Do you know your neighbor?
There was a point in my life when I walked down a street filled with people that knew me.
Not only did they know who I was, but they greeted me into their homes, made me coffee I don’t drink and served me little bites of food which I ate a little too much of.
Not only did they greet me with food and drinks and even more food, but what was important was that they greeted me.
They did not simply, politely invite me into their homes; they yelled it out from the 7th floor.
They would say
Their hands almost reaching down to the street, their electric voices stretching down, swooping the floor and scooping me up.
Not only did they do this to me, but I also did it to them. I learned to do it to them, and embraced their presence when they came by.
I walked down this street for three years, and everyday I would get the same overwhelmingly warm welcome. Women were on their balconies, their arms moving frantically side to side, yet in perfect harmony, hanging shirts to dry and clipping things onto strings as tiny drops from the wet clothes sometimes landed on the top of my head.
I looked up to see men sitting outside in their sleeveless white shirts in the summer, and long sweaters in the winter, resting their arms on the balcony side, watching people go by on the street, drinking their third cups of coffee of the day.
When I was young(er), I used to think that most of the people that lived on my grandmother’s street were actually related to us. I used to think they were family because they’d spend time at our house and we’d visit theirs. We saw them everyday and they all knew me, my brother, both of my parents, my grandmother and grandfather, and every human being sprout from that family tree, their background stories, current struggles and little victories. They knew us all and treated us like their own. It is only when I grew up that I discovered that we did not have any kind of real connection with their family whatsoever; and anyway, there was no possible way that my family could be this gigantic, but we were part of their joys and their cries. We felt it all, and they felt it with us too.
When I come back from travel I am treated like one of their own, and I am lucky enough to get an abundance of kisses and tight squeezes and questions and concerns and good wishes.
Lebanon, I’d run out of words if I’d written you poems, but I’d write you everyday of my life until my return.
And now, stranger living abroad, do you know your neighbor? Come to Lebanon, they won’t be neighbors for long.
And person possibly reading this in Lebanon, fine e3zom 7ale 3al ahwé bas ta erja3?