Notes on an Ugly Society

Reader, take note on how you are supposed to approach a typical Friday night in the big city.

First, you bring any good book with you and keep it in the glove compartment of your car because you’re never sure what type of people you’re going to meet down in the streets.

Then, you pass by the guys and pick them up (a group of 2-3 friends is enough, too many and they become a crowd on their own). Then you head down to a bar. You push through the people who are eager to drink and party and listen to commercial music that sells for no reason.

You push through the drunkards and the pretty girls sitting on the sidewalk smoking with the bums and the hipsters and waving at you. You pick a bar – you try to pick the least crowded one out there so that you don’t get exposed to masses being evicted or shoving each other through the door just to get in. You find the place. You get in with your friends. They ask why you’ve chosen that particular place, what was so special about it. You have no answer for them. The place comes with a cute waitress. You think it’s a bonus for you, even though you know you won’t be talking to her through the night.

You sit at a small table. You order beer. You drink beer. You get your picture taken by the waitress. In the picture you’re blinking and it looks like you’re winking awkwardly. Your friends talk about medicine and politics and social issues and other countries. They talk about the west, they talk about America. You think they too will be leaving, leaving for good and leaving you behind. They all left this shit-hole; they all looked for ways to get out of the gutter. The waitress brings some snacks to go along with the beer: small salty snacks that resembled bird food.

You order more beer. You drink a lot of beer. There are three girls sitting at a table next to you. They are cute. One of them is even looking your way. But you and your friends don’t talk to them; you shy away and think you’re not good enough to be talking to them; you don’t deserve to engage with cute girls like them. So they slip away. And so does the rest of the night.

You do a couple of shots. You think about writing that book you started. You think about those lonely pages waiting for you back at home. You think how the process is different from anything else you’ve experience; different from any other career or occupation or job. The doctors, the engineers, even the merchants could work for 9, 10, 11 hours a day. But when it came to writing, to good writing, you were lucky if you could make it past the hour-mark. It drained you. But it had its own rewards. Unfortunately, you couldn’t share them or discuss them like any other open topic on the night.

So you pay your check, thank the waitress politely, although in your mind you want to invite her to spend the rest of the evening with you.

You leave and it starts to rain. You get to your car soaked and play some of that commercial radio music on your way back. Your friends say they had a good time. They had a great time. You get back home and hit the books. You try to learn from them, learn to really live, not make brief appearances in public and drink a few good bottles.

Well now it’s raining and there are still people out there having a good time in the city. But why should I talk about them? Why should I discuss them or write about them? Why should I mention the few good guys who found decent women and stayed at home tonight cuddling to a good movie? Why should I talk about the guys who were grilling outside on their terrace with their friends? Why should I talk about the guys who had bought a house or paid off their car debt and insurance and showed up to work in fancy suits?

Why should I talk about good guys and heroes?

I shouldn’t. These were the few good ones that had slipped through life’s demonic fingers, that had escaped from its fiendish grip. There were plenty of others who were neglected and left to rot in the pit. Others who hadn’t found love – men and women alike – who were forced out of society just because they thought or acted or behaved or spoke differently. Others who were outcasts, who didn’t believe in the system or the big corporates selling their big ideas. Others who didn’t have a home because they couldn’t afford one, not because they didn’t want one.

Others who found comfort solely in alcohol or a few words of solace. Others who were geniuses in their own realms, who painted or tagged city walls and made murals out of dumpsters. Their only problem was they weren’t driven or supported by money.

Those are the ones I think about tonight. Those are the unsung heroes I am addressing. And tonight I rest my head on the pillow and fall asleep knowing every day is another war for them.


Be sure to check out my debut novel, A Road Away From Home, now available on Amazon and in paperback.

A Road Away From Home – Hanna Abi Akl


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