro poles, to forget that I had work tomorrow, to forget that the timing of things mattered.

Finally, I pulled away and out the door.

But the next day, I was back, with my suitcase and all. That is how I moved from dot.com to Dot's in 36hours.


13.11.11

seventy-eight

22:31:18


I'm sleepless in Beirut.


I succumb to the miss. I succumb to the wait. I succumb to the weight of his absence, a strange fruit to replace a lightness so feather-light it was barely there.


I thought attachment needed a leash, dependence needed a habit, sequence needed a prerequisite.


But he just had to disappear for the magic to happen.


So here I am sitting like a white innocent rabbit in a top hat, waiting for the world to pause, for his sign, a wink, whatever, waiting for his hand to reach for me, waiting to be part of the show.


But the perspective of the white rabbit looking upwards is narrowly defined by the circular lining, his claustrophobia carefully contained in a cylinder and his anticipation loudly churning his insides to quivering bits.


The audience is at his whim, not mine, and the best I can do in this act is be as discrete in my waiting as possible, as quiet in my want, as shallow in my desire, my ears tucked in as hard as he is far away from me.


All this, and the curtains have yet to be parted.


Dear Departed, come back.

3.11.11

seventy-seven

19:18:17


I'm sleepless in Beirut.


Red velvet and I want you to know that you'll always get your way...and I shiver.


Did I know that I'd always be waiting for you?


No. But I traded it all for you the moment I let you wrap your arms around me.


I hugged Botticelli and started crying like a baby for all the times I had been strong against my nature. My nature kicks slippers off my feet, my nature blows hair unto my face, my nature oils me up and sends me running through tight doorways.


Slip.
Right.
Through.


It's easy being back. It's easy to fall in love again. It's easy to forget what I had packed for my departure. Hopes? Dreams? They are all still here.


The few people that matter remain. The rest are rotting where they belong. I could smell them before today's big rain.


Why are we okay with ta2 7anak? All these traffic jams to get to someone who's less captivating than our BlackBerries. Our eyes are glazing over, I look around and I see that we are living life through screens and buttons. Been having lots of headaches? Watch out for that antennae sprouting.


As long as I can feel life tremble beneath my finger tips, I can deal with that. I say it's not my disease. I say I've been abroad and have returned with a new pair of oculars. I say I'll make it better. If not for all of you, for the people that chose to remain, or no, who found remaining effortless.


Why are we okay with ta2 7anak? All these drinks is on me and the party's for free for what? And you say you don't like to give money to the poor. Those people are of no value to you either. Ta2 7anak.


If I learned anything in Paris it is that there are too many tourists in this life to give directions to. If I walk fast it is because I have enough to keep me going. I'll slow down when I'm hungry.


Seriously, drop those sand bags. Or pierce them to see if there is anything worth sifting.

13.10.11

the in-between: a call to arms

14:05:45

I'm sleepless in a basement in Paris.

The floor is untreated concrete, the bricks lazily painted white, the structural columns still speak of the wood corset that held them up, the ceiling divided by nine lines that hold the floor above. The basement could be a bunker.

If I were a Lebanese artist in his/her late 30s, I would be thinking of the civil war. I would be thinking of a possible art project where I would film myself in this very bunker talking about my memories of the newspaper headlines, the phone calls, the letters, the sound of gunshots and explosions I heard...
on my television set in Paris or London or New York.

If I were a Lebanese artist making an art piece about the civil war, I would not make it. Friends who have heard screams, seen scattered limbs and trembled with the shaking foundations do not talk about war. It resides in them, it has marked and scarred them, but it is stowed away in a faraway place. If I had seen blood in the streets, I would not want to remember it.

An honest piece is a raw bite taken out of the cold hard truth. Don't remember war from a postcard, don't even think you can imagine the terror, your paintbrush will lose its false bristles the moment you touch upon that blank piece of canvas that is your memory of war.

Do we need a new war to stop talking about the old one?

If you must pay your debts to the war that you fled, confront it, contemplate it and challenge it. And then maybe talk about the contemporary Lebanon that is half empty with witnesses and half full of deserters, and then maybe talk about why we are, who we are and how we are. Propose to us our identity instead of proving that you thought of back home when the sky was red beyond the horizon, show us our image so that we can be better, show us a direction so we know where to move on.

This is a call to arms to those that do not want to talk about war, but want to combat the mountain of residue resting on the shoulders of those who know, and want to construct instead of blow more dust in the wind.

This is a call to armistice.

Now, go make some art.


7.10.11

seventy-six

17:37:12

I'm sleepless in Paris.

There were no clouds, no grime-coloured pollution. The view from the squat rounded window was stupefyingly beautiful. I could see Mzaar, Laqlouq, then the coloured-in rectangle quilt of the Bekaa, squashed jellyfish villages in a sea of brown earth, rising and rolling, and then the Syrian desert...

My mouth was in a perpetual "wow".

"Is it your first time flying over Lebanon?", boomed the voice from behind.

I turned to see a pair of dark brown eyes.

"No, I'm Lebanese. Bass hala2 tzakaret la aya daraje 7elo hal balad."

In the conversation that followed it became clear that we had more in common than the flight number. His wife was of the same origin as my other half. He showed me a photo of his son: a heartbreaker in the making.

"Fi tlet 7loul: ya btejeh te2e3deh 7addeh, ya ana be23oud 7addik, ya bet oulileh 7el 3annik"

"I'm not moving, my seat is great. You come on over."

He got up and sat down in 32D. I was in F.

He was going on a business trip. I was just in between. I would have rather not gone on this trip and I showed it by travelling with a single carry-on and my casual clothes. It was an obligation. I welcomed this man who would replace the ghost of a TV screen, which I was so looking forward to, on a three hour flight.

When he turned around to order another bottle of red wine, I gave him a once over. He was tall, six foot five or more, in a neat burgundy polo, crisp dark blue jeans, with a decent summer tan. His large nose protruded conspicuously; although it lacked the angled geometry of Adrian Brody's regal proboscis, it added a certain masculine integrity to his face, for his eyes spoke of feline sensuality that could ignite on innuendo. Even his lips, quite unseemly at first sight, would present the first word with a little purse and that expression would linger long after the sentence had drowned in the swarm of the aircraft's engines. Amidst his thick black hair lay elegant sporadic lines of silver. To sum him up: a handsome well-trimmed "plastic surgeon" with the face of a sly cat from a Far East Asian illustration.

When the on-board meal cart arrived, they were all out of fish.

"Don't start on the chicken yet, sometimes, you can manage to squeeze out the last dish, wait for me while I go and ask," he said as he got up.

He was back after a couple of minutes, "I'm sorry, it will have to be chicken."

By the time I was done with my meal, he was ordering a third bottle of wine, not without a teasing glance at my glass of orange juice.

"I prefer good wine," I replied in defence.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Can I take you out to dinner tonight?"


My stomach dropped to the swamp of hard decisions. Murky waters, murky morals.

This wouldn't be the first time I'd go out with a married man, and even though I didn't see it as something ethically criminal on my part, I was now in a very different place than I was back then. After countless one-month wonders, relationships that start intense and wane away, I was growing sceptical about their long-term benefits. The question of that week was: how many stories of "it was great until it wasn't" do I need to finally give up sideline distractions? And Mr.Aisle would definitely fall under that category. He'll be great until he has to return to married life.

On the other hand, I am a firm believer that we live moments of friendship, of love, of passion, as opposed to that false notion of permanent no-matter-what-till-death-us-do-part. 



What if Mr.Aisle proves to be great company, an indefatigable source of joy and inspiration, just as Freud in his time was?


"I'll think about it".

5.10.11

seventy-five

18:18:18

I'm sleepless on Ligne 12.

Crossing Paris from point A to B, to reach an X. I'm calm, yet unsure of his motives. The last time I saw him he was leaving to work, disheveled and in his dorky glasses, and I was leaving to the airport.

I refrained from contacting him while in Beirut, to let him know that I had indeed moved on, and to spitefully put him in the same drawer with all the other Parisian flings.

Ever since I've been back I've been so disinterested by the opposite sex. In one month I had had collected enough to last me all through the summer and more.

I told that to Lucifer. I had to be honest. And it's not only out of empathy, by telling lies to others or by not saying anything at all, you are also lying to yourself. Slowly, the truth you know becomes harder and harder to discern against the background of lies that you have woven for this and that, for him, for her. Being frank also allows you the freedom to concentrate on details that matter rather than the details that serve as decoration.

Lucifer, despite being a "technical" catch was clearly not the guy for me. He has a sadness that is not within my power to dissipate, and I know that somewhere down the line, the smile on his face or the passion in his eyes will prove to have been a temporary reaction.

I exit the underground: I'm in the suburbs but it doesn't look like the other side of the wall, newspapers and news channels built up so many expectations that crossing the peripherique was a near peripeteia. I thought I'd see cows.

"Je suis en route, attends moi à la croissement".

Crisses and crosses, my fingers fiddled with the possibilities that were about to ensue.

I saw him at the red light. I'd finally see the new home I had heard so much about.

We drove through the narrow winding streets. I was disoriented, had no idea where I was, where we were going, when we would arrive. It felt like a long time. My right hand held my left fist, left thumb trying to calm them both down. He noticed it, but I could not help it.

We drove into the garage. A portrait of his brother hung on the wall.

"C'est ton frère?"

"Non, c'est son ami."


The white living room looked out unto the forest.

"Have you seen Twilight? This room reminds me so much of their house!"

"Non, je ne l'ai pas vu, mais tu n'es pas la première de le dire."


I told him about my holidays in Beirut. I gave him the olive oil soap he had asked for. He talked about his next trip, his dislike for London, politics... I was so focused on his fast French that I had no time to form an opinion. Not that I had any. Global politics I could never retain in that little head of mine. I felt ignorant and noted to myself that I should read more news, for dinner conversation's sake.

We needed to get physical. "Tu sais jouer?"

He handed me the racket and the empty white ball. "A toi de servir."

We hit the ball back and forth, the only extra rule was not to interrupt the eye contact between us. It wasn't so hard, although eventually I lost, 13-21, but it helped to sew back the gap of the few weeks between the last time we had been together and now.

He opened up a wine of Alligote. Same as last time, only better. The hour long match had warmed me up, I had my legs up on the L-shaped sofa tucked under me. My elbow was up on the backrest, my head resting, hair falling on shoulder. Comfort, finally.

Comfort, is worth it. There is nothing better in human relationships. I'm done with formalities, done with power struggles, done with labour, done with stiffness. Why seek mediocre company? Why talk about the weather when it can be warm inside?

["Pas de prise de tête", says the girl beside me into the telephone on the adjacent table at the cafe de trottoir]

Exactly. No heads held high, no writhing hands, no tapping fingers, just comfort.

But with Pope, it was always a final destination. A journey to get there was inevitable. The weekend headlines, the weather report, the future forecast. Slowly, our polarities would begin to change so that we could both become one large magnet pointing to the South.

With cooking dinner out of the question, we moved straight for the dessert. Good ole recipe of home-made fondant au chocolat-like skin, natural, familiar, butter-smooth, equator warm, tantalising, mouth-watering...

Simply divine.

Sometimes, it is the best choice to go for your favourite dish on the menu.



"I didn't think a human voice could be so loud," I later told Flutterby during one of our Skype sessions.

23.9.11

the in-between: knee-cap blues

11:56:33

I'm cold in Paris.

and suddenly a sadness explodes from within
my chest that houses ghosts in a mortuary pit
spitting cold effervescent vapour freezing the tips
of my fingers
plunging me into knee-deep snow
striking hard on my knee-caps
ripping apart the gauze holding my plastered smile
threads blowing in the wind
dendrites feeling for a feeling
to transmit, to electrify, to send a pulse
to my heavy heaving chest

16.9.11

seventy-four


03:10:09

I’m sleepless in Paris.

I came home to an empty apartment. Nobody was home, but things had moved around since I had left that morning. Crayons were spilled on the floor, and there was a leftover omelette on the counter. Hungry, I stole a bite. On the kitchen table, there were photos left on top of the laptop, pictures of her with the father of her baby. He looked too young for him to do what she expected of him: to assume responsibility and become a true father to their child. A photo of him and the boy at some indoor stadium, a photo of the three of them some street in the States. After a few days of over-hearing her conversations with the girl (who’s room I was now living in) and see her cry last night, I really had no hope for her. She had to forget him. 

I placed the photos back as they were. I did not want to be further drawn into her story. I could only care for the little one. He was the best thing she would ever get out of her nightmare of a situation.

I then remembered that I had left my wet clothes to dry in the TV room. Landlord was back in town and I was supposed to be a good tenant.

I knew him from his cups (Prince William and Princess Diana), from his toilet (pages of old 80s ads plastered on the walls), from his living room (giant fish pillow, black and white comic illustration hung above the radiator, Telerama magasines scattered beneath the coffee table), from his spices (dill, thyme, nutmeg), from his closet (tall), from his objects (African statuettes, metal boxes, rusty metal knife), from his books (History of Ancient Greece, travel guides, French exercise books).

His suitcase was near the window, open. The laundry hanger was folded. Shit. I was too late. I wonder what it must feel like to come home and see it occupied by other people’s wet clothes, people you’ve never met.

His suitcase was neatly packed. A polo shirt, trousers… I wondered what he looked like. Was he blond? Dark-haired? There were no photos in the room, just books, CDs and papers. My nostrils flared a little…no smell, no perfume.

I found my underwear hanging in the bathroom, each item, neatly folded over a white metallic rod. I could see his large hands hanging them routinely, as though he was mothering me, “Your delicates go here, on the little one”. He had touched my underwear. He knew me from these tiny blacks and a magenta.

This was getting intimate.

9.9.11

21.8.11

seventy-three

19:28:24

I'm sleepless at Gate 72C.

The restaurant I wanted to take Pope to was closing. It was one of those cozy hipster hangouts that transported me straight to Shoreditch, minus the jolly chop chop of British conversations.

He was unfamiliar with the area, which I found quite surprising, since it was one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Paris. We climbed on top of one of the arched-cat bridges to see both sides of the Canal. It was a hot, uncomfortably sticky evening, we were still odd with one another: it had to be a quiet terrace. After a few minutes walk, we spotted a hive of people on the corner of a street and decided to stick with it. Better to stuff our mouths than to continue babbling emptily about what we did that weekend.

It took over a year to get here, but that's how it works. It took us miles and months to walk a few hundred metres in fifteen minutes to sit down and touch knees. It took us space and time. And now it was effortless, like a ball rolling downhill.

But most importantly, it took a few words of honesty.

We bumped into each other the night I met Lucifer. I saw Pope in the crowd, at one point, we were even back to back, but we avoided contact. And then I saw Brooklyn and the friend whose swank party we had debauched and I turned to Laydi and told her I wished I could disappear. I met Brooklyn back in Beirut when he was visiting Pope. I had only met him briefly, both times at the airport, but enough to have given the two room to discuss our relationship, they were close, so close in fact that if you threw them into a closet, they could stay there for days, happy. I always had the feeling that he did not like me...much...and he had somehow helped the disintegration of the relationship.

Our eyes met. Brooklyn's face lit up with suspicious over-enthusiasm.

"Salut! T'es à Paris? Putain, ça fait longtemps!"

Earth, swallow me now. I was certain that small talk would follow and I would not find a graceful distraction to save me in time...

...and then Pope appeared. Brief hello. Insignificant news. Dispenser details. A leaf is falling somewhere, would you look at that.

"C'est quand ton Big Day?"

"Fin de Septembre."

"Oh, je serai sur Paris, je viendrai te féliciter."

"Ah bon. On s'est pas vu pendant toute la durée de ton séjour, et là t'as envie de me voir..."

"Come on, I still care..."


"Même si on n'est pas sur, comme tu m'as dit, same wavelength?"

"C'est vrai qu'on se comprend jamais. Faute de mélange de langues, surtout quand on envoie des textos!"

"Tu veux me dire que pendant tout les trois mois qu'on est sorti ensemble on s'est jamais compris?!"

"Bein, presque. Je me souviens bien des moments où j'étais tellement frustrée car je ne comprennais pas ce que tu me disais par téléphone, ou quand tu ne lisais pas entre les lignes de mes messages..."


And we did not stop talking.

The misunderstanding beneath my house.

"I thought you knew where I lived...and then you told me "je ne suis pas comme ça", I wasn't sure what you meant by that...and all of you were laughing in the street, looking at my messages on your phone..."

"J'avais vraiment envie de te voir, si non, je n'aurais pas t'envoyé un message...on était bourré, on rigolait du fait que j'étais en bas de toi, mon ex..."


The short fling between me and Sobriquet.

"Dites-moi que vous étiez amoureux, mais c'était juste pour baiser quoi. T'as voulu me chercher. C'est mon ami quand même..."

"I didn't think he'd tell you. What an asshole. For what it's worth, I regret it. It was pointless."


The never-calling him back after his friend's party.

"I was embarrassed..."

"Il faut que tu restes un peu en France! T'avais honte? De quoi? Tu n'as pas encore vu comment les gens boivent ici?"

"...and besides, you were being mean to me the whole evening. About my hair, my shoes. You even told me, "Personne ne te regarde". That wasn't really nice."

"Moi je t'ai dis ça? C'était pour te dire que tu peux te détendre, que voilà, sois à l'aise."


The break-up.

"Je n'ai jamais voulu te faire mal"

"Tu te souviens de la dernière fois qu'on s'est vu? On n'avait rien à dire! C'était l'horreur...après les trois mois de tout ce qu'on a eu, de n'avoir rien à dire...ça m'a marqué ce soir là...je ne te trouvais plus le même..."

"C'est toujours délicat ce temps après. Comment réagir? Comment garder des bonnes relations? Je ne voulais pas te faire plus de mal..."

"And from my side, I didn't want you to think that I wasn't over you, but if I was trying to prove it to you, it would look like me trying to prove something that is false, and if I didn't get in touch with you, you would think that I was getting over you...ahhh..."


That we should see each other more often. Hang out. Dance. Talk. Eat.

Our knees were touching. He excused himself. I didn't budge. It's only boney knees, slimy cartilage.

He ordered my wine for me, a glass of Alligote, arranged for a change to a better table once the other couple was ready to leave, called the waiter by his name, joked around, called me Mademoiselle, and halfway through my ratatouille I remembered why I once liked this guy and why I was glad to be able to like him again.

With the elephant out of the room, conversation was flowing, forks in mid air, neatly cut up parcels of food cooling down, plates half finished, wine order, encore, "Jacques, deux verres, s'il te plait", santé, a nod here, a nod there, mirroring, smiling, preening, point of emphasis, a hand, a finger, pokes to emphasise the point of the anecdote on the upper arm, shoulder, slap on the thigh, touching, and coming to realise that we were  flirting, measuring the distance, offsetting the limits inch by inch.

"Ils sont là tes amis?"

"Oui, je crois, on a dit vers 23:00...tu veux rester avec nous?"

"Je ne suis pas venu pour les voir."

"Ok, comme tu veux"


One of the guys was already waiting for me, sitting on the bank of the canal, hunched over his sketchbook, headphones blocking out the world, pencil lines deliberate...

We sat down for two beers and a glass of wine, quelque chose un peu plus sucré pour Mademoiselle. We sat at the edge of the row of tables, beneath a street light, they spoke in French, one faster, the other with pronounced last letters, and I listened to the calm patting of peaceful hands building a sand castle for the sake of raising up a white flag high enough to announce a safe place...

The other two were two hours late. Drunk, lost and shirtless, and still eager for adventure seconds. I had to go home, finish packing, and for once, I'd choose the easy way to go home. No walking, no Velib, no running after cabs, no skidding through the tunnels to catch the last fish about to slip through the labyrinth... Paris looks different through the windshield. It shrinks to half its size, especially at night, when you drive beneath the surface of oily tungsten yellow, its clingy film hiding the upper floors from your sight, the unknowns multiply, the streets divide amongst themselves until there are four: the dark, the lit, the full, the empty.

"Regardes, il y a même un espace pour stationner..."

He squeezed his car in front of the large archway that led to my house.

"Bon, I had a wonderful evening, I'm glad we're back to normal, on se vera quand je revienne..."

I kissed his two cheeks.

"Ne m'embrasse pas comme ça..."

"Ciao"


I was tempted to let the night unroll, like a wallpaper of beautiful, golden, intricate motifs repetitive in a continuous crimson sea. But it wouldn't be one of those nights were we'd spend the hours talking until we'd both fall asleep one next to the other, someone's head on someone's lap or shoulder. It would be one of those nights we could possibly regret, one of those decisions we'd wish we didn't take. Were it inevitable, it would have happened, but at this exact moment it felt too...scripted.

Nights like this should come easily.



I kicked off my shoes and the phone buzzed.


"Putain, il y a plein des flics..."


"Alors t'as peur des flics!?"


"Il avait l'air méchant"


"Fais pas un accident"


"Mais bon je suis passé à travers. Moi je suis cool c'est eux les salope"


"Ouais, ouais, t'es toujours...cool. C'est un don ;)"


"Et t'as l'air de l'apprécier de plus en plus"


"Tu n'as pas perdu ton charme. Ca te dérange si je l'apprécie? Je crois pas!"


"Non, continue"


"Il y avait vraiment des flics? Dimanche soir?"


"Oh que oui et plein ils arrêtaient tout le monde"


"Je pensais que t'étais créatif..."


"Si je suis toujours la c'est que je le suis..."


"Là où exactement?"


"Dans ma voiture à t'écrire"


"Mais tu conduis pas, j'espère..."


"Pas devant chez toi, et si je conduis"


"C'est dangereux."


"Je vais te texter après. Me fait pas des bisous comme cela, pour me dire on se voit quand tu rentre..."


"Tu veux dire?"


"C'est cruel"


"Hahaha, me taquine pas, c'est cruel vu que t'es vers Alésia"


"C'est toi qui me taquine. Presque chez moi"


"Ah oui, c'est loin..."


"A 10 min"


"De moi? De toi?"


"De nous"


I made sure he was home and in bed. Only then would the night come easily if he made the effort to go all the way back to see me.


Goodnight Paris, with fire, the works, and all.