Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 26

A worrier.
The word sounded so much like warrior, except their meaning was worlds apart. Did warriors ever worry? And if so, how did they manage to hide it?
As the bitter humid cold of the Beiruti winter seeped through her window, Lily rearranged the blanket around her shoulders and watched the fading lights of the Simmering City. Warriors did worry. Underneath. Like Beirut, always in a state of on edge expectation, waiting to see where the next bullet, the next bomb, the next power cut, will be coming from, yet undeniably a warrior, her bullet holes her battle scars, her survival, the accomplishment of heroes.
Several cars passed softly in her street, mostly services drivers roaming through the streets in their old rusty Mercedes, more comfortable in the quietness of night, hoping to catch early risers and late party goers staggering home mumbling and laughing in their inebriated state.
Ziad was asleep in her room, sleeping the sleep of lovers’ bliss, his tangled curly hair spread on the pillow, his pale skin even whiter against the soft grey of the sheets.
They had resolved nothing, they have dealt with nothing. He had gotten back to her and she had opened her door, however reluctant she might have been, she still could not kid herself.
She still had opened her door. And he still came back. For how long? And for what?

The pinkish hue of dawn took her away from her reverie for a moment, and she sat there, watching the pitch black night turn into indigo, watching Beirut waking up, the lights flickering in flats and apartments turning into the sleepy eyes of the city, half fluttering as if in a daze of a dream. How was it that such craziness could be so peaceful? How was it that the angry, boiling, deafening cacophony turned into a quiet, soft, magnolia scented, haven in the wee hours of day? The sea breeze caught her off guard and she closed her eyes.

Things had to change. Something, anything. It had nothing and it had everything to do with Ziad. He wanted a statu quo with her, some place where he could figure out what he wanted while benefiting from their relationship. They were so good together, yet Lily could not help but feel cheated, taken advantage of. He had demands. He had questions. What about her? What were her needs? What were her questions? She wanted everything but a statu quo. She wanted to feel her life in motion, like sand trickling through an open palm. She envied Gabrielle for being unapologetic, she envied Nina for her unborn child, for her strength. She envied everyone who seemed to have a rough idea of what they truly wanted and just went for it. She wanted to be like Beirut. She wanted to be a resistant. She wished for the pulse of life of the city to enter her heart and never leave, never let go of her.

She realized this desire for change had matured and matured in her head until she had decided to do something about it and had shifted the focus on her column. Finally something she was actually proud of.
She glanced at the open newspaper spread before her and felt a tiny glimmer of pride at the sight of her article on Alexandre Paulikevitch, a dancer and choreographer of such breathtaking talent his show had brought tears to her eyes. Not that she needed much at the moment, anything seemed to set her off. Watching alexandre’s graceful frame twirl into the spotlight, his crazy curly hair dancing a dance of their own, she had felt outside of her own body for once, her being taken away by the energy created on stage. If only I could be as free as his mane of hair.
Where did all this waterworks come from?
She could hear Ziad muttering in his sleep, oblivious of her internal turmoil.

In what seemed to become a pattern, she picked up the phone.
– For fuck’s sake.
– What happened to Jesus?
– He’s asleep as you should be. Why oh why do you always feel the need to call me at some ungodly hour? Why? It’s not because I always wear black that I m a tortured artist or some shit and don’t sleep you know. I do sleep. In fact, I very much like it.
– Are you done?
– Not even nearly done. What’s up?
– My life is at a stand still.
– Mabrouk
– I mean it. What do I do?
– Jesus Fucking Christ! Fuck! Lily! No wonder your life is at a standstill if you wait for other people to tell you what to do. You know what to do you just don’t have the guts to do it! Shake your life out! Lily?
– I’m listening.
Gabrielle’s voice came back softer.
– Tear your life apart and keep what you love.
– And let it kill me?
-You’re right. It’s a perfect time for Bukowski.
The silence in her phone only seemed to bolster her. She had a lot of courage to muster.
She had some fights to pick.

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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.