Thursday, 13 November 2008

Jerusalem on the Shore

My friend visited Beirut for the first time in 11 years a couple of weeks ago, and where else should one take a close friend to in Beirut but the sea?

I parked at the corniche near Ramlet il Bayda and we walked down the newly done up pavement with the oddly proportioned lamps as the sun beat down on us on that clear November day.
Scaling down the broken steps to the beach, I warned my friend of the broken glass, the rubbish, and pointed to the sewage outlet that moulded the sand around it into a big empty murky spill, trying to bend it into as much of a joke as I could.

We walked down towards the shore where the sea lapped and licked smooth the sand, shifting shells and orphaned shoes and pieces of card as far away from it as it could, and I proceeded to squeak with glee at all the small shells that had collected, and to my friend's slight annoyance, cut of the conversation and began aah-ing and ooh-ing and "look at the colour!"-ing as I picked and poked and sifted through marine treasure.

After picking up around twenty shells, dodging a dead crab, and pausing momentarily to joke about a condom we found still in its packet, my eye tripped upon a cross lying lob sided in the wet sand. It was a plain dark wood cross, very simple with no overly ornamented detailing, just a plain wooden cross, now pregnant with sea water so that the texture of its veins were easily distinguishable against my fingertips. It had a crudely finished piece of metal across its horizontal beam, pressed into the wood with typewriter font letters indented into it, spelling Jerusalem.
My heart stopped for a second and I couldn't hear anything or anyone, and my friend's conversation rolled out of my ears and down to the edge of the sea.
This is the cross Jesus was on.
This was the cross Jesus was on. All the way from Jerusalem. to Beirut. to my hands. A simple, modest cross of wood and thin metal. I stowed it in my bag and held onto it like I had stowed the spirit of the holy ghost.

I showed my mother the second I came home, spinning stories of hope and redemption, of the cross of Palestine crossing the great Mediterranean, braving hungry fish, swooping gulls, and jet ski blades to reach us. To send a message that the cross has not fallen. Jerusalem has not fallen. My mother tried to bring me down to earth from my romanticised clouds, but for some reason, this felt like a sign. Perhaps it was some one's cross, a girl like me who threw it into the sea out of anger, or desperation or both, crying tears of anguish and frustration at the reality of her world. Perhaps she cast it out because she wanted to save it, perhaps to rid herself of the constant reminder. Perhaps hoping someone would find her message in a bottle and feel her, come rescue her.

I lost the cross the same day. I don't know if I placed it somewhere to keep it safe and forgot where, or whether my dog decided to ingest it out of patriotic urges. All I know is that I found the cross of Jerusalem, and just like that


it was gone, and with it some part of me felt it had betrayed trust, maybe a dream, maybe just a meandering thought.

Depsite trying to convince myself that it was merely stopping en route to a much worthier journey, that its mission was not yet done, my heart still aches at the thought of losing it ever since...

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