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I’m sleepless in Beirut.

My second cup of espresso has just been emptied and my phone is constantly by my side – a week of revisiting old friendships has left me hungry and tired.

I have laid to rest the question of home, at least for now. I mustn’t shake my ground every chance I get. It’s a fact: my heart has been split into four. I’ve rooted each cut in four different corners of the globe and I have no choice but to appreciate the fact that every time I return, they will be there waiting for me to nurture them further.

During my flight, I had decided that for the moment my place was here in Beirut. It didn’t deserve to be dismissed just because I had allowed my life to stagnate. Beirut was not the problem, I was.

And it was a challenge to turn around in the airplane and see that it was barely making quarter capacity, to walk through a ghost filled airport and into a loud argument between taxi drivers, past the soldiers adorned with death hanging from shoulder straps, to have a random volunteer ignore me as he stuffed the suitcase into the bulimic trunk, to get to Achrafieh in 10minutes on a Saturday night

“Are you sure nothing is happening that they haven’t shared on the news?”

to wake up tired, to have salesladies expect some kind of good service from me, to see young men do wheelies on the southern highway at 120km/hr, to pray that the shaky wheel doesn’t tip one millimeter extra and scar me for life.

What good could come from entertaining provocation? I nursed the scattered irritations to rest.

The entire day I couldn’t find peace, and when I found myself in the sea of evening traffic flowing back to Beirut, I couldn’t escape myself. My guts were churning with anxious moths, smoke was billowing out the window like I was on a freight train and my voice was at its peak rapping the same four songs over and over again.

Somewhere near the airport tunnel I spotted the Red flag. I was missing him damn it. I just wished he were here so I could walk him through this gallery of Bacons and Dalis. Red would always listen. He’d put on such a patient show that it seemed he was rethinking the same thoughts and feeling the same emotions so that he could – one moment – get back to me on the matter. And it was never soiled with judgment.

So I caved in to my expectations of him and sent him a short text

“Am I silly to not be able to get you out of my head?”

“I don’t feel silly, so you shouldn’t.”

Immediately, the tranquilizer was released. Somehow, I felt less guilty about last night. I wondered whether I should tell him, but it would have been the entertainment of provocation. Ever since we broke up on that Valentine’s Day at school, there was no deal to betray. I cared about him deeply and…

“I’m going to bed, but I felt I have to share this: care is an understatement when it comes to u, you bring the best out in me, if that makes sense. I need people like that in my life. Want you to know that.”

I was ecstatic to receive this in the midst of the comedy that was going on at the table. For a long second, I felt like I was safe to make a fool out of myself here tonight because someone out there thought that I was immune to falling low. Bringing out the best in someone? It made sense.

Moments later, Excel called. He was waiting to board the plane. I was glad we would once again have distance between us because now I was sure: Red felt like home and Excel was a public holiday.




I’m sleepless on flight 419, overlooking pitch black Iraq from Saudi air space.

I hate that I have to clench my jaw and look up into the white light in order to stop the tears from rolling into my mouth and causing salt burn. The food is tasteless, but luckily I’ve just been handed my glass of wine. I badly want to exhale a destructive cloud of gray. It’s alright – Beirut is near.

The last time I remember being this sad was when I got on my first ever flight – I was nine years old and moving to an alien country I knew peanuts about. All I could think of was, “I don’t want to leave! I don’t! The first chance I get – I am coming back!” But that never happened. I lived in the UAE for over a decade. And now I was devastated to leave it for my adopted home.

Writing the above comforts me. Maybe the sadness I feel now is the inevitable closing of another chapter in my life. Besides feeling sad about leaving behind friends that remember my teenage awkwardness, or my family that I never give enough back to, or my high school sweetheart, I am probably most anxious about leaving this comfort zone, which I so easily dismissed as a punishment, a prison throughout all these years, for an uncertain future. It seems to me that a week spent in 40 degree centigrade captivity, awakened a sort of longing for sand storms, moral handcuffs and shopping malls. I reluctantly packed my suitcase; my only retaliation was my signature tardiness. I made it just in time for the check-in.

I am pitching myself the idea that the best is yet to come, that everything will fall into place, that I will take the right steps forward and the right steps backward and that I will end up in a place where I am meant to be – or a place that caters to my inner peace and my hungry spirit.

I am pitching myself the idea that this sadness stems from the fact that I was tempted to choose the easier option, the more conspicuous, more immediately bountiful offer. If I were to move back, I would have my old friends within hand reach, I would feel like an old-timer, I would receive heavier paychecks, and most importantly, I would have somebody by my side.

I didn’t expect to react the way I did to meeting Red again. I knew we would get along, I knew we would have a lot to say to one another, but I didn’t think for one second that he would spin my head into a dizzy panorama of nostalgia, lust and daydreams. The intensity of the emotions caught me off guard: he was cuter, hotter and more comfortable than ever.

I am pitching myself the idea that it was not our decade-old sparks and chemistry that wreaked havoc in our pituitary glands, but, instead a year-old dry spell.

“Do you have a boyfriend?” he asked early into the evening.

“It’s been too long. Over a year now, but even that was just a two-week fling,” I replied.

“Same here. It’s so hard…” he explained.

“…to meet girls. Yeah. I totally understand. Personally, I just don’t want to waste time or energy on dead-end relationships.”

“Say that I meet someone in Dubai, I would have to go there every weekend to see her. It’s fucked up.”

“Yeah, long-distance is not for me. How could it possibly work? Unless there are years of history and the move is temporary…”

On the screen opposite our table, the qualifying game was on. Chelsea vs. Juventus. Our friends kept on walking in from the club to ask Red about the score, who had scored the goal, who was fouled. I was touched he was slow to answer.

The entire evening felt like the gradual sinking into a beanbag. It was increasingly warmer, cozier and more intimate. My body spoke for me, I read the attraction in my gestures: touching his knee, tousling his unrelenting hair, colliding elbows.

We called it an early night, he had work the following morning and I needed to talk to someone about what had just happened.

“The funny things is,” I was telling Flutterby “seeing him hadn’t crossed my mind until I got here. And now, all I can think of is how attracted I am to him. And I now he feels the same, poker face or not, I know this guy. I can read him.”

While I dug into the wedding-white coconut cake her mom had made, she was coming up with a plan of how I could release all this tension.

But all I wanted was to feel his bulging arms and manly chest surround me, nestle my nose in his neck and breathe him in till my lungs were filled to last.




I’m sleepless in my old room.

Over a year ago, this room was still very much the way I had left it. The sofa bed was where I am sitting now, there was no skateboard or guitar or coffee table in the middle of the room, and certainly no mound of wool with a half-knit scarf on it.

I remember walking hurriedly through the dimly lit corridors, stumbling into my high school bedroom, sheer curtains letting in the pragmatic glow of the street lights, pulling out the sofa into a bed and falling on to it, no linens, no nothing.

The beige furniture kept the loss of teenage innocence from throwing the room, the crime and criminals into the pits of vulgarity. It felt more like a coming of age, like the getting of what you wanted.

Mr.Aisle had insisted I save my cab money and after a few no’s, I accepted his gentlemanly offer to drop me home. His colleague picked us up from the airport and dropped us to his car, which was gathering indigenous Arabian dust somewhere behind a warehouse. He had presented me neither as a co-worker, nor as a friend, but I sensed that I had come off as someone who he could legitimately be dropping home without arousing office coffee break gossip.

When we had made it to my address, he asked me once more:

“Would you come out and have dinner with me?”

“I don’t know…you have to go all the way home to change, and I have to shower and rest…”

“How about I call you in one hour and see how you feel?”

I could deal with that, “Alright, fine”.

A rain of hot water and fruity shampoo later, I was beginning to feel tired. As exciting as it would be to go out with this stranger, I would really love to just sink into the old and familiar couch and watch bad TV.

The phone was ringing, just as he had said, one hour later.

“Listen, I’m really not in the mood of going out tonight. It’s late and I am tired.”

“Oh come on, it’s only 9pm!”

“I know, I know, but until you get here, until we order, till it arrives to the table, by the time we finish, it will be midnight.”

“I promise, you will be back home before midnight.”

“But my hair is wet!”

“I need half an hour. I’ll call you when I’m down!”


“See you!”

Fine. I was going to let his insisting break the wall. What was I going to lose other than an extra hour of sleep? I was not even going to put any effort into this, black loose silk dress, mom’s pumps and no make-up, no hairspray, nada; just plain black tall Jane.

He picked me up and I suggested we go to a gastro bar where there’d be a live band. We sat at the bar, ladies were being served free champagne. It was a good start to our evening.

“I want to ask you something. You are happily married, yes?”


“So why do you need this? Why do you ask women out to dinners?”

“Because I can. It is very much an ego thing.”

“But why not rise above it?”

“I don’t want to. I don’t do this very often, and there are some opportunities that I would really hate to miss.”

He smelled good, and his body was there, solid and tall, his shirt crisp and clean and his focus centered on me. He leaned in close to my ear.

“Can I kiss you?”

“What?! Here?! Are you out of your mind?”

Two flutes of champagne later and my exclamatory question marks curled up on my lap to purr and slyly watch his lips meeting the secret nakedness of skin behind my ear…and down from the heavenly kingdom we fell.

In the car, in front of the gate, we were making small talk and building up to the ultimate goodbye. In my head I was toying with a daisy, pulling petal after petal after petal – should I or shouldn’t I?

But before I knew it, I had leaned in and kissed him. Pah. Simmer. Mmm. Damn, that felt good. His hand was holding mine, so strong and warm against the chilly blow of the AC.

“Normally, this would be out of question…but, do you want to come inside?”

While my mind was sitting there swamped with stacks of morals, ethics, judicial laws, matrimonial promises, and etiquette, calculating the risks and sins, our bodies were already inside, pressed against the stucco wall, him towering above me, then suddenly down on his knees, my mind unbelieving, unbelieving – oh – let’s go inside, there are security cameras, no, nobody is home.

We walked hurriedly through the dimly lit corridors, stumbled into the bedroom, sheer curtains casting the pragmatic glow of the street lights on the innocent beige furniture, we pulled out the bed, fell on to it, no linens, no nothing, just the perfume of heaven and the gentle drumming of a kingdom coming.

I woke up first. It was about 07h00. He was lying on his stomach, face turned away. The door was slightly ajar. I put on an oversized T-shirt and went looking around the house. The noise of water and dishes was coming from the kitchen. She had just started cleaning! I hurried back upstairs, shook him awake!

“You need to leave. Now!”

He wanted to snuggle and fall back asleep.

“I’m serious. Like right now.”

He was still trying to lower his heel into the shoe, buttoning his shirt, tucking it in, as I led him through the house, my index finger against my pursed lips…

“She’s still in the kitchen. Go! Go!”

“Can I see you again?”

“Just call me later. Sorry, but you need to leave.”

And even though, more than a year has passed, and the furniture has been added/removed and moved around, I still blush at the memory of that night.

Neither he can seem to forget. Every month or so I receive a short e-mail from him:

Miss D. (or whatever your real name is) :-P

How are you?
I know your life might be toooo busy bas maybe eza btitna3ame 3layna with a reply, it wouldn’t hurt…

You are ok? How is everything? Maybe you’re married or engaged?

Hope you will reply…

You take care.

M.A…you remember me! The tall engineer you met on the plane one day and and and…

Or another “just checking on you” version.


I don’t know if u r receiving my mails, I just hope am not bothering…want nothing but just want to check on u…hoping all is ok, things are as good as u want them to be…


Surely it must be just an ego thing for me to reply every so and so e-mails to keep this small dosage of flattery coming my way. Because it’s effortless. Because it fills a small void. Because I can.




I’m sleepless at the airport.

It’s almost the middle of September and every time my mind approximates in how little time this year will be over, I shun the estimate away.

How could a period of nine months, the passing of almost three seasons, prove to be so dull and uneventful? It is all I can think about – where did all the adventures go?

On which day did I miss the public broadcast that suspense and butterflies were going on an indefinite strike? At what point did I set up camp in Bluntville? At what hour were those precious little thrills and chills buried?

I don’t know, I really don’t know. It’s rather sad – I really thought this would be my year. The year where I would finally blossom into something I’d proudly pin on my chest. But, as obvious as it has always been, one cannot plan shit like that. Grand schemes are always at risk of falling to pieces, as is a house of cards or a sand castle or anything for that matter. We are too tiny to be the essential peg (for the optimists, I shall add: at least for the long term). We are essentially just mere physical reincarnations of split second moments in what is an immensely large journey from bang to collapse.

Naturally, from the moment we rise to the moment we fall back into our subconscious, we set aside our insignificance. Our ego, our sense of “me” and “I”, some claim, is our mind’s life raft. Without it as mediator, we would go insane. It is essential for our self-orientation in this world. It…

The Pope Benedict XVI landed ten minutes ago. Someone changed the television channel to MTV for the live broadcast. People gathered round to watch. As his little frail figure emerged from the inconspicuous Alitalia, somebody got up to take pictures of the TV screen with his iPad. Even I grew emotional. How can another human being arouse so much passion, be it love or hate, in millions of others? Half of this tiny country has been adorned like a little Mexican girl and will soon undergo total paralysis for the sake of this man. People will cry (the lady across from me is tearing), people will wave, people will cheer, and I even think, that people will die. Not in voluntary sacrifice, or because their time was due, but because this country is not equipped enough to have it’s main transportation hubs, veins and arteries frozen in immobility (the airport is closed between 13h and 15h, and that is why I came here abnormally early).

…is used as a sort of third satellite in order for us to locate ourselves with more precision, it is used as a language to make sense of the signals that make up reality. And so, just like the people are currently caught up with the Pope’s arrival and visit, I am caught up in my very own little internal soap opera of not living up to my own expectations.

A few days ago, my friend Key told me that I have a selective memory – I only remember the bad and tuck away the good. Nobody would want to own up to that! But I guess he has a point, this year was not a total waste. Great things have happened, great disasters were avoided, and I should instead be grateful that I have not hit lower bottom.

So without much further ado, sleepless nights shall be remembered, sleepless nights shall be revived, it’s time to wake up and write some memories down, because no time is time wasted if it has been wasted at the right time.