They Blew up The House: Damascus Syria Diary April 2012

They Blew up The House: Damascus Syria Diary April 2012

The electricity has been out for three hours, I sit in the courtyard watching the flame of a candle flicker, the sound of shelling has stopped but intermittent gunfire still sounds from a few streets away, nothing unusual these days, I try to read but the candle light is not enough, I don’t want to use the LED light as I don’t know when the power will return, I may need the precious light, same for my phone and computer so I just listen to the gun shots and watch the strange shapes the candle casts upon the wall, I can hear my neighbor’s preparing food, the clink of cutlery on plates, the normality of dinner being prepared while a battle is being fought just down the road, I go to lay down, am not tired but bored and maybe I will be woken by the electricity returning.
As soon as I close my eyes the sound of an explosion very close, the house trembles, my heart jumps, I lay still for a second then go to the courtyard, it’s very quiet, all of a sudden more bursts of shooting this time also very close, as always I look to the sky, I can’t see out from my house and can really only gauge things by sound, the shooting only last a few seconds, quiet again, soon I can hear activity in the streets outside, am tempted to go and investigate but I know it’s not a good idea, I sit and wait, it stays calm for a while, then the ping of the fluorescent tube stuttering back to life and the neighbors kids clap as the power returns, I settle down and watch the TV.
Its maybe an hour since the explosion and I hear Raslan running crying along the alley, he’s about 14 years old and wouldn’t look out of place on a farm, a big lad with ruddy cheeks and hands like shovels, he lives next door and hangs out with his friends around the neighborhood, I wonder what has upset him, the explosion earlier is still on my mind.
The doorbell rings, Its Ahmad from next door, he speaks English but we rarely say much more than hello to each other in passing, it’s odd for him to visit unless he wants something, he asks if I heard the explosion, where was it I ask, Bab Salam, just around the corner, they blew up the house he says, twenty people killed, they blew up the house he repeats his voice getting higher, he describes the house and cocks an eyebrow when I indicate I know who’s house it is, opposition fighters crept along the river, not for the first time, shabeha he says referring to the occupants of the house, well known in the Old City for their activities supporting the regime, they have been targeted before, Ahmad is agitated and keeps repeating himself, they blew up the house, today Bab Salam, tomorrow Bab Touma, our alley is between the two ancient gates, who knows what can happen he says, I can’t quite understand his behavior, at first I thought understandably he must be scared but then I started to get the impression he was trying to scare me, I asked about Raslan, oh he said dismissively he lost his ID, I was relieved at that although losing your ID would be plenty of reason to cry in Syria especially these days, am I leaving Ahmad asked, no plans I said, not unless I really have to I told him as I walked him to the door.
The next day I talked with friends about the explosion, Ahmad’s version was typically exageratted, the death toll was one or two not twenty.But his high pitched tone was still ringing in my hears long after the sound of the explosion, they blew up the house, they blew up the house.
April 2012