Festooned with scars, dirty walls, silence and drillers, on the side of the corridor, a happy cockroach that’d died with a smile on his moustache, a hallway, a room, then a hallway then another room… We went, my friend and I, she a professor of religious studies, I a professor of philosophy, festooned with curriculum vitae that were all but dead… we went, we came, we saw, and we were definitely conquered – by the smile of a Lebanese University receptionist/thinker/bureaucrat/humorist… which is all the same in certain administrative dictionaries.
We came to say: “here we are! We wish to work, and there are open positions for next year.”
He looked askance and smiled, in disbelief: “you must be joking, his smile said!” He wondered… no he guessed that we had come from afar – France for me, Canada for her : it must’ve been the white teeth, or maybe the blond hair and high heels, or the smile, the honest one coming from places unknown to the humdrum of Lebanese marshes of confessional appointments, favour currying without the rice – oh does it burn! – and livid underpinnings of institutional infrastructure.
“Your field?” “Philosophy” “Religious studies” – “What?” In Lebanon? Religion? What? This is a confessional country not a religious one – sod the individual!
“Well I can do languages” “Wella… I can do Art, can’t I?” Indeed, what difference does it make? And suddenly another smile, a lisp, the walls were beginning to crumble, breadcrumbs and coffee beans danced on the floor, another cockroach jumped with happiness, and the ants kept working, while somehow we’re under the floorboards – with a smile.
We got lost again… “and the documents?” we asked. “Ah, you can’t have the application out but you can have the list of documents”. The application, how could we ever think of it leaving the premises?!!! It would miss all the dross that had covered its meaning for over 70 years now… The documents, well, as usual, all that can discourage any hopeful pretender – all please! All your academic life on paper, and may the thousands of pages prevail! But we don’t mind – the tree is full of trees. In fact, thanks to the Lebanese university’s close collaboration with the ministry of the environment, all new building projects have been put on hold or annulled, to be replaced by reforesting projects – may God bless this holy land.
We took the lift to the cloud-floor, we jumped out and fell back laughing on our cloud: thank God for the few remaining wine estates in this land.