Beirut not for Beirutis

So we have lost the last public beach left in Beirut. Ramlet el Bayda was the last bit of shore remaining in the small list of public spaces we could still call our own, us people of Beirut, as we watched every grain of sand become someone’s property.

From our government to our health, ruins and historical buildings, even the sand of our land is for sale, each little grain getting stuck between our toes can be sold to the most generous imbecile because what are we but pockets with a slowly dying identity? We are Lebanese with fewer and fewer Lebanese characteristics, places, faces… we are Lebanese living in a country that is looking and feeling less Lebanese by the second. In our country you can swim and ski in the same day, if you’re willing to pay to have less than what another country would offer for free. Our beaches are polluted, but we still want to call them our own, our cities were destroyed but we still want them to be rebuilt in the same style, with our people living in them and not whoever will throw 10,000$/sqm like it’s change. We want our ruins and crumbling buildings more than another shopping center we probably won’t be the ones buying from, we dream of those tiny green spaces we still have, to be able to stick our hands in the beautiful grass and know it will last another day without having empty bottles and cigarette buds thrown in by careless individuals because we have no laws protecting our public spaces. We want our wild rivers and old streets to remain without strange highway projects and useless dams suddenly being proposed.

Why is it every single time change occurs in this country, it is only for the worse? Why is it a beautiful place like Lebanon cannot remain beautiful and truly deserve to be the country that rose again, the country that war and floods couldn’t terminate, the country that only moves forward? Do we only deserve to be sold to the highest bidder?

“We’re used to it”

This was supposed to be a nice calm Sunday, the kind Beirut has been having for a little while, the kind we pretend to always have even when people are angry, people are fighting or people are dying. We all feel outrage, but it all gets calm in our minds soon enough; we’re used to it.

An hour or so ago, an explosion occurred not so far from my area. Facebook didn’t offer us a “mark as safe” button as it so regularly doesn’t – they’re used to it too – so everyone has been writing status updates informing all others they’re still alive and breathing. We’re not victims…yet. no casualties tonight, no one to mourn, no martyrdom, no blood spattered on the streets for us to walk on seemingly fine but torn up inside. You see, we’re used to it, used to the sirens and the special reports, the sudden shifting of all TV channels to emergency news and death counts climbing as we sit at home rocking our shaken bodies repeating “I’m ok, this has happened before, we’re used to it”. We’re a war country, 10452 sq meters of scars and fear, coexisting individuals coming together when everything falls apart, falling apart when faceless monsters start planting bombs and doubt around our chaotic haven. “Who are they and what do thet want?”, we time and time again ask with no definite answer to calm our anguish, anxiety we hide so well having mastered the art of bottling up our disgust for a place we don’t ever feel safe in. Because, you know, we’re used to it.

I am fed up, fed up of turning on the TV I barely use every time the house starts shaking, I already know it’s not an earthquake. I’ve had enough of having people call or text in panic asking if I’m fine, I’ve learnt by now to identify when it’s not out of boredom. I don’t want Facebook to ask me if I’m safe, I don’t want to have to wonder or have my loved ones tremble at the thought that I or anyone else might not be. I don’t want us to be used to it because this is not something normal to be used to!

Wedding for one

Wedding season. Again. I didn’t think much about it a few years back, attending those I felt obligated to go to, staring at the overly made up ladies and the men stuffed in suits two sizes too small with buttons begging for mercy, eating cake with too much chewy white fondant. Nowadays, it’s my friends getting married, exchanging vows to stay together for the rest of their lives, promising to care for each other for as long as their hearts keep beating, and it makes me smile, happy to see souls uniting, dreaming of all days to come. Except, I feel a slight pang with every smile I draw, it hurts a bit watching it all from the sidelines, the way I never imagined it would.

I’m the type who likes to run free, the kind of person you can’t restrain, whether behind a desk or with words; yet I can’t help myself from wanting something that lasts through the movement, another soul to keep mine from getting lonely. Unlike what is so often understood, freedom isn’t a solo endeavour, one can be wild and free as a unit, the way my parents were, are, and will stay. They have proved to me that “together” is a beautiful world, “together” is an unmatched experience for it’s not one laugh echoing in the forest, it’s not one voice singing along to cheesy roadtrip songs, it’s not one heart beating faster with excitement as new discoveries are made, there is another, and it only makes the first one beat stronger, longer.

This isn’t another “I need a man in my life, I don’t want to end up with 72 cats and a tupperware collection” rant or sob story. Firstly because I’m allergic to cats and I already have quite a nice tupperware collection, secondly because I don’t believe I need someone else to complete me, help me or hold my hand. I can guide myself through this mess of a life, I can stay on my own completely satisfied, but no matter how complete I feel by myself, it is rather beautiful to witness two wholes make a mesmerizingly symbiotic new whole, together.

I don’t talk about it much, this little folly of my imagination, the one that makes me dream up my own wedding, my own quirky version of two hearts intertwining as medieval music plays in the middle of nowhere, wind gently caressing the faces of the few beloved guests; I don’t understand extravagance, being surrounded by people I barely know or will barely notice on the day my life finds itself overturned and shaken by a crazy fantasy made real. I often dream up that day where I too step into this togetherness I still haven’t tried, this adventure seemingly as mind-boggling as those I regularly plan out, and as I watch others begin their journey on this not so lonely path, I sigh; I too would like a taste of union, to someday be two instead of my eternal “one”… but that’s for another day; today I fly by myself, my own groom. One ticket please!

My fleeting soulmate

Soulmates. They say every person walking this Earth has one. They say we should seek them, find them, grab them, keep them. They are the light outside the tunnel, the purpose of the journey, the end prize of this life. They forget to tell us a soulmate isn’t always a lover, and that a soulmate once found won’t necessarily stay. If you find them, that is.
I went through life with a leg over my head and the other haphazardly stuck in a pail, stumbling, bumping into trees and falling off chairs, not knowing which road I was taking or how to sit still. I’ve met so many people, been to so many places, but my heart wandered on its own as I wandered in other directions, blindly. It got attached to memories like this one I have of you. I met you when I was still figuring out the world, when I was still figuring out myself, my demons and all my switches. We instantly clicked, like those tupperwares they keep trying to sell us on TV, the ones that don’t let the air in…or out. We became friends, talked and sat in silence, shared what we feared to share with others, spent mornings and nights doing nothing and everything, walking the streets like we owned them. It felt like looking in the mirror, but the image could hug me when a tear left my eye, the image spoke back to me, soothing me when I was down. And most importantly, we laughed; we’d just stare at each other and know what the other was thinking, instantly, magically. We were friends, best friends, and everyone tried to taint us. They said we had to be more, thought we kept our truths hidden, convinced us we were lying to ourselves and each other. And it worked. One day, a lifetime ago, you told me we were soulmates, and I believed you, young and naive, in search of more than I was persuaded to accept; we were family, makeshift and magnetic, but we didn’t last. We believed them and fell apart, like soulmates sometimes do; my soul felt safe with you till I found out that soulmates don’t exist, or maybe the one you seemed to be never really lived.
It’s been a year now, a year since I set myself free from the lie, that soulmates are forever, and that such friendships don’t die. Today I believe my soulmate was just another dream too good to be true, a figment of my imagination, and I feel sorry, but mostly for the person I convinced myself you were. You knew I was there, always, like a trusty old shoe, the one you discard in the corner of the room once it has served its purpose, still good enough to wear, but mostly to the supermarket. I really thought you made me less blue – boy, I really had no clue.