This was my first time smoking a VegaFina cigar. Overall, it was an okay experience. I paired it with a pilsner and smoked it while having lunch. It had a good burn and a good draw. It wasn’t what I would call an aromatic cigar, but it wasn’t like smoking newspaper either. Uncomplicated and straightforward is how I would describe it. A stronger drink like whisky or vodka would have likely made the experience a little better.
It was a hot Wednesday night, and we were having dinner outdoors at Cinco in Broummana. In a bubble of loud and bassy music, I lit the Romeo Y Julieta Short Churchill, my first Cuban cigar ever.
After the first few puffs, I took a deep breath, and it felt like I inhaled the night. It was wonderful.
Medium flavored and perfectly balanced, I smoked this cigar until my fingers burned. I paired it with Famous Grouse Smoky Black at first, and then I switched to pilsner. Both went pretty well with it.
I inhaled the night. I inhaled the night like I used to in Hamra but this time in Broummana.
The year: 2021. The month: July. Temperature: Hot. Humidity: High.
Bars and restaurants were swarming with hungry, horny, thirsty people (hedonistic automatons) as usual as if Covid-19 was already history, as if the Lebanese pound was strong and stable, as if the Beirut port explosion never happened, blah, blah, (I’m so drunk writing this) and all the brouhaha.
Cars honked at high heels and tight dresses. The valets then took those cars and parked them in parallel universes.
I inhaled the night.
I could smell the perfumes of rivals in a love triangle. I could smell the sweat of the working-class, the hard workers. I could smell garbage and sulfur.
The ghosts of the dreams and desires of my generation filled my lungs.
I needed to burn something. I needed a smoke.
The hostess took me to the table where my friends were sitting, chit-chatting, already moving to the beat.
That night, I tasted what Lebanon could have been, and I tasted my first Cuban cigar.
“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
As the electronic beats’ vibrations massaged my glutes, I smoked, and I observed the night.
I saw Beauty in a long-term relationship with Sadness. I saw Past and Present sitting on high stools facing one another, smoking cigarettes and sharing memories. There was a third stool at their table, but it was empty.
I drank. I observed. I ordered many drinks, and I drank while I observed.
Yes, well, it seemed everyone was outdoors living in a bubble of loud and bassy music as if they weren’t suffering, or mourning, or dying.
There was life. But where the music did not reach, life did not either.
Hedonists everywhere! And I was a hedonist partying like après moi, le déluge. Every now and then, one must party like après moi, le déluge.
So, I drank until everybody was drunk.
But though we were partying like free spirits, I knew we weren’t free at all. We were, in fact, afraid of freedom. We were, in fact, only acting like we were free.
Paulo Freire said it right in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. “Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly.”
“Drink Responsibly,” the sign said. (I’m so drunk writing this.)
And “It is solely by risking life that freedom is obtained,” Hegel said in one of his books. But we are not ready to risk anything. We lost everything. We don’t have the means to risk anything.
Let me tell you, the air was so humid all foreheads shined like stars.