Dima Abdallah, Lebanese writer: “Don’t fall asleep, Beirut”

Tribune. I know you are cold. I know your body is numb. Your eyelids must be so heavy. I know you want to close your eyes. You only hear the music made by the waves crashing on your sides. I know how heavy your body weighs you, how in your arteries the mixture of blood and ashes thickens and no longer circulates. Listen to my voice, stay with me, don’t fall asleep.

Don’t fall asleep, Beirut. Don’t close your eyes.

Remember those few oxygen molecules that we are struggling to find to breathe.

Breathe in and out.

It’s just one more death, Beirut. We know you and me. We spend our lives dying, us

I know that you are exhausted, that you are emptied of having stood up so and so. I know it tiresome to spend your time resuscitating.

It’s just one more death, Beirut. We know you and me. We spend our lives dying, the rest of us. Never mind death, Beirut. We are not those who obey him. We push the rock, us, for having fooled it, death. Push with me, Beirut. Grows. And when the rock tumbles for the umpteenth time at the bottom of the mountain, we will hold hands with you and me as we descend the slope and then we will start again. We will take whatever strength we have left, and even if it is not much, it will be enough to find the strength to push again. As many as it takes. Never mind death, Beirut. Never mind the cruelty of the gods. Never mind the absurdity of repetition.

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Remember, Beirut. Remember that falling and getting up is what we have always spent our life doing. No matter the fatigue, no matter the exhaustion, no matter the ashes, the ruins. Listen to my voice, even if it comes from far away, so far away that you hardly hear it. Don’t listen to the screams or the crowds around you, don’t listen to ambulance sirens or collapsing buildings. Do not listen to the windows shattering into a thousand pieces or the silence of the bodies under the rubble. Don’t listen to any of this. Focus on my voice, don’t listen to anything else, even if my words come so far away.

Push the rock to the top of the mountain

I’m going to tell you all the stories in the world, endless memories, so that you stay with me, so that you don’t fall asleep. I will tell you about my first steps on your ledge facing the sea, the first squeezed oranges. I’m going to tell you about the fall swims, I’m going to tell you about the hopscotch games on your sidewalks and the giggles of youth in your bars. Let’s remember all the parts of hide and seek together and pretend there wasn’t a smell of powder hovering in the air. Let’s pretend that there never was then the least little weapon carried on the belt of idiots. Let’s pretend you and I, today, so that we can hold hands and push the rock up the mountain, that I am not a child of the civil war but only your child. Remember with me the first successful dives, your lights that we see dancing from the mountain in summer, your cafes so close to the water that the waves vanish right at our feet, your evenings in summer that smell of jasmine, beer and iodine.

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