At first she thought the ringing in her ears were the bells of hell reminding her of what she had done. Or more prosaically, were one of the many signs of the absolute worst hangover she had ever had.
Then she realized it was only the phone, trying to pierce through several depths of blissful unconsciousness.
Lili didn’t dare open her eyes for fear of the scorching sun peering through her windows in golden rays burning her retinas. The ringing carried on, feeling like torture on her skull. She extended her hand, knocking over a glass of water, her alarm clock and several unidentified objects. If she had had the strength, she’d have yelled something, preferably rude.
– Is that your standard greeting now?
Lili shrunk further down under the covers. Nina’s voice had a devilish ring to it Lili didn’t care much for.
– It’s my standard greeting for so called friends waiting to poke fun at their desperately in love friends.
– ewww how can one, and you, of all people, ever be in love with my brother is beyond me, Bless him I do love him but let’s face it habibi, he’s a nutcase. All this talk of permanent revolutions and egalitarian society, it’d be enough to bore anyone into a stupor, yet you seem to think he’s some kind of cross between Leo Trotsky and Che Guevara, minus the violent deaths, even though that might still happen to him.
Lili groaned, but Nina was a woman on a mission.
– Seriously my darling, she pressed on, her voice all nice and concerned, which scared Lili to no end, for Nina only kept that voice for extreme emergencies, seriously, you’re not ok. You can’t go around kissing people, then ditching your friends as if you were walking on air.
Lili’s face was burning under the covers. She cringed. After her coup d’éclat of kissing Ziad in front of all living souls in Hamra, she had picked up her bag and turned her heels away in proper diva fashion, the music of victory ringing in her ears. When the music had died out and she had come to her senses, she had realized that she had a) ditched her friends, whom she was supposed to be having coffee and brunch with, b) kissed a man who had made it extremely clear he did not wish to pursue any type of relationship with her, and c) made a fool of herself. When the awful realization had set in, she had run down to the nearest dekken and had purchased what seemed like her weight in alcohol. Once home, she had sat on her balcony and had set out to drink herself stupid, shutting down her phone and waiting patiently for the alcohol to put her stress and wretched feelings to sleep. Not that it had proven to be of any help, she had woken up feeling even more depressed than ever, the perspective of having to face everyone and apologize to her friends looming over her head like a malevolent bird. She remembered thinking that Beirut was a great city to be crying in: the noises and whispers of the city would keep you company, as if licking your pain away. More than once had she felt the healing power of a town that wasn’t even hers, but which felt like home more than anywhere in the world. Only those who have truly suffered know the value of life, the fleeting trait of happiness, and who had more suffered than her gray Beirut? Sitting on her balcony, sipping her wine, the powder pinks and blues of her Beiruti sunset before her, she could almost think all would be well in the world, she could almost hope her constant, even pre-Ziad feelings of loss, incompleteness and failure would dissolve in thin air like the sun in the sea. The words of Virginia Woolf came to her mind with acute clarity: Each has its past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by his heart, and his friends can only read the title.
While Lili had been painfully remembering all that had happened on the day before, Nina had still been chattering away on the phone, giving out advice on How to Forget Ziad and Sooner Better than Later.
– Habibi, Khalas, you and him have ran your course, he is obsessed with being what he considers to be free, yani he wants to be able to go, grab his Kalashnikov at a moment’s notice and free Palestine or something and being involved with someone, or so he thinks, might hinder his plans. He is stupid of course, as you were always behind him in his activism, but what do you want me to tell you, taking poor decisions is apparently men’s trademark to asserting their virility.
Nina sighed and pressed on. The silence at the other side of the phone did not bode well. She loved Lili dearly, like a sister, and it killed her to see that while her brother loved her, he wouldn’t, couldn’t make a decision so as to stay with her. She had told him off more than once, telling him to leave Lili alone and stop calling her if he didn’t want to have anything to do with her, but to no end. He was attracted to her like a moth to the light and couldn’t help himself, thus entertaining her hopes, keeping the flame alive, torturing her. If he weren’t her brother, she’d have hated him and wished him to fall on his face straight on a porcupine. She actually wished he fell on a porcupine, so he could feel a bit f the pain he was inflicting to her friend.
– Oh don’t, wailed Lili on the phone, don’t speak ill of him because of me, please. I know you’re wishing horrible things to happen to him, you and your stupid porcupine thing.
– I am actually, answered Nina breezily, and I can’t stay on the phone for much longer, my order of satin had just come in, and after that I have My Resident Drama Bride coming in.
– Resident Drama what? Who’s that?
– That, my love, is to teach you not to ditch your friends for underachievers revolutionaries. If you drop by the studio, I might just tell you, or better, you might actually see her. Gaby will be there, added Nina.
– Oh please, you and your hints. I’m calling her huh, I’m calling her right now.
– Good, now stop feeling sorry for yourself, have some coffee and drop by me. Bye,
– What habibi?
– Thank you.
– Yeah well, I do want a good karma.
Still smiling, Lili breathed loudly, gathered her courage, and called Gabrielle. If anything, Gaby would yell at her and curse and swear and she was a little too fragile for this.
– Hello, Gaby? I’m so sorry I shouldn’t have done what I did
– Oh Jesus, just stop it with the Catholic Guilt already, you’re bad enough as it is and you’re starting to remind me of my mom. So shut up. You’re a stupid fool in love but you’ll get over it, now get dressed, I’m picking you up, we’re doing an intervention at Nina’s studio.
Lili hung up, grateful, yet a bit disoriented, her curiosity piqued. An intervention?