I thought the letter was beautifully written but very somber and it made me think of Beirut in a different light. I noticed that Etel wrote a lot about the heat many times. It was eye opening that she used the heat to represent the oppressive nature that the city brings with it. She describes the summer specifically and says that the season exacerbates everything. The heat is like a heavy coat, oppressive and repressive. It changed from facilitating sensuousness to bringing discouragement, Etel writes. To me, the heat is just something to be dealt with. It is not representative of some of the worst years of my life. It is just heat.
I could picture the vivid descriptions of the traffic. But for me, that was something exciting about Beirut. Having to look both ways on a one way street because of the motorcycles flying by in the opposite direction. Etel describes this hassle as taking courage. If she didn’t “throw herself into a rusted taxi”, she would risk getting killed, both by the motorcycles and by the defeat she had faced. This description was one of the ones I could picture the most, but it was still not relatable for me.
She went on in her descriptions of the cars of Beirut by saying that their oil-fuel puddles replaced the puddles of the blood from the war. This really drew me in. Of course, for the people who lived through the War, Beirut cannot be separated from the atrocities that occurred within it. I could never picture describing the city as a “sinking place” filled with the throbbing of motors. Etel wrote that the city is cursed. I think that the city is busy and bustling, and new and exciting.
She describes the former beauty of the city that is now disfigured. Even still, she writes that she loves the city, but it is hard to gather that from her words about its only pull being the funerals of loved ones. I find that hard to imagine. It is very humbling to read about this perspective of the city I have been calling home for over a month. There are the good parts and there are the bad parts, but I’ve only seen the good. Maybe one day, the people who have lived through the war will be able to get back their memories of a time when heat brought people together, cars speeding by were exciting, and the view of the mountains and the sea was hopeful. But maybe not, because that’s what war does.