Tales of the Phoenix City, Chapter 8

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.
– Whaaaaaat?
– 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,
– Nina!
– 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?


Yesterday, I was browsing some pictures on Facebook (it’s called procrastination), when I stumbled upon a photo of my civil wedding. It’s a simple picture of my maid of honour, laughing, and I, amused, looking at her, smiling. 

The thing is, you see, she has been my friend for the past 24 years, and perhaps I was too immersed in the crazy wedding fog (not that I was Bridezilla, I simply have a Lebanese mother) to fully realise how much of a blessing it was to have your friend of 24 years stand next to you in such an important moment. 

There are many love stories, the strongest bonds not necessarily being the ones you build when you fall in love. My friend Ludivine and I know each other inside and out but never bore each other. We live thousands of miles apart, yet as soon as we see each other, it’s like our never ending conversation had never been stopped by distance, and we quite joyfully slot back into our routines, sharing our news, our jokes, our secrets. True friendships are like your best pair of jeans, the ones you’ve wore a gazillion times, yet they still fit perfectly and you never throw them away. I’m struggling to find the right words to describe what she means to me: we’ve been to hell and back together, we’ve been together in joy and sadness, like any other friends really. We’ve laughed and bickered and cried and fought and been pissy at one another, we’ve reconciled and forgot about it all, we’ve agonised over the come back of the denim shirt (so 90’s), we’ve dissected break ups over teas that were getting cold as our never ending conversations went along. 

On the day of my civil wedding, she was there, next to me, laughing and making me laugh, my sister in arms, and in itself it was a gift of life, to have two love stories around me, to feel hearts connected in time. 

On the evening of my religious wedding, she got up, her hands slightly shaking, she got up to make the traditional maid of honour speech. I kept looking at her, tears pouring down my face, half laughing, my heart overwhelmed, she got up, ever so pretty in her black bohemian dress, I looked at my friend of 24 years say her words of love and friendship to me, her words, the perfect embodiement of the mix of fun and serious moments we’ve had together, her words, en elegy of our past together, her presence, right there, the seal of all the wonderful things to come. 

I probably didn’t get the chance to tell her that night that I might have signed an unshakable bond with my husband that night, but that the one her and I have and nurtured is just as unfaltering, the way we probably intended it when we were exchanging black khol and blue gloss when we were 15, smoking our Marlboro Lights, thinking we were IT. 

Your Choice: Your Career or Your Identity Or other stories of Empowerment, Lebanese Style

Link: Your Choice: Your Career or Your Identity Or other stories of Empowerment, Lebanese Style

The new regulation adopted by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces to prevent women from wearing the hijab to work on the field has stirred a lot of debate and controversy in the highly sect-sensitive state of Lebanon. Invoking the military Code of Conduct that purportedly doesnt allow any member of the security forces to wear a confessional sign, military officials have requested the 40 or so women concerned to take off their veil in order to be able to serve on the field, something about 20 of them complied with. It is worth nothing that the women who have been asked to take their veils off had just successfully passed all their exams, a process during which absolutely no one told them they will have to choose betwwen the veil or the career later on. “According to the military code of conduct, whether it is for the police, army or general security, all religious symbols are not allowed,” said the security official interviewed by the AFP, who requested anonymity.

Read More on Café Thawra http://cafethawra.blogspot.com/2012/03/your-choice-your-career-or-your.html

Tales of the Phoenix City

Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 7

Lili felt Ziad even before she was even in the vicinity of the coffee place, the way you feel a storm coming. She had a very sharp sixth sense: when she thought of someone, she’d usually hear of that person in the coming hours, and given the fact that she was always thinking of Ziad, it was only a matter of days before she ran into him. 

She had woken late that day, having stayed up all night to finish up a report on the women’s cooperative she had visited the day before. Going up to the Bekaa valley to talk to these women made her realise why Nina loved so much driving by herself to all parts of Lebanon to find the best fig jam, and if she was in luck, the best embroiderer. There was something truly exhilarating to arriving to Dahr el Baidar and seeing the soft curves of the sandy mountains spread before her, just as there was something very comforting about having the women of the villages fuss about her, tsking that she was too thin, feeding her labneh mka3zaleh and zaatar, her favourite thing in the world. On her way back, speeding along on the wide Sahel road, passing by farm workers finishing up their day, she felt light, content to have seen women proud of their work, showcasing what they did with great professionalism, explaining to her how they had set up the cooperative and how they had managed to have access to markets in Beirut and Saida. She had gone to Saghbin, AiTanit and Mashgharah, leaving late to get back to the noisy realms of Beirut in the afternoon with enough material and food to keep her awake all night and feed a small country. 

Nina’s phone call had awoken her. 

– For the love of God, do not, simply do not tell me you’re still sleeping, or worse, buried under the covers, listening to that dreary music of yours, pining after my stupid brother. There’s only so much Radiohead a normal person can listen to you know.

– Not even a bit. I was sound asleep, recovering from all the labneh 3al saj I have eaten yesterday. She stifled a yawn, feeling her chest as heavy as ever, a feeling she always had when she woke up. She sometimes thought she suffered from low level depression, which she probably was anyway. Or maybe her years of smoking had finally caught up with her. After all, she was 30 and a half. She didn’t know why she kept counting the halves of her birthdays. It wasn’t like she was six anymore, rushing to get to seven.

– How’s Fatmeh? How’s Wafa? How are they all? Listen, carried on her tireless friend without letting Lili answer, I don’t want to talk about everything over the phone. I have a million and one things to tell you, including some serious drama at the workshop with a desperate bride. And that stupid guy has phone me again, “expressing interest in buying shares in my brand”. I’ll give him shares where he can feel it. Anyway, can you meet me and Gaby at Bread Republic in about half an hour? 

-No. No no no no no no no. I know your schemes. You and Gaby are only trying to get me out under false pretence so you can harass me about being sad about Ziad. I’m very happy being sad over Ziad, I don’t ever want to stop being sad about Ziad, I want to be sad and desperate so I can keep thinking about Ziad. Ziad is gorgeous and he was the love of my life and I’d rather be lonely than happy with somebody else.

Nina sighed. She knew the tune.

– You’re pathetic and self centered and most of all, Lili, you are NOT Nina Simone, so just stop quoting her songs. Gaby wants to introduce us to her studio partner, you know, Ali, that computer genius she’s working with? Remember your friend Gabrielle? The talented photographer/graphic designer who has just opened her own business? Well she misses you, and so do I, so get out of Purdah, don your sparkling attire, and join us. I mean it Lili, we haven’t seen you in like forever and I have a new brilliant idea my desperate bride has given me without even realising it. Come on! What’s the worst that could happen anyway?

The worst had happened of course. She ended up running into Ziad, as luck would have it, while she was wearing her feelings on her face, something no amount of make up could ever conceal. Not that she tried anyway, the only make up she could bear being an old Bordeaux Lancôme lipstick whose shade was the exact match to her favourite wine. She saw him and she blanched. He saw her and reddened. And muttered something. Perhaps he was going crazy? Well, that’d make two of them. 

She saw him and it was like all the piercing, screeching noises of Beirut went muffled all of a sudden, as is she was swimming in deep, deep waters. She could hear in the distance Ziad Rahbani’s voice drawling that she was living alone without you, and without your love kid. She liked this song, she loved Ziad Rahbani, who didn’t and what’s not to love, Nina used to say, but right now, Lili felt her brain could only register the presence of one Ziad, and that was the nervous, red-faced Ziad sitting on a rickety chair, a copy of his beloved Catcher in the Rye next to him.

– Don’t you dare walk up to him, Lili come back, come back now hissed Nina, he’s my brother and so I can tell you he’s bad news and a lost soul and I’ll thump him. Lili!

Lili, however, was marching over to Ziad, barely aware of her friend’s warning, dimly listening to Gabrielle swearing (For fuck’s sake why can’t we ever have a normal coffee between friends? It’s either a crying doll in the middle of your studio or your apocalyptic brother! Nina! You’re a magnet for disasters!)

– I thought I had kept custody of this place, she grinned in spite of herself, the slab of concrete in her chest dissolving into warm albeit poisonous honey. 

– I love their coffee, stammered Ziad. So, tell me, am I the Antichrist now or is it normal that sister is signalling me to either go or die a slow painful death by hanging? I can’t really decipher all the miming she’s doing.

– Oh no, you’re the AntiChrist.

– I guess that’s why you felt the need to come here, our place, with a guy with you, spat Ziad with venom.

Jealousy suited him. Everything suited him. And then Lili did something both very stupid, and very un-Lili like.

She bent over.

And she kissed him.

Not even Nina’s gasp and Gabrielle Oh Jesus Fucking Christ could cover the elated whooping of her soul. 

On Going on A Micro General Strike

When speaking about feminism and women’s rights, I think I have found myself guilty of going on about laws, international conventions, treaties and regulations, which, while being necessary, somewhat puts the whole issue of sexism at an abstract level made of negotiations, politics, and international and national high level meetings.
While we all have to be aware of what decisions our governments take, it is equally important to talk about daily sexism, the fact that women have to fight sexism and patriarchy every day, the fact that these values and attitudes impact their every days lives.
Whereas hidden in a sarcastic comment or acted upon in a very loud and clear fashion, sexism and patriarchy are still everywhere and have a strong impact on women’s lives.
Still talking in obscure words? Let me just give you a few examples. I
About two weeks ago, I was discussing the awful (at least for me) subject of giving birth with some friends who had already gone through the ordeal ( and please, I don’t want to hear anything about how it was the most beautiful day of anyone’s life. All that blood and pain can’t be good. Giving birth is a necessary step, full stop, don’t try and romanticize it just because your brain wants to forget just how awful it was. There are other women who need the truth here) (ok, it might be the terror talking). Ok, moving on, there we were, sharing horror stories of birth giving and what not, when my friend told me the most awful thing that happened to her on the day of her delivering. Contrary to what I was expecting, it was not the twelve meter long epidural needle, it was not the pain, or the blood, or the fear. It was her husband, actually asking her to iron his white shirt while she was on the phone telling him her water just broke. Let me get this straight, I told her, there you were, paddling in your own water, utterly scared and freaking out, calling your husband so he can help you and drive you to the hospital so you could deliver his child, and he asked you to iron his shirt before going? Yes, she said.
We then looked at each other with eyes like saucers, and I could tell she still couldn’t get her head around it.
What kind of society creates that kind of sense of entitlement so that one of its member can lose all sense of priorities and ask about a FUCKING SHIRT before the health of a woman?
A society riddled with patriarchal values, that’s what.
Social roles women are allocated are very rigid and hard to shake, it takes not only advocacy from social movements for laws to change, but also daily conscious efforts to expose gender discrimination in art, the media, and mainstream discourse.
But let me get back to testimonies: once I knew what I was looking for, stories of women being asked to do things just because they were “the wife” or women kept jumping at me.
Another close friend of mine works full time ( a Lebanese full time, meaning she has two demanding jobs), is always there to support her family and take care of her son. Her husband, even though he works much less, still eats then gets up without even lifting his little finger. When my friend asked him to mind their son so she get in the shower, he told her, brace yourselves again, that he did not have the patience to do it, that he was tired.
Here my brain starts screaming “I’ll give you tired, you useless piece of humanity”. Naturally, this is the all-public, sweetened, version of the much less polite epithets I mentally gave him. The list could honestly go on, as I seem to be a magnet for stories of incapable husbands and boyfriends who always seem too tired to do anything that resembles a house chore.
Challenging these deeply seated beliefs is a fight, there’s no other word for it, but it’s a necessary one. Power is negotiated both in the public and private spheres: deciding who will do the washing up is indeed a power struggle, the one ending up doing nothing actually becoming the winner, not because it’s some kind of game, but because the one cleaning the toilets can’t read Marx and write articles or relax at the same time. Yesterday I was explaining to a friend why I didn’t like the interpretations that put the blame on the women: some people will say it’s the women’s fault for not asserting themselves, something that is in my opinion partly true. To me, women should lead the struggle against patriarchy, but society as a whole should feel concerned, because being asked to do certain things because you’re a woman, or being seen in a certain way because you’re a woman creates a growing sense of resentment from said women, resentment that destroys the love in relationship and creates very unhappy human beings. Truth is, cleaning toilets is no one’s favourite hobby and certainly no woman’s favorite thing to do. There shouldn’t therefore be an expectation on us to do it all the time. Besides, we shouldn’t be too quick to judge other women who might not appear to yell at their partner with blood shot eyes that if said partners didn’t make the bed, he’d die a slow, painful death. Being quiet about it doesn’t mean they don’t realize they’re being expected to do things just because they’re women. I think they’re just uncomplaining because they don’t see how this whole system can be changed because no one challenges it around them. So they resign, and carry on because it’s easier than risking social disapproval and constant fights at home, when it’s not worse like violence. When I arrived to Lebanon and had my first lunch with my aunt and new husband, said husband ate, then got up and cleared the dishes off the table. My aunt seemed to have an aneurysm and screeched at me :”keef 3am betkhalli y9oum! How do you let him get up and clean up???” as if it was my fault he was a perverted soul who helped a bit at home. The fact that she was expecting me to fling myself at my husband, begging him to let me do it so he wouldn’t have to get up was utter madness. Was she out of her mind?
Then I calmly explain to her that he was not a saint really, that he only cleared a table and that was the minimum he could do, that it was completely normal that we would both do stuff at home, and why should I be the one getting up and clearing up? Did I have something in my female DNA that programmed me to do so?
To which my aunt looked at me, then at her husband and said: nyyellik, your uncle eats, then spreads his considerable self on the couch and calls for his tea.
Fighting sexism in our daily lives is the first of all fights, one that, when is won, is won forever.
I’ll leave you with a most inspirational story that my Kenyan supervisor in my previous job shared with me. In order to teach her husband that he should learn how to cook and clean as she was a most busy woman, she just stopped doing anything. “I’m telling you, she would chuckle, I would leave those pans in the sink forever, I would pick up my dinner and eat in my bed while he d be waiting for his, I kept my nerve, and eventually, he started really sharing chores with me”. I called it the micro general strike, and I loved the idea.
Could I do that? If I m honest, No, I’ m way too anal retentive to leave anything in the sink for more than 2 minutes.
No, I can’t do that, but I m still working on becoming the change I want to see, so I keep fighting gender discrimination in my everyday life, starting from home, even if that means the bed won’t be made exactly how I want it to be. At least it ll be made, and by someone who isn’t me.


[Picture: Background: 6 piece pie style colour split with beige and woodland green alternating. Foreground: a head-on photo of a disgruntled looking white sheep. Top text: “Cannot listen to the radio without analyzing the gender and racial implications of the lyrics” Bottom text: “life ruined”]


Midnight Encounter: Dreaming is for kids

You walked up to us, you were haut comme trois pommes, your height not even reaching my however low waist. You looked up towards me, clutching tightly your bouquet of plastic pink roses against your chest. You asked the Revolutionary if he wanted to buy me flowers, and something weird happened. I don’t know why it only happened with you, of all the street kids I have seen, it had to be you, you that I suddenly felt the urge to hug fiercely. It might have been your eyes, or your smile, or it might have been that magic spark that make people get attached to each other, that make people adopt kids they didn’t know one second before. I don’t know what it was, it simply made me want to take you home to be safe. I asked how old you were, you said eight, and something within me fell to my feet with a thud. It might have been my heart.
You said you came from Syria, alone with your brother while your parents remained there. I asked you how you came, two kids like that, you replied with a mature shrug and a condescending tone, as if I were stupid: we came by bus, how else do you want us to come? I asked where you were sleeping, you simply told me “mashi”, to let me know you managed and also perhaps, to let me know to mind my own business, which, let s face it, you were rightly entitled to do. I don’t know what came over me, it s not like i roam the streets of Beirut asking people where they sleep a night. Might have been that urge again. I ended up giving you what I had, and told you I didn’t want the roses. In that case, let me
Be the one who opens the door for you at your car, you said.
Never a woman had such a beautiful prince open a door for her with such a beautiful grin.
You pressed two roses on me.
Never had artificial flowers been prettier, or smelt so good.
On the way back I cried. Never had tears been so bitter and angry.
And then I realized my tears were of no use to no one really. What I really had to do was fight, and keep on fighting, so that the stupid governments, the corrupt, fat, greedy puppets that pretend to govern us are no more, and are replaced by a system that won’t permit that eight year old princes are out on the streets at midnight, while what they should really be doing, is sleep, and most of all, dream.

Tales of the Phonix City – Chapter 6

Ziad lit his cigarette and inhaled deeply. He had spent the whole night working on a new song and was pretty happy with the results. Sometimes, he felt he needed nothing more than his guitar, the diesel scented air of Beirut, his beloved sister Nina and his friends to be completely, utterly happy.
He was sitting on a rickety chair at his favorite cafe in Hamra, Bread Republic, a pot of freshly brewed coffee on his right, his favourite book on his left. His nose in the hair, he was for the moment idly watching the world go by, letting the rhythm of the hustle bustle of his city rock him softly, as if all the noises of the city merged into a unique lullaby specially designed to soothe him. His freshly washed hair glistening in the sun, his three days beard giving him a rougher air than usual, he really was handsome, even though he seemed completely oblivious of it. Except maybe when a particularly beautiful woman passed by, quickly glancing at him. There, he could read in her eyes, mirroring his, the bolt of desire, the sudden, fleeting spark that for a quick second would unite two perfect strangers. To Ziad, beautiful was not sleek hair, inflated breasts and bee-stung lips. His artist’s sensitivity would quite forbid it, and shied away from such plastic. His trained eye could see perfection in the aquiline shape of a nose, in the delicious pear shape of a body, in the drops of hazel in black eyes. Why the obsession with removing what was perceived as faults? Why the obsession, the need to look like everyone else? He had spent his life musing on the concept of perfection, on why it was so important to be perfect, to leave everything spotless, to have everything well and in order. Straight hair, straight nose, straight body, and no room for glorious curves, fizzy curls and crooked noses. He avoided the images of perfection like the plague: too much straightness was only almost always a facade for neurosis. In abundance. Put quite simply, It scared the hell out of him.
This is partly why he loved Beirut so much. In Beirut, the exuberance of life somehow managed to always give colours to the grayest areas, the shocking yellows, greens and reds of taxis merged with the ochres of the Potemkin like city center, the ruins of the Civil War acted like a reminder of atrocities that could still flare up at the drop of hat while the elegant grandeur of empty old town houses reminded the city of a glory past, something that could never be retrieved, the bitter sweet taste of having had, and lost, so much, so quickly. He liked the feeling that anything was still possible, even if the worst had been known and was still lurking in some corner, somewhere. A city on the edge, trying to live while keeping evil at bay: that was his Beirut, for better, or for worse.
God but this city could be paradise on earth sometimes. You could feel that Beirut was just a slab of concrete smashed on the Face of the earth, and all of a sudden, it looked like the screen was scrubbed clean and the horrible fog would lift and there it was, life itself, pure, unadulterated energy.
He always became quite philosophical, waxing lyrical when he was tired.
Tearing his eyes from the scene before him, he opened his book. The Catcher in the Rye had always been a subject of controversy between him and his sister.
– I don’t know why everyone, and you, Ziad, who after all should know better what with your degrees in English literature and all, is amaaaaaazed by this book. Honestly, it’s just the stupid story of a a teenager, or a sociopath in the making, who’s so bored and boring You just feel you want to slash your wrists with an envelope just to make the story go faster.
-Ente okhte you’ve always had an issue with teenagers. Anything you want to talk about? Then Ziad would always play the talk show host getting trying to get the truth out of his guests.
– Today, ladies and gentlemen, we receive Nina Haddad, famous designer and Catcher in the Rye Professional Hater. Nina, could you tell us what happened to you for you to despise so much J.D Salinger and his history of alienation?
He’d be perfect, getting everything right, the fake concerned intonation, the little nods indicating he was paying attention to the story, everything.
Nina would always end up bursting out laughing, telling him he was as much of a natural born actor that he was of a natural born musician.
Sipping his coffee, Ziad laughed to himself, playing the conversation in his head, when a movement caught his eye.
He lifted his head and tried to get a good look at who was the woman who was sitting next to him.
Was it?
Could it be?
The woman turned her head and Ziad bowed his again.
No, it was not Lili.
For all his song and dance about loving Bread Republic because of its organic products and locally sourced zaatar, the real reason behind Ziad infatuation with the place was that because it was right next to Lili’s house, and that it was a shrine for happy memories.
Which was why he kept coming back to it.
Which was why she probably kept avoiding it.
What is it that he wanted? The disappointment in not seeing her when he so wanted to run into her was just an indicator of how much of a selfish prick he could be sometimes. Arguing with himself, he berated his cowardice: he loved her, no question, otherwise why would he keep chasing her shadow? Yet he couldn’t be with her, couldn’t commit when he didn’t want to settle, couldn’t leave his music, his political activities, all for the love of a woman.
Suddenly, his guitar seemed hollow, his activities, childish, and a sentence, emerging from years of Marxism that had tried to conceal his Christian education resurfaced violently in his mind:
If I shall speak with every human and Angelic language and have no love in me, I shall be clanging brass or a noise-making cymbal.
Corinthians, 13:1.
He wasn’t particularly keen on drums but fair enough, he got the point. So he was a leftist, musician, noise-making cymbal that was nursing a heart ache of his own making.
In short, not much to be proud of.
He went back to his book, grateful to merge his feeling of alienation with Holden’s, when of course, who had to come with his sister and her friend Gabrielle?
With an unidentified man.
Ziad wasn’t sure, but it seemed to him that the noisy cymbal that was his heart went something along the lines of fuck, fuck, fuckety fucker fuck.
At that precise moment, a car chose to drive by, all windows open, the rasping voice of Ziad Rahbani blaring from the speakers: 3aaayyyccchhhe wa7da balaaaakkk, wou bala 7obbak ya walad
Oh shut up Ziad! Screamed Ziad, and for one split second, Ziad wasn’t sure if he were admonishing the grumpy singer in the radio or the grumpy guitarist on the prickety chair.
One thing was sure: his name didn’t seem to be made for happiness and bliss.