2. Shalimar

She is in her late forties, small complexion, nice athletic body, short hair. Everytime I meet her I am surprised at how petite she is: her energy is such that her presence fills more space than her actual body. As usual her perfume puzzles me: why do I recognize it? Do I possibly remember it from the last time I saw her?

I especially like the way she dresses: very basic and comfortable, yet so elegant. You could not compare her clothes to the polished outfits that Lebanese ladies sport at conferences and vernissages, making us foreigners look like inappropriate cindarellas. She is the one who gives allure to her dresses, not the opposite

Obviously her elegance is not in her clothes, it’s probably in the way she moves, the way she speaks and listens. So focused, like a ballet dancer reharsing.

I check on her while she crosses the parterre to reach her seat. Like a dancer in leotard –  it is clear she’s dressed for working.

And everytime her perfume puzzles me. It unexpectedly strong, deep, sensual. Sweet of an old fashioned sweetness (vanilla maybe? iris? and bergamotte for sure), but with something woody (incense? really?), mediterranean. Lavender?

She must have a private space where she’s not set up for displaying her energy. Where she’s an old fashioned woman with an excellent education, outstanding intelligence and good taste, and she’s allowed to ignore all the rest. The dusty streets of Beirut, the fat very well dressed businessmen, the artists, the smiling politician who is somehow one of her hundreds of cousins, the traffic, the smell of the traffic, the poor begging in the traffic and all of those horrible huge white buildings that call for a massive destruction.

But now she smiles to me with polite complicity and says: “I suggest you try the mini-kebbeh before the journalists discover it…” and leads me to the buffet, and she talks about my projects seeming really interested, encouraging and concerned.

Thus I wonder: maybe now I am the dust, I am the traffic, I am an unwilling bundle of talent that she thinks might be worth her efforts. I hope I decide to trust her.

Gli uomini di una volta

O tu, ragazzina con i capelli azzurri che leggi “Histoire d’O”, impassibile, sull’autobus H14 alle tre del pomeriggio – ma proprio impassibile, senza battere ciglio: tu leggi assorta e non ti accorgi che il signore con le scarpe antinfortunistiche seduto a fianco a te sta leggendo il tuo libro a scrocco con la coda dell’occhio e che a un certo punto sgrana gli occhi, li abbassa e, visibilmente, arrossisce.