On the cities that forgive our failures..

“Could you take a picture of me?”

I stole some hours in Beirut. 55 minutes to be precise. Enough to run away from conference hotel, sense my way the see, and experiment with eye contact with fellow strollers on the Corniche, and schedule 10 minutes exactly to decide if this strip of asphalt overlooking the sea will be friendly enough. It was Friday afternoon, the sun was undecided. Every one’s rhythm was lazy, and I felt my timed escape was a mistake. Not the escape. But timing it. So I relaxed my shoulders.

In Beirut you hire bicycles to ride by the see. Two or three girls, who did not seem like tourists passed be me, in an air that assumed leisure as a right. By the third I realized that these were not bicycles, but tricycles. Very suitable to those who have failed to learn how to balance  themselves on a bicycle.  A lot of girls do not necessarily learn to cycle in our cities, our cities might be a bit crueler, and the urban survival skills we had to learn include other tool kits (how to act if you feel that you are being abducted by a cab, how to avoid, or deal with harassment..etc) …cycling is something for the summer but not a survival kit. It is one of the failures, incapacities, you might carry if you come from a cruel city.

A chubby teenage girl dressed in back pant and a black cardigan passes by me. Across her comes a teenager. I expect him to drop a cruel comment. She stops. She asks him “Could you take a picture of me?” and hands him her phone. I look at her and she is in her mid forties, proud, happy, alone on a tricycle on a city that showed it is not necessarily consistent cruel to all the failures they inflict on us.