A self-conscious trip to the supermarket

TO BUY (quickly)”: water / coffee / batteries / chocolate / ink / candles (a big stock) / canned food / bread / picon cheese / toilet paper / radio powered by batteries / matches / black felt pens / rolling paper / milk (still consumable) by Mazen Kerbaj. View more of his work.

I finally went to the supermarket.

I have been dreading it … didn’t want to see empty shelves. Didn’t want to see people queuing.

What I did see: shelves beginning to empty. A priest buying a lot of beer. Long lines.

I have never been so self-conscious buying food before. My pride would not let me overstock. I saw long life milk. My hand reached out for a bottle, and then another, and then a third. As soon as I saw them in my trolly, I took one out and put it back on the shelf, and then the second, and finally the third. I did not buy milk. I was so self-conscious about it. I thought to myself, better leave it for a mother who has kids to buy it.

I ended up buying strange things. Things I was worried I may not find in the country again. I bought a bottle of Triple Sec. so that i can make cosmopolitans for my friends when they eventually do start coming over to visit again.

I bought pesto in a jar. I know it will soon become a luxury item. I bought two small jars.

I bought sanitary napkins. The ones I like. I never want to get stuck with those really thick 1980s bulky ones. I always used to see them in my cousin’s bathroom when we used to visit Beirut in the ’80s. They remind me of war.

I bought the shampoo i like. I don’t want to end up using that crappy generic kind that comes in huge plastic bottles and is either fluorescent pink or green. Looks radioactive. It reminds me of Beirut in the ’80s.

I bought smoked almonds. Two cans.

I bought more pasta. Yuck.


I have been getting some beautiful emails … about love and compassion. Thank you so much … people I have never met before … new friends. So, I got to wondering, if there are so many beautiful people out there, why is there war?

How can this equation be possible? That there are so many beautiful people out there, but yet, there is so much war.


It is so hot. Now that our “refugees” have gone, my husband keeps walking around the house in his boxers. I tell him to put some clothes on and his reply is, “What for? we don’t have any neighbors anymore. They are all gone. Who is going to see me?”

He he. He’s right. So, I let him off the hook.


Beirut in the ’80s. I feel like I am 10 and 30 all at the same time.


We are almost up to one million refugees now.

Israel invaded the south of Lebanon. They are on Lebanese soil now. They are attacking villages, one after the other.

Hizuballah continues to fire into Israel.

Israel continues to fire into Lebanon.

Civilian targets are still being hit. Today a hospital was hit. So were ambulances.

What is this war? Why is this war?

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Zena el-Khalil is an installation artist, painter, curator, and cultural activist. She is the co-founder of the art collective, xanadu*, that is based in NYC and Beirut. Her blog, documenting her writing from Beirut, is located at http://beirutupdate.blogspot.com/.