A Girl’s Walk Around Gemmayzé, Beirut

My best friend was having dinner at the newly opened Nasawiya Cafe last Saturday. They had a Ghana-music night and it was for a good cause, she thought. When the event ended, she got up to leave.

Her friend walked with her. His car was parked a little before hers. He offered to drive her to her car. She refused.

This is Gemmayzé. I have walked this street all my life. What’s the worse that can happen?

So she tucked her hands in her pockets and walked on the sidewalk. Like a ma’am. She looked around the bustling bars and the intoxicated people. She saw the fancy cars trying to find a place to park.

As she walked and walked, she felt safe. Gemmayzé and Achrafieh were home.

It was then that she spotted something in the well-lit corner of the street. She stopped right in her tracks. She was paralyzed with shock. She was petrified.

It couldn’t be. Not here. Not like this. Not on this street.

In that well-lit corner was sitting a man. This man didn’t care about passerbies who looked at him in disgust but did nothing about what he was doing. He just kept at it.

She looked at his hand. Down there. She couldn’t move. The man in front of her was mastrubating in public. In front of her.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Suddenly, the man stood up and walked briskly towards her.

He had a steady pace. He was not intoxicated. He was not drunk. He was not high. He was fully aware of what he was doing. And in that moment it took him to get to her from the corner he was sitting in, she felt the most afraid in her 22 years of existence so far.

The man stood in front of her. He looked down at her and said: “Do you want me to cum on your breasts?”

Her reflex response was to grab her phone. Speed dial her friend and start shouting for him to come to her.
It took the friend less than a minute to be there. It took her more than a minute to catch her breath.

Never did she believe she would be this threatened this close to home. Never did she think she would see this level of decadence on a street that she always considered as beyond safe.

That night she felt the least empowered of her life. She felt so weak that she felt she couldn’t have done anything. And what’s worse, she knew that if anything had happened further, she wouldn’t have a safety net to fall back on.

That disgusting man would win. And what’s worse, his win would have been fair and square by all accounts.

When she got home, she needed to vent. She had already read my article about losing hope in Lebanon. So she wrote an addendum centered around the night that seared her decision to leave the country for her PhD in 6 months.

“From a Lebanese ovaries point of view, it is impossible to spend your life in semi peace without a pair of testicles guarding your back. From your dad watching your every move to your boyfriend being over jealous, to your husband being overprotective. Testicles are handling the situations.

This is the most annoying thing to young ovaries. But sexual assault is not a far fetched situation. It lurks around your brain every second of your waking time. Whoever tells you otherwise is in oblivion or still didn’t hear the stories everyone is so busy hiding.

If you walk around a carefree neighborhood, it is only because you know the alpha male there. No matter how loud you are online about your independence, you will never be ready to punch a guy once confronted.

Bottom line is we should either grow a pair or embrace our inherited dependence.”

What’s ironic, she later told me, is the place she was having dinner in.