Let me know if you're reading by joining the Sleepless in Beirut page




I'm sleepless in Paris.

One of the main reasons why I was so looking forward to coming to Paris was the facility with which I could leave my past behind. Here, I'd be nobody and anybody.


My past was here and too frequently in my vicinity. I'd often cross paths with The Pope. Now technically that wouldn't have been problematic, but we had had a few misunderstandings, unresolved issues and a slip of tongue in the first weeks of my being here, that by now we avoided each other and we both knew it. It was for our peace of mind.


Those issues needed to be sorted out. I hated feeling negatively towards him and I wanted him to know why I was avoiding him: not because I could not stand the sight of him, but because I thought he couldn't. Besides, if I were to bring up all our issues out of the blue, he would undoubtedly call it my "cinèma".

True story.

Our last and final misunderstanding was the direct result of bad translation and insecurity.

“Tu es chez toi?? Je suis en bas…”

Was this message for me? We hadn’t spoken for a month after the unfortunate night at his friend’s swank house party. I say swank because I had never seen a Parisian home this cool: right on the street in the 1er, ground floor, jazz band playing for the guests and passers-by. It looked more like a cozy bar than a house. I had brought along two friends and we let loose. I recall the punch bowl with forest berries that I kept revisiting, the buonissimo cheese platter I could have called my own, the stumbling, the bumping into people, the spinning room, the iPhone videos of other people, the loud laughter, the obnoxious poses for the camera. Let’s just say it was one of the most fun nights I had had in a long time, minus the social decorum. The next morning, I woke up not with a hangover, but a perpetual blush, a blush you’d wear if you were caught looking through a key-hole.

His message was definitely a surprise.

“Yes, what are you up to?”

“Je bois un verre”

Indeed, when I looked out the window to the street below, there he was with his friends standing outside the bar.

“Je bosse un peu, tu veux passer?”

“Pourquoi pas”

“Dernier etage 829b”

10 minutes later.

“Tu veux que je passes??”

“Si l’absence d’un ascenseur ne vas pas t’etouffer, oui, passes”


Why was he repeating himself? Something was off…

“Je suis pas comme ca enfin Sleepless…”

Je suis pas comme ca. What? What was that supposed to mean? I am not like that. Like what? Like I don’t go up to my ex-girlfriend’s house?

I was home with a friend, not with rose petals on the bed.

“Enfin, je crois que tu m’as mal compris.”

“Mal compris explique moi.. C est quoi ton adresse etage et code??”

“Ca veut dire quoi “je ne suis pas comme ca”?”


I started ignoring him. I could hear their laughter echo all along the street. Drunk and on the crawl for tonight’s headline. I’ll pass.

“Ba tu me propose de passer alors je viens…tu veux pas? En plus j ai un cadeau”

A gift? His friend was holding a rose wrapped in plastic. With my sense of humour leeched out of me, I thought it best to continue ignoring him.

“Sleepless tu me laisses, dans mon coin… Tu me donne l etage, le code mais pas le numero…Apres tu fais ton Cinema. Je te propose de te voir. Je ne pense uniquement a coucher avec toi!! Mais si tu veux pas que je passe dit le moi au lieu de me faire attendre. Merci”

Only the next day, did I come to realize that he never actually knew where I lived. He had dropped me home once, at the end of the street and I walked the rest.

“Pope, bonne nuit et bon spectacle a toi et tes amis”

“C’est toi qui as le spectacle vu d’en haut…”

Shit. Did he see me? No, that was impossible. I had to deny it.

“I wish, would’ve been interesting.”

“Ca reste un spectacle, apparament tu interpretes mal…”

“C’etait et ca sera toujours un malentendu entre nous. It’s a pity really that we speak on different wavelengths.”

It went on for a little longer, we were talking in circles.

“On peut oublier cet episode? Sans rancune”

“Je n’ai aucune rancune, mais toi oui pour reagir comme cela…”

He was right, but I couldn’t be wrong.

“Quoi dire, j’adore le cinema…mais franchement, aucune rancune”

“Et bien parfait alors la prochaine fois tu m’invitera chez toi simplement…”

And that was that. We never spoke again. We would avoid looking in each other’s direction. We tried to be friends and failed.

But the more I’d avoid him, the more reason I had to want to leave Paris. It was likely that after that, I’d never see him again.





I'm sleepless above a fantastic landscape of rivers and forests.

The following day I was invited to a friend's dress-up party. Everyone was excited. For one, his last party was mad and memorable and the theme for the up-coming night had everyone talking about their outfits.

Leather. Latex. Heels. Uniforms. Diapers. Whatever tickled your fancy.

I hadn't yet thought of what I'd wear, but I had promised the host that I'd bring along a stranger.

A promise broken is the last one in line of promises made, so a stranger it had to be.

My initial idea was to magically meet someone, in the street or in a cafe, who was the right bit of this and a good amount of that and who happened to be free that night. I abandoned the plan as soon as I realised that I had only four hours to go, more than half of which would be spent preparing and commuting.

So I put up an online ad (the previous day had not sucked out all my hope and trust in the online community).

It went something like this: 50s dahling looking for a smartly dressed gentleman for a trendy soirée, tonight ONLY

Pretentious and obscurely decadent, enough honey to attract a B-rating.

To my surprise, I had a reply within minutes.

He was young, 23, blonde, blue-eyed, motorbike-riding, surf-boarding, engineer who didn't have a white shirt, but gave me the choice between light blue, gray and carbon.

Keep a promise and take a risk? Yes. He will have to do.

We decided to meet a little before the party, incase our photos turned out to be fakes and to see whether the uncomfortable silence that would inevitably poke its nose out would indeed be uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable it was, the ride in the metro from point A to point B. It's odd. One would think Paris to be open-minded and tolerant, but it only took a pair of silk shorts and fake eye-lashes for me to be taken for a hooker. I even got an eye-dart gesture from the North African guy in shi7ata, something I could only manage to translate into "Yalla, next stop?". Not knowing how to translate, "Dude, chill, I'm only going to a party. Why are men such pervs?!" into an ocular movement, I settled for avoiding to look in his direction until I arrived to my stop.

Moto was waiting for me outside the entrance. He looked younger than I'd like, but for what it was worth, he looked smart and decent (if judging a book by its cover was the way to go about life).

But this story is not interesting. It does not end with my hair flying through the streets of Paris. I was home and asleep by three o'clock in the morning.

The narrative picks up the following day. Not outside my door, window or anything, but in my inbox. Late applicants.

There was a 40 year old with a wide-eyed freaky look from my neighbourhood who was up to have "de la fun" with me. A what-looked-like spam message from a balding 48 year old, his portrait framed by pink and red hearts. A picture of a mini baseball bat clad in speedos. Several angles mind you. A Latin-looking-boy swearing he was French, who was fresh out of a relationship and looking for someone.

And a very short but eloquent message from a 52 year old who knew how to dress and loved champagne.

I noticed his e-mail address. Non-French-looking-name@aya.Yale.edu. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have a winner.

As soon as I replied thanking him for his, albeit, late entry, I turned towards my favourite confidant, Google.

If he wasn't Pinnochio, then he was an ambassador of an organisation whose abbreviated name could be recognised as immediately as CNN. Although, embarrassingly, I didn't.

My jaw dropped. Just the other day I had discovered that the men with whom I had had coffee in Rome a couple of years ago were actual princes, two brothers whose lineage could be traced back to the Holy Roman Empire. We met outside the Hiroshige exhibition and they invited me for a quick cup before I took the train back to Milan. The younger, unmarried one, left me his contact details and I have since added him on Facebook. Don't ask me why, but I threw his name into the magic pot of Google only to stumble upon an article where his brother was referred to as Prince S.R.I (Sacro Romano Impero). They were so modest and genuine when we had met that to think they were royalty, was mind-blowing. This is the one thing beyond the Nouveaux Riches' purchasing power. Bless the wealthy who reek not of excess and oversized logos, but of discretion and refinement.

And this is where I would like to bust any rumour that questions the authenticity of my stories. This shit is too insane to be fiction. To make things up, to blow up details would be beneath and beyond the point of me writing.

At first, I was, of course, suspicious of my findings regarding Ambassador. One could have, with some effort, fabricated the e-mail address, stolen his name and consequently reaped the benefits. Even the photo he had later sent me could be found online, along with other similar ones.

But his English was impeccable and his sense of humour tasteful, that was authentic, and I did not doubt it.

I shared with him my anxiety regarding his age. Despite having a renowned weakness for older men, he was ten years older than my "record". I hate to line them all up like that, but one can't help but single out the fantasies that have come true.

"Well, perhaps, it's higher powers (in which I usually do not believe) and we should stick to our age groups. And then again, as you say, life provides for all kinds of friendships and surprises, for curious minds.

If you ever want to go out for a dinner or a drink, I would certainly be the gentleman to invite you, no anxieties required (I would probably be more nervous than you, but perhaps more experienced in concealing...)"

His reply did it for me. It had to be him. Or someone wise enough to have my snout pointing in his direction.

It didn't take much convincing or brooding over; I would regret not meeting him.

"Why not?"

It would have to be Sunday or September, he was a diplomat after all.




I'm sleepless at CDG.

It can be argued that no matter how good a movie is, the ending makes it or breaks it.

The time I have thus spent in Paris has been everything, but what I had anticipated. I thought I would arrive, break out of my shell, blossom in a thousand colours, write countless romantic stories, and emerge as a full and complete woman.

Not quite.

As much as I'd like to think of myself otherwise, adapting took some time, not a few days, nor a few weeks, but a couple of months.

Instead of abusing my liberty and anonymity, I shrunk further back as though afraid of what I would discover. Ultimately, I convinced myself that I just wasn't interested to go out of my way, to meet people, to make things happen for me, to find the doors I needed to open.

As for romance...it said peek-a-boo and disappeared in a cloud of indigo.

And then came my final week. Suddenly, I was putting myself in precarious situations just...out...of...plain...curiosity. I wanted to meddle, to rip apart, to tinker with possibilities. As soon as I began to do so, it felt like a rush to the surface, all my frustrations bubbling up alongside me until we all shot through the thin fragile film dividing ocean and air. The blue, blurry environment of lonely whales calling immediately receded into a faraway cove of my mind. Now, there was colour and warm temperature and sticky skin and tension and anticipation, feelings of weight and body, concepts that were not heard of in the universe of slow and buoyant, where collisions seem oiled and apologetic, because with miles of marine blue distance, meetings were avoidable.

My first date was with Nice (boy for nice girl). Yes, an online find. No, I'm not proud of it. In fact, I knew very little about him except for minor details: early 30s, French, decent-looking, his written English was commendable, he had lived in the States for quite some time and when Googled, banking and private investment pages would pop up. Surely, he was not a freak...although after Clooney, I had pretty much sworn off anyone with "private investments" on their CV.

We exchanged several messages and seeing that I was travelling soon, we set up a date not long after. Sunday, 15:00 at Place Saint-Sulpice.

I had not been out on a conventional date for years now. I was nervous and I had to take necessary precautions. I asked Laydi to be my private detective. Not only would she help commemorate such a "milestone", but she would be there in case I needed an emergency exit card. Better safe than sorry.

I arrived there on time. To avoid looking like a nervous first-timer, I sat down at an outside table at the main cafe and ordered a glass of orange juice. And waited.

Fifteen minutes went by and I was still waiting. I had, of course, yielded into looking around for someone who looked like him. I only saw extremes: too good looking to be true, too unattractive to give me enough enthousiasm to look back. I began feeling silly.

"Are you late, hiding or at the wrong address?"

"Sorry...I thought you received my e-mail. I will be late. Should be there in 20 minutes or so."

(Wrong. He was there in double the time.)

"I would advise you to sit at the cafe, drink a glass of Chablis and enjoy the view while you're waiting."

He called a few minutes later.

"I'm so sorry is juss zat I needed to go to a pharmacie and today is so hard to find one, it's Sunday, so I had to go out of my way...I will not be long, 15-20 minutes..."

What could I say. I was there, I had nowhere to rush to, I told him it was fine. I'd wait. In the meantime, I moved into the cafe as suggested, it was middle of June, but as cool and overcast as though it were March, my hands were blue by now. But already, from the sound of his voice, I knew it wasn't going to be referred back to as Saint Dating Day.

"Almost at Concorde, then I need to take the line 12 for 4 stations."

"Don't slip while you run :p"

"I'll do my best :-)...shouldn't be much longer. Thanks for your extreme patience."

I called Laydi.

"Hey, he's running late, where are you?"

"In front of you."

I looked around, no sign of her.

"I'm looking, I'm looking....hold on...what are you wearing?"

"My trench coat and hat. I'm right in front of you, come on."

I stood up, stretched my neck...nothing.

"I think you're in front of the wrong cafe...can you see me?"

"Of course!"

The figure sitting next to the entrance, just outside the floor-length window turned around. It was wearing Lennon sunglasses, a hat and a beige trench coat.

"Damn you're good!!!"

She laughed and then turned back.

"I thought that the last guy to enter was him. I'll keep looking out for him. Good luck!"

He arrived not long after. Just-about-scarily tall, in dress shoes, jeans, striped white shirt and black blazer. He was so clean shaven I thought we'd squeak as we kissed bisou bisou. I knew then and there that this was going to be a not-my-kind-of-date.

He was a nice guy, he hadn't lied, he did everything right, asked the right questions, slipped a "pretty eyes" compliment, told a humorous anecdote or two, cited interesting facts about this and that, had something to say on a variety of subjects, but all this had me on the brink of boredom.

We sat there for an hour or so, I had to discretely look at my watch to believe it. While we ran self-commercials, Laydi managed to steal a few photos of us advertising to one another.

Finally, he suggested we go for a walk. I just wanted to go home, but considered it as my afternoon's worth of exercise. He let me lead and I took the liberty of walking in the direction of my house. As we both blabbed, I wondered whether I was difficult to please or whether attraction was as simple as it used to be when we were short of Sapiens. Had he been someone else, someone more like Jeremy Irons for instance, I would have been hooked to his every word...or would I? Had I finally become picky?! Had these months of single life paid off for my own good? I had always thought they would. With so much time spent away from the distractions of infatuation, I was better aware and perhaps better equipped to single out the people with whom I could really connect.

If it takes effort, it's not worth it. When you know what could be, it's lazy and sad to compromise.

Nice (boy for nice girl) asked whether I'd like to have dinner with him after I returned from vacation. I pondered whether he did so out of courtesy. Surely, he must have been bored by me too. Or maybe it was the pressure of being from a traditional background and going on late thirties. I answered with a vague perhaps. I was certain that the impending summer heat would bring along with it a nicer girl for this perfectly nice boy.

I went up to my home and sighed relief. This dating thing is not for me.

As with most things, I was proven wrong.




I’m sleepless at Dubai International Airport.

Expect the unexpected. Days, weeks or months can pass by without nothing worth the time passing, but then suddenly, spectacularly, time stops and one after the other stories and encounters start making appearances.

The last few months in Paris have been life-marking. Paris brought to me what I had not anticipated. I am still digesting what had exactly happened since I had last left Beirut.

I had expected a period of bloom, but instead I had shriveled even deeper into myself (did not think that was possible after years of self-reflection!) and learned that I was really the kind of person I did not want to be: shy, docile, and fearful. It took months to get over the insecurities that had resurfaced all at once.

Hence my silence and my “morbid” rantings and ravings. However, I am glad to say that I had managed to redeem myself in the last week I had spent before my summer vacation. The unexpected happened. In a blink of an eye, I was no longer shy and no longer a prisoner of my fears and paranoias and life happened. Life pranced right in. I have so many stories to share that I do not know where to start. I haven’t even had the time to sit down and breathe, hence the use of waiting time at the airport.

I am drowning in my own…beautiful, spectacular and long-awaited…strange encounters of the sleepless kind.