|Artwork by Tarek Chemaly|
You see I no longer like Beirut.
It happened before in 2001. The city was suffocating and I was taking a major turn in my career, but the sillyness of youth made things go back to order - or disorder - and whareas I understand the analogy could be found degrding, like a battered wife, I stayed put. I reorganized things around the same problems, without obliterating the problems as such, but eventually found a modus vivendi which somehow worked (it helps to have a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder).
Then in 2010, everything fell apart from one day to the next. The 2001 episode took its time to grow, but 2010 was too sudden, too blunt, and whareas I was the one who said it was best to move out, the cataclysm of events which followed was not supposed to be this fast.
Devoid of my usual "landmarks", "routes", "shops" (window shops rather), "rituals" (mundane rather than religious), to readapt to somewhere else was difficult. I am not a flexible person you see. Still, the visits to Beirut were spaced out - first intentionally, then logically - months apart.
I viscerally rejected the city. I wrote before that we have a Beirut Syndrome as opposed to a Stockholm Syndrome. Am writing this somewhere outside of Beirut, the emotional entanglement is now gone though, and Beirut as an entity is no longer what it was for me. It rejected me twice, the first time I came back, willingly, foolishly, submissively, but I guess the English proverb is right "he cheated on me once, shame on him; he cheated on me twice, shame on me" - and indeed shame on me, the city did cheat me twice.
If I write this today, it is more for myself than for anyone else. In an interview with a Swedish newspaper, I once said "Beirut is like a snake, it needs to shed its skin periodically to survive". Whomever happens to live on that skin while the exoskeleton is being shedded needs to pay attention - his or her life might forever be changed.
But Beirut does not care. It survived. And that's what's important to that city.