All cards on the table, I’m going to be honest. I don’t know Beirut, Beirut does not know me. We are strangers living under the same roof, you know the kind, where you start off by greeting each other in passing. A few days go by, you get offered a cup of coffee. You take a leap and ask how their day went. All of a sudden you’re talking until three in the morning, swinging your legs off the kitchen-counter. You enter a game of Chess, every question is a move to unlock a part of each other’s past.

They say Beirut is a woman, not of any kind. An empress with bruises on her wrist which you catch glimpses of whenever she tells a story, her hands jolting from left to right as her sleeve crawls up her arm, exposing her past. You look down, hoping she won’t catch you but by the time you lift your heavy-eyelids, she is there staring back at you, smiling. She has been hurt, you’ve heard of the guy, doesn’t come around here anymore.

But when she speaks, you see all the light in her eyes, the colour in her cheeks, the fire burning in her veins, her piercing eyes that bring you to your knees. And when she laughs, she laughs like nobody else, tilting her head back and unleashing her roar towards the sky. The world is her audience.

But she won’t make it easy, you have to look to find the answers. And the answers could never be in one place. She tells her story, in pieces of broken glass. In stricken-words given to me by her sons and daughters. Her past seems to linger on every street corner, lurk in every shadow, hang on every pavement-walk with all the other guys. I stick to lit streets, my eyes wondering beyond my feet to catch shapes where there shouldn’t be.

But there is something growing inside of me, as the days go by and I fall into her arms at night. I can almost feel her seeping through my veins, as images of her past burn my eyes. I can hear her muffled laughs echo through tunnels. She is there waiting for me, in every trespassing conversation, every rip-off, every slap in the face, every stare I meet, both gentle and hostile, every anonymous smile and hand reaching out to help, begging for help, every car that almost hits. Almost.

Every time I tilt my head back and unleash my roar towards the sky. I am her audience.