Last night, I passed a bar I used to know on a street I used to walk down every Friday night. I was seventeen ten years ago, when Gouraud Street, Gemmayze, was the hottest gig in Beirut. I remember the place, the bartender, the DJ, the playlist of my favorite songs, and the people I built it with one Friday night after the other like it was yesterday.
Except yesterday those people and I were at a different bar, a little further down Gouraud Street. I did not know the place, the DJ, the bartender. They did not know me. But then an Amy Winehouse lookalike walked in and onto the narrow stage. With a soft voice and a guitar, she began strumming strings to a tune I recognized.
Don’t stop me now.
I knew those lyrics, and the two, three, four faces across me by heart. I knew the exact time and place we had, together, first heard that song. It played in the background to the memories we made, singing our hearts out on the bar one night. We fell in love with it and added it to the playlist of our lives.
After Queen came the Beatles. Penny Lane, strawberry fields. Rod Stewart. Wake up Maggie. Have you ever seen the rain? Billy Joel. The piano man. John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Dire Straits, and - I bow my head in shame - a little Blue. Fly by, Bubblin’. The Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake.
Our playlist grew and changed as our lives diverged, but year after year we picked it and our friendship up wherever we left them off.
We cried, laughed, sang over love, loss, life, sprawled on the kitchen floor, comforted by food and an ironic no one told you it was gonna be this way, then applied more mascara, blush, pink lipstick and went dancing, because supergirls just fly.
We rode in fast cars to get us out of here, singing this is the life. Regina Spektor, Florence and the Machine, Birdy’s come on skinny love, just last the year. We wasted time, chasing cars, counting dollars, counting stars, got drenched in storms we laughed at out loud, wishing for an umbrella. We pounded Je t’aime on out of tune piano keys, sang Mamma Mia into hairspray cans, double, triple voiced a cacophonic version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
'[…] we don't live in a single song. We move from song to song, from lyric to lyric, from chord to chord. There is no ending here. It's an infinite playlist.’
― Rachel Cohn
The Italians believe that three coins in the Trevi fountain will bring the wisher back to Rome. Last night all it took was a good playlist in good company to bring me back home. We sang about buying flower shops, houses in the South of France, rides on big jet planes and adventures in caravans before one day baby we are old. We played the soundtrack of our lives all the way to last night, the bar at which we sat, then we fell in love with a new song and added it to the playlist.
At the end of the night we walked out of the bar and back up Gouraud Street, past familiar, fading landmarks and graffiti that will probably be gone by next year. Past the two am hot dog stand, the coffee shop I used to haunt, the few neon signs I still knew. I paused at the bar I used to love and peaked hopefully in. As I did I caught fragments of melodies and lyrics that I recognized. My mother used to sing baby baby, it’s a wild world, but I would always know the words to those songs.
To the two, three, four familiar faces that walked down Gouraud Street with me, thank you for the songs to which we danced, sang, kissed, cried, got lost, came home, became. Thank you for the past ten years, for knowing and loving me. For the infinite songs on our playlist and the infinite more to come.