on top of the hill

Beirut, April 28, 2016

I am not sure about why I want to write this. I am not sure what it is that I am going to write here at all.

Lately, things have not been very pleasant.

I have an image in my head, I think stolen from the BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (with pre-Downton Matthew), of Marianne dashing across a moor, the sky is grey but that's not inconvenient. It's nice and cosy, somehow. Then I have another image. That of Liz Bennet from the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, on top of the hill, her dress flying and in her eyes a quietude and a pensiveness. I project myself in these two girls. I rush across the moor. The sky is grey. Shortly after, the clouds clear up. The sun comes out to play. I climb the hill and stand to conquer the English countryside with my gaze. And I reflect on everything.

But I am not on top of the hill. Or on the moors. I am at my desk facing a butterfly wall and a pile of tea boxes. Outside, noises intersect, fight to be heard. The motorbike, the kids, the honks, and occasionally, the birds chirping. I am not on top of the hill, but within the confines of a wall, a prisoner, on the first floor of a building that quite possibly rose on top of the remains of an older house, dead now, much like the people who once lived in it. I am not on top of the hill, but inside a building, surrounded by buildings, and buildings, and cars, and buildings. Surrounded by streets that reek of garbage, of fumes, by streets with oil stains, sidewalks with oil stains, and purple flowers falling from non-native jacaranda trees, by sidewalks drowning with the soapy water pushed outside the grocery store by the lanky tan boy who works at the shop. All I wish for is to find the trap door in my bedroom floor, one through which I might escape to... the butterflies on my wall, perhaps? Or to the beautiful big fig tree that Sylvia Plath wrote about in The Bell Jar. There, we might converse and eat figs. There, we could be as fictional, as surreal as we please. And no one could touch us, hurt us, make us feel unwanted, or not good enough.

I am not on the hill. No, far from it.

But I steal the image and whilst my eyes are kept closed, I am on the hill. Sometimes I am the hill.

I ponder the notion of home. Home is not home when you start to feel like a stranger when you're outside, on its streets. This city and its people alienate me. Herds of refugees scattered across Europe yearn for home. I weep for their misfortune, understand their grief. But I write from a place of utter privilege. I have everything they do not have, everything they crave for: a steady roof over my head, pretty clothes on my back, warm food in my belly. We are not alike, and I cannot claim to be in their shoes. Or in the same boat. Yet somehow, I sense that our feelings of bereavement intersect. We are displaced, lost, sad, afraid, in two categorically different ways.

(I cannot write this without a tinge of self-reproach and guilt. I should be grateful for what I have, but instead, I find that I remain implacably restless.)

I am back on the hill. At the very top. I must make decisions and start to act upon them. 


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