Reconstructing Beirut

I’ve been trying to get to a particular place in this city for as long as I can remember, but no one will take me.
»It’s too far,« says one driver, but I know it can’t be.
»It’s not a question of money,« says another, but he won’t say what it is a question of.
I walk and walk, but the place I want to go keeps getting farther and farther away. Each step I take pushes the city out from under my feet; the concrete shifts and slippers like a rug. I look to the horizon but the skyline will not hold. It ripples and fluctuates, spreading out, lunging skyward, blotting out sun and sea so there is no way left to navigate.
Outside a café that was once a bookstore with the same name, a group of students sit talking and laughing, taking selfies and sending them across the table to remember where they once were. Before I can approach, they gather up their things, stepping out onto the sidewalk to make way for the bulldozers that bear up the café and all the earth beneath it in one fell swoop. A crane looms and spins and just like that, drops a 30-story building in its place. The lights blaze on to the drone of a thousand generators as a watchman scowls the gleaming lobby. A clothing store lights up with the same name as the café that was once a bookstore that was once a tram stop when, as legend has it, the trams once ran. Airbrushed sketches of people push past four, five, six children selling gum and roses whose petals are trodden underfoot then promptly dug up by another bulldozer. Its blade lifts up one of the children, too, and his friends mourn for a brief moment until they see him approaching from afar; his face has changed somewhat, but he wears the same scars, the same frayed sweater.
The cityscape shudders and shifts like a monstrous insect cracking out of its old cocoon, stepping out unrecognizable to its old self. The sound of progress is indistinguishable from the roar of war: war to the east and south, to the west and north. A family on the sidewalk begs, »Please sir, just a loaf of bread.«
The sir in question gives a triumphant look, like he has finally in that moment gotten to dig up and bury his own past, building a gleaming high rise of oblivion in its place, oblivion that looks like brightly-blazing windows from which no one looks out to see brethren or same. »As I once begged for bread but rose from the ashes,« he says, adjusting his tie. »So shall you.«
Before I can move, a crane squeals and drops a beating room around me inside which grinding bodies all flicker and change. A man I thought I knew is someone else; a woman I recognize gives under my touch like melting plastic. Everything pulses; the DJ has mixed the sound of bombs into the beat; bodies bounce like glass shaking in an explosion; dancers pop pills guzzled by heart-eating militiamen and whoot out »revolution!« – their faces straining for a joy that lives elsewhere.
On the far wall they have placed a frame around the city’s last remaining bullethole, cut up and moved with the stone around it by a famous decorator who was flown in from abroad for the job. I approach it with reverence, as one does nostalgia.
I put my eye to it and look through. For a moment, I can imagine I’ve arrived.
For a moment I inhabit this city that never stops inhabiting me.