In this excerpt from A Beirut Heart: One Woman’s War I talk about my love affair with Beirut, a place I refer to as my lover-city
I think about dodging snipers and running into shelters, about aprons with bullet holes, and about rescuing my children from school. In my memory I can still see my fail daughter and her despair.
I think back to the time when we were hit by the rocket, to the bodies in the street and to poor Bachir, our newly elected president. \
I think about the frightened stork we tried to save, of the times when I was so depressed I nearly gave up hope; and I rejoice that I chose instead to enjoy life in all its incredible passion and beauty.
My husband and I now live on twelve acres just outside the city limits of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I must confess that I am still something of a romantic, and I enjoy living among my most prized possessions from Beirut−the Roman artifacts, the Persian carpets, the Phoenician amphorae, our five hundred French comic books−all things which a dear friend was able to ship to use several years ago.
I cannot help that my heart still beats to the rhythms of a city which no longer exists. I have lovely friends in Eau Claire, for whom I still love to cook and entertain. And thanks to my new knees, I can dance again. There are no fancy nightclubs in Eau Claire, but my husband and I roll up a carpet, put on our LPs and pretend we are back at the Retro or the Caves du Roi in Beirut.
I still take a siesta in the middle of the day, and I still speak like a Lebanese, casually drifting from English to French or Arabic, depending on what I want to say or whichever comes first. In Beirut, I found my place to grow. My commitment to stay there through the war was a consequence of a deep love affair. I had married into a family which was for the most part loving and accepting, and it was exciting to wake up every day as a foreigner embraced by a Lebanese family. My heart is loyal: loyal to my wonderful husband and to our children who shared and survived the experience of war, and loyal to a country still in crisis. This is the kind of love which develops a loyal Beirut heart, one which never dissolves. My adopted country, that dysfunctional lover I’ve driven you mad talking about, may, sadly, never recover. A popular swell of nationalism and world opinion has set the occupying forces packing. But bombs are going off again, and politicians are being murdered so here we go again! I cannot go back there to live and rick my hard-won sanity, and I have finally accepted that. While there is sadness in this acceptance, I feel a sense of liberation in being able to acknowledge it at long last. With war finally cleaned out of me, my Beirut heart can enjoy, finally, the peacefulness of Eau Claire.
This book is available for purchase here.