This morning I leave my mum on grandma duty with the buggy outside the bank. I ask her to hold my pink baby-changing backpack too, explaining that in the last few months, backpacks- even ones that are clearly for babies- are regarded suspiciously and usually searched. I tell her that last week I even had to lift up the blanket I’d draped over the buggy, shielding my sleeping baby from the sun, so that a security guard could be sure I didn’t have a bomb under there. We laugh.
Then while waiting in the bank, I get a text message about the explosion near the Kuwaiti embassy in southern Beirut. I almost shiver and can’t believe that just a few minutes earlier I was outside in the sunshine making light of the city’s security situation.
Hurrying out to find my mum again, I pass a man in army uniform talking animatedly to some other men. He is speaking Arabic, but I feel like I understand him and I know he is talking about what’s just happened. The English words motorcycle and boom are admittedly big clues, but more than that, it’s as though I have somehow tuned into his frequency, and for an instant the language is irrelevant.
As we get on with our morning, as though nothing had happened – brunch at Cafe Younes, shopping at Idriss supermarket, home in time for nap- I keep thinking about it and how, if you stay here long enough, you tune into the city itself- its buzz, its crackle, its boom-and it’s difficult to tune out again, whether you want to or not.