12/52 Bag

Beirut

Even though I started writing this in the sky, somewhere between Lebanon and Italy, this post belongs to Beirut, my last one from the city.

Its title was chosen one evening last week, sitting on my sofa surrounded by suitcases and boxes- half empty or half full- pausing for a moment in the midst of packing. My eyes landed on the bag below (waiting to be folded not filled)- a gorgeous goodbye gift from a friend, bought from the market we met at every Saturday morning for more than a year, made from recycled market stall table cloths and advertising banners, one showing my corner of the Corniche by night.

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In the end I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to the market.

I wanted to pretend that I would be back next week.

In the end I never made it to the museum.

I wanted to leave something unseen, another reason, as if I needed one, to return.

In the end I bought a silk scarf instead of a painting from the corner shop.

I wanted to wear my memory of here, lightly and often, wherever I go.

*

As I leave Beirut I keep thinking of the words on the cross-stitch picture, in another shop window in my neighbourhood that I never managed to visit:

And they lived happily.

The first time I read it I laughed to myself, thinking they had forgotten the ‘ever after’. But actually, now I think it was intentionally unfinished, and I like it that way, reminding me that in life I can’t read ahead to find out the ending.

I don’t know yet how it will end with Beirut. I don’t know yet when I will be back. But I like to think that if someone were to ask about us after we’ve gone, our friends here would say:

They lived happily.

Which we did.

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