Doing nothing: The lost art of a lazy afternoon.

I’ve spent endless days perfecting imaginary conversations with strangers. Having real adventures with a book so good I forget to see people for a whole weekend. I’m a lazy woman with a lazy life and that’s how I like it.

People don’t seem to get it when I’m basking in glorious idleness.

I hate pretending I’m doing things. People think I’m busy because I don’t go to brunch with them, then get upset to find me in a coffee shop reading a book instead. Silly people. I never said I was busy, what I want is to stay un-busy! I don’t want to commit, not even to brunch. Especially not brunch.

I want to preach the happiness of walking out the door with no plans, the special delight of owning your afternoon!

Go to the movies alone, take notebooks and a laptop to your favourite cafe if it helps overcome the weirdness as you sit and stare at people. Let a frothy cloud of blankness gently massage your brain cells. Embrace the adventure of idleness and let yourself daydream to endless possibilities.

I miss summers when I was a teenager and nobody expected me to do anything anyway.

I miss that brief moment in time, somewhere in Tabarja, in the late 90’s on a Sunday afternoon. I was still learning how to befriend hangovers with huevos rancheros and beer at noon in one of those ugly chalet-complexes built like a pox on the Lebanese coastline. I didn’t know there would come a time where I’d miss my polluted Mediterranean so, instead of enjoying the beach, my friend and I wore flip-flops and crossed the road to the cyber café.

I’m not sure how we started going there, or why even. Maybe for the weed, or to meet that guy she was seeing without her parents knowing. Maybe he had the weed and that’s why the parents didn’t like him. Anyway…. It was one of my first ventures out of the boring greyness of school and family where nothing interesting ever happened! In that joyful microcosm of useless Sunday afternoons, I discovered my thirst for other people’s lives.

It’s a shame I was so shy, I could have had some nice chats but instead I sat in a corner, terrified every time people came my way because that meant I actually had to interact with them. The girl who worked there didn’t seem to mind my mutism and in between naps she’d sit next to me to smoke cigarettes and tell me about her other job doing night shifts as a nurse in the nearby hospital. Basically it was shit pay and crap hours so every now and then she’d get me to help edit her CV so she could apply for nursing jobs in the UAE. Her boyfriend would sometimes visit, he wanted to go to the UAE too and was always afraid she’d get a job there and leave him behind. Occasionally they’d fight.

The cyber café was really more cyber than café. Just a room with long rows of desks and old computer laboriously connected to the wild wild west that was the web back then. People didn’t have laptops so we’d all have to use the same sticky keyboards with piece of cheese puffs stuck between the keys, making sure we avoid the weird stains on the space bar. Armies of loud scrawny boys would come together to play those violent networked games boys like to play. They kept running next door to buy supplies of snacks and drinks and always got yelled at. If the door was closed and the AC was on, the kids got told off for letting the heat in. If the door was open and a kid slammed it shut on his way back in, he’d be cursed till eternity for wanting us to choke in cigarette smoke.

The place was a fucking cancer aquarium alright. Everyone over the age of 14 chain-smoked. Especially me, mostly as a way to fight social anxiety. The older teenagers at the café smoked as they typed away dramatic love stories on MSN, all of them lucky Casanovas virtually dating tall thin hot blondes in Canada or Sweden. There was also my friend and her guy, occasionally disappearing for hours. Sometimes, a taxi driver would come in for his afternoon break, a sweaty stressed man who smoked Viceroys, He’d take a computer at the very back of the room, near a corner so he could enjoy his porn in peace. Outside, also smoking cigarettes, there was a guy and his guitar who was waiting to become a star. Even back then I think we all knew he’d make it, he had that glow. Sometimes he sang, once or twice he tried (hopelessly) to teach me a few chords. Most of the time he just played and smoked.

The nice thing was that I didn’t have to pretend I was busy or doing anything. Nobody questioned my right to just sit there and look around and even if we never spoke much, that’s exactly why I liked everyone there. We were all just there, getting through Sunday afternoon, and that was bliss.


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