Wounded Rhymes – Hometown Glory (Part 2)

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This is part 2 of “Wounded Rhymes – Hometown Glory”. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.


“They are growing weaker by the day,” Alex thought. He did not know if this was merely solace on his behalf, a figment of his ever-growing imagination, or soon to be fact. All the things that were preventing him from loving Jack only seemed to draw Alex closer to him. As if the idea of forbidden love wasn’t already alluring, he was stuck in the crossfire of it all.

Because the sky is blue, it makes me cry.

On the brink of sleep, Alex was slowly shutting down, mind, body, and soul. The psychoanalysis was drawing to a close. His final thoughts before going into golden slumber were that he hoped Jack would see that he would love to love him, and for Jack to love him back; that they could take on the world together. Alex had been waiting a long time for this moment, and he wasn’t about to see it slip through his fingers.

Every chance you get is a chance you seize.

Alex woke up at 2:00 pm the next day. Opening his eyes, he quickly reached for his cell phone to check the time. Upon reading the proverbial digital clock at the top of the screen, he gave out a sigh, “Late again.” Dreading the looks and the comments he always gets from his parents (usually involving his sleeping patterns), he listened carefully for the typical sounds of his mother clanking away at the pots and pans getting ready to cook lunch, or the sound of his father’s sandals making the most god-awful noise against the marble floor. To his happiness, he heard none. Complete silence, except for the occasional car making its way down the street outside. A reason not to get out of bed: no one to answer to today. His gray and purple sheets were impregnated with cold temperatures that resonated from the AC, hung up high on the wall above the door. A smile etched itself across Alex’s face as he snuggled under the sheets, calculating what he would do today and deciding he wasn’t in the mood to stay home. Downtown it is then. The idea of strolling the streets of Beirut all by himself got him excited. He quickly got out of bed, slipped out of his pink boxers and slid into the bathroom for a quick shower. This was followed by his daily morning/afternoon caffeine fix, before going back to his bedroom and choosing to wear an old worn-out pair of skinny denim jeans, a plaid red shirt and finally, his favorite blue McQueen sneakers.

Sitting in the taxi, seeing the cars rush past theirs with the wind blowing in Alex’s face made him feel happy, distracted, detached. He had his earphones in and was listening to Mashrou’ Leila, which captured the essence and the vibe of the city perfectly. Alex admired the vocalist: He was an openly gay Muslim and he just didn’t care. He couldn’t give two fucks what anyone said about him. And he also wrote about it. It seems that everything in Lebanon is either about religion or politics, both of which Alex avoids as much as possible. On many an occasion, and after a brief stint as a camera assistant at a local politically driven news agency, he can be quoted as saying that “Every Lebanese politician is more idiotic than the last,” or “Religion and Politics shouldn’t mix in the first place.” If only half the people in Lebanon agreed with him, the whole world would be a better place. Alex thought this over in his head as the taxi dropped him off at the mouth of Gemayzeh Street. Gazing to his right, he saw the huge elaborately decorated mosque with its turquoise blue domes (that reflected the exact color of the sky that day), and the outline of a moderately sized stone church that was slightly concealed behind the mosque. “Quite a peaceful relationship,” he thought. If only people here weren’t so narrow-minded and blinded by idiocy, maybe they could understand people like him. Maybe most of them didn’t have to be “the enemy” then. But who was he kidding, that was a dream world.

Shrugging the negativity off his shoulders, he commenced walking and delving deeper and deeper into the street, once in a while looking up at the two- or three-story buildings that seemed to be perfectly preserved since the fall of 1945, and even after the war. Each brick told some kind of story, and held some kind of mystery. These walls have witnessed bloodshed, love, lust, alcoholism, the breakdown and the complete resurrection of a culture lost to modernism. His thoughts were interrupted then, as he stopped at the art gallery his friend Holly worked at. Even though she was not there that day, he peeked in to admire the new paintings that were on display in front of all the others: new Audrey Hepburn pop art, new John Lennon portraits, new landscapes of Times Square. “Thank god places like this exist here,” he said to himself, chuckled, and continued his walk toward his favorite store in the area, situated in a place called The Alleyway. It was an escape from the hustle and bustle of the cars and tourists outside. He made his way inside and rejoiced at the rush of cold air that greeted him. There wasn’t a lot of people today, just a couple and another girl with her hair rolled up and earphones in her ears humming to herself in the women’s section. But then a guy stepped out of the dressing room holding a few shirts, which Alex identified as the ones he had come here to buy (Grilled Cheesus and the like). He was in his early twenties, hair cropped with a curly fringe and a stubble that complimented the simple and porcelain face. He was wearing a white V-neck shirt with tight fitting black shorts that reached just above his knees, all contrasted by a pair of red low-rise chucks. Alex was mesmerized by the way this man went about the room, as if he owned the ground he was walking on. There was an air of nonchalance to his step, until he stopped and looked up at Alex, who then realized he had been staring a moment too long. Alex smiled, and at that moment his phone started vibrating. He fished it out of his pocket and saw that he had just missed a call from Jack, the guy he was supposed to be head over heels for. How ironic that he should interrupt deep eye contact with another man. Alex’s feelings came rushing back at that second as he texted Jack back explaining how he was busy shopping and how much he missed him and looked forward to seeing him as soon as he was free. Alex re-read the text, hit send, and put the phone back where it belonged. He looked up to find the guy he had been starring at had disappeared.

“Where are we going?” Alex asked Jack, as he sat anxiously trying to guess their destination in the passenger seat of Jack’s car that sped through the downtown. “You’ll see, we’re almost there,” Jack replied, looking back at Alex with a smirk on his face, as he pushed his foot down on the gas pedal and sped through a light that had just turned green. Alex noticed that Jack was headed to the waterfront marina. He parked there, got out of the car, got a basket from the trunk of the car, came back and leaned into the driver’s seat window. “Follow me,” was all Jack said to Alex, who had no choice but to obey. He got out of the car and followed Jack to where he was sitting on the edge of the wall that separated the sidewalk from the sea. Alex plopped himself up next to Jack, as Jack took out a bottle of Rose wine and two wine glasses from the basket next to him. He held the wine bottle between his legs, and began uncorking it, the sunlight hitting the glass and reflecting a rainbow of brilliant crystal color on the concrete under them. Alex beamed and his face lit up with the excitement only spontaneous actions could bring a person. Alex followed Jack’s movements, the muscles in his arms flexing as he gave one last try at uncorking the wine bottle and winning the fight, placing the cork between his glinting pearly white teeth and pouring the spirit smoothly into the two wine glasses he had set up in between them. He looked up and smiled at Alex as he did so, obvious excitement dancing in the pools of molten chocolate that are his eyes. They drank the wine, drowning their worries in the alcohol that soon consumed their emotions and filtered their thoughts into one shared sexual desire for the other. Jack laid his head on Alex’s shoulder, drunk with love, drunk with happiness and euphoria. Alex looked down unto him, his soul mate (he presumed), his partner, his lover, his boyfriend, whatever the label was, and realized he did not want this moment to pass, this witch that was time to trick him and slip by like sand between his fingers again. And so, he did the right thing, the wrong thing, whichever way you looked at it. Alex crushed his lips against Jack’s with eagerness only two lovers in a drunken quarrel with love could muster. He could taste the wine from Jack’s tongue on his. It was like a symbiotic relationship, a meeting of the minds. Time was not on their side. Alex knew that quite well. Time was playing with them like chess pieces on a huge board called reality, and reality was bound to catch up to both of them. Alex knew Jack longed to forget his departure to Montreal for college, and he begged the thought to go away, and never to return, banished to the land of denial, of withdrawal, of failed romances, tests, friendships, obstacles not yet overcome, and the mystery of the future. It was all there, in the distance that separated them. And yet they seemed as close as bedrock and river, two entities, bound by one eternal kiss.

Come on, oh my star is fading and I see no chance of relief. Oh, I know I’m dead on the surface but I’m screaming underneath. 

Stuck on the edge of their romance, Jack raced through the city streets, lights flickering by over and over as if they were caught in a never-ending spiral they could not climb their way out of. Jack was dropping Alex back home. Alex rolled down his passenger side window and let the cold 2:00 am breeze hit him like a hurricane, as he stuck his hand outside and made swaying movements so as to match the wind current. At that exact moment, Coldplay came on the radio, and Alex did not know if it was the bottle of wine he had gulped down or the fact that he was racing against the speed of his thoughts, but all he could say was: “I feel infinite.” And that was that. Jack understood, in all his genius, in all his chivalry, in all his mighty personality, in all his flaws, they indeed shared the best of that moment together.

Blame it upon a rush of blood to the head. 

- Contributed by Ralph

Read the next issue of Bekhsoos for part 3 of “Wounded Rhymes – Hometown Glory”.


Guest Contributor

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