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Sleepless in Beirut and أشغال جيونفسية hold hands


I'm Sleepless in Beirut and in Paris.

I have the pleasure to announce that Sleepless in Beirut and أشغال جيونفسية are collaborating together on a little project, that this time will actually be implemented.

"Whispering Cities: a dialogue between Paris and Beirut."

Keep your eyes on both our spaces for updates - conversation begins somewhere round mid-June.

A very very special thanks to Jad Baaklini for joining me...I promise to hold hands better!




I'm sleepless in Paris.

I have seen your face a hundred times, underneath the rain, in the dark and from a train, from a boat and from a plane, in my sleep and from behind my window pane.

I have smelled you on my sleeves and in my hair, in a thousand breaths you have exhaled and I've inhaled your every scent with every gasp and every sigh and I've licked your sweat off from my tearing eyes.

I've torn you down and built you up and put a rainbow in the sky, from nowhere to somewhere, and a moon behind the cotton ball boas that you wear on Saturday nights when you click your happy heels from Place Clichy to La Pigalle and lay me down across the Seine so I can come and go and come and come again.

Your face pale in the morning light, fresh and silent, stretching your womb and stomach to make way for rumbling trains and scuttling rats and bursting suitcases
and madmen
and nobodies
and nut-cases.

Your cheeks flushed from the sun or glistening with tears, you joy is endless, your sadness just the same and I wish I could make it all okay for me to leave you, and find you always there, crying and smiling, so we could cry and laugh together in the face of people I will never know, books I will never read, art I will never make...

I want to know you like I want to know myself. In the morning and after midnight, when we are both alone and it's quiet enough to whisper and draw our deepest secrets in the spirals of crottes de chien, in the circles of streetlights, in the squares of victories, in between the lines of rues de la...de la...

In dusty sickness and in blooming health, I do, Paris, I do.




I’m sleepless in Paris.

Last night – a tragicomedy, a by-product of French vineyards.

An extraordinary transformation took place, eight bottles of wine for each methuselah of truth, unspoken, unadvertised, just out there for everyone to swivel and smell.

Stereotypes were affirmed, hypocrites had their mug shots taken, archenemies were befriended, strangers became soul mates – social labels stood knee high to human complexity, looking up in wonder and fascination at what is at once simple, empirical and sophisticated, obscure.

Behaviour can be most revealing. She laughs after everything she says because she wants you to think that she is funny and easy-going. She laughs because she wants your mirror neurons to laugh with her. And you do. But take a second to think it through and you discover yours was a vocal expression standing in line behind LOL, a giggle in vain, a laughter for the sake of laughing because, well, this situation is quite sad and sadness at cocktail parties is most unseemly.

As she laughs and you laugh, your smiles speak of social conformation, but your eyes speak of different things. You don’t notice this explicitly, but you feel it. You feel discomfort, you feel a lack of connection, and you feel like you would rather talk to someone else, to someone whose eyes smile in sync with his or her lips.

To tell you the truth, I have never heard her laugh, seen her body laugh and when I laugh so hard I need to run to the ladies’ room, I feel her sadness burn my back.

It’s vain to call it jealousy, but I have been her and I know the burn of envy.

She is insecure about her height in a crowd of shoulders to her nose.

I have been insecure about my outdated Mango shirts in the glare of the latest DKNY must-haves. I wish I had recognized that insecurity earlier, early enough to learn to laugh with my body and laugh with one of the sweetest girls I used to know in school.

Our insecurities poison too many relationships to not be talked about.

I wish I could tell Pope that I always thought I was not pretty enough or well-dressed enough or French enough to be comfortable around him and his jet-setter friends. He denies being that shallow, but I only see him in that light, in that spotlight of beauty and glamour of which I will never be a part.

And it has poisoned our relationship; we avoid each other every time we are within view of each other, we don’t even make the effort to say “Hello” anymore.

I don’t want to be that insecure girl and I don’t want to see him in the reflection of shiny surfaces. I don’t want to see him. I choose not to deal with it.

I want to deal with them in secret; I do not want anyone to know: that I struggle, that I am vulnerable, that I am susceptible to countless petty paranoias.

But just in the same way I sit in a corner watching people drink and talk and try to cover up, other people watch me and they know. There is no use in pretending. Most of us have good X-ray vision for discrepancies between what we say and how we say it.

I think we should talk about it, rather than leave it at the mercy of Sauvignon or Pouilly-Fumé.

The highlight of my last night was a conversation that took place up on the roof.

“I like older men.”


“I think I have daddy issues.”

“Tu sais, je l’ai toujours senti.”

“C’est vrai?”

“Oui, parce que, moi aussi, je suis un peu comme toi. Daddy issues. J’étais toujours attiré par des hommes, plus que des femmes, en effet, les personnes qui prennent soin de moi.”

As soon as he said that a flash of “I wish I didn’t” appeared in his eyes. It’s a sensitive subject in the Arab community, I don’t need to stress on that. But I was touched: this wonderful person was opening up to me. He was a little anxious, unsure, but he did it. And I didn’t bite his head off. By the end of the evening…

“Quand est-ce que on va se voir?”

“Quand tu veux. J’ai toujours envie de t’écrire un message, mais j’ai l’impression que t’aura des choses plus interessantes à faire.”

“Je te dis: I really enjoy your company. If you want to do something, you will be a priority.”

If I knew how to do magic tricks, I would have made it rain little hearts.

That was all it took.

The highlights of Paris weren't the parties, the macarons, but the moments when a slightly trembling hand took mine and let it open a secret drawer that was kept in the bedroom when the party was happening downstairs.

Those are the only moments that feel real, that matter.




I'm sleepless on a Parisian rooftop.

German accent, intellectual talk, sounds Freudian: masturbation, underwear, fucking, drinks, girls.

American trying to speak French, trying to buy his image through his words.

Lebanese friend; I'm saying sorry for being distant, Lebanese girl, name and face in common, makes me ill at ease.

"It's okay, I just go with the flow, you know me, I don't complicate things"

But going back will be hard.

German girl, "If a Turkish guy from a football team hit on you, you'd be like yeah..."

"Shikidim, shikidim"

"He's gay, like openly"

"No, he's married"

Oh my, I hear my Mexican friend downstairs and people singing to Cindy Lauper.

I should go downstairs, flash my underwear to below the ladder...

Mexican guy arrives.

"Awesomness arrived!"

How do these parties work?

I have to go, don't want to be married to my phone.




I’m sleepless in Paris.

The sky is wearing the same hues and shades it did on that February afternoon when I first landed in Paris. The view out the window is the same and just as beautiful. It has been the same for over a hundred years.

Yet, what was once new is not. At about this time, everyday, I smell peppered steak (fish on weekends) and hear it sizzle in one of the kitchens below me. The Greek concierge, who prefers underwear to trousers, argues with his other Greek friends over dinner – their shadows mingle in the square of red light on the opposite wall. Whistles and screams from along the quai make their occasional visit over the rooftops. Later on, the Algerian woman will connect to Skype and her problems will echo up and down the void that tie the four buildings together. And someone will light up a spliff that will stink up the stairway. The two young men will leave for the evening, their little puppy will cry and I will run to my window to see his cute little puppy eyes and consider, for the Nth time, to put up a sign that says, “I can babysit your dog”.

Homeless David doesn’t scare me anymore; we look at one another knowingly. We know that the morning I stood freezing outside my door while he was lying beside it on a discarded mattress was the beginning of an urban relationship that will one day lead us to a proper conversation. The restaurant in my street, I have walked past so many times, that it is now rude to not say hello when I come and go.

The way I walk past the tourists at my metro station sets me apart and the vending machine is my point de repère to leave the final metro station the fastest way possible.

But I only own this much; the rest of the city reminds me that I am but a stranger and will always be.

Is it possible to belong anywhere in this world?

Belonging has ceased to be a place. Belonging is now a situation. It is a locus, an effective or perceived location.

What are the repercussions?

There aren’t any. It leads us to the here and now. It leads us to temporal contexts, situations of time, relationships of time, people of time, to a loss of responsibility. What was once will not be, no matter how many times you go back.

Look at Beirut, places are literally dying. Look at Paris, places are only shadows of what they used to be. Look at everywhere else – change is faster than change itself.

Forget where you come from, because that village you never lived in, that city you never knew completely, that destination you never visited.

We are a generation of situations. I look at a map and I can tell you where I lived a moment, but to go back there and find that the walls recognize me more than I do them is an emotion to be written about in the pages of history.

But here, I am talking about the city. Mountains will recognize you, trees that have not yet been uprooted will recognize you. But I’m talking about the city.

The city walls no longer speak of us, but Facebook walls do. They speak of people wanting to be known, be it by conforming or standing apart, they speak of people that want to be heard, be it by saying something or liking something else. They speak of want and thirst and hunger. They speak of roots up in the air. They speak of a search for ground, a yearning to belong somewhere, sometime even if for the span of that minute it takes you to look through your notifications.

It feels good to be liked.
It feels good to be written to.
It feels good to provoke reactions.

This is our situation. You only belong for as long as you’re being reacted to.

You belong to parties, to social circles, to trends, to labels, to brands. You belong to reactions. No consequences, no aftermath, no reputation on your heels – is this the final freedom?

It’s temporal freedom, it’s temporary freedom. But I’m talking about my city.