When do you belong to a city?

Mishka Mojabber Mourani

When do you belong to a city?
When does a city belong to you?
Is it when you switch three languages in one sentence?
Is it when the small shop across the street still sports a hand-painted sign?
Is it when the shop next to that is owned by the sister of your husband’s cousin’s neighbor?
Is it when you check out how many walls protect you from the outside whenever you enter a new space?
Is it when you can still see the place in the wall that the shell pierced twenty years ago?
Is it when you still miss the pictures of your parents’ wedding that were destroyed in the fire after the shelling in 1989?
Is it when you can no longer see the sea from your mother’s balcony?
Is it when the new building blocks the trees from the Sursock palace?
Is it when you miss the street noises and traffic jams?
Is it when you learn the potholes in your street?
Is it when you learn the potholes in your sidewalk?
Is it when you learn to walk the city without sidewalks?
Is it when you forget that you can call the police station if your neighbors are still partying at 3 in the morning?
Is it when you miss the call to prayer from the minaret downtown?
Is it when you realize that you do not know your neighbor’s name in a new city?
Is it when your neighbors brought you bread every day so your father wouldn’t risk being kidnapped as a Christian in “predominantly muslim West Beirut”?
Is it when the jasmines entice you with their fragrance in the early evening?
Is it when the sea promises safe haven?
Is it when the lightning against the horizon is God’s own fireworks?
Is it when your balcony is bathed in sunlight like no other?
Is it when no other city can ever be home?