Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The streets are empty, emptier than ever. First, today is a public holiday, as if we need to celebrate a day this year. Second, Hamra's inhabitants who left to other villages and towns in the mountains are still hesitating to come back. Third, displaced people from Dahieh and the South went to see what is left from their houses and apartments.
  • Gert, the reporter from Belgium, was drinking his Cafe au Lait, when I first came in. He greeted me with: "Alors, c'est la paix?" (So, there is peace?). I saw Gert on Saturday and he was more pessimistic than my marital counselor. What made him change his mind?
  • For more than ten years, since I took over the coffee shop, I have been greeting Abou Anwar in the same way (Sabaho, maallem, kifak?) and he always used to reply (katter kheir allah). Today's answer should be filed in UN's historical war archives. He nodded his head and answered: "Tsssk, mish mnih (No, not well), I spent five hours (instead of the usual one hour and a half) on the road due to all those who were heading to the South. He was really pissed, he nearly burnt the coffee that was being roasted, and he was even more pissed. Yes, two things he hates the most: Being late and badly roasted coffee.
  • The good thing about today was to see your old regulars again, those who left Beirut. One of them was Mahmoud, a very successful engineer, who used to come very early for his "few drops of energy". We used to discuss all kinds of issues and he was kind of a walking encyclopedia for me. I was so glad to see him today. After he lit his cigarette he told me that his house and his office in Baalbeck were completely destroyed and his office and $50,000 worth of equipment in the South were too. He has lost his daily smile and his eternal "joie de vivre". Knowing him, I guess it is a matter of time before he gets them back.
  • Kamel too was a regular and he is back. He told me that he lived in the Cedars all this month. When I asked him if he stayed there all this time, he answered: "No, in the second week of the war, I had to go to the South to get my grandfather who is living alone. An adventure of seven hours, but I got to him safe. Two days later, we knew that his house was demolished. And when the family told him the bad news, all what he did was to answer that, 'anyway, he was not watering the tomatoes."
  • My daily question to Omar in French was: "Shou, Omar, la guerre est terminee?" (Is the war over?). He replied: "Eh, eh, cent pourrrr cent" (Yes, hundred per cent).
  • A client who was sitting by himself drinking his mochaccino, decided to interrupt my day dreaming moments and to talk to me. He told me a story about his neighborhood's fuel station: There was a huge line of cars at the fuel station, and they were selling the fuel at the regular price of LL 25,000 per 20 liters. Suddenly, with no warning, the owner of the station decided to cease all fuel filling activities, and indirectly advertised the line of drivers that he will fill the cars in the back garage for LL 50,000 per 20 liters. People started to shout but, eventually, agreed to the warlord conditions. One of those went into the garage, bought a 20 liter gallon, spilled it on the floor, and put a fire to the whole station.


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