Lebanon: An Hour in Line for Fuel

Pascale Sawma
Lebanese Journalist

A trauma that involves waiting in line for hours to fill up your car, normalizing living a life without electricity, and accepting the fact that all our savings have been stolen …

“It’s not easy to live here,” my French friend texted me, followed by a scared-face emoji. Its a simple expression, one that we have repeated over and over for years.

At some point though, you stop, and look at everything around you. You stop denying your reality, and you dare say: “No, this isn’t normal, we’re living through a trauma!”

A trauma that involves waiting in line for hours to fill up your car, normalizing living a life without electricity, and accepting the fact that all our savings have been stolen …

The other day, I wandered through the streets, in Beirut and Zahle, and saw them full of cars, waiting in long queues for a tiny bit of gas, which for some may not even be enough to reach home or to drive to school …

The faces I saw looked tired. Collective anxiety was all over the place. Even those smiling could not really hide their disillusion. I could feel it.

I told my French friend, who had come here for vacation, that she would never experience this anywhere else.

“It’s a county of action”, I said.

We laughed, an angry kind of laughter, a laughter to hide the horror. We, the Lebanese people, have lived through so much horror, that the horror has become our friend.

Every single person goes to bed at night accompanied by this horror. And so we never sleep alone, we never sleep safely. The horror comes from many places: our future, the recurring crises, getting older, virus, disease, darkness, love, loss of employment, or money, or family, or all of them put together.

“It’s a county of action”, I said. We laughed, an angry kind of laughter, a laughter to hide the horror. 

All we want is a place, to stay, to work, to laugh, to love, get married and eventually die peacefully.

Standing in a queue at a gas station, a man shouted from his car: “Hurry up, we have to finish this shit!”

I repeated the phrase in my head. Yes, we have to finish this shit! We have to find a way out of this unfair life we live. I drove forward then looked around, and there were about 50 cars ahead of me in the queue. The man continued his shouting. I felt drained and miserable.

I left the line and turned up the radio. Dalida was singing: “Helwa ya baladi” (My country, so beautiful). We sang together before I reached home and decided to remain there until this fuel crisis ends.

My sister called me from Brussels and told me she is coming to Beirut in a few weeks. She asked me what I would like for a gift. “Nothing,” I said. “Just a barrel of gasoline.”

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