Stories from Afar & Up Close

Parking Lot Romance

It was 7.30am when the doorbell rang. It was A…, one of the boys from the parking next to our building, with a small note in his hand. It read:

I’m always fine, tnx, and how about u how are u 2? how’s ur leg now? & you said you want me 2 ur friend? sure we just friend. by the way I’m C…… how about you what is your name? …

A…. is one of the many Syrian men who work the jobs most Lebanese don’t want to do; usually in construction, or parking cars in the temporary parking lots that are created on demolition sites.

Their situation is, in some ways, similar to that of the maids from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka or the Philippines: they are young and come to Lebanon alone to make some money and then go back home. In the few hours they have off per week (work at the parking lot starts at 7am and ends at 9pm, 7 days a week), they hang out with their compatriots – I don’t think mingling with the Lebanese would be much appreciated, knowing how classist Lebanese society is. The same goes for the maids: they have possibly even less hours off, but on their free afternoon (often Sunday), they can often be seen hanging around the store that sells products from their home-country, or making phone calls from the payphone on the corner.

Now people are people (even when they are considered slaves), and it is no surprise that A… has lost his heart to one of the Philippine girls walking past the parking lot with the groceries every day. The only problem? He doesn’t speak much English, and she doesn’t speak much Arabic. How he had managed to write her the initial note, I don’t know, but he came to us with her answer and asked us to write her a reply.

Hello C……., sorry it took me so long to write back. I’m A….. I would like to see you more often. I think you are very cute. Maybe you can teach me English and I will teach you Arabic.

May romance blossom.