Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 28

Lily loved the atmosphere at Em Nazih.
She’d come in the afternoons, when the hustle bustle of Beirut was kept to a minimum, shielded from the craziness by the small stone terrace tucked away in a tiny alley off Gemmayzeh.
She came to write in peace, the soft humming of the distant noise rocking her into concentration, her thoughts and agile fingers on her keyboard only interrupted by the sweet clinking of glasses and arguileh being cleaned. She felt at home, working away and taking her time to talk to Ali, one of the staff members, or with one of the daughters of the owners who taught Arabic to the plethora of alternative youth and possible secret services undercovers calling Beirut home for about three months. Rana, Nada and Nivine were all equally delightful and funny and Lily relished the moments she spent with them, all the while stuffing her face with the delicious batata harra made by their mother. The spices and coriander tickled her tongue while she laughed at Nivine’s latest tale of her pupils who often seemed puzzled to say the least by Lebanon in general and Beirut in particular. During these moments, she always felt incredibly lucky to live here, flaws and all. She had started to train herself in seeing beauty in the littlest things and it hit her hard just how much beauty there was going around.
Em Nazih’s tenants and patrons were a mix of Lebanese taking a breather from a city that could be overwhelming at the best of times and Western and Arab tourists and students learning Arabic and getting to know a country they only knew through the vilifying lens of their media back home. The bewildered looks on their face showed just how much they had trouble processing the clash between representation and reality. Em Nazih’s crowd was a melting pot of artists, secret agents, declared and underground revolutionaries, students, researchers, tourists, family and friends of the owners and staff. It was a place where good food met serious whispers, where laughter died in the fragrant smoke of the Arageel and where the cries of triumph of lucky backgammon players melted away in the frenetic honking that was Beirut’s regular soundtrack.

However, Lily had no time today to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Today, she was writing a piece on a new young woman author whom Gabrielle knew through her gazillion networks. The author had just launched her latest novel which dealt with two women in Aleppo trying to forget their damaged past and forge a future for themselves (these feminists, thought Lily, you can’t ask them the time of day without them writing a novel on women’s paths and oppression and stereotyping and whatnots). She had enjoyed the book nonetheless, and thought featuring the author in her column along with a photoshoot by Gabrielle could make a nice little piece.

And so there she was, taking notes for her article while Gaby’s voice in the back garden resonated against the stone walls. Grace was also there to assist Gabrielle, and perhaps, just perhaps, to soften the blow that could be Gabrielle’s personality. Poor little author.
Except the author seemed to be taking a great liking in Gaby, sharing the same vision as her friend and furthering her suggestions.

– Right, sit down in front of this door! Great, show me your hand with the rings! Grace, habibi, where is the cherry lip gloss? We could really work with some colors here!

Lily watched as the author put on more make up. Gabrielle really had a good eye: the author was wearing a deep mint green midi dress with matching green open toed ballet flats adorned with golden butterflies, topped with a lavender belt. The deep pink lipstick made her black eyes and hair stand out. Gaby had her pose in front of a pinkish door, her back to a weather beaten wall. The overall effect was urban, a tad melancholic and romantic with an edge, which suited the atmosphere of her book just fine.

– Tayb, now try and climb on this ledge.
The author’s eyebrows went up to her hairline.
– Listen Gaby, I do not climb ledges. As a matter of fact, I am not known for my climbing, or for my motor skills for that matters, so excuse me, but I think I will not go anywhere near that ledge.
Gabrielle looked a little discomfited while Lily and Grace stifled a laugh. Gaby didn’t seem to know what to do with this highly unusual opposition. A look to Grace who was busying herself with the make up bag to mask her hilarity had her frown, then laugh as well.

– Fine, no ledge. Jesus Fucking Christ, I hate divas. Yalla, sit down in front of this derelict door and turn your head this way!
– Much obliged, piped the author with a playful smile.

Lily was enjoying this column more than she had thought. The clicking of Gabrielle’s camera to her back, she started gathering the notes of her earlier interview with the author, making it into a coherent, witty and informative text. At some point, she had asked the author if she, like one of her characters, had a way too keep on fighting when life threw hardships at her. The author had this quirky response Lily had not paid attention to before.

Yes I do. It’s going to sound supremely stupid and cheesy, but it helps me nonetheless. When I feel like I can’t cope with life anymore, I shake myself and ask myself ‘what would Beyonce do?’. Seriously, can you imagine this woman being depressed or taking crap from anything or anyone? She’d sass them into oblivion. Now as a feminist, I see clearly how she participates to an industry that oppresses women in many ways but regardless of that. She exudes force and control and just sheer vibe of life. So I instantly picture myself like Beyonce in an impossible headdress, sky-scrapers heels clicking away as I pound the floor looking at life and shaking my head like ‘Oh no no no, this ain’t how it’s going to happen’. And yes I feel better’.

Writing this, Lily paused and took a sip of her Turkish coffee.

What would Beyonce do?
Huh.

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Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 27

This isn’t over.
He said it with a definite air. His crestfallen face tugged at her heart yet she shook herself and stood firmly her ground.
– I believe it is.
– Why the fuck are you doing this?
She sighed. He was not going to make things easy.
– I am not trying to push you away or to try and make you disappear. I’m just telling you I am keeping this baby and if you want to be involved that’s great we’ll have to work it out but I will not, shall not, marry you.
– It’s the right thing to do.
– It’s precisely why I don’t want to do it.
He folded his arms in a self protective fashion, pushing her out in a defiant stance. Jesus, she should have done this in a public space. This way he couldn’t have made a scene.
– This isn’t over.
– You already said that.
– You’re not going to be able to smarten your way out of this one.
He Was starting to get on her nerve.
– I believe the bump you see where my stomach should be is the living proof that I’m not trying to get out of anything, apart maybe from a lifetime with an almost stranger that I would marry because it’s the right thing to do.
She stopped and gulped some water. God she felt like vomiting. This pregnancy business was no walk in the park.
She needed to calm down. After all, she had just dropped a huge bomb on him and he was only trying to do what he thought was the right thing. But somehow, her courage seemed to be growing alongside her baby.
– Listen, Shadi.
He raised his eyes at the mention of his name.
– I know this isn’t easy. I know you must feel trapped or lost or even angry right now.
She paused. They had only talked about her. It hadn’t really even occurred to her to ask him how he felt about all this, save for telling him she Was not to marry him.
– Now that you mention It, how are you feeling?
His raised eyebrows and the flicker of a smile That passed on his face made her exhale for the first Time in the last hour. Perhaps It would not have to Be this hard.
– Well, first of all, thanks for asking.
She couldn’t place the sarcasm for sure. Let It go let It go she urged herself. Soon it’ll all be over and you will return back to your life of creation, on your workshop, with your assistant teetering on her high heels, polishing her nails in neon pink while convincing an umpteenth magazine to cover your brand. Just bear with him for a bit.
– I’m pretty damn happy.
She chocked on the ginger tea she was sipping in a desperate attempt at quenching her nausea.
– excuse me?
– Well yeah, I’m obviously not happy at the stark rejection you’re offering me on a silver plate, but I am happy at the prospect of having a child. With you, he added as an afterthought. I like you Nina. There’s something about you that warms my insides, somewhere next to my heart.
God why weren’t pregnant women allowed cigarettes?
– You don’t have a heart. You try and buy up perfectly happy small businesses for a living remember? You’ve tried buying up mine.
– Then you had sex with me if my memory isn’t cheating me?
She sprung to her feet. She’d had enough of this.
– D’you know? I’m a tired pregnant girl who’s in a desperate need for a nap and less drama. So bump, meet father, father, meet bump, it’s all lovely and nice, now please exit my house. Chop chop, don’t drag your feet.
– But…but
– But.. But nothing, this conversation is over. You and I are not having a child together, I am having a child and if you want to be involved then all the better but don’t you are come to my house and spring this happy shit on me, we’re not a family in that little Kodak moment you seem to have built in your head. Now bye.

The sharp noise of the door slamming was still ringing in her ears when Yasmine came in with the latest coverage of Nina’s dresses. As usual, Yasmine was dressed to the nines: her YSL sandals high as ever clickety-clicking on the beautiful old-fashioned tiles of her home, her perfectly cut 7 for all mankind skinny jeans an exquisite shade of blue, a simple oversized white top topped with a chunky statement necklace completing her look, Nina told herself she could not have picked a better assistant/PR girl. Her appearance screamed ‘I’m a DIVA and if you don’t oblige me I shall whine you into oblivion’, which guaranteed good coverage, which kept sharks like Shadi at bay and ensured clients kept coming to have their wedding dresses designed by the new hot designer, aka Nina Haddah, as long as she was in the papers and that word of mouth worked in her favour.

Yasmine had gained some self-confidence in the past few weeks, trying to rebuild bridges with her family while working on her independence which proved to be difficult at times to say the very least, so it was with a bit of surprise that Nina to see Yasmine plump herself on her chintz couch, take off her eyeglasses to reveal dark circles and reddened eyes.

– It’s been a while since the last time I saw you look like a rabbit in a hole like that. What’s happened?
– Nothing.

The answer came sharply, knifing the peaceful afternoon with acrimonious dryness, Yasmine’s tone a shield to ward off any attempt at comforting. Nina knew better than to fight it, and simply grabbed a box of tissues and the last issue of Oriental Elle, where her Grecian one- shoulder tulle and silk crepe dress was being showcased. Absent-mindedly, she turned a page, while handing over the box of tissues to Yasmine, who was quietly crying on the sofa, her honeyed tone hair gracefully falling on her delicate tanned shoulders.

– Life is a cross to bear after the other, as my devout mother who doesn’t speak to me any more would say. What’s the new cross habibi?

On Fashion,Clothes and Style

Mamzelle Popeling Vintage Shop in Carouge, Switzerland

I love clothes. No, really, I do, as a matter of fact, I’m this close to organising guided tours through my cupboards. I’d love to have a walk incloset where I can just lie and look at the acres of fabric spread before me.

This doesn’t make me a superficial person. This makes me a person who likes clothes. And bags. And shoes. Although I love shoes so much they’d probably deserve a post on their own.

Thing is, I don’t know if it has anything to do with getting older (30 has never looked so close), but I’ve been wondering lately if fashion hasn’t gone all cuckoo on us (this, from the woman who used to wear skirts with FEATHERS and Mao Tse Tung appliques, skirts and dresses above trousers, and every type of colours known to manking together, Jesus, I really am getting old). Anyway, browsing through different shops, some thoughts jumped at me (as you do, you know, as shopping can make one quite philosophical).

First of all, I’d like to know where most designers live, and more importantly, I’d like to know If they live in a country of perpetual sunshine and warmth, where tropical birds frolic in the trees. No, really. You see, I live in Switzerland, land of the cold, cold winters and dreary autumns. I go out and I work. I need my body temperature to avoid dropping to 34 degrees, because otherwise I’d die. Therefore, I would really like to know where all the long sleeves have gone? Why is the vast majority of clothes I find flimsy dresses and skirts, lightweight trousers and open-toed shoes? People, I am nor Kate Moss posing for Glamour, neither an It-Girl fuelled by alcohol. I need clothes I can live in.

Secondly, I also would like, no, I demand, to know why has everything in affordable places turned to polyester?

I work for an NGO. Me have no means to spend and absolute fortune on a black top. By the way, don’t you hate that? You’d enter a smart shop, thinking ok, I’m gonna invest in a item of clothing, sorry, a piece, and there you’d find yourself staring at a black cotton t-shirt on a hanger, the snooty salesperson holding it as if it were a Phoenician vase, the price tag discreetly indicating 600 Chf. Er, no. Not gonna happen. Nevertheless, I’d also like not to catch fire if there is a storm or if I sit too close to the radiator. This is getting quite unnerving.

Mamzelle Popeline Vintage Shop in Carouge Switzerland

Thirdly, why have people forgotten the words of that beloved man, Yves Saint Laurent? I mean, the man said ‘We must never confuse elegance with snobbery’. He also said ‘Fashion fades: style is forever’, which is something that should be at the entrance of every shop in the world. That would prevent me from seeing women in 12 cm stilettos, pleather leggings, fake eyelashes and a cleavage up to their bellybutton every morning before coffee. Girlfriend, you look in pain. That can’t be good. You’re sweating like a pig under that pleather legging. Most importantly, you’re not a Pussycat Doll going to a concert. You’re going to work. You need to be able to focus and not keep thinking of the hour of freedom where you’ll be able to wear something that allows you to breathe. Stop following trends, find your style, liberate yourself from the clothes and live happily ever after.

Finally, shopping has started to make me uneasy: between the non-ethical ways of producing (child labor anyone? Violations of workers rights? Really, someone, anyone?) and the current society of over consuming, I’m finding myself checking the corporate policies of my favourite shops and just buying vintage. At least, when I go and visit my friend Emmanuelle at her shop Mamzelle Popeline in Carouge, I get chocolate, she pours me tea, and between and a vintage suitcase and her creations, we take our time, and talk. Could it ever get better than that?

Tales of the Phoenix City – 17

The creature looked pale and panicked.

She also looked like she had been through a war.

Wearing a wedding gown, that is.

– I left.
– I can see that. Good timing, Yasmine. Really, you couldn’t have done better. What did you do, jumped off the white Merc?
– Oh shut up, would you, and let me in.

For once, Nina was not offended by Yasmine’s peremptory tone. The little resident devil in her mind was doing a little victory dance, while the resident angel already felt guilty at the thought of having instilled doubt in her young client’s mind.

Yasmine past through the door, the ruffles of her dress enveloping her in a sea of caring, soft silk and lace. It seemed to Nina that the once dry, tense woman had a new suppleness about her that seemed to increase at every step she took, as if the shackles that had been binding her up until now were slowly unknotting themselves.

When she barged in, Nina had been sketching a new collection of dresses. They partly were inspired by the Palestinian embroidery and were all the shapes of caftans. She had added special details to the shape of the sleeves for the winter dresses, something akin to lady dresses in the European Middle Ages. The long sleeves matched the caftan shape: each detail completed one another perfectly, making the dresses well balanced, nicely fitting and very original, as they were going against the trend of strapless bodices everyone seemed to be producing right now. The summer dresses were all light as feathers, heavily inspired by Ancient Greece and Egypt, all draped gauze, their sexiness the result of their sheerness, revealing by hiding. Nina, as always when she was creating, had been utterly happy, immersed in her own world. She was supposed to draft business plans and loan applications, but somehow the figures had turned into shapes and drawings and three cups of tea later, she was already imagining how the models would look in her dusty-golden colored dresses.

Then Yasmine had knocked on her door and brought with her mayhem, as seemed to be her habit.

She was currently perched above Nina’s drawings, as if appraising them. Nina let her peer through her swollen, red eyes, thinking seeing some art and calming down her thoughts might help her. She busied herself making strong black coffee, and sat on the couch between the two fitting rooms she had. She spread toffees and macaroons before her, and patiently waited.

And waited.

Yasmine seemed to have gone mute.

– Feel like explaining why you’re here looking at my drawings, casually dressed in your wedding gown on what should have been your wedding day, instead of actually being at your wedding day?
– I told you, I left.
– Sweetheart, I’m going to need a tiny little more than that.
– Well, at first I had completely dismissed your advice and all your blabbing about not needing to get married and all.
– Why thank you, I love it when people drop by to insult my judgement.
– But then, Yasmine ploughed on, then, now and again I’d get an icy cold feeling of impeding doom. An anxiety I could not really define, a blurry, shadowy feeling that something was not quite right, a feeling that would jerk me awake at night, my heart racing and my temples pounding. I felt than my stomach was going through a washer and drier, I don’t know… So I kept smoking and not eating and my mother started noticing something was wrong. Not that she’s a good listener, my mother, but you know, between two important lunches she started noticing her daughter was wasting to nothing. So I took a leap of faith and tried explaining to her that I did not love my fiancé and was having second thoughts about the wedding. She looked at me as if I had hit her with a spade. She started off with a kind of contained rage, she said that often love harmed a marriage more than anything else and that I’d grow into loving my husband. She mentioned children and affection and all these concepts that meant I was signing up for a loveless life, being bored until I died. I must have looked what I thought, because Then she went ape-shit.
– Ape-shit?
– Kinda crazy.
– Thank You.
– She screamed, saying I simply could not humiliate her and my family this way by calling off the wedding at this stage, that I was being selfish and spoiled and a brat, after all the money she and my father had spent on me and on that wedding. I told her the money she had spent was more to make her look good in front of her friends than to really make me happy and that sometimes I looked at her and saw myself in a couple of years and that made me want to scream and kill myself.
– Ouch.
– Yeah, she did not take it well.
– Ya think?
– She had a kind of mirthless laughter And told me I was already like her, obsessed by spending and what people would say about me and my looks and that if anything, I’d be worse than her in a couple of years. Them she stormed out.
– I’m sorry. I feel if I hadn’t put these ideas into your head you wouldn’t have had to listen to these things.
– No it’s not your fault. It’s not even my mother’s. She was raised to be this way, just like I was. I think what she’s told me jolted me out of my apathy. On the day of my wedding, today, God, I feel like it was a million years ago, as they were dressing me in the hotel room, and joking and laughing, I felt very, very empty. I felt as if I were drained, emotionally and physically. I realized I wanted much more for myself than being married and spending money and having children and live vicariously through them. I discovered ambition. These ideas are still confused in my head, but I did know I did not want to go through the whole ordeal of the wedding. So I pretended I wanted to have a few moments to pray before going. They all looked at me a little oddly, but I think they thought I was being jittery because of the wedding night. They all think I’m still a virgin of course, the poor things. They re delusional. Anyway, I waited until everyone went out of my room. I called a taxi and told him to wait for me in front of Goodies in verdun. Then I grabbed whatever money I had, some clothes, and took the service elevator down, paying everyone on my way to shut up. And I took the cab.
– And you came here.
– And I came here. I did not know where else to go, and they won’t come straight to you looking for me.
– Ok. You do realize I can’t hide you here ad vitam eternam. You’re gonna have to deal with the family mayhem eventually, it s part of the process. However I can provide you with a safe bolt hole here until you decide what you want to do. And don’t forget, I have a business offer to take up with you once the craziness had calmed down.

Nina took in the sad little face, the anxiety and fears before her, and impulsively hugged her like a mother consoling her child. Yasmine gave out a wail under the tender touch of Nina, tears she felt she had repressed for a very, very long time.

– Jesus Fucking Christ, who’s the Weeping Widow here?

Gabi had come.

Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 15

Lily’s project was simple.
It came to her as she was forever writing about style and fashion and things that seemed strangely unimportant at times of crisis, yet that magically operated on people no matter what, even more so in volatile times, as if the height of a heel was the best saving board one could hope for.
It puzzled her, but she did not judge. She seldom judged anyone anyway and belonged to the “If it makes you happy, then frankly my dear, I don’t give much of another fuck”.
Of course, those were the words of Gabrielle. Lily liked to call it “the live and let live” motto, which amounted to pretty much the same thing, minus her friend’s colorful language.
She had hung up on Ziad. A knee-jerk reaction which reeked of drama, as bluntly put by Nina who was once more her normal self, her bout of Baudelairesque spleen long gone. So Lily hung up on Ziad, took her purse like an automaton,and had made it straight to Nina’s workshop.
– La2! La2 Monsieur Antoine! No no no no no no! I specifically requested the Calais lace, and what you have given me is an insult to your house and my dresses! Perfectly so! Yes! I do not recall to have asked for mock-lace in nylon coming straight from a Manila sweatshop. This isn’t what I want and I’m returning them to you and if you prove once more unable to procure me the fabric I request, then I shall switch suppliers! Yes, you heard me! Yes, that’s right, make it express delivery, with a complimentary peonies bouquet! Yes Monsieur Antoine, I do love peonies.

Lily was miserably standing in the middle of the workshop, blankly staring at her fulminating friend, her eyes a little pink. She looked like a rabbit in a hole.

– What’s with you? You look like a rabbit in a hole!

Nina appeared most definitely all revved up.
Lily looked as if she were made of stone.

– Ok habibti, you take your own sweet time and root yourself to the middle of my space while I busy myself throwing away useless fabric and make us some tea.

Nina banged and plonked and slammed and jammed things unto stoves and pots and saucers. Evidently Monsieur Antoine was getting a little old and a little mixed up with Nina’s orders, something life threatening enough at the best of times without throwing in the mix a statute of a friend and shambles of a country.

Lily came to.

– I have hung up on your brother…
– So what else is new?
– And, carried on Lily,ignoring her friend’s sarcastic comment, he said he was an animal and his voice seemed to tell me he still loved me and I hung up.

Nina froze and seemed to try to get her head around that last statement. She also looked like she was trying to muster the very little patience she still had. She put her palm up in the air in a gesture signaling to Lily that she was not to talk.

– So let me get this straight: you love Ziad.
– Yes
– Ziad loves you, even though you broke up over his never ending questions and drama, although frankly, I’m seeing quite a bit of drama here but anyway.
– Yes
– You cry and you kick and you bore us to death with my brother, and when he calls you, you don’t hear what he has to say, you hang up on him and you make it straight to here.
– Yes
– Lily. Nina drew a breath. Lily. What. The. Fuck. Is. Wrong. With.You and my stupid brother? No, no, you listen to me now. I’m not saying you have to run back to him, all open eyes and dewy eyes and Celine Dion singing in the background, but you have been tossing and turning torturing yourself for hours on end, and an explanation coming from him might not have hurt. In any case, there is no point now telling you this, call him back.
– I don’t have his number
– It’s not nice to lie to your friends as we both know you know it by heart and you of course know I have it.
– No but Nina, what would I say to him?
– How about, errr what do you want from me now, stop jerking me around and make up your mind once and for all so that I can stop being such a wreck?
– Your temper is very short today Nina, stated Lily a bit startled. That behaviour was mostly out of character for her normally poised friend.
– Yeah well what do you know, I might have taken a Gabrielle pill, or maybe Lebanon is turning me into the fighter I should always have been.
Now call!
The Bakelite antique seemed to look at Lily with a threatening stare. Sighing, she picked the receiver.

Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 12

The sun shone a little too brightly, the noises outside were a little too shrill. She closed the shutters and went back to the uneasy sleep that had been hers for the past week.

The damp sheets were clinging to her body, draped around her like a shroud. Very still, she just lied there on her white wrought iron bed, trying to control her breathing and follow her racing thoughts.

It started off with Tripoli, then it spread, violence taking a life of its own, invading homes and minds, annihilating reason.

One person killed in Jdeideh for some obscure reason, bullets drenching a man’s body because of the cost of a motorcycle. Three killed on Tariq El Jdideh, where old rivalries lit up again at the smallest of pretexts. Shootings in Caracas for God only knows what.

Blood, pain, despair and more blood seemed to be the daily bread of her country, and the frustration nearly sent her hurling things at wall, screaming at the inanity of politicians who were doing everything they could to keep the situation and hatred simmering at the surface, then came whimpering about peace when the fires they had started seemed to grow too big for them.

What she could not understand was why the people had not rebelled against their ill-advised, vile and malicious control over their lives, why the mind boggling levels of corruption had not sent everyone she knew into an orbit of anger and revolution.

She had gone very still with anxiety, fear and boiling rage. It seemed her body simply could not stomach the tension that was very palpable in her ever so lively Beirut, it seemed like these emotions kept tossing and turning in her frame, only to come back and turn against her heart and mind.

Making wedding dresses in such a context seemed like an insult to the people who had lost loved ones, it seemed improper, almost obscene, so she just closed her workshop in an impulsive gesture that was very un-Nina like, shut her phone down, and retreated to the fresh haven of her home, only going out to participate in sit ins and candle light vigils to protest against war and bloodshed, here and everywhere.

Yet it didn’t seem enough, yet she couldn’t feel whole again, or shed the guilt of being privileged and being able to get away with much more than people who did not have the privileges she enjoyed. Staying at home seemed so useless and meek, yet it took almost all her will power to even get out of bed. She knew Gaby was out and about, shooting their city and the bullet holes that were cutting through the air and into concrete and flesh, their sounds a grim reminder that death kept hovering over everyone’s head like a malevolent ghost. She wished she could do something, anything, but kept asking herself if her longing for action was to make herself feel better or really was out of concern for her country and its people.

She decided it had to be a bit of both, in any case, what did it matter, since depression pinned her to her bed like a moth stuck in glue.

Today she had found it in herself to turn off the news that had continually been playing the soundtrack to her angst and distance herself from the lies of the yet another politician claiming to know exactly where the 11 men who were abducted were and at what time, and left her apartment to take a walk to her workshop. “You can’t take everything so at heart”, Gabrielle’s voice kept coming back to her, “here and now, you’ll only drive yourself crazy”.

Where was the craziness? To take everything so at heart the events nearly floored you, or to become so accustomed to violence the mere mention and existence of it doesn’t shake you to the core? Since when bullets had lost their terrifying power and since when life had become so disposable?

She had devoted herself to celebrate new beginnings, and had only just started to realise that beginnings and pain often go together, giving birth being the most striking example of it.

These days the words of Fairuz often came back to her “they asked me what was happening in my country, I told them it is being born again”, but how many times does a country have to be born again or reinvent itself if it keeps running to the same death?

In the shed that was her workshop, the unfinished dresses softly gleamed in the semi darkened room, reminding her of ghost past, and more to come.  

BFF

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.