Last night, I slept at my grandma’s house, a modest two-bedroom apartment that sits comfortably inside a large apartment complex in Ras Beirut. My grandma’s house overlooks the sea, and the Beirut Luna Park’s huge Ferris Wheel. These are parts of the landscape that I remember from the days when I used to crouch over my grandparents’ living room sofa to look over the windowsill, aching, like my brothers who I can remember as being lined up beside me, for a way out of a drawn-out family lunch.
My grandma’s house is the house of many memories that I really enjoy retreating to. Yesterday, as my teta and I were replacing the thicker winter bed cover with pastel summer cover in my dad and his siblings’ old bedroom, I remarked jokingly to my teta that I can remember the days when my uncle was still living in that room. And I was trying to conjure an image of the bedroom’s walls that were splashed with posters of Madonna, and other female sex symbols of the 80s when my grandma interrupted my train of thought. Shelaughed and said, eh konto t2atlo ba3d! (translation: we used to fight (to the death) each other). That reminded me of my tomboy years and how I used my experiences from the corridors of Beiruti houses and streets to furnish my tomboy attitude. I remembered,for example, when I first learned the word “fuck” one day at the beach and how I thought it was so cool. I quickly started to work it into all of my sentences, until my mama overheard me enacting a story with my toys and gently pulled me aside and told me,what, I can’t remember, but I can remember that that was the end of that verbal transgression.
As I got under the covers, I reached over to the bedside drawer and slid out a couple of photo albums from among a pile of 20 or so other photo albums. The photos were for the most part my aunt’s. They were images of her as a teenager surrounded by happy faces of her friends, mostly around my grandparent’s dining room table. Outside a war was raging but they seemed to have a peace of mind that we right now do not…I marveled at how similar her many facial expressions captured in those images are to her daughter’s. Time has a funny way of creeping in to places and faces, and also leaving them.
As I lay in bed this morning and I listened to the chatter of my grandma and her visitors, who seemed to be ringing her doorbell every 15 minutes, I realized that I also like being in my grandma’s house because it connects me with the present. A problem with having a 24 hour generator in your parent’s rental apartment in a (gentrified) upper-middle class neighborhood is that it removes a person from some of the fundamental day-to-day realities of the city. Eh, I would like to be able to complain for once about a hot, sleepless night, and kissikht el-dawleh, wein el-dawleh, ma fi dawleh, ba3dna bi 3asr el 7ajari. I like to sleep at my grandma’s house because it allows to rest my head on the pulse of this city, and revel in the memories that waft through its streets.