Like Folklore


Riwa Doughan

You once, on a starless night, told me that if you died, you were to take me with you. But now you are gone and I am still here, sitting where we usually did, telling your story to the stars, Beirut?

I loved you, even with all your flaws. I never expected anything of you. I knew you wouldn't be able to give me anything more than pretty lights and misfortune. Your pretty lights are now smothered, and your misfortune took to the sky, consumed the moon, and sat in its stead. You took so much from me. You held all the things I wanted us to have and fed it to the sea. You wrecked my plans, my aspirations and left me with nothing. Even long after your death, I am losing so much, half my spirit, quarter of my identity, and the quarters that I kept in a plastic coin bank.

You were kind, but your giving always came with an unfair price. You would gift me orange blossom water on a Friday and blow my house to smithereens on a Tuesday evening. You loved fruits, nectarines mostly. You would always give me the firm ones; the bruised ones, you saved for yourself. You bit into fruit with the same ravenous delight as an animal. You were a messy eater, always insatiable. We would run out of fruit, and yet you would still find fruit to eat. You smiled at me with red teeth while I stared at the red blossoming across my chest. Not fruit.

Beirut, you thought you would never die. That divine power watched over you, protected you, and granted your immortality. You told me that I would grow and wither and fade while you remain eternal. You thought you would linger long enough to see the sun's death. That the world would write hymns of your beauty and drink to your name. I believed you; your beauty was folklore, and it deserved to live through the end of time.

The gods you had blind faith in were your demise. You recited what they wrote on your palms, drank and ate what they fed you, even when it made your head reel and skin sweat. They watched you in your sleep, every night with a knife ghosting over your pale throat. They hid under your window. In your closet. In your very bed—the warmth you felt at night was not holy.

You never questioned their kindness or why they would not let you wander from their sight. You held treasure within your veins, a secret that would have had your deities on their knees begging for absolution. But they killed you, and you will never know of their betrayal. You died thinking it was an accident; all your talk of immortality, you let it go so easily.

After your death the world went silent. It was not swift, nor was it clean. There was blood, bone, teeth, and soft flesh. You searched for mercy in the bystanders’ eyes, in mine, but I could not bring myself to look back into your pleading eyes. I could just stare at the ground, and watch your blood, and what remained of you seep into the earth. A red, green, and white flag left in your stead, drifting on concrete.

I have not noticed how much noise you thrummed with. Your body reverberated with out of tune pianos, crisp apple bites, glasses clinking, clocks ticking, children laughing. Beirut, I cannot recall the last time I heard a child laugh. Even after all you have done, I do not resent you. A tired body will be vile and cruel, and that’s what you were, tired. You took death so easily, you were content to go, there is only so much a tired body can take. I love you, and I hate you because you have swallowed a piece of me and replaced it with a piece of you. We talk the same, curse the same, and sleep late just the same.

I do not know what brought me here in the dead of the night. I am standing over your grave, my palm dripping red into your soil. Wake up now, I am with you, Beirut.