Another Day in Beirut

Today I was meeting my friend Lara near the HSBC in Hamra. I needed to take my laptop for us to do some work and of course had to carry my purse. So to avoid the abundant stealing incidents, I put all my stuff, including the laptop, in one big bag and walked there.

At the corner, facing HSBC diagonally, the road sign was still red for pedestrians on one side so I crossed the other one. And before I knew it, a pick up truck stopped abruptly near a man on the street and out jumped the middle aged driver. He grabbed the man by his shirt right below the neck. I saw all this happen in a fraction of a second. The two men pushed each other away and the middle aged man lifted his shirt and reached out to his waist, where I could clearly see a black body of a gun. I walked very fast on the street away from them, while the men were still yelling:

“Who the **** are you gonna ring?”

“It is none of your business. I’ll ring whomever I want to.”

Ok, so it was not a gun. It was a mobile phone. Shit. I slowed down and kept going, until I realized… Where is the HSBC building? It was right in front of me. And I found myself gone astray somewhere in Hamra way further from HSBC and my destination.

I cursed Lebanon and the Lebanese and the guns and my cowardice and walked back.

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Then today I walked on the corniche Beirut…

Then today, I walked on the corniche.
Beirut Corniche. Always the same.
The smell of Ka’ek. And the smell of gasoline from motorcycles.
The sound of the waves. Boys and men screaming and fooling around merrily. The noise of the street. Kids playing on their bikes and scooters and skates.
And then a distinct sound echoed. A tune. I know that tune. It’s the tune of the ice cream van.
The ice cream van used to drive around in the neighborhoods of Beirut when we were younger. Now I am certain that there’s no use of having it even try to do that again these days. The traffic is a killer.
I turned around and took a look at the van. The same colors. Pink and white. The door is half open and you can see the marry cream machine. It had double parked on the side of the road. Maybe someone wanted to buy one or two cones.
I remembered one time back in the 80s someone bought SIX cones for us all. And suddenly these other images started coming back. The other images of the 80s. They didn’t. They tried. I was on the verge of losing it again. They wanted me to look back at the ice cream van one more time and remember the horrible scary stuff. And then feel my ear and my head ringing and my heart pounding. And then cry and stop functioning. But they failed. I didn’t look back at the pink ice cream truck.
It sang and sang, but I never gave it the second look.
I won this time. And I am glad and proud 🙂