Damascus The Beginning of the End (pt4)

In the cold light of morning one thing seemed abundantly clear; I was in the shit.
I decided to pack up my things and prepare the house for my leaving, after ten years not such an easy task, I had already started re-arranging things in the hope of renting one of the rooms, several people came to look at the house but nobody wanted to deal with the militia checkpoint outside, the house was still only part restored, my builder, Abu Joudy’s work clothes still sitting on the top of his step ladder, he had long since left the country, Kurdish and without Syrian ID he found life difficult enough even before things went pear-shaped.
The artillery continued to fly overhead, some days it was relentless, very occasionally rebel mortars would fly back in the opposite direction, and several times they came close, bullets would zing overhead sometimes too but generally I felt I would have to be very unlucky to be hit, maybe I just preferred to think that.
I updated my friends and some family on my situation, few people could understand why I could not just leave, it’s simple, my name was listed on the computer at the borders as being wanted and I would simply be detained or sent back to Damascus.
Usually in Syria problems like this can be resolved with “wasta” or connections, over the years I must have built up some, not so very long ago I had a very friendly chat with the Syrian first lady and enjoyed tea with Presidential adviser Bouthania Shaaban, I went through my phone and collection of business cards, many had left, some had defected to the opposition, who could I actually trust? Eventually a friend suggested she knew a guy who smuggled people out of the country and I should give him a call.
I arranged to meet Wassem (his real name) at Trattoria restaurant in Shaalan, it was early evening and already the streets were becoming deserted, I sat on the terrace as I had done so many times before with friends, Wassem came over to me, wearing a pink or was it peach Lacoste t-shirt and a big ben size wrist watch, he didn’t want a drink just the details, I explained, he seemed to think it would be no problem, at least once a week he drove a car over the border with fugitives such as myself to Beirut.
Wassem I was soon to learn worked for Syrian intelligence, the Moukabarat, in most cases the not very secret secret police, this was an interesting turn of events, so I thought if Wassem is working for the very same people who are investigating me perhaps I can just pay him to remove my details from the computer-allowing me to leave legally and not ruining any prospect of return etc, So I left my fate in the hands of wide boy Wassem.
The only other option otherwise was to visit State security branch 235, I felt I would be okay and that my British passport might just save me from the horrors that have befallen so many that have been taken there, I had listened to chilling first-hand accounts from so many Syrians over the years, feel free to search Human Rights Watch and Amnesty etc to read brutal accounts of what goes on, I was prepared to face a short detention if I had to and deportation but more than that does not bare thinking about, a friend who was also expecting to be taken had told me she had quit smoking in preparation for the long stay and cut her nails back so they could not be pulled out, looking back I should have been biting mine to the extent there would be nothing left but somehow I still remained cool, and if I needed any other reason not to visit the opposition forces were regularly attacking the building, I didn’t trust Wassem but left him to see what he could come up with.
Could things get any worse I wonder, well apparently yes it seems they could.
My faithful Macbook decided now would be a great time to retire, it was not so old but each tech guy I spoke to said the same thing, it was fucked. Cash was running low now and although I had found a guy who made regular trips to Beirut with a pocket full of cash-cards to extract cash from working ATMs buying a new laptop was going to be a struggle, inflation was now rampant, I had to pay Wassem and I had to eat.

Deserted Hamadiya Souk
Deserted Hamadiya Souk