Friday, August 04, 2006

Rage against the Drone

From last night

They’re bombing Beirut, and we’re watching Underground by Emir Kusturica, which is set in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia. We found the DVD, a rental, at a friend’s house who left on vacation before the war and never made it back. I remind Mohamed for the second time that we should return it; he declines to respond. It’s by no means urgent. Two bombs drop somewhere, one closer than the last. “They’re early,” Mohamed remarks. We continue watching the movie. After a few minutes, I go out on to the balcony to see where the sky has turned pinkish. I decide to work and sit down at my computer. Mohamed occasionally stops the movie to switch to the news. “What, what?” I ask irritatedly. “Nothing", he mumbles. "They’re not saying where exactly it is.” He returns to the movie.

Anticipating a bomb is like holding your bladder for an open-ended car ride. Since they suspended the uninterrupted night raids over Dahieyeh a week ago, I have been anxiously awaiting their return. After a few days of quiet, daily life reaches an unsettling plateau of normalcy, which is hampered by the the constant reminder of the misery plaguing the south and east. And the anticipation of "we're next". You know that the longer they wait to bomb Beirut again, the harder it will be to adapt. Now the waiting is over.

Four days from now, I will long for just one night of peace and quiet; after a week, I won’t even notice if I’m asleep or awake when I lie in bed at night.

I’ve been avoiding Barbar’s, the reliable war bistro, so that I don’t tire of eating there when the other cafes and sandwich shops close again. I have not managed to cook a single meal since this started and I’m too impatient to walk anywhere; I run or hail a servis.

An old friend sent me a one-line e-mail: Are you talking to bombs?

In fact I am. I habitually mumble profanities at those menacing drones, similar to the way old disgruntled couples in movies curse each other under their breath. Just now while I was brushing my teeth. When you’re finally absorbed in something, a plane overhead violates your concentration, like a pesky, obscenely cheerful waiter who interrupts your conversation to inquire if the food is to your liking. I embarass myself by doing it in public, too. In the middle of a conversation with the owner of my favorite cafe, I instinctively lunge towards the door to tell the IAF pilot to go shove it. It's personal, when you're on the receiving end.

Al Jazeera is now showing the Israelis unload truckloads of mines. They intend to make the south uninhabitable; and in Beirut it will be a case of the more the merrier, right? Good night.


blarner said...

I read your piece in Die Zeit today. Unbelievable, by far the best thing in the paper.

Anonymous said...

I knew from you that the ZEIT piece was coming. Michael sent it to me. Just good! As I said in an e-mail: You are the best conceivable combination of keen observer and good writer. But we are allowed to worry. - TR

Anonymous said...

Living here in America, I just want to say I care. Tonight I made falafel with home made pita bread and prayed for peace over it. Good luck.

metsfan said...

"Fergal Keane's dispatches from Lebanon, meanwhile, are getting so lyrical I keep expecting him to break into Danny Boy."
- from today's Guardian

Em, we are indeed allowed to worry, but we're also grateful for your powerful reporting. You are a source of strength to everyone who needs your witness. Keep safe, dear.

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