Lebanese people of a certain age can often be found expressing their frustration at the sheer audacity of the accumulation of circumstance with two half-moon gestures encircling an invisible drain, indicating the metaphorical girth of just how badly or how far the matter’s gone. “Tekhnet.” It has become quite thick.
Lebanese people of a slightly younger age will widen the gyre, indicating that matters are so out of hand that the axes have collapsed and the pipe has transmorphed into “pizza.” Two fingers on two hands in the shape of an L around a very large O, wlo, “saret pizza.”
I’ve been thinking about that drain and the seemingly bottomless hole of Lebanon’s never-ending decline. I’ve even been thinking of literal pizza; the other day, a website I used to write for many years ago posted photos of a newly-opened Italian restaurant in Beirut where a meal of some garlic bread, seafood pasta, and pizza generated a bill of over $400. My brain breaks when I try to understand whatever black market sorcery makes that currency conversion make any sense—all I could bring myself to say when I saw that was: is this Lebanon now?
Pizza. It has become pizza. And not even the kind we can laugh about or cash in for street credit whenever a foreigner is startled by a power cut or some celebratory gunfire across the way—welcome to Lebanon! No, it’s pizza by the slice—it’s death by a thousand cuts.
In my despair, I cry out sometimes that even war is better than this. At least war has a for and an against. At least, with warfare, the hostilities eventually cease. But this? The sweat and toil of whole lifetimes casually erased in slow motion? It’s cruel. It’s gross.
I heard a lyric yesterday in an Egyptian rap song; it translates to something like “my friends and I love catastrophe.” It rang very true to my life; we do. It makes us interesting. It gives us stories to parade around before your eyes, making us marketable—and, to some of you, possibly fuckable.
But the kinds of catastrophes we grew up with still left room for heroics. Or, at least, that’s how it felt to our messiah-complexed minds.
That’s how it felt when I ate that cold breakfast pizza we’d been forced to leave out in the car all night, in that summer of ‘06. I felt like a hero. I felt like Jack-fucking-Bauer, keeping my hooded head held so high, it made even my interrogator feel proud to be my countryman. That pizza tasted good.
I’m not ready to go back and taste whatever it is we left behind back there. My head hangs much lower today.