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




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..."


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.




I’m still chained to my bed in Paris.

His “precautionary read” was The Economist. Serious. I was seriously hoping it was going to be a novel, a classic, but perhaps he has already devoured them all.

I arrived five minutes later than 18:20. I got out of the metro, moths in my light stomach. I’m doing this. I’m doing this. I cajoled myself into rounding the corner. I noticed him immediately. He looked like the photo, perhaps slightly better. Definitely older. The moths in my belly batted their wings against the glass globe. I took a deep breath to cool them down.

He was drinking Schweppes. I was reminded of Uma Thurman lusciously mouthing, “I want to have Schweppes with you” and hoped that it wasn’t a discrete message he was sending me.

He didn’t stand up. I sat next to him. At first, it felt like a casual business meeting. His whole look was business. Except for his jeans. They must have been as old as I was. Light blue and soft. A no hit and miss.

He told me his story. He was indeed a Yale alumni, with a degree in literature, who then went on to do something great in one of the world’s largest corporations. Sooner than later, he realized that “great” and “corporation” don’t walk hand in hand. Bad things are planned seated around large tables in the shadow of the public eye, the rumours that we hear are true, he confirmed. He is married, but separated, and a father. His manner of speech was calm and contained, I was almost entranced. Now it was my turn.

My story. My story was not as long or as fascinating, but we discovered that we did indeed have things in common. Not credentials, not experience, but a certain espoir en tête and a certain disenchantment with the way things were currently going. It’s the ability to balance the two, to struggle with the sway between naïve hope and total abandonment that kept us going. At least that, we had in common.

Was I attracted to him? He had nice hands and a soothing voice, but that was as far as I could go. I was more enthralled by his overall character, an acquired calmness. I sat there looking out unto the buildings bathed in orange sunlight, smiling inwardly at the circumstances of this afternoon. Perhaps I’m too easily impressed by titles and such, but I don’t blame myself too much about it. For some, meeting Ke$ha would do it, for others, a war hero. It is the company of great minds (great and mind being relative) that stimulates us to aspire to something, even if that something is a second cup of coffee or Schweppes.

We said goodbye, that we’d keep in touch, that September was just around the corner, that it would not hurt to meet again. It had been a pleasant afternoon, cooler and more contained than the rush through the streets with Lucifer, and I was willing to leave it all to the future, once more.

As he disappeared into the distance, I sat down in the nearby square to let it all sink in. I was early for my next rendez-vous.

“C’est bon, je suis a l’heure, je prendrai le metro. Le resto n’est pas loin de Chez Prune, on peut se rencontrer devant.”

“Ca marche. Je pars de chez moi. Bisous”

I clicked my heels (I didn’t), and descended into the mouth of the metro.


the in-between: mum's the word


I'm sleepless and numb.

I know there is hope because I looked away from all the violent scenes, even the subtly painful ones. I could not bear to see pain so up close, inches away from me on the screen.

I look at people and I feel nothing. Absent. I look at the one I used to love and I feel loss and lost. Cold.

I kiss. I sleep. I work. I touch. I eat. I pee.

It's all mechanical now. It's all procedure. 

My only joy is riding the bike through the streets, I only stop for red lights and only sometimes. Partial freedom. Unearned, but paid for. So I feel free.

I look at people in the metro and I know that we could be okay if we had more space between us. I look at eyes not meeting, hips touching. I put the volume louder and hold my breath. What is this sickness of the people? How much space do I need to look someone in the eye and smile?

I'm far, far away. Nobody calls me. I slow my breath, close my eyes and keep my hiding place secret. I don't want to know that I'm hiding. And hiding what? From whom?

How can you show truth? How can you show a big word with lots of meaning? How can you show an intention, an intention that wavers, that runs ahead, that slips away?

Blank page. Black hole. White blindness.

I don't want to be this way. I don't need to be this way. I could be better. I would be better off on my bicycle going off into the distance forgetting who I ever was and ever wanted to be. 

Numb like numb gums, sad like lone cum, dead like chewed gum...




I’m chained to my bed in Paris.

It’s winter again. I call it winter, they call it fresh air, but I miss the sun already. I shouldn’t complain though, the memory of the smell of sweaty June in the metro still makes me turn my head towards the open window. Better the cool of wine cellar than the oasis illusion of a saj oven.

Sunday. Hot sticky no escape Sunday. My suitcases were packed and I was ready to exit the steamy womb of my soon to be ex-home.

I met Lucifer in front of the fountain. We were going to have some dripping gelato.

Lucifer was a mutual friend. I’d hear of him from hims and hers and just a few days ago, we had finally met.

He was an interesting looking type. Short and skinny, a few couple years my senior, black hair peppered with white, Italian. He had an interesting way of looking at things and of talking. We’d chat, silence would present itself, we’d turn to someone else, he’d reappear, we’d chat again and so on. Never empty words, and I liked that.

As we walked towards the ice-cream shop we’d never find, we talked about everything. I remember my mom would ask me what I talked about with people I’d see.

I’d say “Everything”.

“But specifically?”


Well, mainly about everything about ourselves. Random things on every subject.

The heat reflecting off the stone walls, the asphalt, the pavement, the metal poles, the people, off each other was becoming unbearable. And with the ice-cream shop nowhere within our sight, Lucifer took us by the leash and to Café George on the roof of Centre Pompidou.

I had never been there for drinks and welcomed the idea of filling a checkbox on the Wallpaper* list (pure speculation here).

He ordered a beer and I had a flashback to some lazy day on the beach back home and ordered some pineapple mix cocktail. We sat there and sweated. The conversation escapes me now, but I was certainly much more absorbed by it than I was with Nice (boy for nice girl).

But then Lucifer, being the Italian devil that he was, touched my nose.

I lost my balance. Was this a date?! Or was this Italian for “You smell nice?”. I’m not trying to compliment Le Grand Nez of the perfume I was wearing that day, but a few minutes later he leaned forwards to smell my neck.

Let me rewind a little. Earlier on, I had commented, innocently, promise, on his perfume. It wasn’t his. It was Botticelli’s. I love that scent and I often find myself singling it out on the street. There is always someone wearing it…

So here I was being touched and smelled. How do I get myself in these situations? I did not have an ounce of hidden intention behind the gelato invitation, I smiled not to flirt but to facilitate social interaction, to show my interest and agreement in what he had to say, to show my pleasure in his company.

I’ve been told I smile too much. Too much. But then they try to correct it by saying it’s a good thing. It’s not a good thing. It gets my nose touched and my neck smelled.

I always arrive at the question: how can a woman be friendly to a man without giving him false signals? I’d sincerely appreciate a clear and direct answer. But I guess there isn’t any.

I didn’t speak Italian, I didn’t touch his nose back. But I might have over-complimented his hair. It really was the coolest hair I had ever seen. Maybe that’s Italian, though probably Mediterranean, for “I’m into you”.

We had lost track of time, I had to go home or else I’d be late to meet with Ambassador.

We decided to see each other on Sunday rather than September. Why wait to find out if we were really centuries apart? Ambassador had called earlier that day to confirm our date at 18:00 at “Les Esplanades”. I knew from the sound of his voice that it was going to be a my-kind-of-a-date.

Hence, I had to rush my time with Lucifer. He insisted on inviting me, I eventually obliged. Having no change didn’t help either.

We took the lift back to the world below. And as we were walking towards the main hall, we got caught up in a crowd, I turned towards him, he looked at me and we kissed. Visitors and parents with kids walked by us while we acted out a scene fit for none other than a commercial for “Find your true love in Paris”. It was so bad a cliché that it was good, as good as a performance piece meters away from the famous piazza that attracts thousands of artists yearly.

But we weren’t artists, we were Ceasars of the moment.

For his size, he was quite strong. He kept on highlighting this strength, perhaps to compensate for his short stature, either by lifting me up in the air or by squeezing all the air out of me. It had its charm.

We walked/ran all the way back to mine, with intermittent pauses to catch our breaths and hydrate one another. By the time we reached, we could smell beyond our perfumes. Pure pheromones and sun juice.

“When do you return?”

“In a couple of weeks.”

“Will I see you again?”

“We’ll keep in touch.”

Even though I had carelessly welcomed this break from lipstinence, I wasn’t sure I would welcome it again. I thought I’d leave it to the future.

We said goodbye and I ran upstairs to freshen up for official date one, unofficial date two.

“Looks like I’ll be a little late, will try and be there 18:20”

“I took along precautionary reading material. Reflex of experience. A.”