Literature & Languages

  • Issue 119 / September - October 2017



    A Tale of Two Ends

    Salma Hany Abdel Fattah

    My pen is heavy and my words are messy; is the world I know gone already? I miss the rhythm of listening to predictable news and the certainty of a life that was once secure. I miss staying up for no reason and feeling the weather change, declaring a new season.


    What stories are still there to be told? Everything in my life is on hold. Tomorrow is a big promise to behold; I’d rather speak of how I feel extremely cold or how, in just a few months I became so old. How did my memories fade into complete despair? That is definitely not fair!


    I fled home for no reason, except staying would put me in danger. My status is unknown and I have no right to use a phone. Who will I call? Nobody is left at home.


    I have given up standing with high respect to peep behind people’s necks; I’d rather disappear before anyone notices that I am here. Will I cross the sea in hopes of a better tomorrow, so that I might be able to see? Or will I stay to struggle and get sympathy?


    How did my heart become so bold? Is it because of my neighbor who died in a boat? Because of the bomb that smashed everything on the road? I wish this was a dream or just one more bad thought.


    I did not want to interrupt other people’s daily lives. I did not seek to be a burden about which everyone would speak. I wanted to help those in need rather than becoming the one who needs help, indeed. I wanted to celebrate the ‘Eid’ and have a nice photo with my friend Saed.


    I am left alone with nothing to say except that my heart still beats anyway. Should I give up on having a real life or should I continue to strive? What are my best options? To live in distortion? Why did my smile go away? Where are my friends? I still want to play. I begged my dear uncle to stay, but he left the other day. My rainbow’s colors have turned black and grey, but all I can do is continue to pray. My only hope left is my mom, who is still okay.


    I am not glad when my country’s on the news; it only means we have something more to lose. One more day apart, and I feel the aches reaping my heart. One more tear to hide. Let’s hope that everything is going to be alright: those are the words my mom says when trying to sweep our pain away. She struggles day after day; she deserves a nice holiday. I wish she knew I am by her side and that she is my only source of pride. I wish to bring her joy, for I am no longer a young boy.


    I wish to tell the world that even the finest rose will not equal the beauty of Homs, or the tasty dish of kebbah I once ate in Aleppo, my home. I miss the mountains overlooking Latakia; and, oh Damascus, the capital of my beloved Syria!


    Now I have a big responsibility; to be strong is no longer a choice. This is not an inspirational quote or wisdom I gained by reading a note. I lived a life that has given me lots of stories to be told; normal is no longer my favorite word. It is ironic how we cannot choose our world. We know we have rights, but who cares which of them has been applied? If you have not gone through my fight, how can I believe that you’re truly by my side? I am sorry but my mind is so occupied, I cannot sleep no matter how hard I have tried. I wish the facts could be clarified, and the ones responsible identified, so that peace may come upon those who died, and once and for all we can leave the painful past behind.


    Far away from home and everything once known; going day by day, the promise of tomorrow still far away… The world is watching and the war has taken city after city; my people have lost their long standing durability. Everyone can sense our insecurity, our constant instability. We try to use the maximum of our abilities to live in decency and achieve a sense of serenity.


    I am learning to live a new life, to adapt and pretend to be alive. I go to school and hide the misery inside my soul. I cannot pretend to be cool: if I tell a joke, would it make me look like a fool? I am scared to even come close to a pool, and I run away when someone is holding a sharp tool.


    Thanks to my brother, who sent us some money; we were finally able to buy some honey. I know it sounds funny, but who believed we would not have a penny? My baby sister has become so skinny; she needs to be outside when it’s sunny. I do not want to become so whiny, but we have not heard from dad; he said he would search for a better destiny. Did he commit some sort of felony?! I miss being in his company – and the delicious cake he made with my favorite brownie.


    Every now and then a stranger comes, and I get some toys and feel a new chapter might begin. The doctor who examines me is so chummy; he must have graduated from a famous academy. He always asks me questions about my family; he checks my tummy and thinks I’m funny. He tells my mom I am so bony, I should grow strong to be able to ride a pony. I think this is the same doctors’ monotony, but I can see my mom listening in agony. I hear her prayers and I secretly say, “Amin, she must be a hero from within.” She says he who waits longer will eventually win, and I believe her words because she does not sin.


    Sometimes I look at the beauty of life, contemplating the splendor of the magnificent sunrise, and I let myself dream of winning a Nobel Prize. I want to teach future generations how to become wise, so that life does not take them by surprise. Our neighbor tells me I have dreams of a big size, and they might be very hard to realize. But this is truly what keeps me alive: how would I keep going otherwise?!


    I still manage to smile. I have lots of things to be thankful for: I have a roof, a clean bed, and a lot more. I will not hide behind any door. If they steal my notebook, I will draw on a wall; if they take my pillow, I will sleep on the floor. But I will move forward because I have a lot to be looking for. This is not about me anymore; it’s about finally getting to a safe shore, and raising hope in a time of historical detour, to let people know that from our sour we have created the best velour!


    My pen is heavy and my words are messy. Is the world I know gone already? Each day’s news carries a new tragedy, and our hearts have become full of melancholy. I switch my phone off to escape the painful reality, trying to find a safe haven in a world of duality. Some live it like a party, others suffer from vulnerability. It became hard to maintain our rationality; we need to live in solidarity, stand for true values and sincere morality.


    We no longer need to suffer to understand what it would be really like. We all know what the world’s refugees have to fight, how their cause needs our efforts to be combined. It has been reaping our soul and mind, and there are no doors to stay behind. Their suffering increases each day and night, shredding families apart in plain sight, increasing the numbers of displaced people in the history of mankind. Despite all the rules created to abide, children are carried in the seaside, and we find their bodies within the tide. We lose them every day to that deadly ride, and we have become truly terrified because we all know it is not right; this very fact is hurting our pride. It has grown into a huge responsibility, shared worldwide.


    I have written my words in sorrow and pain, but I hope I will not have to write them again. I will keep on dreaming that tomorrow things will not be the same, and peace will be easier to obtain. Many hardships are hard to explain, but every effort exerted will not go in vain. We have a lot to maintain, some happiness to spread in the air, and a lot of children to entertain. I will keep on dreaming, even if I have to pretend: who said dreams are meant to reach an end? I know it has been hard for you to blend; believe me, I wish I could give you a hand. Your cause is the greatest I would ever represent, and despite everything, I will never give up on you, my friend.





    Note: This essay won honorable mention in The Fountain Essay Contest 2016 "I Am an Immigrant."

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