5/52 Empty

Beirut

The building next door to us is empty.

It is about the same age as our daughter – they were finishing the foundations when we moved in, during my eighth month of pregnancy and now, two and a half years later, they are just putting on the finishing touches.

The building has been ‘a landmark’ in our street, in fact I’m not sure how we will give directions to our place when it is no longer a construction site and just a regular apartment block like all the others.

Last week, when they switched on the electricity this almost-finished-empty building lit up like a Christmas tree (except it’s February and we’re in a mostly Muslim neighbourhood). Every balcony blazed brightly, bluish light blaring through our bedroom window late into the night.

It became an embodiment of the idiomatic expression ‘the lights are on, but nobody’s home’, which according to the Oxford Dictionary, is used to mean that someone lacks intelligence or awareness. Very fitting I thought, as leaving the lights on, all night long, all week long, in a country were there isn’t enough electricity for the inhabited buildings, let alone the empty ones, seems like a pretty good example of this!

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