Fractures of a Revolution

Baby I love you, but if you wanna leave take good care,
hope you make a lot of nice friends out there,
but just remember there’s a lot of bad,
and beware, beware,

oh baby baby it’s a wild world… 

Cat Stevens – Wild World

March 2012:

I call my Pierre, one of my best friends, on the phone again. It’s a Saturday afternoon and we were supposed to go to some park in Damascus to play cards with the gang. That, however, changed that morning when we heard the screams of protesters down the road from my house. He and another friend went out to join the protest, I told them not to.

We hear another shot, then a the sound of a big explosion. His phone is off.

I call him again, and rush to the door with my phone on my ear. It’s the other friend, they got lost in the crowd, he says, and he has no idea where Pierre is. He jumps to the window to try and see when we hear another explosion. I grab him by the ankle and scream at him to stay down. We sit, all five of us, on the floor of my living room. Hassan is asking us to pray to God, his voice is cracking, the agnostic inside me shivers, then gives up and start to pray.

We hear a loud noise; then the sound of a machine gun. His phone is off.

I call him again, while calculating in my head the odds of the possibility of regime troops storming houses in my area; we are five people from five different cities in Syria; we’re all guys. We’re a sitting duck for them to consider us a “terrorist group” and shoot us on sight. I keep my thoughts to myself, but our neighbor calls my roommate and tells him the same thoughts. My roommate is freaking out now. “Where would we go?” he asked me, and I thought loudly: “to the roof!”

I look through the small crack in my window, I see regime troops walking down my street with big knifes in their hands. His phone is off.

I call him again, I step outside our house front door, I look up and down the stairs before I start moving silently towards the building gate; opened like welcoming arms, I want to close it, limiting the possibilities of armed troops thinking of running inside, I start moving it slowly, trying not to get the attention of one of the armed troops walking down the road. “Go inside, you son of a bitch!” one of them screams, and I close the door shut and run back to our home. Close the front door behind me and lean on it breathless.

I slowly slide to the floor as the fighting rages outside, his phone is off.

Pierre, a month or two after this mess, got shot in the leg repeatedly while protesting back in his hometown limiting his ability to walk and leaving ugly scares on both of his legs. When he picked up this time to tell me that a family hosted him when troops stormed the square he was protesting in, my only thought was to curse him repeatedly, then to ask him to come home. “Just come home when you can, alright?!”

May 2012:

I woke up before you, my love, and watched you for an hour as you breath calmly next to me in my bed. I grab my mobile and start playing games, trying to adjust the way I’m sleeping so I snuggle up against your body, while having the freedom to play my silly games. You wake up, and without voicing a word, you plant a kiss on my back. I smile and continue my games. Hours goes by, and we’re leaving the realm of sleep to the brightness of the morning.

“I’m hungry,” I tell you, and you smile, “we have so many friends sleeping over from yesterday and we don’t have any food in the fridge, I’m thinking of going down to buy some ready-made Lava peas for breakfast.”

You tell me to stay, pull me down when I try to get up, I laugh while hearing the sounds of my friends waking up around the house. One is opening the bathroom door, with its door’s announcing sliding sound, another is asking a third how he likes his coffee; and a fourth is opening the windows in the livingroom where he slept on the couch. for 20 minutes, we discuss the idea of me getting food, we get into one of our small arguments where we’re both saying the same thing but we want to say it in different ways; we laugh at ourselves and I pull the window open, on top of our bed, while saying that it’s “getting hot in here.”

Next thing we know, you and I are on the floor, with dust and dirt coming from the opened window that its glass would have cracked and fall on us if I did not open it a minute ago. It takes us a moment to realize that there was an explosion downstairs from our building. It takes us a day or two to realize that it was right outside the doors of the lava peas shop I was going to go buy breakfast from right around the time of the explosion  if you did not stop me.

In the afternoon, and after a long morning of clashes between people we don’t know and people we don’t care about. Hunger was the name of the game in my house; no food in the fridge, six hungry men are sitting aimlessly drinking another cup of tea to keep awake; I gather my strength and decide to go and find food outside. “It’s calm outside now,” I tell you, and you grim. “I will come with you,” you insist, and I trick you to stay home and run like the wind outside. When I return, with food and bread, I see tears in your eyes; you punch me in my stomach and you tell me you love me for the first time.

June 2012:

As we are preparing to go to sleep, we hear that explosion, it’s only you and I in the house. We have decided to sleep in the livingroom watching TV, was it “Arab Got Talent”, or “Arab Idol” that we were watching? I can’t remember now. I just remember sleeping under a soft cover, I remember the soft touch of your hand upon mine while we’re watching the show. I remember looking at you and smiling as you absentmindedly smile to something on TV.

The explosion, far away from my house this time, freaks us out, and the insured clashes after it keeps us crawling from the livingroom floor to the bathroom floor in fears of a mortar bomb that might hit our wall and kill us both. We were scared; we tried to laugh it off.

Two hours of heavy clashes, two hours of unstoppable shooting outside. We didn’t know, at the time, that a guy with a machine gun decided to use our very own balcony to shoot at the rebels from. We just found, in the next day, the signs of him jumping from the street to our balcony on the first floor, and the empty bullet carriers on the floor of the balcony around my flowers. We had all the doors locked from inside, including the door of the balcony, and we turned off all the lights in the house when the clashes started.

That night, I spent the night awake, assuring you every time you wake up to the sound of the clashes that it’s “only a dream” and tell you to go back to sleep.

The next morning, we walked in Qudsiya, the streets are empty, the place is deserted; no one on the balconies, no shops are opened, no cars in the streets. Suddenly, we arrive at the main square of the city, and we see the Free Syrian Army fighters, covering their faces with mask, sitting around drinking tea and laughing; we saluted them quietly and they replied the morning greeting. Every wall has the flag of the revolution painted on it; every tree, ever burned down car.

We walk down the street, and a man tells us to go back, “unless you don’t value your lives.”

We tried to go from a side street, but a man told us that he saw a sniper there. a group of men are standing in the center of the street with the supposed sniper, all of them looking up and searching for him, as if they are saying to him “if you’re really a sniper, shoot us.”

After we begged a car to take us outside the city, we looked back and we saw the street we were in being shelled from tanks nearby; we saw the explosions we used to see on TV right in front of our eyes, we saw the big splash of dust flying in the air; we saw death.

That was my last night in Qudsiya.

July 2012:

As I visit Qudsiya for the last time in my life, I get in the city with a car who accepted to take me for a huge sum of money, to pick up my clothes before I head to Beirut. The streets are emptied out, the power cores are on the floor, dancing like a snake. The silence is falling upon the city and not a soul, except for me, is there.

I empty my closet in my bags, and head out. On the other side of the street, an old lady stands on her balcony, she used to look at my flowers, and me look at hers, every morning when we drink coffee silently from opposite balconies. We never said a word, but today she simply asked me: “You’re leaving?”  When I nodded with a yes, she told me to “take good care, everyone is leaving my son.”

I asked her, why she did not leave as well; and her only reply was: “and go where?”

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Samir S (@GayJordanian)
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 22:31:36

    Brother, you have put all my problems in perspective. I can’t even begin to imagine how tough this must have been for you, and how my words can do little to change the hurt you’re feeling inside. I am sorry you had to go through this.

    Reply

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