Perfect Mornings

Everyone loves them, no?

She sits in the same seat, every morning I start my day with looking at her. Her bag goes either on the floor, or the chair next to her. She positions herself, always glancing at the teacher, eyes screwed still onto him, taking everything in, deep into the lecture.

Me? I’m trying to sneak a glance at her every now and then. Blonde curly hair, with pink ends, luscious lips like I’ve never seen before, and a smile that never seems to fade away. I’m not sure why she’s always smiling, but I sure do like it. What I like most about her though is her eyes. They remind me of something I’ve never seen before, yet they still remind me of that thing I speak of, strange indeed.

I don’t know what sparked my interest. I’ve known her, for a while actually, but I never realized her childlike personality, and how in the same time, you can feel a sense of grit and toughness. To me, a woman with that particular combination is one ought to be fought for, like Hemingway on a hunting trip, killing every danger on his way.

It always amazes me, that sudden surge of thoughts and feelings towards someone you are familiar with, but never really appreciated their beauty and mind. She seems to be lost, not always sure, and very careful, which is all more attractive. Insecurities make a person, not perfections. I don’t care for one’s perfections, those are easy to tell and handle, but imperfections are what constitute a person, and what really makes them who they are.

She’s distant. I don’t think anything will happen, and I don’t think I will pursue anything with her. You know, don’t you think that sometimes it’s better that things be left the way they are? I’m scared I won’t have the same appreciation I have for her. A glimmer of hope and sparkle to my mornings, let’s leave it that way, shall we?

The Curse

It never lets you be.

Razors scratching my face, whips lashing on my skin, freezing under the icy blanket and drowning on my snowy mattress. I felt like the homeless person lying on the edge of the street, covered with his precious newspapers, trying to forget the grim surroundings that possess him; maybe, just maybe he feels home again, safe under a roof away from the horridness he has to go through.

I slept feeling there was a gun aimed at my head, with God placing one bullet in the barrel and spinning it, holy Russian roulette executed to my advantage, or is it really to my advantage? I hold my legs with both my hands, and images of me being chased by a pack of frenzied wolves’ runs wild, with the sweat trickling down my forehead, and my body shaking with despair. That’s how it feels after the euphoric heroin Mecca journey. After the withdrawal ended, my corpse felt as light as a feather, with every bone in my body as fragile as a toothpick, with my body in its usual fetus position.

I think it has to do with my unconsciousness. I want to be reborn again, rid of this disease. I want to be reborn again, as a normal person, being held by my mother all over again, and embracing the beauty of life, because there’s no beautiful sight like seeing a mother holding her newborn child.

A nightmare worse than any nightmare. This is what I see almost every night in my dreams. You know, there’s nothing worse than quitting something, than the actuality of it remaining to exist in your head. You feel clean, but you don’t. You feel fine, but you don’t. It’s a never ending equation of misery and suffering, even after the merely pathetic, rugged life I was living. I thought change was certain…

I was wrong.

You never escape, and you never quit. You will always feel the poison, seeping and leaking through your veins and through your pores. It is truly a curse.

Imad’s Barbershop

The best there ever was.

 

Barber Shops in Beirut are a complete mystery. Every time I go to get my beard trimmed or my hair cut, I always end up surprised. From the gossip, to the weird sex jokes, to the religious satire; everything and anything can be expected at a barbershop, except for a decent haircut…

Stepping inside the small crowded store in a small crowded alleyway, I entered Imad’s Barber Shop: the most famous barber in Mreijeh (the area where I live, in the Southern Suburbs of Beirut).

“Hello come in come in, my place is your place. Hussein! Come and set up Ibn l Hakeem (that’s what he calls me, he has called me that ever since I was a little boy. I bet he didn’t even know my real name. It means the son of the Doctor, yes it’s because my dad is a doctor, so I guess it’s just easier to do that).

Hussein, a little child from a poor family around the age of eleven came over and greeted me warmly and led me to the chair. Workers like Hussein are typical and easily found at any local barbershop. Barbers usually look for cheap laborers to clean the hair off the floor and to trim beards when they don’t feel like doing anything. Hussein was new. The last time I was here it was Adam. These small kids get paid 200,000 L.L (more than a 100$ in a wee bit) per month. But here’s the twist, the barber tells them it’s some sort of an internship. If the kid turns out to be a learner by sight and picks up the craft by observation, he’s hired! That obviously didn’t work out for Adam, and I fear the same fate for little Hussein. When I asked Imad why he doesn’t clean up the hair after he’s done with each client, he simply said that he can’t lower his back down much often and the extra pair of hands is always needed. He finds these kids wandering around the streets trying to sell tissues for the passing car passengers. Having to think of it, he’s somehow getting them off the street. He also added that hiring Hussein was a big hassle to him because his father wanted a piece of the money. He just had to hire him. He felt pity for him. Imagine living in a small canned house with a drunken father and seven other children. That’s no life at all. At least now Hussein has a steady income (even though the amount is absolutely nothing), and his father is getting a small bribe from Imad. It’s a win-win situation for all sides concerned.

The place looked like one big rectangle crowded with cheap leather couches and hair grooming equipment. There are three seats for the barbers to operate on and just on the side behind the entrance a small stand where you can buy some hair gel (this is how he makes most of his money as he told me).

Having skipped the wait, I was surrounded by fierce looks from all over the store. “Who’s this guy to skip after all of us? Is he the son of a leader or something?!”

I felt really bad at that moment. I mean if it was for me, I’d wait for my turn. But the irony is that I can’t wait for my turn. If my father finds out I had to wait in line at the barbershop, then no free medical care for Imad! This country works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

Twenty minutes have passed and Imad has yet to come to give me my haircut, and the customers are growing impatient. Just behind me was a mother with her twin sons. They had long blonde curly hair, dangling down to their shoulders. They were exceptionally quiet. Kids usually turn into the spawn of Satan himself in a barbershop. Just beside the family on the couch to the right two guys with short hair, VERY long beards, and had shoulders and muscles the size of my big head. They look kind of like your basic Lebanese gym freak who clearly has an insanely imbalanced set of hormones.

To the left however two old mean who clearly already had their hair cut, were just sitting there arguing whether the Syrian struggle will be over anytime soon, and both of them with great disappointment, felt that no current solution will occur.

After many prayers Imad came to me after a mere forty-five minutes, not that much of a wait, no? Not that much of a wait to be honest. The past year I remember waiting for an hour or so hours because Imad wasn’t there and I had to get a haircut by one of his employees.

“How do you want your hair cut habeebi (which means my love, I know it’s weird)?”

“As you like, everything is fine”

“All your life you’re a man of style! For your eyes! The best haircut for you!”

As I was getting my hair cut, Imad drifted every two or three minutes to have a chat with one of the customers. I’m used to it. He does this all the time. It just fascinates me how he’s still running this business and how come he’s more successful than any other barbershop in my neighborhood. He’s slow, doesn’t tend to the needs of his customers, favors them over the other based on personal interest, and doesn’t give a rat’s bottom about the hygiene of his place and yet, his crown is yet to be taken.

Imad the king of barbers, the best there ever is. Just be sure before deciding to have your haircut here to free your schedule. You’re in for a long wait.

The Flowers

Some glistening flowers and alcohol.

The sun had long since set, and I was spending Saturday night as usual; dark thoughts whirling about my head, coming in a frenzied storm. I couldn’t stop thinking. My mind was racing. I’ll blame it on the alcohol, doing what it does best. Nothing makes you think more than a glass of whiskey, especially when you’re vulnerable.
Ice hits my lip, and I call for another round. I don’t know what keeps me going for more; then again, I don’t care to. I’m just trying to fill the void that’s deep down inside of me, I suppose. For the past half year, I’ve been trying to fill this void. It’s a slow process, but it has to work eventually, I hope so.

I look at my surroundings, a vain attempt to escape the voices in my head. A new experience, as my lips rarely leave the rim of the glass. I notice two lovers sitting at the round table behind me. I’m fascinated; love is a rare sighting for me. Their laughter, the grins at the private jokes they share, ensconced in a world of their own. If I had that, would that make me happy? The void in my chest needs filling, but with what I know not. Yet, the lovers were hardly the most interesting sight; softly illuminated in the red glow of the bar, a vase of poppies.
I could feel the pulse of life emanating from the delicate flowers. What have they seen? What stories might they have to tell? The lovers, the heartbroken, the wanderers seeking solace in intoxication; the flowers have seen it all.

The bar is nearly empty when I am aroused from my drunken stupor. My only company is the town drunk; notorious for drowning his sorrows in a tankard. I’m paying my tab, ready to leave, when something strange happens. Is it the alcohol? The poppies…point at me. It must be the alcohol working; no sane person would say that flower petals pointed at him. Is it a sign? I must know. The lovers have long since left; I join the flowers at their table. I drink in their image; the deliciously red petals, the yellow glow of their centers. I recall Morpheus, whose symbol happened to be the very same as the flowers in front of me. I live in my imagination, much the way he did. Memories flood back: sunny days spent talking to the trees and flowers in the park; an upset mother. Why can’t you behave like a normal child; the glare of light from the psychiatrist’s glasses.

I’m now certain that the flowers have something to say to me. I could feel it in my bones. The pause is merely to search for the right thing to say. I could feel the flowers, readying themselves to speak. I lean in closer, intent to hear their words.
“We see you here very often. We’ve seen the sadness in your eyes, and we can feel the shifting atmosphere when you walk in through those doors. We don’t like seeing you this way. We want you to be as happy as the beautiful couple that made us smile; made you smile. We ponder, every day, what is making you feel this way? We have questions for you, don’t interrupt us, and listen well. Are you sad? Are you lonely? Are you afraid? Are you…” A plethora of different and abundant questions.

The questions stopped. What curious little flowers. I could feel some concern in their voices, and it fascinated me. The little red flowers, they care about me. I must answer them truthfully now; for one to care about me, it is a rare thing. I owe them my honesty.
“There are some people in my life. I stay alone because I don’t feel that anyone enjoys my presence; since childhood, solidarity has become familiar to me. I have family, but they don’t care about me. I’m the outsider to them, the anomaly. Many bad things have happened to me… I’ve had my heart shattered before my eyes. Yet, I’ve only ever been classified as insane. I never lost the person I loved; I’ve never been loved before; feelings and emotions are nothing to none nowadays. I’m tired of fucking emotionless women, seeking their pleasure in my lost and abused soul. If you can do anything to help me, please, help me. I’m hanging by a thread, on a small thin wire with both ends on fire. I have nothing to lose. I’m afraid I might do something I regret…”

I watch shock bloom in the petals of the poppies. I feel regret curl in my chest… my words must have been too much to absorb.
Nobody is here. The barkeep just told me to leave, not for the first time. I’m still waiting for the flowers to answer. A long pause, they only have one thing to say. “Be sound, only you can help yourself”
Be sound? What the hell is that supposed to mean? My insides seem to collapse on themselves, the space filled with disappointment and frustration. I thought the flowers were the answers to all my troubles. I was wrong.

I’m leaving the bar now. I picture a sober re-entry to this solitary confinement of a public place, and leave with great lost hope embracing me. I believed in the flowers, I trusted them. But yet again, everything and everyone disappoints me.
That’s it for now, sorry. I’ve never been good at happy endings. Even the flowers couldn’t help me. Who can?