A year away from Beirut

Fred Bteich
4 min readOct 18, 2021

First, you get emotional. Then, you get anxious. And then, you start disconnecting. Until, just like the October 2019 revolution, Beirut becomes a bittersweet memory, a chapter in your book of life you look back to with nostalgia, anger, sadness, yet with a lot of relief.

A year has passed since I left the country on October 18, 2020. 365 days, during which I’ve experienced, just like everyone else who left during this turbulent period of time, the poisonous remorse that the country tries to inflict upon you.

You are constantly reminded that your life is different than theirs. Constantly silenced whenever you express compassion with them. Constantly mocked when you try to nag about stressful events happening to you abroad. Constantly called back whenever elections draw close. Constantly begged whenever a medication is needed, and ironically money, to lower the nation’s alarming public debt. Constantly asked to help them get out, yet constantly ignored when you come back for a visit.

You become a tool. That they remember to manipulate whenever they go into panic mode. They strip you from your emotions. They strip you from your Lebanese citizenship, which you may have yourself already ignored. They strip you from your right to decide or to comment on the country’s whereabouts. Cause you’re a traitor in their eyes. You abandoned them. You turned your back on them. You left them to die, like an agonizing fish that has been pulled out of water.

They forget that you were there on October 17, 2019. That you fought. That you tried. That you were there on August 4, 2020. That you attended to the wounded. That you could have died or even lost someone or something valuable back then. To them, all of this wasn’t enough. You should have stayed. You should have fought even more, treated even more, died even more.

A year later, the redundant news back from home bore you. The calls become emptier; the WhatsApp messages fewer. You check on your beloved ones from time to time, forcing the interaction sometimes, deeply missing them some others. They, who have progressively just like you, spread their wings and nested their homes in different corners of this earth, with divergent timetables. Even contacting them now has become difficult, as you adapt to the new super-fast robotic European lifestyle that you once criticized. And so, the days pass by, and your circle of friends breaks down. You panic, as demons haunt you back when you notice that years of friendships have been torn down by a political system of devils, perhaps eternally this time, as the idea of one big reunion looms very far.

Did we really have to go through this? Yes, we did. To notice that the life we lead in Lebanon was nothing but a lie, under which were buried tons of ammonium nitrate explosives, and years of money we deservedly collected then wasted after being exploited by a fake, ludicrous banking system. To notice that, despite all of our modest efforts to make a country out of this small nation, we are miserably failing to do so; for this piece of territory has nothing to do but brag about the proximity of the mountains to the sea, the ‘peaceful’ coexistence of religions inside its borders, the clothing brands it wears and those famous Lebanese faces shining abroad, that are only linked to this land with some sort of ancestor blood.

And just like we used to look at those foreign workers we hired at our homes for ages with both pity and disdain, and those countries around us that faced economic and political crises before us with mockery, it’s time for us to pay the price now.

Somehow, the countries we thought would shelter us, have now started treating us the same way many of us manipulated ‘our’ domestic workers throughout the years. The looks in their eyes have changed. We are no longer the Lebanese whose city was blown up 14 months ago, and who should be cared for. We are no longer the witty, elegant, trilingual people they used to look up to. We are now the poor ones. The ones who had the chance to but refused to change their fate. The ones who would accept to be hired today with any salary, and under any condition. The ones they dread asking ‘how’s it going at your place?’. The ones whose recent image in the foreign media has been nothing but pathetic.

Yet we continue taking today the same train. The snowpiercer. Hoping that it would lead us somewhere. Anywhere. Away from home, whose light has progressively dimmed in my nebula. Whom I can barely remember now.

As these thoughts race through my mind, the pink train passes next to me. And suddenly, I remember. To call home. For it’s October, and my mother needs to get checked, somehow.