Tadmur

A name sounding ancient runes and heritage to others, sounds nothing but burning metal rods, thin whips, and screams of agony, to him.
They recount the glory of the nations of past – their magnificent monuments – the dreaded fate that awaits. As he recounts every single lash on his naked body, every single ice cold basin he once thought would claim his last breath, every single wheel he was forced into – head to heels – rolled down the steepest ladder in the cell.
They recall their last visits, the pictures, the memories, as he recalls the dreaded morning routine, the commander’s boot at his head, the electric wire to his bone.


They mourn for the ruins that may become of ruins, and all he can think of is the rope to his throat, the strain and stinging of every single inch of his body as he was left hanging from his arms after the first ever welcome, the blood stained floors and flesh-infested walls he lived in for 17 years – often wondering whether any of it were remnants of his brother.

The word falls like a long-lost dream, a mourning whisper on their ears. But it falls like axes, knives, lashes, to his. Every letter resembled a thousand torture methods. Every syllable – the difference between his thoughts each morning: life or death.

Tadmur.

There’s no respect in leaving, only unrestrained selfish desire.

We often believe desire is something so obvious – something sugar coated with worldly pleasures we deem ourselves too holy to fall into – not realising that desire is the absent of responsibility, desire is the selfish “I can’t do this anymore” when you know you can – you just don’t want to. Desire is when breaking the heart of a person who showed you endless, ceaseless love – even when you were driving her back to her parents house at the ill advice of a heartless people – is not met with the slightest tinge of remorse or regret. Desire is knowing you took everything away from her, whilst she never took anything from you – yet it was you who threw her away – you who weren’t honest in your feelings to her – you who broke the fragile bond she fought to keep strong, just to be with you.

To save humanity – to become a scholar – you need the heart and brain of one. Breaking the heart of the one person who loved you most, at the expense of following your dreams with no strings attached is not how a scholar would act.

But words. Words fall on deaf ears. Tears fall on blind hearts.

I want to lean on someone’s shoulder and cry my pain away. I want my heart to stop throbbing. I want my wounds to disappear. But they’re just getting bigger, they’re just getting deeper.

I have one week left before it’s all officially over, and the last week feels like the first as I realise – soon – my status officially reverts. Hope left my heart long ago, and the vacuum was filled with loneliness. Stealthy, agonising, loneliness. But I’m picking myself up, my Lord – He’s picking me up.

Releasing the mind-block

Mind-block: perhaps the most common state I’ve been going through in the past three months. I sit to work, and my mind goes blank. I can’t even complete an application, or write up a brief report no longer than a couple of paragraphs – let alone translate one tiny sentence.

It’s like my mind jams then fizzes out, impacting the activity of my fingers which seem to comply to all that the mind tells it to – even when the heart is yelling something different. Sometimes it reaches a frenzy and tears explode – at times reinvigorating the system, launching a restart and making it function properly, other times destroying it even more – rendering my entire existence in breakdown mode.

I’m currently going through a mild mind-block, but I’m able to write, albeit not as much as I want to. I crave to write pages upon pages of coherent phrases on relevant topics. But that requires a certain intellectual stimuli which I lack, and until I gain it – if I do – I read. Or try to. Reading isn’t that much easier than writing when in a state of mind-block, your mind often drifts off elsewhere to places unwelcomed, secretly watching and observing, wishing it were there in the centre of attention like it once was. Or like it once believed it was. The only way to bring it back is to continuously break the truth to it – you were never ever centre of attention. If you ever were – you still would be. You never ever meant anything significant – but a fleeting infatuation by the one you rendered your better and most significant half.

I see many of my friends and acquaintances joining the club I once belonged to now that the season is here – their smiles, love-languid faces, the selfless love and honesty beaming out of every word and photo posted by them on social media – and my heart throbs. It wonders why it never felt that honest selfless love – and how it so easily overlooked it? The answer comes – because your love was selfless, your love was honest – so you thought that his was too. You overlooked everything to keep the peace and be with him. You let go of what defined you to make him happy, and when your esteem was crushed and you felt as worthless as a penny, you never pointed your finger at him, but at yourself for your complacency. You believed his finger which forever pointed the blame at you, and crushed yourself in the process. And now you’re in rebound.

You wish he knew how much you respected him. You wish he appreciated that even on the very last day – you could have spilled out everything and told everyone of the faults and the blame – of the sacrifices you made – and of all the times you kept patient because you knew he would never understand. You knew that if you tried telling him he was in the wrong, it wouldn’t be accepted well – so you kept silent and wept silently to yourself, but still loved. You wish he knew that you could have told everything. Like he did. But you didn’t. You respected him and his privacy when he didn’t. You didn’t want to cause him any hurt like he did to you. You didn’t want to play the blame game. You wanted to forgive and love and give another chance. But even then, he didn’t appreciate and slammed the door in your face with no explanation.

You thank God for saving you on one hand – and you cry to God for separating you from someone you loved because you knew he was so much more than the faults he magnified in you. You remain perplexed at your state, at him – at what happened. And all you wish for is clarity – clarity of mind and healing of the heart – so that the mind-block departs and you can get on with life, with bigger stuff that await you.

You know there are bigger stuff out there. You know your vision is long and great. And this time you won’t allow him, or anyone else to tell you that your vision is bigger than you. But you need to get up and force yourself out of this coma.

It’s been a long three months, almost. You can’t keep re-living the past. You know that you don’t want to – but when your mind wanders to that night when you were treated horribly – the night you thought would solve everything but rather destroyed everything – stop. You’re just breaking yourself. When your mind wanders to your wedding day, which the would-be second anniversary is coming up in 3 weeks – stop again. It was nice knowing him whilst it lasted, or not, but it’s not worth it. There are better times ahead. Better memories and anniversaries to look forward to. True love in all its essence awaits, now you know what fake, uncertain love feels like.

That song he once sent you “I Won’t Give Up” which made you fall head over heels for him over and over again that summer’s evening, yeah – he didn’t keep to his word. He broke all his promises even when you showed him relentless love which he claimed blew him away. But know, that God knows you’re worth it. Truly. And don’t give up on yourself.

God knows I’m worth it.

And the mind-block has lifted! All praises to the Lord.

Time

A couple of months back, when I was going through perhaps the worst period of my life yet – people told me ‘have patience Razan, time will heal’. And of course, knowing how time works – having experienced its healing process previously, I knew they were right, and believed them. It was difficult – it still is, but I knew and know that eventually – hopefully, time will heal.

The one thing people forget to mention though, is that time shows no mercy. It is ruthless. Because with time, reality strikes. With time, you have to face all the probing questions – all the courtesy-questions of those who don’t know – of all the pitiful looks when they find out. And you just have to endure it all.

With time comes the realisation that this is real – it wasn’t just a nightmare, it was a real nightmare. With time you realise truly, that you’re not going back anymore – despite your efforts, there’s no way back – they closed all the doors in your face, and so you just have to pick yourself up and strive forward.

With time the most awkward relationships and conversations are formed – everyone either want to help or don’t know what to make of it – and you end up feeling both lonely and overwhelmed. Your safe space no longer exists, it divorced itself from you, so you don’t know where to turn to anymore. With time everything you knew becomes alien and suffocating, as you struggle to figure out how to deal with it all.

Time heals, definitely, but time takes time – and sometimes time is the issue – when the problem-excuse was apparently your mismanagement of time. But mostly, mostly, time is ruthless. Time doesn’t wait.

Be gentle with me, time, please. My heart is already pierced, sore and broken, be gentle with it.

That feeling when you’re fighting a losing battle, half of you expects sore defeat – the other half blindly hopeful despite all the odds.

You tell yourself this is your last call, and despite the hurt – you can’t turn your back until you know you’ve tried everything.

You know your method isn’t most effective. You know how hard the rock you’re trying to break is, but you also know that from within the rock bursts the most sweet and beautiful water.

You know whatever it takes it’ll be difficult. But you’re hopeful – you’re ready for whatever it takes.

Then, when massacres took place – we remembered, recorded, memorised every little detail we could hold on to. Our lives were a passionate soliloquy of ‘lest we forget’ and ‘justice will be served’, stamped with dates – March 15, March 18, April 19, May 25.. – sealed with relentless hope. Before we knew it there were too many dates coming in, too much for the ink to keep up with – some were scribbled in haste, others missed out. Ink running on slow supply fast restocked in alternative red. A once coherent legend turned blotchy, incoherent tragedy.
The details escalated, the numbers escalated, the outrage didn’t. And the new ink, became systematically cheaper.

19 April 2011, Homs. We thought it was the beginning of the end.

“They’re killing us Razan, massacre – tell all the people.”

“They died, my friends are martyrs – my best friend was killed. I shouldn’t have got away, I should have stayed with them. I should have died with them.”

Sighting Hope

The sheer irony which overcomes us on the eve of what we would call ‘Independence Day’ in Syria, where more colonisers stand on our soil today than ever before, infiltrating, killing, destroying what was once the cradle of civilisation. Bright youth and leaders of our generation are being annihilated left, right and centre; only today Abu Yazan al-Halabi was pronounced a martyr after being deeply wounded in a suicide attack by ISIS. A man who had left the safety of his residence in another country, and a brilliant job – just to join his fellow brethren 4 years ago in genuine revolution. In moments of weakness I give into despair over our complex situation – the mind stops functioning as I desperately try to sight a light at the end of the tunnel, and fail; not considering that perhaps the light is simply round the corner – as it was in 1946. Our nation overcame oppression and colonisation in 1946 and will do so again. It took us 26 years, but we got there. Perhaps it’ll take us another 26 years, but we’ll get there – definitely. And one day, inshallah, we’ll celebrate two Independence Days in the embrace of our watan.