I Love You Beirut

Yasmina El Zein

“I love you.”

But what does it really mean, to love someone?

Perhaps it could mean a stolen look in a room full of people, a sneaky kiss on their forehead or an unfiltered love letter written by hand. 

It means staying awake until the person next to you is asleep. It means saving them the seat next to you at every table. It means your heart skipping a beat when you see them look happy for a first time in a while. 

It means covering them when it’s cold during the night. It means paying attention to their health and wellbeing. It means knowing what music they like to listen to when they’re sad, anxious or happy. It means caring about their hobbies or interests, even when you’d never liked them before.

It means taking a piece of them with you wherever you go. It means looking for things to offer them, even when you don’t expect anything in return. It means accepting them as they are, cherishing them, and maybe even hating them at times—but knowing that this feeling is only temporary and that love will grow back stronger than the dispute.

It is knowing them like the back of your hand.

And Beirut, I know your streets like the back of my hand.

And even when I’m exiled, I always take a piece of you with me. Even when you’re broken, I still accept you and welcome you tenderly—even if I hate you, sometimes. And I don’t expect you to give me anything in return; because Beirut, I Love You.

I know you like listening to the birds chirping, the children shouting and the troubadours singing. I know you love staying up all night and partying until dawn. I love taking care of your health; but you’re extremely stubborn, Beirut.

When it’s cold outside, I find it really hard to cover you, due to your immense ego; you’ve always refused to let me take care of you—and my resources are limited, you know that.

I also want you to know, Beirut, that I’m often awake at night, waiting for you to sleep. That everywhere I go on this planet, I desperately save a seat for you at the dinner table, by saying “I am from Beirut”.

If love means writing you an unfiltered love letter, or writing to tell everyone what I feel towards you, well here I am writing this for you.

Here is what I think loving someone is. And well, Beirut, I Love You.