An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine:
I come to the museum to be by myself in the world; I am out of the apartment but not in a crowd. It’s one of the rare spaces left in Beirut that is not plagued by background music. In the supermarket, along the corniche, in hospitals, on the street, in stores, elevators, everywhere in the city, insipid music erupts from tiny nooks to scramble and deaden Beiruti brain waves—a catastrophe to rival the civil war, if you ask me. In the museum, I am able to think. In one of his novels, the rancorous and ever ornery Thomas Bernhard has a character who sits three mornings a week on a settee before the same painting. Tintoretto’s Portrait of a White-Bearded Man, at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, because the room has the ideal temperature for thinking, a constant eighteen degrees centigrade maintained all year round to preserve the canvases. I don’t know what the temperature in my museum is, but it’s pleasant.
People, visitors, are beginning to crowd me out. I sincerely believe that I’m going to be crushed, mashed to a pulp, as if I am in a mortar and the crowd is the pestle. As you know, I avoid assemblages, eschew accumulations of people. I’m reaching the point when I’ll no longer enjoy spending slow time in here.