Friday, July 30, 2021

This August 4th, many emotions will be for sale.

Beirut Port 1955 - Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

The August 4th one year commemoration is upon us very soon. And I am dreading it.

All right, facts first: No it was not a picnic for me on that day as I almost died twice (look here). And following the explosion I had a period where details would slip my mind - did I pay the pharmacist? (yes and she gave me change), what was the name of - yes, the brunette one who took my course, no no the other one? (Sarah). 

And so on. Now, the symptoms in question disappeared not long after. Well, I was born in 1974, 6 months prior to start of the war. In other words, I escaped death too many times to count (like every other Lebanese), and I witnessed explosions which were (almost) just as mighty as the August 4 (the Dora fuel tanks explosion in 1989 comes to mind), witnessed severe shelling, and the list continues.

Let me tell you about this incident. Right after the "big" (1975-1990) war ended, while asleep in our bedroom suddenly there were repeated flashes of light - first reflex, the shelling has started! But there was no sound this time around. My mind raced to find an answer and my brother visibly shaken asked me "what is that?". "It's the flashlight of the camera in the wedding in the Mattar building, let's go back to sleep". 

Now, on August 4, I was in Beirut with my friend Michel. It was his first major explosion (he is considerably younger than me). He really stopped functioning. As soon as the explosion happened and we escaped unharmed, I told him "hold my hand and follow me". We followed the ABC Verdun mall evacuation line which was incredibly efficient, and when we got to the car I said "now drive". Several hours later, when we got to Jdeideh (mind you leaving Achrafieh itself took about 5 and a half hours due to all the glass on the streets and torn windows and doors scattered all over), he started to become functional again. Though he refused to go back to the mall afterwards - by that I mean 3 months later.

Now, what does all of this has to do with me dreading the August 4th commemoration? 

Because anyone who is anyone is going to start reminiscing on traumas real and imagined, will start pouring out words on social media which contribute nothing to those whose lives were lost or irretrievably damaged (I think of Mohamed Da'douey who lost his vision in one eye, has a partial vision in the other, had his leg amputated, and an arm with no sensation whatsoever). But again, I brace for the flood of people who will tell stories which are half real and half invented, who will force their misery (again real or fake) on the rest of us, the professional mourners and those lowest-common-denominator word peddlers on social media (no name but they sicken me).

My late father used to repeat a saying that went:

يللي رقصو باهدن هن ذاتن يللي بكيو بزغرتا

Those who danced in Ehden are the same ones who shed tears in Zgharta. 

Mind you, Ehden and Zgharta are the same town, and my father was implying that emotions can easily be sold and bought.

This August 4th many emotions will be on sale.