The sad tale of our lives with the motorcycle boy

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Lebanese leaders lament their lack of common ground. They differ in their interpretations of God, their views on society, battered women, state security and most other essential issues. However, their views converge at the boy riding a motorcycle and waving his hands.

That boy is a module, a staple of the Lebanese street, a Trojan horse penetrating the unsafe asphalt of the city, preparing it for the divine act of facilitating the passage of a political convoy. The boy rides, screaming in angst, and waving his hands at no one and everyone, to brutally sideline everything that moves and clear the path for the many identical big black cars making an appearance. The convoy is usually followed by another boy, screaming less but waving his hands none-the-less – this time as a magic wand – to demand things go back to normal.

Whoever says that Beirut is not a magical city is very mistaken. It’s a city where you can hire Moses to split the urban sea and grant you delicate passage among the common people. It’s a place where Moses is an employment opportunity, and riding a motorcycle while waving your hands is a real job.

“Congratulate Raafat Majzoub. Raafat has a work anniversary: three years this April as Moses.” These men must have mysterious lives that we, the masses, cannot comprehend. There must be something beyond the obvious, something that permits their effortless chic ooze of testosterone to proclaim them as rightful owners of everyone else’s heart rate. Right?

I was crossing the street a couple of nights ago in Hamra when a Moses appeared from the horizon. I took a few steps back while every car on the street squeezed to the right. I imagined everyone quietly narrating scenes in their heads in which the boy riding the motorcycle would meet a very painful death. At the same time, we hoped the convoy wasn’t carrying anyone of any importance so we wouldn’t explode with it, and have very painful deaths of our own.

It was a Friday night, Mother’s Day, so not a very good day to die except if you were the motorcycle boy. If he dies at any given moment, he would become a martyr, ride an express route to heaven to meet his predecessor, the original Moses and share tales of splitting things apart then drowning them.

I am drowned by angst. I am drowned by curiosity. If the message is that my safety is insignificant, but the safety of the convoy is, then that was a really eloquent way of illustrating it. If the message is anything else, then I am drowned by obliviousness. I might never know, and I am ready to accept that fact. For now, using my common sense as a common person, I can safely say that the ruling body of my country thinks that I am less entitled to respect and safety than it is.

It’s funny because my revelation will sound obvious to most people reading this, “Of course you’re not important.” We vent. We vent. We vent, and I am drowned with fury. Within hot flashes of fury, I still find all of this morbidly funny. I pay these guys’ salaries. I am paying a percentage of my own sweat to sweat over things that are not worth my sweat. The more I think about it, the merrier it becomes.

I am paying someone to ride a motorcycle and wave his hands at me. I am paying him to disturb my peace. I probably bought his roll-on deodorant and his cheap perfume. I must have bought his pack of Cedars cigarettes and paid for his blue crooked tattoo. I hope that with the money I give him, he buys himself contraception. It’s not fair for a child to be birthed to a father that everyone, in the comfort of their inner voices, want to see dead or besieged by a family of slow-eating dragons. If there is a god, there is a high probability for these prayers to get through.

Do we stop paying our taxes? Do we stop voting? Could any of these be considered a violent form of protest, punishable by law? We can just do nothing. We can look at boys riding motorcycles and waving their hands to clear roads for convoys as something normal. We can live with it. We can perceive it as the blowing wind that flips our umbrellas upward, leaving us drowning under sudden rain. We can. And then, for consistency, we can also do nothing about anything. How awesome would that be?

Raafat Majzoub is an architect, author and artist living in Beirut.


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