Thursday, August 17, 2006

Ceasefire jitters

They broke the siege! A commercial flight is arriving from Amman this afternoon, and yesterday, some fuel. Soon we'll have avocadoes and electricity and imported everything again.

This from Monday night. Couldn't post it earlier:


Sitting in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel late last night to take advantage of their hi-speed wireless Internet and generator, I grabbed Mohamed’s hand every time I heard a loud noise outside. “It was just a car. The car door of a big GMC being slammed,” Mohamed said, or it was just “a car accident”, or “probably a window was blown shut by the wind.” He laughed exasperatedly; I threw him a dirty look. The fourth of fifth time, I stopped believing him. “What? What?” he asked.

It will take a few days, maybe even weeks, for my body to recuperate from this state of high alert. But maybe unexpected loud noises will torment me for the rest of my life.

My former roommate, Sahar—- who is from Baghdad and lived through the first Gulf War as a child—- was terrorized by the firecrackers children in our neighborhood set off during Ramadan. They would diligently rig a trashcan full of firecrackers, and place it so the blast would set off the alarms of all the cars on the street.

Later we moved to a Christian/Armenian neighborhood in East Beirut. One night in April, which coincided with the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, there was a series of deafening blasts after Sahar had gone to bed. That day there were black-and-red banners hung all over the streets which read, “We will never forget our 1,500,000 martyrs”, and a parade from Bourj Hammoud to Downtown to remember the dead. The blasts woke her up, and she emerged apprehensively and wide-eyed from her room, to join me on the balcony. We were both very confused: Could it really be that they are commemorating the genocide with fireworks?
Pedestrians on the street level above ours, which we can see from the balcony, stopped and gazed in the direction of the port. I called to a soldier, his M16 dangling from his arm, intently watching something on the horizon that I couldn’t see, and asked what in God’s name was happening. He replied, ”It’s Orthodox Easter Monday.“ The absurdity of the coinciding commemorations, a half-an-hour display of fireworks on the eve of the Armenian Genocide anniversary, was too funny. Sahar was dead serious; she returned to her room in silence.

I woke myself up this morning when I screamed, “No, please don’t leave me here alone.” I jumped out of bed, and raced into the living room. “Mohamed! What happened?!” He was hanging the laundry. “Nothing happened.” “Do we have electricity?” “No.” “Why is the sky overcast?” “I don’t know. Because its humid?” He chuckled and shook his head. “It’s going to be alright. Everything will be alright. There’s coffee.”

I’m a nervous wreck. I must stop drinking so much coffee and caffeinated soft drinks. I don’t need to be sharp; dull and subdued would suit me much better. I no longer trust this city; did I ever?

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