Á mon Beyrouth…
There was a time when I stood and stared at you but you were so lost in your own world you never paid attention to the fact that I was staring at you.
There was a time when I approached you to speak to you, but something pulled me back, and I felt that I was intruding.
There was a time when I was walking in Hamra at night, and I saw you sleeping on the stairs, with a box of chewing gum on your belly. I stared at you from a distance, wondering how cold you must be, wondering what your story was. The sight of you lying there was a strong and difficult thing to see. Instead of approaching to see if you were alright, I wanted to take your picture. My friend stopped me and told me that it is disrespectful to do so without asking your permission. He was right. But when I saw you the next time walking around bliss I was too nervous to talk to you. But selfishly I have to say that seeing you around over time gave me a feeling of familiarity, a feeling that you were part of the Hamra that I always loved, even if I didn’t know you.
I saw you many times and passed by you many times. I would stare at you for a long time from a distance but I never could talk to you like I did with others on the street. Talking to beggars on the street is easy, but you were not a beggar. Though you accepted what was given to you, you never asked for anything. You were just a homeless man on the streets.
It was only when you died in the streets of Beirut that your story spread. You died in Bliss, Hamra. You died in the street which gives birth to protests and new ideas; political, ideological, social, civil and human rights. You died in the streets where the intellectuals have gathered to talk over the past century, where the artists paint, the dancers dance, the actors act, the writers write, the thinkers think. You died in the street where the young generation of the country gather, study, go to university and come up with new ways to be revolutionaries. You died in the street where the palaces of the politicians who should serve you live, with tens of security guards protecting them. You died in the streets that shouldn’t let things like this happen.
I heard you were a professor which is why you still carry a paper and pen. I heard that your former students were the ones who took care of your burial, because they seemed to know more of you than all of Bliss. I heard that your family were raped and killed before your eyes in the war. And that you were tortured.
I don’t know if these stories are true, but even if they are not, your eyes tell that life had been cruel to you. I hope you are at peace, and that your ghost will not haunt the streets that you never left.
But I do know that you died alone. In the cold.
You died alone.
We failed you. I am sorry that we failed you.