Beyrouth – My Unsuitable Man
It was a dangerous love from the second I set eyes on you. Everyone knew it could never last.
You had been fascinating me from afar for years, like the intoxicating whisper of a stranger who knows he can thrill. I knew you were daring me to touch you, to come close to you and to feel the heat of your breathe on my exposed neck. And when I finally landed in your arms, my cheeks flushed with excitement, you enveloped me with the passion of a man who I knew could never keep a single promise. But still, I came towards you, heady with the adventure of an eastern land, knowing that you were what my mother would call an “unsuitable man”: The kind of man who blames the telephone lines for failing to call, a man who has so many versions of the truth that he can never really lie, a husband who will love you but forget to come home one day; in short, a schizophrenic parcel of Mediterranean trouble, warm whilst chilling. At first, you seduced me with your rough beauty – your face lined with the scars of a hard life covering the trace of vulnerability that would quietly beg me never to leave. Slowly, your energy, complicit and complex, would fill me every day and night, leaving me aching for more, though I knew you would hurt me in the end and though I knew that forever could only mean now, in this moment, in this present, I can love you.
At night, every night, you crackled with the live wire that had run through you before I even dreamt that you may be mine. I never understood how to soften your nightmares, I could just sit through them and bring you milky coffee, and dry kaik bread, the remnants of a childhood that let you know you were still alive. There is salt in this air which corrodes your insides and I want to mix sugar, heap it in the tiny teaspoons which you add to our dawn coffee. But as morning would rise, every morning, you would forget, consuming the dark within you as quickly as you would feel the cleansing water from the shower on your narrow back. There was nothing soft about you for hours after that first cigarette, not the burning heat, not the restless searching, not even the crazed dancing that would let us melt away the toxic nights.
I have walked away from you so many times, screaming in frustration at your unrepenting blindness. I have sworn to forsake you when you come home, wounded from the bullets of your own gun which you wave madly in the air like some potent symbol of your imagined virility. I have trembled in fear at the rage that arrives so frequently with the thyme-strewn summer breeze.
They warned me, my friends and those people who said they understood you, they warned me that you were not to be trusted, that you were loaded with instability, volatility. The Americans called it baggage and the Arabs called it blood. Even your own mother told me there were too many people involved, neighbours and family who claimed they knew best how to run your life. They would never leave us to explore our love, she said, interfering every day with the ordinary decision making that was just mine, and just yours. Everyone warned me that there was no future, that a love that burned so brightly would always explode too early. And so began our love that would explode, then implode, I would leave, then you would go.
Now, here we are again, debating our future like seasoned actors, each of us playing a role. Encore, encore. I have already left this time, but you are watching me, pulling me back with the carefully practised hand of a man who plays war.
It was a dangerous love from the second I set eyes on you. Everyone knew it could never last. So why are we back to this moment, again, again, wondering if it can ever be real. Do you dare to make promises, do I dare to believe them? Encore, encore.
It was a dangerous love from the second I set eyes on you Everyone told me it could never last. But, still, in the fizzing depths of my belly, Beyrouth, I know that I still love you. And that you deserve for us to make it last. Like every other promise you ever made me, our love is only a definitely maybe. We are back on that knife-edge, all over again.
January 22nd 2011.