started making grilled vegetables and chicken or meat, because I wanted no carbs in my diet. I wasn’t going to let myself gain weight during the lockdown. I posted pictures of healthy vegetable soup and lean meat. But then I got bored and found it such a hassle to have to think about cooking every day, so I switched to comfort foods: Baked potatoes with an unhealthy dosage of grilled cheese and then inevitably all kinds of pasta. The pasta I have left over is chicken pesto, it is the easiest and least healthy dish possible and I am now bored of it too.
Boredom feels so foreign to me, much like the virus itself. I have never been bored in my life, nor have I ever worried about touching someone and making them sick. Before this, I was a busy bee with so many friends and outings planned that I needed to schedule a night in. Netflix used to be this thing that I enjoyed in secret and looked forward to, a nice binge once in a blue moon. Now it has turned into the only thing I am allowed to do past 7 p.m. Inevitably, someone will read this and think , “Oh don’t be so difficult! It is not the only thing— you can also learn a new language, read a book, or do sports.” Like I need one more comment about someone who seems to be doing better than me in all this. Home exercise, banana cake recipes, and online student presentations – enough already.
I wonder why everyone else seems to be doing so much better. This moment of neither health nor sickness, just of waiting for time to pass, is absurdly regulated by a government-imposed curfew. To use “curfew” and “government” in one line to describe Beirut makes me laugh. The absurdity of conforming and complying with a government rule in this country is as foreign to me as the virus smiling while we run and try to hide from it. Government officials should wipe those damn smiles off their faces. They are actually happy about this virus. It is their opportunity to govern freely and impose their testosterone on the nation, while we take it lying down because we have no choice. I look outside my window again, and it is almost mid-day. The old man will stay guarding his precious parking lot until around 6 p.m., just before the evening news hour. The parking lot used to be so busy that he would have to turn away customers. My personal parking space is just facing his gate to the parking and so every day he would stop traffic for me and wave with a big smile, “Allah ma’ik ya jara.” My car has been parked now for days and days, I do not even know what time or day it is. I hope nobody reads this and thinks, “Oh don’t be so difficult! The lockdown is so good for the environment, less cars means less pollution.” Like I need one more perspective about climate change. I miss the busy roads and noises, enough positivity already.
Instead of putting energy into more cooking, I started scheming with a small group of trusted friends to get together, with social distancing. But even that feels unnatural. As much as I look forward to these moments of freedom, I feel a huge emptiness once they are over and I return home – by 7 p.m., mind you. I reminisce about the times when I could Uber to a club and dance the night away starting at midnight. Those days instead of leftover stale pasta I could have an oily chicken shawarma any time I wanted, and I usually craved it most after a long night of drinking and dancing. Beirut’s notorious nightlife used to be a huge part of who I was and how I vented and connected with the world. The glaring silence and sheer slowness of time during lockdown is driving me crazy. As a single woman in my mid-thirties, that noise connected me to the city, and dancing was integral to my lifeline – the one thing to look forward to on weekends, and on most weekdays, I must admit.
My problem with afternoon parties or “zoom happy hours,” which are now a thing, is that with the lockdown they end abruptly. They leave an aftertaste akin to that of an aloof lover. “Leave meeting” is now the signal that the house will feel completely empty and quiet again after an hour of
78 RUSTED RADISHES CREATIVE NONFICTION