Stories from Afar & Up Close

Marriage proposal (type 4)

He was moving a small stick from left to right in his mouth, his head shaven and his army-uniform adorned with a little cedar on the shoulder. He was sitting in front of me on the cheap bus that takes the long coastal road instead of the highway. There was plenty of time to talk. Initially, he only glanced over his shoulder every once in a while, with a smile so big it seemed as if he was unaware that his gums were black and some of his teeth were missing. Then he asked me where I was going. ‘Home. Beirut.’ His accent was heavy, full of OOOs, I thought he must be from the North. What I was doing here? And was I married? My answer was the usual lie: ‘Yes, I am. Yes, he’s from the South’. He no longer smiled, that was a piece of information he didn’t like: his family came from Akkar, up North as I had guessed, and I should have picked a husband from his region.

I returned the question. No, he wasn’t married yet, but his beautiful apartment in Tripoli was almost finished, and then he would find himself a wife. A high-ranking officer like him – he kept pointing at the little sign of the cedar, it seemed to mean a lot – would have no trouble getting married. His bright smile suddenly returned to his face. ‘I would like to marry someone as pretty as you… don’t you have a younger sister?!?

Sorry, sis, but I told him I don’t.