I Must Find the Garbage bins.
They are green, and I can't miss them.
I park the car next to the "Saydeh" church in the district of Achrafieh and I decide to visit the Virgin Mary before I head to my adventure.
The church is drowning in the dark except for a few candles.
I feel safe in church. Especially when there is no one around.
That way I get to keep Mary all for myself.
"I want to fall in love".
I whisper to her as I bend forward and kiss her painted face in one of the paintings.
"Let me live a different story this time, Mary", I plead as I quietly leave the church.
I walk slowly up towards the designated street. It's kind of dark and there's no one around.
I must find the garbage bins.
They are green, and are probably filled ...well...with garbage.
Suddenly I catch a glimpse of the shadow of a man. He is tall and is wearing a "Abaya". He looks frightening somehow, so I decide not to ask him for directions. A young man is standing aimlessly on the side of the road.
"I'm searching for L'appartement", I tell him in a high pitched voice feigning confidence.
It's too dark in the small street and I suddenly wish I hadn't accepted a 7 p.m. interview with the owner of the cultural space "L'appartement".
"If you don't know where the space is, can you tell me if there are green garbage bins somewhere here?".
He seems even more spaced out than before.
"What are you searching for?", a deep voice asks from behind me. I swiftly turn around.
It's the old man with the "Abaya".
I can't figure out his facial expression in the dark, but he seems regal and not in the least bit frightening now that he is standing closer to me.
I tell him about the cultural space.
He slowly points out at a faraway building.
I sigh. Finally.
I make my way towards it, and standing opposite it are the green garbage bins am desperately searching for.
"We don't have a huge neon billboard with the name of the place. It's opposite the green garbage bins. You won't miss it", the owner Carla Dib Keyrouz told me earlier over the phone.
I head inside the old building.
It's so old I can actually feel the memories of the tenants swivel over my head.
I go down the stairs only to find an open door and music swimming out of it.
The cultural space where it's okay, even mandatory, to act like you're home.
Low lights welcome me and I suddenly find myself...Well, at home.
I want to move in and live for the rest of my life here.
The apartment is filled with tens of rooms with different identities, and yet, all have intimacy as their large title.
The rooms are filled with artistic objects and paintings and mirrors.
It's like I walked into heaven.
There's a bar opposite the main door, and behind it, a kitchen.
The music is kitsch and not loud. There's just enough rhythm to create a cozy ambiance.
This cultural space has multi-functions as I am about to discover.
It's a pub, a cafe, a work-space, a gallery for upcoming artists, an atelier for people who want to get in touch with the artist lurking somewhere behind layers of fear.
Each Wednesday, we are all invited to color the night away. Or to sculpt our dreams alongside strangers who share our love for coloring and sculpting, not caring if we are amateurs or stars in our own right.
Oh! man. I want to move in.
Artists of all kind display their works everywhere. Even fashion designers have their naked display – models all ready for their creativity.
Two girls are busy chatting the early evening away on the balcony.
It is ornamented in such a way, I really want to move in.
Or at least, adopt the place as my work – space. I could write my life away in one of the rooms. In spring or in summer, I'd hide on the ornamented balcony and spy on the outside world through the trees as I dive deep into my inner world.
In this corner, local bands play their hearts out and entertain the guests who treat L'appartement as if it's their own apartment.
In this room, dancers, actors, students, find their refuge and their training space. As soon as you open the door a huge Mirror welcomes you with a sign written on top of it :"Breathe".
The delicious smell emanating from the kitchen propels me back towards the bar.
I catch the glimpse of the saliva – inducing sandwiches prepared for the guests.
Too bad I was diagnosed with Gluten intolerance.
I suppose I have to settle for the beautiful, inviting smell.
Carla Dib Keyrouz and her husband Karim sure know how to treat their guests.
There's a small sign at the bar with a "Welcome Home" note, and another bigger one with a "Create the things you wish existed".
People are entering the place one by one. They all smile when they enter L'appartement.
I keep giggling and taking pictures.
The neighbors like the space so much some of them pass by from time to time to say hello.
The fact that it is located in a residential area adds to its charm.
Lovers choose the space for their early dates.
The owners and workers follow up on the love stories that are born in L'appartement.
The menu is printed on the outside leafs of brown envelopes. Visitors can put their suggestions inside them.
Carla compiles the list of music in the space. She puts CD's on display for guests who wish to take the ambiance home with them.
The idea started after Carla had the habit of inviting people to her place Once a week to what she called "Creative Wednesdays". For four years friends and their friends passed by to color the evening away. The young gorgeous woman needed a place to belong to in Beirut. She had been living abroad and the city did not offer a space that reflected her bohemian and artistic nature.
She bought art supplies and the people came visiting every Wednesday to draw and mix colors.
The group kept getting bigger and bigger.
Then she met her husband. And love bloomed.
Together they discovered that they loved to create Art together. Sometimes they'd sit until 4 A.M. coloring the night away.
And then they realized that in fact they needed to create a space they wished existed.
"It all came from the heart", Carla says as we smoke a cigarette next to the balcony I am so in love with.
They worked on all the details. Big and small.
And Carla moved the Wednesday night ritual from her house to L'appartement.
And this simple and naturally healthy space was born.
"It doesn't have attitude", remarks Carla. She adds, "This is the first time I feel I belong somewhere".
It was important for the couple who lived abroad for many years before returning to the country, "To create a space that resembled us".
The space hosts a bedroom for International bloggers, writers, journalists, who treat the place as their Bed And Breakfast haven.
As we enter the bedroom, I find myself imagining a story taking place there... Suddenly, I am a writer. A famous and mysterious writer. With secrets that I carry with me everywhere i go. Am busy chronicling my life away inside the walls of this minimalist room with its natural charm...Perhaps I am hiding from unseen enemies...
Dreamers and people who never belonged anywhere have a certain magic to them.
They also have a magical ability to find each other.
I slowly get out of the old building with its ageing memories and there is the green garbage bins staring gloriously back at me.
It's different outside.
It's too real.
Perhaps this is part of the charm of L'appartement.
The fact that it makes you feel as if you left the real world and have hid in a colorful bubble.
A bubble where it's okay if you are different. A dreamer. someone who doesn't belong.