541 Park Avenue Extension

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The sun began to rise. Only one car passed the street every fifteen minutes, making so silent you could hear a pin drop. The chirps of the peaceful birds were the only sound heard. Minute after minute, a small fraction of the orange sun came into view over the horizon. A man with long hair was meditating on the roof of his building, making use of these golden minutes of serenity. The neighborhood and its habitants were asleep. Soon, the streetlights would no longer be the only source of light against the navy blue sky. Everything would be different.

The sound of the creaking door of a man’s shoe store marked the beginning of a new busy day. The man flipped the open/closed sign and sighed. Today will be another long day. Minutes later, an old man was getting his DVD store ready, putting everything in place and organizing his area. For the next hour, each owner of each place prepared his place for the tiring day ahead. At the DVD store, the old man was persuading a teenager to buy a certain DVD. They were all fake, of course, since their prices never went beyond three dollars. “VERY original,” he would try to convince, in Arabic, “and you will love it.” It was very predictable that the customer would buy the DVD, and the next day he would come back to trade the DVD because it was unclear. At the shoe store, the man was describing an “Abidas” shoe, telling his customer that it was an original brand. The clothes store was packed with women and their kids like sardines in a can. Fans were spinning in every room, keeping some cool air in the store. In the building above one of the stores, wet clothes were hanging on the laundry line. Maids were talking to each other from balcony to balcony in a strange language, already taking a break from their work. A woman was calling the concierge because the electricity went out.

The streets were now packed with cars, drivers yelling at each other and cursing. The continuous horns coming out of the disturbed cars were getting angrier as each second ticked off. This gave everyone a headache. A rude driver was listening to music in his car with the volume as high as possible, causing more chaos in the neighborhood. Other drivers were passing by in the opposite direction, right in front of a police officer, but the officer didn’t care. He just sat in the shade, reading a newspaper while people were breaking the law right under his nose. Two people were fighting over a scarce parking spot. Taxi drivers were offering rides to more than half the people on the sidewalks. Either jogging in the fresh air or just walking a block to get some groceries from a nearby minimarket, there was a lot of movement. Beirut was filled with enthusiasm. But a small percentage of these people walking on the streets were beggars. They would offer the other people a plastic rose that would cost about four dollars, or a gum packet (only two pieces of gum inside) that would cost a buck or so. Most felt sorry for them, but sometimes the beggars would be cunning. They would lie to the people so they could receive some money for this medication of a disease they never encountered, and the sorry people fell for it.

It was early in the afternoon, and the muezzin was calling for prayer. The neighborhood calmed down as more than half the people there cleared out to pray. The area was quieter and emptier now. After prayer was done, people were having their lunch. The silence carried on as everyone was inside their houses, away from the blazing sun above. The delicious smells of kibbe, tabouleh, and other Lebanese foods flooded the area as everyone enjoyed their meal with their family. Half an hour later, the very same noise came back to life. As the sun came closer to the horizon, the noisiness went down, bit by bit, till finally owners started to close their shops.

The DVD shop owner put everything back to its proper place and closed his shop. The clothes store owner reorganized all the clothes and tidied them, turned off all the fans and lights, and closed her store. The sound of the creaking door of the man’s shoe store now marked the end of the busy day. The man with the long hair was on the roof again. And the sun set.





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