The way we ate

It was 8:47 a.m and I was on my way to work, reluctant, forcefully yanked out of bed by my alarm. I was riding the metro, another morose face in the crowd, when a mother with her two little girls stepped into the wagon I was planning my temporary blue collar life’s demise in. Plunging her hand in her bag, she handed her daughters one biscuit each. The eldest started eating, looking at the half asleep passengers around her, curious, hungry, a possessor of a slight attention deficit disorder like most children her age. Her sister, however, awoke my attention still dormant till then. She was staring attentively at her biscuit, almost too intensely. She had bitten off the four protruding edges and was now studying where to bite next, weighing pros, cons and colour gradients. The sight of her amused me as I always ate my biscuits in the same fashion, working my way to the best part, progressively eliminating the least interesting bits, bite by bite, until my favourite part presented itself to end my biscuit experience.
Most people after a certain age, just like this girl’s sister, start eating to satisfy an urge, their hunger or just to fill a void, forgetting to focus on every detail of what’s in their hands or laid in front of them. Some, myself included, keep that somewhat childlike pursuit of a taste chronology making the story culminate to the most thrilling chapter. I still bite off the edges first, circling around the center, steering away from the chocolate morsels teasing relentlessly but unsuccessfully, keeping the best for last while understanding every bite as it shares its secrets and complex layers with my palate and tongue. It always seemed to me as though food conversed with me, every meal being a reunion with an old friend bearing new stories for me to enjoy, another kind of imaginary friend who, more often than not, spoke in monologues, riveting, silencing, appeasing in their short-lived flow.

Starved ears

There are sounds you can’t forget. The putter patter of rain drops on the roof, the high-pitched whistle of the tea kettle, the sleepy voice of your mother when she says “good morning” to you… we memorize sounds, define our lives around them, and when one stops being part of our routine, it’s like a breach in our cocoon, a part of this intricate safety net we spent our existence building.

Around a month ago, my father was hit by a truck as he was crossing a street on foot. Thankfully, it was mostly his leg that was injured. I say thankfully bitterly, for if there’s one thing he likes, it’s walking. Since then, he’s been much less mobile, having to minimize activity so his wounds heal without complications. Although this little anecdote has nothing to do with sound, it also has everything to do with the matter in my case. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d know my dad had arrived home from the confident and somewhat loud tapping of his shoes in the building’s corridor; my room being situated conveniently, I was sure to hear the main entrance door’s loud bang and the decided stride of my father as he hastily approached our apartment. Since his unfortunate accident, no such sound has graced my ears, no comfort has come from the familiar sound I had built my evening routine around; instead, the light tap of a crutch sometimes resonates in that same corridor, a sound I have come to abhor.

We don’t realize the importance of a sound till it is gone, the comfort of an assured familiarity in noises we’ve grown up with, learnt to accept or even love. I long to hear my father’s fast-paced footsteps on gravel, on wooden floors, on coloured fallen leaves again, and I wholeheartedly wish to forget the ugly slowness of that horrid crutch’s tap.

“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!