The Last Two Souls

I named both of his eyes: “Forever” and “Please Don’t Go” ’cause I know this kind of love; I’ve been here before. It’s good for a while, ’til he walks out the door. 

But I can’t change, even if I tried; even if I wanted to. My love, my love, my love, my love.

He keeps me warm, he keeps me warm.

Same Love – Mary Lambert

In the wilderness, we travel, you and I. We don’t know each other, we never met. We are the opposite sides of a magnet, we’re on the other sides of the globe. You’re my ice, and I’m your flame. We walk, unknowingly heading towards each other, yet pushing away from one another; and our roads stretch ahead so darkening, so puzzling, but we keep moving. 

I climb the towers of Babylon, and I call your name. I didn’t know at the time that that was your name; deep within, I just screamed it; and it became your name. 

You came through oceans; as if you’re a mystical creature; you heard my calling and you came, the last two souls on planet earth were about to collide, you didn’t know your own name, but I named you, and you answered. 

As we reach each others; and on arms length; we reach to each others with a kiss, lip on lip, hand on hand, and you drawn in my arms; and I melt in yours. We smash into each others like two shadows that merge to become one. We fall deeper into the cursed kiss; and we, so hungry for love, so thirsty for belonging, tight our arms around each others, in a deep cold corner in this world. Around us, circles of green grass is growing, trees are scratching the face of the earth again. The ruins are rebuilding; a stone jumps on top of a stone, the stones rubs each other, as our bodies rubs each others. My hand, firmly grabbing your back, squeeze water from within the mountains and it explodes like a heaven of sparkles; from within the womb of the mountains, fish jump alive and beautiful. Koi fish, just like that one tattooed on my left arm, every kiss you print on my tattoo, another Koi fish comes back to life. 

.. I hold you between my arms, and I look long and hard into your eyes: you’re my unknown lover, my one and only, my deepest secret and my only hope; you’re the dream that I didn’t dare to dream, and the balance to all my fears; you’re my partner, my brother, my father and my son. I rest my head on your shoulder, and it becomes a garden of fresh grass and gentle sun, overlooking a beach of wavy sea; from the sea, a fish is brave enough to step out, and try, and from the heart of the ocean; life comes out once again. evolution has all the letters of love in it; and our revolution over our damned bodies and souls is love read backwards. 

ImageYou keep me warm. You keep me warm. You keep me warm. you keep me warm.

My love, my love, my love, my love.

… and we create life.

As the drams calm down, and the world is becoming heavenly again, we fall into the normal, we face the routine, we fall, we die within a little; then we start our journey once again, and I find you.

… or you find me. 

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Walking in [Insert City Name]

Walking in Memphis! But do I really feel the way I feel?! They got catfish on the table, They got gospel in the air. Reverend Green!! be glad to see you when you haven’t got a prayer. Boy, you’ve got a prayer in Memphis.

Cher – Walking in Memphis 

Everything is different in Damascus, that city has its lights that dazzle you, you’re standing in the middle of the street, and you see the shinning lights glowing on the background of darkness; as you walk, they mesmerize you, and they start creating hallows of gold around them, that shines all the way across the dark blue skies. There is nothing like the skies of Damascus, they are so clear, so clean, so dark at night and so bright in the mornings. They are dusted away by angels in those wee hours when only wolves are awake. Just so you would wake up in the early minutes of sunrise; see the drop of dew sliding, like in an amusement park, on the windows and on the cold iron bars of the stairs; right next to the small plants my grandmother cherish and protect with her own life. 

Damascus is a dream that doesn’t come true but for the deserving. It’s a city of hopes and love, hiding deep within the corners of Bab Sharqi, on the rooftops of Al-Hamidieh, and in the jars of spices of Mehdat Basha. Damascus is a song only the true listeners can hear.”

— The way my boyfriend, originally from Damascus, would describe his mother city.     

ImageAleppo is driving in the middle of night, with your music loud enough to wake the dead, and enjoying a breathe of freedom. Aleppo is the guy singing for 16 hours, nonstop, those hard, untouchable, Qoudoud Halabieh, while people enjoy their Arjileh, mimicked across the world, but never the same taste. Aleppo is the city where children play peacefully and safely until late hours of nights. Aleppo is checking out the cute girl in the corner, and she checked you back. Aleppo is the bizarre taste of a first kiss, the electrifying feel of a first touch, the deep inhale as you fall in love for the first time. 

Aleppo is a lady standing on top of a tower, and her hair is long. She let it down only for the worthy, and only the worthy can climb it all the way up to the top. Aleppo is a magician that doesn’t reveal his secrets. Aleppo is a goddess standing in the middle of the desert, and surviving for the past million years.

Aleppo is the deep laughter of a child who is playing, tirelessly, pika-poo with his parents for the very first time. Aleppo is the musical noise of cars honking at me; yet, I’m lost with Aleppo, and cannot be found.”

— My friend Jay, the way she would describe her love for Aleppo. 

Alexandria is a mermaid, with blue hair, spreading her magic over the waves, and calling you to come, as you might never come back.”

” Istanbul is my sister, waiting at home, with a sweet smile, takes care of me when I’m down, hugs me when needed. We might picker, but our love is eternal.”

“I might hate Beirut, I surely cannot afford Beirut, I sometimes feel cheated by Beirut, but Beirut is my city. It’s where I’m from, it’s where I belong.” 

— Some friends I crossed paths with before. 

As I prepare myself to the next chapter in my life, getting myself ready to explore yet another city around the world, trying to see how will I fit in the big puzzle such cities provide. I hear people speak about their mother cities; and I fall in love of their versions of the cities that carried them while they were young. Mostly, I find myself joking inside of my head about the misleading concepts they have for a city they usually idolize based on childhood memories that are most probably twisted and added upon with layers of time and changes that they might actually never been real after all. Yet, like Frida Kahlo, in one of her most important paintings, I cannot help but wonder about the roots of me. Where do I see myself? Which city do I foolishly idolize. I find my answer to be void all the time. 

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The dream Frida is trying to produce here is of her, rootless, only belonging to herself, while her ideas, her relationships, her life, is growing out of her simple and shallow body; leaving scares unhealed by the time, and streams of blood that cannot be ended. 

Is it me? Am I the problem? Touring the world might have given me much, but it also took away from me the ability to delusion-alize oneself into believing in a concept of a city, where cities are merely locations on a map that are bordered according to the political and historical twists of fate. Cities are rocks, dust, water and fire gathering to create yet another meaningless corner of the world. Why does it mean so much to others, while it means nothing to me? Why do I lack the need to belong to an entity; a city, a nationality, even? I cannot figure that out. 

Cities are landmarks to the primitive notions of human needs to gather for protecting, food and shelter. Knowing that, however, do not help me understand why, this notion of belonging, is haunting me, yet again, as I’m preparing my next move away from yet another city. 

Because we have the right …

You took away my right to have a family with your traditions, with your religions, with your lies and your ordinary lives, you took away my right to be a member of a family that loves me no matter who I am, and no matter who I was born to be. 

You took away my right to enjoy telling my best friends about my love for my boyfriend, you took away the right to be out as a man who has love for a man; the right to join in the conversation without having to turn ever “he” into a “she”. The right to ask my mother for advise in my love life, to fall in her lap crying when my heart is broken. 

You took away my right to work without people looking at me from underneath their glasses, trying to figure out my sexual orientation. You took away my right to take a phone call from my boyfriend in the middle of the office, without having to run to the bathroom and whisper my “I love you” to him. 

You took away my right to walk the streets proudly holding hands with my significant other, to print a kiss on his face as we part ways heading to our work. You took away my right to introduce him to people as my boyfriend, instead of “my cousin”, “my best friend”. 

You took away my right to have a wedding that I dream of, you took away my right to mourn a breakup, you took away my right to be a human, just like you. 

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That’s why we fight now, that’s why we have the right to fight you, and your homophobia, and your ignorance, and your ugliness, that’s why we have the right to respond.

You started it, by taking away our right, we’ll demand it back, we’ll get it back, just wait and see.

Join in, blog, tweet, write statuses on Facebook, fight for your right, use the official hashtags: #LebLGBT, #DekAbuse. 

If you don’t know about the Dekwaneh incident, read more about it here: 

Lebanese official arrests and harasses gay and transgender people

 

Reinventing

I’m gonna break the cycle; I’m gonna shake up the system. I’m gonna destroy my ego. I’m gonna close my body now. I think I’ll find another way: There’s so much more to know. I guess I’ll die another day: It’s not my time to go.

Madonna – Die Another Day

 As our bodies shatter, we reassemble ourselves in all sorts of acts to recreate the glory that once was our souls. These souls, now hiding in the shadows, are waiting for the right person to put our body parts together. We recreate, we rekindle, we remove parts, we reinstall others, we redesign our faces, our feet, or big bellies, our fat thighs, our body image, and we reinvent ourselves, over, and over, and over, and over.

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I’m sitting inside the bus, getting myself together for a trip that would last around 40 hours, not knowing that the seat I got is broken, and it can never incline, which meant that I’ll be sitting like a rock statue for the next 40 hours, resulting in a back pain that I would ignore while I enjoy my first hours in Egypt, a country I visit for the first time. I was 21 at the time, I was naive and heartbroken.

I pick up the phone, and I call Hussam, a short and tearful goodbye with promises to meet merely months after this departure, a meeting that never took place ever since. As I head to Egypt, I start to think to myself, maybe it is a new beginning, maybe I will be accepted, maybe I would stand against the stream and open my arms wide, and maybe, for the first time in my life, I won’t drawn.

For a year or two, as I go through life in Egypt, I struggle, as you do, in finding my place among people, and I struggle some more with finding myself among all the places Cairo can provide you: What am I? Am I the young romantic writer destined to become a columnist one day in one of the Egyptian newspapers? Am I the new hot dude in the gay community in Cairo? Am I a journalist with a thirst to the unknown? Or am I the Syrian who is missing his country and family and wants to go back? I needed around 5 years to find out the answer to that question: That was about the time that I left Cairo.

I’m sitting inside the airplane, getting myself together for a trip I did not expect, less than 24 hours ago I was standing in the middle of Tahrir square, reporting about what is happening there, and  now I’m on a plane I did not plan to evacuate Egypt to Jordan, I thought, from my whole heart, that I will be back in Egypt in couple of weeks, which never actually happened. I call Jimmy, and we have one more goodbye, we were dating for a couple of months by then, we were getting ready to move to the next phase of our relationship, when I went out the door and I never returned.

As I sit there, in my father’s living room, with my grandmother crying and asking me to stay in Syria and never leave again, I think to myself, maybe I will be able to find my place here once more, maybe I can have friends and family and become who I really want to become, maybe I will plan my life around Syria again, and maybe this time it would work.

For six months, I went through life in Syria, I struggled to find a good home and a good life and a good job; as I’m settling into this new life, getting to know real people, and having the best relationships I had in my life, I was offered to come to Beirut for work. Was it needed? Did I really need the change in my life? Did I have to? I cannot tell, what I know is that I couldn’t say no to this job offer. I packed my back, and in less than a month, I was out of the door.

I’m sitting inside the car getting ready for the three hours trip to Beirut, worrying that the police at the borders might not like me that much and I might end up in some unknown prison, I make a final phone call to my boyfriend, who will follow me in couple of months; I couldn’t handle anymore reinventing, I couldn’t handle reimagining my life, I wanted him and  no one else, and I did not say goodbye, I did not reinvented the world around me, I decided to put my life back together.

Now, as I plan to go to Canada, I know that I’m facing the struggles of settling in yet another new country, Beirut is expensive, heartless, yet beautiful and welcoming. I’m facing the struggles I’m going to face once more when I move to Canada, but at least, for once, I’m facing it with someone I love.

Aside

The Enigma of Sex

But swimming in your world is something spiritual. I’m born again every time you spend the night.

‘Cause your sex takes me to paradise. And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause you make feel like, I’ve been locked out of heaven for too long, for too long

Locked Out of Heaven – Bruno Mars

Sex, or at least the way I’d like sex to be, is something brutally honest; something that is overwhelmingly powerful, yet sweetly performed; it’s something that ranges between prehistorical needs and futuristic values; it’s the stream that divide the world apart, yet the chain that holds the oceans together. Sex, however, is only merely something; no matter how perfect it can be, it’s only a part of a much bigger dynamic in a relationship where sex plays the role of a physical connection, yet it does not replace or even measure up to the emotional, spiritual, mental and social connections that a relationship requires.

Yet, gay people in Lebanon, and in the Arab world, pay too much attention to it; and not just “it”, but the minimum requirements of it: the most important aspect of an Arab gay man maturity is knowing the “role” he wants to play in sex: am I a top? a bottom? versatile?

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What brought me to this topic is couple of things:

Firstly, my friend Pierre is visiting from Syria, and has been living with me and my boyfriend for the past week or so. Pierre, bless his soul, is a traditional gay man from the Arabia, he is trying his best to educate himself about his sexual identity, and he has developed a good sense of that. Yet, he still result to labeling others, especially gay men, according to his perspective of their sexual preference in bed; I will admit that I am guilty of doing the same thing personally multiple times before; mostly jokingly; yet sometimes, I find myself even doing it in my own mind; this guy is a bottom for sure, this guy might be versatile and so on. I don’t like labels, and I train myself not to fall for labeling anyone; as stereotyping is the main concern of an LGBT activist in the Arab world; yet you find yourself labeling certain people with certain personal and physical trends with certain labels regarding their sexuality; while I’m educated enough to understand how fluid the sexuality of any person can be; and how changeable it is. The smartest thing I learned to do is to adapt to change; especially in our world of constant changes; so why am I not giving the same doubt to the sexuality of other people?

That brings me to the second point I have, which came from an Egyptian friend of mine, she was visiting Beirut couple of months ago when I introduced her to a lesbian friend of mine; saying exactly that to her: “This is so-and-so, she is a lesbian”. The question, which turned out to be both logical and valid in my Egyptian friend’s mind, is simple: “Why did I need to know that? Why did you tell me?” Knowing my friend, she won’t change the way she treats so-and-so based on sexuality, so, why would it matter to my Egyptian friend if so-and-so is lesbian, bisexual, straight or trans? I tried to logically explain to myself why was I labeling my own friend; and while I managed to come up with an excuse about coming out of the closet and normalizing and all that nonsense; I still felt weird about this trend in my own personality. I do point out sometimes to my friends that this actor or that singer are LGBT. Some based on true knowledge, others on pure rumors. Why do I do that? I’m not sure.

One of the main jokes of my friends is  to try to subtly, but fail miserably, find out who is the top and who is the bottom in my own relationship. I heard jokes about the matter, friends even made assumptions of their own and ran with it; which I kinda found both weird and somehow rude. I made a speech once, half drunk, how firstly, my sexual relationship with my partner is fluid and changes according to desires and needs of both parties; and secondly that my private life is called private for a reason.

Let me quote Homos Libnani on this one:

No one can be purely bottom or top. And no one can stay in a relationship where they are only perceived as far as their categories. Human sexuality is much more fluid than that, and it takes a lot of courage and commitment to accept it’s just a part of you, but not you. There are other parts to look for besides spending your life proving to yourself and around you that you’re the best bottom or the best top.

Finally, it seems to me that this problem is not limited to the Arab world alone, here is an example, of a funny, yet somehow wrong, video parody of the beautiful “Girl on Fire” song by Alicia Keys.

Be careful, this song is surely not suitable for work environmental. 

Shattered Bones

Angela: I’m afraid that I won’t… (cries) have the chance that I had with Kirk ever again.

 Brennan: You will.

– How can you be so sure?

– Because nothing in this universe happens just once, Angela. Nothing. Infinity goes in both directions.  There is no unique event, no singular moment.

– I don’t know what that means.

– It means you will get another chance.

– You promise? From your heart?

– Better. From my head.

Bones – Season 1 Episode 17 – The Skull in the Desert 

Face down on the wet ground, I scream in pain, I turn my head around looking at my foot, stuck in the metal of my bike and cracked in front of my eyes; and pulses of agony are travelling from my toes up my spin all the way to my brain. I froze in time trying to calculate the losses. I remember taking a turn on my bike on the wet ground in a cloudy morning after a heavy rainy night. I remember my fall, which took a split of a second, and my face as it goes, in the speed of gravity directly towards the concrete; my palms as they hit the ground and my body as it smashes on the road; then comes the pain; solid, colorless and constant; I am at loss of words; as I scream primitive sounds aimed at no one, I think of the worse: I just cracked my bones falling off my bike.

From nowhere comes my boyfriend, my lover, my knight in shining armor, my sweet man, my partner, my bed-mate, my one and only, my Mr. Right, my reason to smile in the morning and to sleep at night. He stands helplessly studying the matter; he doesn’t want to pull my foot from its location, stuck between the metal of the bike, fearing that he might add salt to the wound; also, he doesn’t want to leave me on the ground; he slowly pulls the bike away from my broken foot; he helps me to try and stand; but I couldn’t put any weight on my foot. “It’s not broken,” I repeat in agony, but I knew I was just telling myself lies to ease the pain.

Sitting on the side of the road, waiting for him to deliver the bikes back to where we rented them from, I look up as the sky begins to rain again; softly at first, then getting harsher and darker. I try my best not to, but with the frustration boiling inside, and the pain reaching a limit I can’t even describe; I cry.

Under the rain, I walked the same city, eight years ago, Beirut was welcoming and warm; the sounds of people partying the night away is being heard from the bars on top of buildings despite the rain. I was young and mending a shattered heart; I had a nightmare that I will die when I reach 24 of age; that’s in four years, I think to myself and welcome the thought. It was a dark period of my life.

I sat there, on a side street, under the rain, and I imagined myself in that burned, twisted car that I know all too well. I imagined myself opening its door; the passenger door that I usually open and where I usually sit while Eyad is driving. I imagined myself cleaning the passenger seat from the shattered glass, and sit there. I imagined myself putting my hand on the wheel, which is the last thing that Eyad ever touched; and feel his last moment; the panic he must have felt as he lost control of the car. The painful second as he was hit by the incoming cars on the other isle. The moment when his precious soul parted ways with his beloved body forever.

I direct my anger at myself; I started punishing myself for not talking him out of that trip; for not hiding his camera and forcing him to stay the night. I start hitting my own face with my open palm, once after the other after the other. Destructively, I walk the high road without looking; hoping that a car would sweep me and end this on-going pain that is haunting me (and will continue to do so for years to come).

Sitting on the side of the road, the frustration is building up in me; and emotional pain reaches a level I can’t handle; I cry.

“Healing takes time, you know.” My beloved boyfriend tells me, as he smiles at me while I’m in bed with a grim look on my face; looking with half a heart to the cast on my left leg, “you’ll take your time, and the bones will heal, and you’ll walk first, then you’d be able to run; and before you know it; you’ll be back on the bike again.” My dog is sleeping next to me, she rests her head on my cast. The next day, she’ll guard my leg with her own life when the cleaning lady who comes to the house tries to help me stand; she doesn’t allow anyone to touch my cast.

A month, it will take me a month to heal completely from the fall off my bike. Eight years! It took me eight years to feel for the first time that I healed completely from the loss of my love for Eyad.

But, as I woke up yesterday, Sunday, warmly tucked in the arms of my boyfriend, my man, my one and only, and as we exchange soft kisses as we open our eyes; and as I smile at his jokes and he helps me get out of bed; I think to myself: Lightening can strike twice in the same point; Because nothing in this universe happens just once, Angela. Nothing. Infinity goes in both directions.

I smile.

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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