Monday, March 3, 2008

Neither Here Nor There

I went away for a few days on a business trip, the type of short and guilt-free getaway that I have come to relish as a brief escape from our chaotic days in Beirut. I must have been carrying with me much more than my little destination city could have handled, because instead of experiencing any detached escape, I found myself suspended between the two cities and continuously disoriented.

For all our capacities for worldly adaptation, our endemic status quo has imbued us with traits similar to war veterans or asylum inmates. Perhaps, to be fair, I shouldn’t assume that my compatriots feel as I do and specify that what I am describing here is how I feel. Or at least how I felt during three days when I was almost stepping outside myself to socialize ‘normally’ and find semi-objective, cryptic responses to enquiries about how Lebanon is doing. I felt like I was learning to speak again, drawing an utter blank when the questions were posed. It was like having a relative who is seriously ill, you can never stop thinking of them as you go about your day, and you’re not sure whether to burden others with your concern when, for all practical purposes, they are just being polite and considerate. After all, how could they understand how you’re feeling, or how this is affecting you, when you haven’t quite figured that out yourself? Their positive part is to encourage you to keep your chin up, your hopes high, and bravely stride through it all. I didn’t want to disappoint, so I reacted appropriately. Perhaps I also found some comfort in the familiarity of that role. Perhaps I found the suggested braveness somewhat empowering. That is, until I would walk out of that conversational bubble to find my reality unchanged.

I wondered if others could see the heavy cloud following me around like a balloon tied to my finger, sometimes high, sometimes low, but never too far behind. To resent the balloon implies rejecting your sick relative. To accept it is to concede that your relative may never be cured. You’re damned both ways and find yourself, once again, neither here nor there…

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