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Ode to an inanimate vagabond

March 6, 2009

My trusty travel-companion; for some time now, we have been seen rambling along distant mountain-tops, trudging over rolling sand dunes and weaving through the smoky streets of both historical metropoles and twenty-first century boom-towns.

Me, on the capturing end of a camera or keyboard; you in your intricate passive appreciation. Never compelled, in your acute and blissful ignorance of passing minutes and paysages, to objectify your surroundings, you are content in fluttering along around me, teasingly brushing the dry skin on my calves, silently absorbing the odours and dusts of every new environment into the fabric of your being.

Your steadfastness never ceases to amaze me. Confronted with my clumsiness and even sometimes abuse, you persist implacably, glimmering, torn, whimsical, and still able to impress with your subdued beauty.

For the first time in many weeks, I cleaned you today.

Working your silky layers into a frothy lather, over and over, I watched the lukewarm water turn yellow, then brown, and then a murky grey.

Washing away your most recent memories. Urban pollution from so many London and Istanbul alleys; dust lodged in the carpets of mosques and footsteps of believers; crumbs of Cappadocian limestone and snow; sprinkles of cumin, thyme, sage, sumac and rose, whirls of apple tobacco, floating through the narrow tunnels of Aleppian and Damascene souks; remnants of moss and rock, flaking away from majestic Crusader castles.

And finally, after many long weeks, sea salt whipped off the eastern Mediterranean and up towards looming Mount Lebanon, mingled with the grease of barstools and sweat of old friends.

Three, four, five times, I scrubbed and rinsed and scrubbed and rinsed until the water ran clean, so deeply embedded were these, and perhaps other, remnants from places afar that you have managed to retain in your soft folds.

Now, draped listlessly in the warmth of a Beirut spring day, you’ll begin to collect anew, spectator to the cacophonic symphony of frustrated ambulances, decrepit Mercedes and over-enthusiastic Hummers on the streets below.

Despite my meticulous bathing, I wonder what fragments you still carry with you.

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