Andrea, 24 years old, He/His
Andrea grew up in a cocoon of love, in symbiosis with his mother, on the second floor of a heritage Beirut house, with stunning views of Beirut’s port. Of his mother, Andrea says, “She sees the beauty in what I do and the kindness that is in me. Not only does she offer me her unconditional support to live my homosexuality in a dignified and proud way, but she enthusiastically attends drag shows during gay evenings.”
The period surrounding August 4, 2020 is one of curfews and of a strange energy floating in the air, as if something important was about to happen, recalls Andrea. Usually, he’s the one who goes out every night, but had decided to stay at home that evening, while his mother who never leaves the apartment had gone to spend a few days with her sister.
Alone in his room overlooking the port, Andréa placed himself in front of the window, a bottle of water in hand, to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean. He did not hear an explosion. He remembers a strong vibration that lifted him up and suspended him in the air. Hovering as such, time came to a standstill and Andrea wondered if he was dead. He knew he was still alive when he found himself on the ground, with wounds all over his body. Bleeding profusely, he ventured out into the street to find help. What he found there was a vision of apocalypse: mutilated bodies, screams, overturned cars. Andrea set off on foot to the nearest hospital that would treat him. At the first hospital, he quickly figured out that he had no chance of being cared for there, and he promptly headed to the next one. On the way, he frequently fell, fainted and then got up and continued on his quest. Andrea speaks of a spiritual force that guided him. At the third hospital, he collapsed and laid down on the ground by the entrance. No one extended any care to him because, he tells us, he was not hurt badly enough. His body was still whole while others had lost an arm or a leg. Andrea kept losing a lot of blood and finally fainted. A medical team bandaged up his wounds but the veins exploded and it became impossible to stop the bleeding. Called urgently, a surgeon decided to operate on him on-the-spot with no anesthesia, for a total of 140 stitches. During the operation, the images of the burning neighborhood kept streaming in his consciousness, along with his ruined apartment, his mother who did not know where he was, and images of his past which no longer existed.
Watching the whole community volunteer to clean up the streets and remove the debris from the houses made him painfully aware of how helpless he was with his inability to land a hand. As soon as he was able to leave the hospital, Andréa became involved in a mutual aid association for LGBTIQ people who have lost their homes and who are not accepted within their families. This association also extends assistance to domestic workers who have found themselves on the street, their employers no longer being able to pay them, or simply refusing to help them out. Meanwhile, the pandemic was raging. Sanitary restrictions and fear prevented Andrea and his mother from reuniting. Having found some living arrangements and with his wounds healed, Andrea started to grapple with the trauma of what he had experienced. He knows that he had healed physically because the pain was gone. He thinks he was recovering psychologically by investing himself in humanitarian aid, but the fear, the rage and the emotional pain were still there.
The total loss of the house, Andréa’s injuries and sufferings, the powerlessness to help or change the situation made the mother spiral into depression. She then attempted to snap out of it with the use of a mixture of antidepressants and alcohol…
When Andrea is asked what he needs to improve his daily life, he answers without hesitation that he could live with his scars and manage to earn a living, but what he wants more than anything else is to bring his mother back into his life. She is currently in a private clinic being treated for addictions and related problems, at a cost of approximately USD 1,500 per month. Without work, without a home, without access to savings in a failed banking system, they continue to pay the rent on the destroyed apartment just to preserve their right of return.
In the ransacked apartment, abandoned by all authorities, insurance, and associations (including the landlord and the government), a tree is noticeably growing on the balcony. Among the debris, a blonde wig and high heels stand as a reminder of the glamour of a bygone past.
On the wall in Andrea’s room, this prophetic graffiti written by a visiting friend, 2 years prior to the explosion, reads: “Every challenging experience is a learning opportunity.”
6 months rent, transport, food, clothing: CAD 6,000
Furniture and appliances: CAD 5,000
Medical expenses for the mother: CAD 5,000
Total: CAD 16,000