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I’m sleepless in Beirut.

I’m not sure if it comes with age or if it is a natural ability that I’ve improved on or whether the walls of my heart have been so stretched by shoulder-brushing occupants that there is newfound space for additional rooms. The nature of my emotional engagement looks almost like a flow chart of the check-ins and checkouts in a hostel. Objects of desire are constantly flowing and moving in and out of the frame. It’s as though I watch them move within its borders until I see the perfect shot – click – and I’m done. The duration of my interest is like the gaze of a people watcher stationed on a park bench: an attractive figure enters far left, approaches, approaches, when in close proximity my neck begins to turn slowly from left to right until I cannot see the face no more, and while I turn my head back to look out at the far left for someone new - play that in slow motion - the amount of time it takes for the head to turn from the right side back to the left is equal to the lingering of the memory of the figure that just passed by, and the further I turn away, the less I feel and oh, in comes a new one! And the cycle resumes.

I am at once amazed and concerned with this nonchalance. Would one person ever be enough? Or is this monogamy business an unrealistic model for our modern times to begin with?

I recently read a book, “How to Think More about Sex” and it made me feel less alone. Alain de Botton, whose writings and acute observations I cherish, explains how monogamy came to be.

“Taking a step back, what distinguishes modern marriage from its historical precedents is its fundamental tenet that all our desires for love, sex and family ought to reside in the selfsame person. No other society has been so stringent or so hopeful about the institution of marriage, nor ultimately, as a consequence, so disappointed in it.

In the past, these three very distinct needs – for love, sex and family – were wisely differentiated and separated out from one another. The troubadours of twelfth-century Provence, for example, were experts in romantic love. The libertines of early-eighteenth century Paris were just as devoted, but in their case to sex rather than romance. For its part, the impulse to raise a family has been well known to the largest share of humanity since our earliest upright days in East Africa.

The independence, if not the incompatibility, of our romantic, sexual and familial sides was held to be an untroubling and universal fact of life until the mid-eighteenth century, when, among members of one particular segment of society in the more prosperous countries of Europe, a remarkable new ideal began to take shape. This ideal proposed that henceforth, spouses ought not to be satisfied with just tolerating each other for the sake of the children; instead, and in addition, they were to regard it as their due to deeply love and desire each other. Their relationships were to wed the romantic energy of the troubadours to the sexual enthusiasm of the libertines. Thus was set before the world the compelling notion that our most pressing needs might be solved all at once, with the help of only one other person.

It was no coincidence that the new ideal of marriage was created and backed almost exclusively by a specific economic class: the bourgeoisie, whose balance of freedom and constraint it also uncannily mirrored. With a little extra money to spare for relaxation, bourgeois lawyers and merchants could now raise their sights and hope to find in a partner more than merely someone who could help them to survive the next winter.

The notion of entering into a loveless or indifferent marriage was as much anathema to a bourgeois as the concept of not having outside affairs would have been to a libertine.”

Certainly, I would love to find somebody who could incarnate everything I love, desire and care for, and I know that a certain amount of compromise would need to be involved. Even if there are such perfect-fitting persons out there, what are the chances of the two of us crossing paths? Meager, to say the least.

So I thought, why not Red? Ten years down the line and we still cared for one another, we got along and we understood, if not wholly, the notion how either of us worked. After seeing him in Dubai, I found myself thinking more and more about the prospect of us coming to a sort of conclusion. “Right here, this is where our search will end, and we will work on making us work.”

But at the moment, I am not ready and neither is he. We are too young and still hungry and still hopeful. I can see it happening a couple of years down the line. We have the chemistry, we have the love; all we would need is conviction and a continuous exercising of effort to not fall through the comfortable cracks of commitment.

So I wrote to him. I laid out my logic, I laid out my feelings and it felt good to click send and not worry about being rejected. He wrote back to me the following day and I was touched. I felt cocooned.

“It’s a fucking shame that we currently do not live in the same country, I would have definitely not let go of you if we did. I’m going to finish up by expressing myself in four words and hope that you truly understand me when I tell you: I love you too.”

What more could I ask for? Nothing. This is all we have, this perpetual love that resurfaces every time we cross paths. Yet, in the meantime, I do not see it necessary to cling on to something so virtual as a feeling of love. I love him, I do, but I am not there with him and neither is he with me. What foundation other than a high-school romance and a warm fuzzy feeling do we have to build on?

I was missing him too much, so I decided to turn my head back to the left for now and wait for him to pass me by again at a more convenient time.

I sat there on the bench, looking ahead for no one, when in came a familiar figure. It was Kavinsky and his phone was to his ear.

“Where are you?”

“I’m going home. Just left.”

“I’m in Gemmayze, come!”

“I was just there. But I’m tired, and I need to get up early.”

“Oh come on.”

“No, really…”

“What are you doing this weekend?”

“I’m not yet sure.”

“I miss you. I want to see you. Let’s do something.”

“Tabb call me Friday and we’ll see.”

This man, I had sworn off, but there was a pull of gravity, still. Amazingly, I still felt I had another chance of handling him better. I didn’t know how, but I trusted I could improvise…after all, you live and you learn.




I’m sleepless on a balcony.

Three hours before the curtain was due to go up, I was buying us tickets to Lulu’s play. It was a new production, one that didn’t really catch my attention when I had first seen the poster, but as soon as I discovered he’d be in it – I called up my friends.

The sun was out and so were all the people. In the main square, there was a huge colourful procession of this year’s freshmen, groups of tourists and the timeless skateboarders. I had my cup of coffee to go so I could sit down and watch the people going. It wasn’t long before I was approached by one of those men you cross the street to avoid. The skater boys watched him walk towards me; the smiles on their faces were clearly in anticipation of some impending disaster. But I held my ground.

“I hope I won’t bother you.”

“Maybe, maybe you will.”

“You’re a candy girl, aren’t ya…it’s a beautiful day. The elections are coming soon, I wonder what they will…taxes…life is…I’m unemployed,” he blabbered on, my focus elsewhere, I kept checking the foam in my cup.

“Well, I will be leaving now…”

“Ciao, good day!”

His tracksuit-clad figure disappeared somewhere behind me. I wore the strap of my bag just incase he was planning on grabbing it or something. You never know with these types…better a prude than sorry.

I walked through the park, damp golden leaves softening the click-clack of my boots, wearing the wondrous expression of a drifter back from exile. Nobody knew me, yet everyone and everything felt familiar.

I was thinking of what to do about Lulu. Should I see him after the play? Should I call him the next day to tell him I had enjoyed it? Should I just hope he’d see me in the audience?

I decided on flowers. I’d get him a small bouquet – the gesture would be subtle, affectionate and elegant.

“It’s for the theatre, nothing big and clumsy. I like the burgundy ones. And in the middle, place the sprout of tiny white blossoms. They will look like snowflakes.”

“Does the play have anything to do with snow?”

“Maybe…there was a polar bear on the poster.”

He was the first to come on stage, pulling and tying a rope of an imaginary ship. He wore a huge, savage-looking fur coat and big leather boots. When he spoke, his voice was forcefully deep and rusty.

It took me a good hour to disengage from the fact that it was Lulu, the flirtatious, charming man that had once stolen my heart with a single. At one point, he was looking straight at me, but I couldn’t tell if it was an empty stare or whether he was supposed to be flustered in the script. Near the end of the play, he forgot his lines, he struggled and tortured himself in order to remember the ending of the story he was telling and only when the fellow actress yelled out a cue, he wavered back on track. I was hurting inside – poor Lulu, this was not the first time I was witness to his overcrowded mind.

The curtain was lowered. I fetched the bouquet from beneath my seat. Then came the applause.

“Do not chicken out this time!” I said to myself.

The actors came on stage. He was himself again, and not the brutal warrior that he was wrongly cast for. My friend nudged me, “Go! Go! What are you waiting for? Just tell them to stand up and let you through!”

I got up and made my way to the first steps, but the actors had already taken their position centre-stage.

Lulu spotted me. I’ll never forget his expression of dropped mouth warm smile bright eyes. I was surprised he recognized me after all these years, but I was so happy he did and I was so happy I held this pretty little bunch of flowers all wrapped up in silver paper and tied with a ribbon.

They came back for the second round of applause and I took those few long steps to greet him. His face was all like “You shouldn’t have” and his sweaty cheek was all like next to my cheek and I was all like blushing…

I didn’t want to linger around, I didn’t want to bump into him just yet – what had just happened was perfect.

Yet, the following morning all I could think about was him. A part of me wanted to be this ephemeral appearance passing through his life, leaving him to wonder whatever happened to me calling him everytime I was back in town, and the other half was just yearning to meet him, me all grown up and full of stories.

So I called him. He was at practice and he would get back to me later. He sounded out of breath and formal. He’ll never call back…

I wasn’t going to worry about it. I continued towards the other side of the river, over the bridge, unto a rooftop landscape, into the National Art Gallery, through the rooms that held some very surprising and beautiful artworks, down a staircase, across the street, into the shopping centre, in and out of a changing room, through a bookshop. Somewhere past the first room of paintings, I had completely forgotten about the click and dial tone. It was only when I was walking towards the bus station that his name appeared on my phone. Deep breath, sound cool and confident, slide to answer.

“What are you doing, wandering around the city?”

“Actually, I’m about to head home, I’m having some friends over…”

“Awww, too bad, I would’ve invited you to tonight’s play!”

“Yes, we wanted to go but the tickets were all sold out. But listen, tomorrow we’re going to see another one of your plays…”

“Naughty girl! You know it’s easy for me to get you seats, I told you this many times!”

“Yeah, like last time…nevermind, I’ll keep you in mind the next time I come back.”

“How long are you here for?”

“Till next weekend.”

“Would you, um, like to go for tea, coffee, or…?”

“I would be most pleased.”

“So let’s get in touch on Monday. Have fun tonight, bye.”

The idea of going home for a nap was good as gone – I wanted to dance in the streets, I wanted to do cartwheels and flips and pirouettes.

Oh, how my friends will shake their heads and fingers when they hear that we could have gotten us free seats!

While I waited for bus no. 6, I danced a little.




I’m sleepless and shivering in a tiny room of a bookshop.

I’m. So. Happy.

When the airplane emerged from the dense milky sandwich of wispy, feathery and swollen, we were right above the pitched-roof houses and the sight of the long moist blades of emerald grass sent a wave of tears over my lower eyelids. I. Was. So. Happy.

Everything had been retrieved from the attic and replaced back where it had always been. Even the words of my mother tongue that I had forgotten made their way into my ears or through my lips. But there was something different, something I had not seen in over fifteen years – autumn colours in the trees and their burnt embers on the streets. The sky was gray, the buildings were gray, the coats were gray, black and brown, but the trees were inflamed, gloriously dying. Oh...

Throughout the day, even the best of memories were continuously upgraded. The oak floor at home felt warmer beneath my feet, the pine woods outside the window looked less ominous, the people in the streets looked happier, the girls were prettier – one after the other they had me check myself – the boys were more attractive – they were taller, less scrawny, more daring in their fitted clothes.

Through the doorway on my left I could hear a commotion in progress: the dragging of chairs, heavily accented conversations between locals and foreigners, the camera reflex of lighting test shots. I asked the beautiful androgynous girl what this was all about.

“There will be a poetry reading.”

It’s only been a day and I already feel swept up by a cultural deluge. There are so many things to see, to do and to participate in. Tonight I’ll be going to watch a play in the theatre where Lulu works. When I think back to the first time I met him, the effort I put into testing and making come true my conviction that he was someone to pursue, I feel proud of myself. This is how we get what we want out of life. We must ask, demand, insist and not give up until we lose all the necessary lives in order to remain on that game level. But then, when I think about all the times I’ve seen him since, the lunches, the coffee cups, the scooter rides, the gift-exchanges, the productions I sat through, I still feel unsatisfied. By the time I start to feel comfortable around this now-national-star and tabloid magnet, he has to run to practice or to the studio or to pick up his daughter or to go home to his wife. I never had the opportunity or the courage to ask him, “What were you thinking when you accepted the aggressive pursuit of a fourteen year old girl?”

I still remember his phone number. I even have him as a friend on Facebook. But none of these will do, none of these will guarantee any sort of exchange. I do not want to pursue him, because I am much the wiser. Yet, I want to and I’m now ready to ask him that one simple question that has been making rounds in my head since.

I pack my stuff, wait for one of the poems to be read to the last word and run out into the light drizzle. I know Lulu won’t be there, but a faint glimmer of hope sees me bumping into him in the arched entrance of the theatre.



I’m sleepless in 5A, next to the window, overlooking a patchwork of green, blue and yellow.

I am slightly nervous about landing the motherland and as bewildered with the idea of flying in a huge heavy object across you-can-look-but-you-can't-touch lands.

I’m always struck by the schism between memory and reality. The layers of emotion leech the paved sidewalks of their cracks, soften the sadness on people’s faces and discount the poverty that my country has been slowly emerging from. I do not remember the eeriness of walking through the empty streets alone at night, or the drunken beggars stumbling through them in the middle of the day or the sad-but-true fact that I feel like a foreigner once the initial effect of coming home has worn off.

What will this landing feel like?




I’m sleepless in Terminal 1A.

I don’t know why I challenge punctuality. I’ve been training my perception of time for over half a year now, and even though there has been some improvement, I am always tempting drastic consequences.

“A de badna tenousal 3al matar?”

“Se3a tnen minkoun honik, mni7?”

I wanted to tell him to drive faster, but I caught my tongue before proposing endangerment of our and others’ lives for what was my, and my alone, price to pay.

I slung my suitcase on the conveyor belt. 29.3kg! The guy looked at me with apologetic eyes.


“Shhhh…malezim yisma3ouki.”

I smiled.

“Ra7 7attik bil aisle”

“Full capacity?”

“La2, la2anik jeye bakeer”, he joked.

Ten more minutes and I would have been left aisle-less and wingless.

Gate 19 was swamped with a strange broth of people whose ambitions had seemingly abandoned them a long time ago. They were a soup of ambiguous origins and amorphous aftermaths: those who looked Arab spoke with a heavy American slur, those with conservative attire had bare-shouldered pierced-lipped children. I didn’t mean to be judgmental nor have my thoughts so preoccupied with them. Yet before every single flight, I’ve always secretly hoped to I sit next to someone intelligent, interesting and funny – and so far, out of all the flights I have ever taken, I can remember two, maybe three, such occasions. And throughout the years, I have noticed that the 3am flights to Europe are the most disappointing. The faces are so bleak, like the mugs in the metro: expressionless, distant, not happy.

After waiting in line in the unventilated lounge for longer than expected, it was ultimate relief to walk into the cool airbus. Yet, apart from the nightmare of sitting in a stiff chair that put to shame its recline button, I was beginning to get a sense of the impending four hour late-night flight when I saw the children march in. One after the other, tired mothers in tow, they skipped and ran and shoved to get to their seats. Some were dark, others blonde, some were tiny, small and medium, and the older kid traveling solo and sitting behind me was refusing to let the old man his place by the window,

“La2! Ana jeet ablak!”

Also, there was a faint smell of shit from the seat in front of me…

Something was keeping the line of people from proceeding. A German man’s seat was taken and for the next three minutes, while the air hostess negotiated with the occupying Arab forces, his forehead was a frozen ripple of bewilderment: how could someone possibly take over a seat that was not assigned to them to begin with?

Looking at him, I was beginning to look forward to a week of adhering to unspoken yet obvious rules of social decorum, to rigidity, to public transportation and the basic normality of the Western world. I always secretly reveled in the moment when our queue of arrivals would split between EU and All Passports. I am grateful (to whom I know not!) that I was born in the “right” place at the right time. How unfair and unjust these borders are! How base it is to restrict or facilitate people’s movement based on where they were born and yet, this is the most institutionalized form of racism. Who knows, maybe one day, I will be as unwelcome and I will cringe at the memory of the walk past queues of tired all passport holders…

In the bus, vapour billowing from gaping mouths around me, I witnessed yet another breach of etiquette. Two young men, hair gelled, muscled arms exposed, sat unperturbed next to a standing couple weighed down by bags and a baby. The other seats reserved for mothers and the elderly were occupied by a Lebanese couple in their late twenties, which joined in the silent orchestra of disregard. I threw them suggestive glances – nada. I could feel anger begin to stir inside of me, “How can you be so inconsiderate? I had better manners when I was five!”. But I said nothing. If the parents were inconvenienced or afraid about the baby’s safety during the bus ride, wouldn’t the husband or wife say something? They had every right and they weren’t deaf or mute or blind. I wouldn’t be fighting injustice, rather lethargy and/or timidity.

Yet now, I wish I had intervened. How can better manners be taught if bad etiquette isn’t punished nor exposed? I look at the people walking through this European airport – they may not come off as warm or approachable at first glance, but they sure make life easier by not standing in the way (as opposed to doorway conversation – a new Lebanese trend), by not talking loudly on their phones, by not whipping out cigarettes in the middle of the airport (even though indoor smoking has been banned for a month now, I could smell smoke as I walked to Gate 19 in Beirut Int’l Airport) and by not jumping queues. I really wish these social efforts caught on someday in the Middle East. Just like spelling and grammar mistakes make reading unpleasant, the same relationship can be drawn between bad etiquette and the quality of life.

In here, lies a lesson for me – Be. On. Time.




I’m sleepless at a distance from Beirut.

Red messaged me “Are you safe?”

Exactly twenty four hours had passed since the blast in Achrafieh that cast a heavy shadow over our glazed eyes, and I was beginning to wonder whether this guy really cared about me or whether he watched every TV channel but the news.

I was safe and I was happy. I was happy to escape into a corner of the country where I could love it with all my heart. The sea was a blanket of golden oil, one with the sky, and Yamamoto and I were zooming towards the blinding sun, our screams of free at last, free at last diving in and out of the waves and the wind pockets we left in tow.

“Let’s go to Cyprus!!! Yamamoto, shafte, shafte!”

And she was a glorious driver, my peals of joyous laughter justifying the tears in my eyes. We saw nothing but a soft blurred horizon, a barely visible line between nude lipstick and skin, something of an allegory for the days to come.

“After yesterday, khallas, I am not neutral anymore, this is not normal…”, her voice filled the car on our way to Batroun.

No more neutral. No more neutered balls. No more neutered innocence and innocent lives. “Patriarch, Mufti condemn the blast”, I read that morning on some .com. Tell us something new old men, because we commend the new, because we condemn your century-old neutered balls and we commend the new. This is no country for old men who struggle with creative writing, who plagiarize pages of dated history and cheat and pay their way to a passing grade. Let’s face it – you are failures and you have failed us. All of you old-timers have failed your people, your people and every single one of your Gods is witness to your failure. I don’t know how you sleep at night or swallow your food or sound your sirens when you bully us on the road, when you bully us with your cancerous roadblocks and your cancerous ideals. I don’t know how you wash your hands, how you dry your dirty laundry in the public square nor how you came to be so apt in self-brainwash. There is nothing noble or honourable you can do for this rich (now depleted) magnificent (now scarred) ancient (still stuck) land that you were lucky to be born in, but do not deserve to walk on, let alone serve. There is nothing noble or honourable you can do because you, when alone in your head or with your sacred book on your head, cannot even serve yourself the truth that you are failures, failures, failures. Any self-respecting well-meaning man or woman would either retreat or try harder and harder and harder until implosion. Instead, you jerk off upon all of us and spread your defunct, impaired, curdled semen into hollow craniums that may as well have been dug up from some Stone Age mass grave. We condemn your frustrated strokes and tugs and your impotent cloudy trickles, and most of all we condemn your demand for us to swallow. No more swallow, no more neutral, we condemn the whole lot of you. We don’t want you. We want new.




I’m slightly fazed and confused in Beirut.

Last night proved memorable; or so says my text message to Flutterby:

“We is high, drunk and in a convertible. If I die, I’m an idiot. But I love you all!” followed by an audio note in which my friends demand me who I am writing to over some bad dance music, “What?!”, I yell back “I am reporting my possible death.”

Now that I’m alive and unscathed, I feel that I may have exag…actually no, that drive was pretty scary! I sat at the back, as their arms waved in the air and their bodies danced to a song I didn’t know, I couldn’t see how close to collision we could come, and the wind in my hair was wildly playful, and the avoiding of potholes excited and frisky.

Sitting in the back, rather immobilized by the ominous cockpit and the Madonna-sponsored OMG party – words that I kept repeating over and over again as I prayed for the consistency in Foux’s usually reliable driving skills – I tried coaxing my mind into letting go that one extra neuron. But I was handicapped - the grass had indeed been greener for the front half of the car.

As I filmed their antics for future sober-day viewing at the red light, Yamamoto turned around with her ever-lecturing finger, “You’re not better than us!” and continued waving her arms in the air.

It was only until we approached her home that Foux’s idea to stop in the middle of a residential street with speakers in epileptic blare had her stretch her arm and discretely decrease the volume bit by bit. Diplomatic party-pooping party-loving Yamamoto – her gesture made me smile.

As she was leaving the car, Foux asked her to say it. I had no idea what was going on.

“I can’t say it”, tried to break free Yamamoto from the chains of their inside joke.

“Koussi mwal3a,” I heard Foux’s tongue and flaming lips splutter “Say it Yamamoto, say it!”

I was now in the front passenger seat and Foux turned to me, “Chou? B0?”

“Yalla, B0!” I said half-convinced. And in a cloud of dust, exhaust and titanium we zoomed through Beirut to sour smelly Qarantina.

“Don’t worry about anything! We’ll just walk in like divas!”

It had been our years old vintage dream to go there together, and finally the fantasy came true: our figures made their wobbly way down the stairs into 80s kitsch.

Foux was the perfect lead. He took me firmly by the hand and into the middle of the club, spun me, threw me, caught me (or didn’t!), held me, swayed me and after one shared drink of vodka-orange, he leaned in and…

“I don’t mean to brag, but I have been told that I’m really good,” he had once said.

Hands up, defense down, he was amazing. Despite our friendship and in spite of everything that would’ve normally deemed this irrational and irregular behavior, it felt surreally appropriate for our fantasy night out.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. I moved to let the tapper through. Tap, tap again. I turned around and saw an all-too familiar face at an all-too wrong timing. My mind spelled w-h-a-a-a-t-?

No this was not happening, no I had not mistakenly subscribed to awkward weekly, my mind was still on the a-a-a- part when he said, “Hey.”

And I say…

…all the wrong things, because I am unprepared for this scenario. My train of thought had sent all its carriages in a wide-eyed frantic search for easy let downs, curtsy retreats and possible reconciliations, but all it could make out was a lonely steaming engine caught between two advancing cargo loads. Here we go…

“What are you doing here? I didn’t expect to see you. I wish you had told me you were coming. This is awkward.”

There was no more smoky mist hanging in the air to conceal disappointment, frustration or any other facial contortion that should not normally appear to Bon Jovi screaming “it’s my life, it is now or never” to the jolly crowd that for a moment thought it would live forever. Tomorrow would come, and tomorrow would still be awkward with a quivering a-a-a-. The situation was crystal clear and surprisingly well lit.

Caught in between what first looked like an exchange of words, then an argument, then a friendly retreat on Foux’s part, I was hoping somebody would take a hint.

I had first met Joos on a dance floor back in April. It was only four months later that we bumped into one another again. Yamamoto was a friend in common and he seemed like a pretty cool character to add to the mix. He was fun and he was funny and I was glad he wasn’t fluent in awkward, so the bumping into became a scheduled event and it looked like Joos was staying on the menu. I was open to the possibility that somehow, somewhere I would meet a guy who would not read into my sociability and no-fuss attitude as an invitation to find a hidden agenda behind good chemistry. Most people told me I was delusional, “and especially in Lebanon!”

Maybe I took “He’s just not that into you” book too seriously and maybe I wrongly expected of others to be versed in its rather basic philosophy, but if I were into you, you would know. But as Key explained to me “girls here are passive” and anything short of bitchy can easily be interpreted as a green light. So I say…poor Joos! I would hate to be in his maladroit shoes! What a chore it must be to be a man in the dating game – no wonder there are PUAs and AFCs and forums that teach men how to upgrade their status from beta to alpha. And as much as I feel bad for the men who must measure every single one of our moves against some self-professed love guru’s calibrations, I feel just as sad for the women who are taught from day one that they must wait for the knight in shining armor to slay the dragon and rescue them from their tower. The dragon might as well be the future in-laws, the tower built with the bricks of patriarchy, and the knight just a poor consequence of the two with a bad case of the Madonna-whore complex – which Virgin Gaga wouldn’t grow her hair to escape this nuthouse? The answer is – very few.

Poor Joos and poor me – screwed by two ends of the same system.

But all this empathy and self-pity comes later. I tug Foux by his arm and tell him that I want to leave. “But we are having fun!” he whines!

Eventually, he goes up for a last smoke, while I ineffectively try to butter the Joos dilemma with worthless peanuts.

“Who is that guy? Is he your ex-boyfriend?”

“I can’t tell you. It’s complicated.” I exacerbated the situation.

“Is he even straight?!”

I had had enough. What the hell was this? Jerry Springer? The “makhasne” switch in my head was flicked. You brought this upon yourself Joos, and I didn’t need or want to make it clearer to you any longer.

“I don’t need to explain myself. I have to go, the car is here.”

“You’re leaving?”


“With him?”



“Because I’m going back with him!”


“Because I came with him!”

The glamour of dialogue under influence didn’t stop there. In the car, Foux just kept repeating, “I’m so fucked.”

I was glad to get away from the hellpad, our arms were up in the air, the wind blowing them clean…

In the parking lot, in the car, under the gaze of the uniformed McDonald’s drive-thru boy, we dug into a happy meal, and kissed between the bites of sin-filled heaven.

“We are not going to…!”, announced Foux, clearly entertaining the opposite possibility, in light of his two week old adventure with his ex.

We didn’t, but instead we stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and danced self-indulgently beneath a street lamp. When the song was over, we hopped back into the car, and as I turned to fasten my seatbelt, the cops were already by Foux’s side, their window down, not saying a word, two pairs of eyes looking at us. We tried to squeeze every ounce of sobriety and innocence unto our facials expressions. An intense stare later, they motioned for us to drive in front of them.

“Drive. Sloooowly.” I squealed.

We’re so fucked.”




I’m sleepless in Beirut, the sun setting behind me.

I’m excited about tonight. There will be the cool evening breeze, the smell of jasmine, the buzz of conversations and the promise of laughter, cheer and unknown faces.

My skin is still warm from the sun and slightly gluey with sunscreen. Earlier, as I was rubbing it on to the objections of Foux, my tanorexic friend, I breathed in the memory of Botticelli and I at the beach. It was one of the very few times we had left his apartment together. I can count them on one hand. Yet now, I’m about to run out of fingers to bend – over nine months have passed since we’ve last spoken.

He had called me up one day, maybe a week after our second meeting since my return from Paris, to tell me that he wanted to cut things off between us. Completely. Not even for the time being. And I knew he was stubborn, but I didn’t expect this. For over half a year I would feel uneasy at the slight thought of him. I feared bumping into him, and I thanked heavens he was a social recluse. It was only that one night in Hamra, as I was walking with friends on the main street, past Madinat Theatre, that I saw him standing on the curb, his heavy leather bag tugging on his shoulder, his face in musing contemplation as he watched the traffic and people go by. I felt a heavy blow to my chest and grabbed my friend by her elbow.

“Do not look to your right, just keep on walking, just keep on walking,” I said clenching my teeth.

She didn’t question me and only when we had reached the church I told her that I had just seen Botticelli. I wondered whether he had seen me and I wonder whether he had felt a similar blow. Secretly I wished the sight of me would melt his heart and I kept checking my phone…

There are days when I wish I could just call him up like I used to and share with him snippets of life and observations that I know he would appreciate. And if those months ago he had felt rejected, how I was I supposed to feel? I hadn’t but refused to indulge in what had made my relationship with him torturous (and I guess, for him, worthwhile?). He blamed me for being dishonest, for having changed and I just didn’t want to take things in a direction that didn’t feel right. When we had first met, all I wanted was to be with him, and he would just retreat like plastic from fire until I’d fall into the trap of accepting the unspoken terms, over and over again. We would meet every so and so, but the breaks in between were necessary for him, and then eventually for me, until I grew out of the idea that this was what I could handle. In simple terms, I couldn’t be present physically, if he wasn’t there for me continuously. And to think I rejected him…

And then to hear Red say, “I love your smell. You smell the same way you did all those years ago. Oh, and your freckles, I love them too.” And he was referring to the unsightly sunspots on my shoulders!

We were now sitting side by side on the 62nd floor, at the end of the U-shaped couch that held all our childhood friends.

“Don’t go,” I pleaded with him “Stay with me. You can always go on this trip another time, but who knows when I’ll be back!”

When I placed my hand on his inner arm to stroke his soft hairs, he smiled, “You know you have this power over me!”

I didn’t want to corner him, but I was dying to hear him say he chose me.

“Fine, I won’t go. But we’ll spend time together, yes?!”

I explained my situation, that I would have to see more of my family before traveling, and he understood and still, he didn’t go.

By the end of the night, we were five. Red, Flutterby, two boys and I – the original crew! Downstairs at the cabstand, we decided to head over to my place to keep the night going.

I was so touched to see these grown friends sit in the candlelight of my porch, flirting, conversing, but I was most happy to just have Red, sometimes in the kitchen, and sometimes by my side.  By five in the morning, at the sound of the first adhan, the boys were getting ready to head home; the cab would arrive in minutes.

I signaled to Red that he could stay over, that I wanted him to stay over, but I didn’t want to insist to a crowd of candlelit faces.

As soon as he was out the door, I texted him, “I still don’t get why. What’s wrong with sleeping over? What’s wrong with a pajama party? Pillow fight? (note the innocent terms)”

“Nothing is wrong, but I can’t with your family there, plus Flutterby, doesn’t feel right.”

“You think too much. You think too far. It would’ve been nice to have a 5hr hug.”

“Ok I’m coming”

Power to my power, I wanted to do a victory dance! Within minutes, he was back at the door, still hesitant, still anxious and still over-thinking.

“What if your mom sees me?!”

My argument was that nothing was going to happen, that my mom was a fellow human being and that we weren’t kids anymore.

I felt slightly guilty that I had brought Red into Flutterby’s and my sleepover, but I just kept hoping she’d remember the previous night when she had proposed the same scenario herself. In the end, I knew she would understand that I needed this.

“You just slept?!”, she later asked “Why didn’t you just let it happen?!”

In my room, with the skies brightening, he sat on the edge of the bed to remove his shoes, his shirt, “Do you have a T-shirt?”, he asked, and I thought “There is no way you’re going to wear a T-shirt with this body!”, to take off of his jeans, “Do you have shorts?”, and I let him have his shorts, the same shorts we were obliged to wear to the gym in high school, the same shorts I once tipex-ed with obscenities (along with a covert egg in his gym shoes) and was punished with that same egg at high-speed to the back of my head.

“No kissing,” I said.

It was the best sleep I had in a very long time.




I’m sleepless in Beirut, my feet upon a mound of bedsheets,

and still recovering from being sleepless in between time zones. The lost hours are not lost at all, they just accumulate and grow into a tumor of heavy and laggard until you can do nothing but vanquish it by stamping your face into a pillow.

The empty stretch of bed to my left is where I came to the last inch of my conclusion: this kid needs at least ten more years to feel like a man. Excel was fun, he hardly ever bored me, he was brainy, he had managed to acquire good taste in music over the last few years, he was quirky and he was cute. Seeing him asleep in the morning I only felt slightly sad that something was stunting his growth.

“You want me to be more serious?”

“It’s not a question of being fun or serious, it’s about maturity. You’re so jumpy sometimes, hopping from one idea to the next without letting the other person finish.”

“You know, you’re right, you’re right. I’m so stressed at work that it plays with my mind. It’s probably my medication,” and he went on to explain his mild anxiety disorder.

“How long have you been taking it?”

“For about a year. After that time in Paris…”

He was referring to the weekend he came to visit me. Despite his nervous state, so intense that even I was slightly disturbed, it was one of the best times we spent together.

“Stop fidgeting! I can’t sleep like this!” I had told him off on his first night.

On the last day we went for a long walk along the Seine, into the Marais, through the galleries of Centre Pompidou and the Jardin des Tuilleries. By the time we had two hours left to his departing train, it was like a comedy of love.

We laid on the grass beneath the overcast sky, crows picking at leftover biscuits, his shirt over my naked shoulders and my head on his lap. Looking at the scattered couples around us, for once I felt like I was living the Parisian postcard. In the urgency of the last moment, it was pure and innocent. I even wished he’d miss his train.

But we made it on time to the Gare du Nord, separating in the tunnel that linked it to the Gare de l’Est. I may have been a little sad, but having grown so used to dealing with separation, I only texted him with a wish for a safe return.

Come to think of it, Excel and I only ever lived such moments: a day here, two days there. Yet, sitting here with him in the early hours of the morning I felt like I was less engaged. Perhaps if I hadn’t met Red in Dubai, I would have allowed myself to be seduced by the idea of making it work with this boy with whom I played house with in 4th grade.

“Do you see us together?” I asked.

“Let’s just say that whenever I’m with another girl, I always see you in the corner with a disapproving look.”

I didn’t need to dig further. He hadn’t answered the question, the ground beneath us was still firm.

An hour later, it was Red standing in the room and I wished instead that it were himself he was watching. I could only imagine how much more ignited and intense everything would be. I closed my eyes and Excel was no more.