For as long as I can remember, bombs and bombing have been a fact of life. We sometimes mourn the dead for a day, that’s it.
Until the next one.
There is always a next one.
And somehow we pretend we didn’t hear.
I went home last week, for Christmas and all that.
I had kibbeh, tabboule, fattoush and imposed a permanent all-you-can-eat ma’ouche buffet in my mother’s kitchen. I drank the beer of my teenage years, even if compared with glorious Irish stout, my darling Almaza tastes like really bad lemonade. I saw all the places and people I’ve been missing for 5 months: serious Mar Mikhael hipsters, smiling cool kids in Hamra, scary botoxed alien women with impossibly smooth foreheads at the hairdresser’s, weird old taxi drivers shouting obscenities out the windows of vintage cars.
I had ginger cookies made by my poor mother who was torn between the despair of having a fat daughter, and the maternal need to feed me food I’ve been missing. As I was having a second serving of fattet batenjein while requesting a knefe for breakfast the next day, she told me how happy she is that I’m living abroad.
I hate it when she says that.
And she told me (again) the story of her swimsuits.
It was summer; she had just bought new swimsuits when the civil war started (“exploded” as she said in French). Her swimsuits were all left at Saint Simon beach, where my grand parents had a cabin. She never went there again, and she never got to wear the brand-new swimsuits.
It’s odd, the random details we remember when major events fuck up our lives. Sometimes, the thought of being away from Lebanon when disaster strikes is what keeps me awake in anguish at night, I wonder which item I’d miss most if I’m locked out…
The photo albums I never had time to scan and digitize,
My gold necklace made of my grandfather’s worry beads,
All my books?
Maybe something random like old posters I refuse to throw away
And where will all the people go? All the friends I need to see to stay sane? Most of them are already scattered across the globe, where will we meet? where will we hope to return?
And then a bomb exploded, and innocent people were murdered. We stopped counting the bombs and the people a looooong time ago.
We went out to pretend it was still Christmas and the doudou shots had the metallic taste of blood. People on the table next to me talked about a revolution, about immolation.
But there is no country to save
Were we ever a nation to begin with?
What’s our national cause anyway?
I don’t know, but when it was time to leave Beirut, I just packed a carry on.
I left my jewellery with my mom again,
I didn’t scan the old photos,
I didn’t take my books.
I will not be locked out of my country.
Today there was another blast, and my Irish beer tastes like blood.
People are being murdered on the street. Don’t pretend you didn’t see.