diary excerpts   trans libano

 

Trans Libano offers in this issue of Bint different pieces of her journal in which she talks about her first girlfriend at a young age and the war in Lebanon; her mother and siblings; and, especially, her father and her Corsican customer. The main link between the fragments is her interest in hair, wigs, clothes and naked bodies.


August 13, 1973
Beirut, Lebanon

It is two o'clock, perhaps more, in the afternoon. My mother is having a nap in her room on a hot and humid day of Beirut's summer. Mom kept all the windows of our flat wide open, hoping they invite a breeze from the nearby mountains to visit her bed and her children. We left our summerhouse in Aley and came to Beirut for a week because my brother had to pass summer exams at school. It started to seem to me lately that all our lives will be planned around how good -- or mostly how bad -- he will be doing in his education.

My mother fasted during the last two weeks. She fasts each year before she celebrates the Ascension Day of the Virgin Mary on August 15th. God lifted Mary alive to her place in heaven. She had her blue veil and clothes on. I like the idea to die one day and then carry my body with me to the sky. Everyone else there will be a soul without a body. I will be special like the Virgin Mary or her son Jesus. But I do not want to be virgin like them! Thinking about it, I do not want to carry with me the same fat boy's body that I already hate on this planet.

My siblings are playing in the living room. My brother is parallel parking his small cars and trucks that he broke into pieces and reassembled several times so far. My sister is assisting him because she does not play with dolls. She even refuses to touch any doll. My brother and I scared her several times in the past by showing her at night her doll's broken head, arm or leg. My parents have learned to offer her what she likes only -- boys' toys as gifts. Growing up in a home without dolls deprived me from the joy of brushing long hair, especially that my sister's hair was short -- Mireille Mathieu's style. Furthermore, my sister, like my mother, hated using or having mirrors and brushes.

My father is at work. He comes back usually around 4 p.m. He will be all sweaty due to driving in this weather and traffic. He will kiss all of his children. I like kissing him in the morning and before I go to bed but not when he comes from work. However, all of us get kissed by him thrice a day, except when he has a cold or flu.

I am alone in my room, sitting in face of the mirror. I covered my head with mom's black silk veil that she uses when she rarely visits the church. I used to enjoy observing women, young or old, entering the church and pretending to be modest by using a gray or black veil. They all make the cross sign when they enter through the door, kiss few icons, make some more quick cross-like-hand-movements, light some candles and sit down. Some start humming a song or a prayer, while the children or the women dresses distract others. On one Sunday, a middle-aged, unmarried woman sitting next to me had her eyes stuck onto the colorful design of flowers on the mousseline dress of the younger woman in front of her for more than ten minutes, until I interrupted her reverie by letting my copy of the praying book fall on the ground close to her feet. She grabbed it, gave it to me and smiled in a way as if she knew that I did it intentionally. She had false blonde hair, like many Lebanese women do. But her Grace-Kelly-chignon attracted my attention. She did it herself at home, without recourse to a hairdresser. The mesh-like gray veil she used gave her hairdo more class.

I wish my mother had more colorful veils. Using what is available at home to entertain myself, I am sitting today in front of the mirror and playing a scenario in my head inspired from some Egyptian or American movie. I am a pretty, young woman who has just become the widow of a rich, older man. I am getting ready to go to the funeral. The tight black dress shapes my body like one of the 1960s stars, such as Hind Rostom or Marilyn Monroe. The big diamonds on the platinum necklace are shining. The black silk veil does not totally hide my light blonde hair. The mirror is jealous of my hair and my beauty. It knows that soon enough I will have the fingers of a young hunk's hand into my hair. He will press my lips towards his thick lips and forces my naked body towards...

My father suddenly enters the room. He yells at me using words that I am not familiar with: "shou 3am bta3mil ya 3akrout? kis ikht yalli jebak 3a hal dene! wayniye immak ma betshoufak lebis mitl el neswen? badde a3rif ana iza allah 3atene sabe walla bint!" I do not understand most of what he is saying but I can only see his eyes wide open under his glasses -- they are the sign of his extreme anger. He takes the veil off my head, uncovering my short brown hair. I put my head between my arms to protect my cheeks and I close my eyes, not knowing what to expect. He orders me to look at him, into his eyes, and tells me that I got to grow up to be a boy, not a girl. He adds: "badde el3an dinak eza bshoufak ba3ed shi marra 3am btel3ab hek al3ab!" He tears the veil into two pieces and throws it on the floor.

From the icon on the wall of my room in my parent's flat, the Virgin Mary is observing in silence my suffering.

My father leaves the room and slams the door. BANG!


July 20, 1974
Aley, Lebanon

It is Saint Elias' day. My grandmother has told us that Saint Elias was raised alive to heaven -- while riding his carriage -- several thousand years ago. Apparently, this was his reward for chopping the heads of many enemies of God with his sword. We have a picture of him on the wall, with dead people swimming in their own blood around him, his sword up in the air and his curly long hair looks like the peruke of King Louis XIV.

Elias is my baptismal name. No one calls me Elias. I go by my religiously neutral Arabic name given to me when I was born. "The Christian name is just for the church's records," says my mother. My parents chose the name Elias during my baptismal ceremony at the church of the Greek Orthodox monastery in Saydnaya, Syria, last July. It was my first trip outside Lebanon, just two hours by car. I was six years old.

I sat in my uncle's car with my mother and younger sister. Either his Peugeot 404 does not move or he is the worst driver of Lebanon. My older brother was in my father's black Mercedes-Benz 190, packed with all our adolescent cousins. My brother and I hated dad's car because it looks like a taxicab due to its elliptic rooftop and black color. However, it was so cool that day because my dad was driving it at a high speed of more than 100 kilometers per hour on the two-lane-road, joining Beirut to Damascus, known as "tareeq el-Sham." The Peugeot was far behind them. I was watching the long black hair of my 18-year-old cousin, Maya, whom I believed she was my girlfriend, flying from the side window of the Mercedes. As my father was going faster and faster, the distance grew larger and larger between Maya and me and I became sadder.

I cried very much when my mother took off my briefs. Before my turn arrived, they have already baptized my older brother while he had his briefs on. The bearded priest dunked me thrice in a huge brass baptismal font while he was singing: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost: One God. Amen." How could they do that to me? They exposed my private parts to Maya and to everyone else.

No kids are baptized at a very late age like my brother and myself who were tortured in that font last summer at the ages of eight and six. Everyone else is baptized before becoming one year old. But my father wanted to wait till we reach the age of 18, then each of us will decide which religion -- if any -- to follow. My mother was unsuccessfully advocating early baptism for long years but my dad was playing the deaf until my sister had a bike accident at the age of two, in June 1973. Only then he gave up on forcing his liberal views on his family -- for awhile at least.

I cried last winter after Maya married a 33-year-old man and moved to America much more than I cried on my baptismal day. I stayed two weeks at home without going to school because I was not feeling well. I asked my mother repeatedly why Maya did not wait for me until I become 18. I suggested that she could have stayed in a big freezer for 12 years because we really love each other. I still wave to every airplane in the sky, after taking off from Beirut's International Airport, hoping that Maya will see me.


December 23, 1975
Aley, Lebanon

I started to watch the news on television with my parents since the war broke last April. I enjoy listening to my father discussing the current situation with my mom who always approved of his political over-analysis. She rarely accepts what he says in general without arguing with him, except when it comes to this transient military conflict in Lebanon, she knows that he is the wise man who has figured it all out. After few months, I started discussing the news with him while taking the opposite side in order to generate a debate between us. I enjoy playing the devil's advocate game with everyone, especially my dad.

My siblings never watch the news. My older brother does not know "who's who" when we mention the names of politicians. After all, he is better at breaking his toys into pieces and I am better at carrying all day the map of the world wherever I go. We spent the whole autumn at our summer home because it is safer than being in Beirut and because the schools are still closed.

Souad Karout El-Ashi is the prettiest woman on all Lebanese televisions: East Beirut's Channel 5, West Beirut's Channel 7 and the francophone Channel 9. She has the best enunciation among all men and women of the news teams. She has a short hair cut. My father likes her hair mainly because she is pro-Palestinians; my mother approves that she has class but she disapproves with her political stand. One night, Souad was reading the news when she said: "At 9:15 a.m., militiamen in East Beirut stopped Mahmoud, Omar and Fatma Al-Dimassi in their car, asked for their identity cards, then shot them in their heads." During the commercial break, my father flipped to Channel 5. My right hand was unconsciously twisting the hair on my forefront. "In revenge," according to George Khoury, "some random Joseph, Rita, Maroon, Elie and Charbel were offered a similar Christmas gift in West Beirut by the Mourabitoon militia." My dad looked at me and said: "Do you understand now why I gave you a non-religious name? So stop blaming me for not giving you a European name like your siblings or friends at school." "Do you think the war will last until our kids grow up and start driving?" my mom asked him. "We better leave to Canada or U.S.A. soon on one of the boats waiting at the harbor for Christians," she said and her lips stayed open as if they are waiting to accept his words instead of her ears. He replied: "No, it is almost over. Didn't you hear the talk about the round table, its size and the potential carpenters? After they get it ready, all the leaders of the militias will sit on it with president Franjieh and prime minister Karameh and they will finish the whole mess in one signature from their pens. It is just a matter of few weeks." He then looked me in the eyes and yelled: "Stop playing with your hair, damn it!"


July 20, 1983
Approaching Larnaca, Cyprus

I left my family and took a boat last night from the harbor of Jounieh, just north of Beirut. The whole city was black. The power outage that took place two weeks ago is still reigning on Beirut. Red bombs fired over the sky of the city give the impression of regular summer festivities. It is Saint Elias' night. Typically on this night people from East and West Beirut fill the sky with fireworks... but not this year. This battle is more aggressive than the earlier fights. My dad says that it is the last one. He repeatedly said that during the last eight years. At the end of my trip, I will reach a city where I will not hear the sound of those shells anymore.

I spent last night on the upper deck of the boat. The sun is rising. A woman in front of me is asleep. Her head is resting on the left shoulder of her man, sitting next to her. Her dark hair is all over his face but he does not seem to mind it. He is sleeping too. I have no shoulder to sleep on... or to cry on. I should not cry. I will be free soon: free from fear... the fear of the war... fear of my family and the eyes of our neighbors... I will be by myself and, especially, I will be free of myself. Anyway, tears do not look good on my short hair, thus I shall not cry!

When I will reach my final destination, I will do it. Yes, the time has come. I will buy a couple of dresses, a pair of shoes with high heels and a wig -- a blonde wig. I will become a new person. This thought brings a smile to my face.


August 13, 1999
Victor, Corsica

It is around 7:30 p.m. I am putting the last touch on my make-up and black wig.

The bell rings. It is Marius' second visit to me. I expect him to be more relaxed this time, especially if he has started to believe that being with me is not considered like cheating on his wife.

He enters and quickly closes the door behind him. He rests his back and buttocks on the door and opens his zipper, drops his pants, then says to me, "Suce ma bite." I smile, approach him, go down on my knees while discretely smelling his shirt, and then pull down his briefs. His flaccid organ is shaking. It took me more than a minute to make it hard. Marius is not shivering anymore, he is moaning now. "Suce ma bite, salope!"

Only from men like Marius I accept to be called names. It turns them on. It turns me on too. I would not accept to be called such names on the streets of this town. If some other Corsican man, woman or kid calls me "pute" or "salope," I make a big scene out of it. They finally learned not to mess with me. At least most of them did learn the lesson.

"Suce-moi, chienne," Marius repeats, "suce-moi! Oh! oui... Oh! oui... Oh! oui... oui... oui... oui... oui..."

He closes his zipper, takes a 50-Franc-bill out of his pocket and throws it on the floor. He says "A plus!" while leaving.

From the same old icon on the wall in my new house, the Virgin Mary is still observing in silence my joyful suffering.

Marius does not forget to slam the door. BANG!


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