Morning coffee with the counsel general
The flag comes peeking off of 5th avenue, after a short strut on, what seems to be, the most detached block in New York city. The upper east in its cold clean monotonous feel always reminds me that I am in a foreign country. The early hours seem to be the dog-walking hours. It resembles a dance out of an old musical. It is almost surreal in its denial. It is surreal in its suburban defiance contrasting the jolt of the city of misfits and the city of colors and sounds. It is deafening in its brightness and coldness. You almost want to walk up facing one of the park-facing condo royalties and see if they were for real. The flag comes peeking off of 5th. Our little consulate in the heart of Manhattan is nothing like the foreign upper stretch on the west of the park. The golden numbers marking the addresses guarded by those ridiculously dressed doormen disappear under the flag. A modest garden surrounds the plain aluminum windows. A rusty doorbell that consists of a white bump of plastic oddly reminds me of many tasteless Lebanese official buildings. Sure enough, I peak through the window and Gaby buzzed me in. A small room, a coffee table in the middle with an Arabic yellow page book that Tarek made and some magazines, a sad plant in the corner and a glass partition. A typical minimalist décor of the inside of a Lebanese official building.
- Hi Gaby
- Hi. Waynik ya 3ammi. We missed you on New Year’s Eve. We were all there.
- Yeah, been busy …
I met Gaby a year ago. I hated him at first. He had just left Lebanon and hasn’t been tamed yet. He still had the macho attitude. It has been a year and he seems to have adapted.
- wein el rayess?
- I’ll call him for you
His unmistakable smile
- Monsieur Harake, bonjour, keefak?
- Ahla Mirvat. Gaby Start her papers, we don’t want her to be late.
- Kint 3am teb3ak 3al CNN with Paula Zahn. Bayyadtellna wejna.
- Tislameh. Tinzakar we matn3ad. Please, tfaddaleh rte7e bilmaktab 3abel the coffee to be ready.
- Thank you
His office is a full-furnished all-oak very pretentious all Lebanese office. As every year, I sit in the comfy leather chair behind the oversized desk and he asks me,
- What do you want to ask me?
- What do you know about the situation back home? Any inside news?
- I don’t know a thing more than you do. I heard from Tarek you’re going back
- Yes. So what do you recommend?
- Not to.
- Ouf. Why?
- There are certain things you have to keep in mind
- Such as?
- See how you are dressed right now. Casual, a cap and no manicure. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re a fantastic lady but, well, this won’t work in Lebanon. People still care about their appearances. Men and women. It’s suffocating. Also, people are never really judged by who they are. You know how it is.. Who you know and what you have ...
- I am always good with the who you know part ... See I know you and it’s why my passport will be done in a couple of minutes. What’s wrong with that? I like the perks of it …
We go on talking about the social, the economical and the political pros and cons of here and there. He points out that he had lived in the US for 8 years, that this country is good to have a small business or to get education out of. He reminds me that life needs a balance and that I should stop working too hard.
- I respect girls who are serious about their careers, but you should know when to put your life first.
- Yes of course. That’s why I’m moving back. It’s the sparkle left in my eyes. It’s my secret happy place.
- Yes? I think you should stay here. I, on the other hand, am moving to Japan.
- Japan? Are you going to like living there?
- Yes I loved it there. I just went with the Sanioura convoy and I loved it.
- Hmmm ... Japan!
Gaby comes in with the papers and gets the final signature.
- Ok here’s your passport
- Thank you. I’ll be going then
- Stay. Finish your coffee.
- I have an early day. Yalla.
- See you next year?
- In Japan or in Lebanon?
(pic, Puerto Rico)