Monday, March 3, 2008

Lost souls, part 1

The afternoon rush was unrelenting. Thousands, like caddle, crammed the station's platforms, awaiting the forever delayed trains to hurry them home. I was among them today, as I have been everyday for the past several months since completing my liberating university course that has since condemned me to a mere robot.

I was touched with a rare luck this afternoon, however, as I found an empty seat urging me to keep it warm. Staring into space, catching and avoiding wondering eyes, iPod blaring in my ear to distract me from my routine reality, a man sits opposite me. My eyes became fixated upon him. His features were resoundingly familiar. It was clear and obvious to me that he was of Lebanese origin, and not simply Australian born, but an extract from the nation my parents once called home.

In a transparently multi-cultural society such as Melbourne's, it is quite easy to mistaken a Lebanese for one of our fellow Mediterranean skins of Turkish or Greek. I, myself, receive the "Italian or Greek" on the odd occasion. But there are certain aspects of a Lebanese I could pick out from a mile away.

The man had generic features, attributable to most Lebanese men. He kept himself occupied with the daily train paper, with a dedicated, serious frown so common to Lebanese men. The eyebrows joining to become one, he was quite fervent in his muscular expressions. I could probably pick that he originated from a rural village in Lebanon, as most Beirutis attempt to drive a wedge between the traditional mannerisms of their rural brethren with Western glamour. This man appeared traditional in every sense. Simply from reading his frown, the way he crossed his hands, he was no different to the strong patriarchal personalities that I regularly encounter within my own family. I scrolled across when my eyes became distracted by something I saw roughly mid-way down to his chest.

It was a symbol that was to guarantee that my assumptions of him being Lebanese were deadly accurate. In the midst of our caddle crammed train of working class men and women heading back to their working class suburbs was this man, of obvious working class distinctions himself, flashing a t-shirt with "Hugo Boss" neatly written in the right corner.

Indeed, it typifies the story of Lebanon and of my people at this current moment. A people that strive to colour their surfaces with luxuries either in order to cover the shame they hide behind, or to give the misleading impression of difference when really the core reveals nothing of the kind, or perhaps both. Have we become a soulless people?

To be continued...

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