Damascus The Beginning of the End (pt5)

A Syrian fighter jet screamed overhead, the roar of its engines unable to keep up with its speed, it turns into the sun, the light glinting off the fuselage, I imagine the pilot having to shade his eyes, the jet dives and dispatches its load, a plume of black smoke rises from the Damascus suburbs, the jet disappears but I know in a few minutes it will return, it’s a ritual, the circle of death.
I rarely sleep through the night, the sound of automatic gun fire disconcertingly close, the sound at night travels easily, it’s never as close as I think, then again sometimes it’s very close, usually rebels attacking checkpoints, often brief firefights but just enough to keep my senses too alert to go back to sleep-oddly though I can nap easily through the sound of daytime heavy shelling.
Most days my routine would be to walk through the Old City and out through Hamadiyya Souk, cross Merjeh Square and onto Pages Café in Shaalan, I would also have regular meetings with Wassem outside the immigration offices to check on progress, usually there wasn’t any, the weeks dragged on, on the days I didn’t go outside the Old City I missed car bombs, obviously it would be safer to stay at home but I refused to be bullied into being a prisoner in my own home although in effect I was already under house arrest, I could not really leave the confines of the city without permission anyway.
Once my laptop had died living without electricity became considerably more bearable, the cuts could be so regular you could set your watch by them and then sometimes the power would just go off and not come back for hours and hours. On one occasion I had been living without electricity for three days when I suddenly noticed my neighbors were enjoying TV, I stared up at their window, went outside to check my other neighbors and sure enough I was the only knob without electric, turns out the box had fused when the power had returned three days previously and I was oblivious.
Then the gas ran out.
Sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of things, I often did, or as they say; you just cry. I didn’t cry, I made a conscious decision to stay when I had ample opportunity to leave, at no point had I underestimated the risks and consequences of my actions.
My usual buoyant sense of humor and oddly chipper mood though was shattered with a phone call from my bank in the UK, banks only ever call you when then want something and mine wanted my overdraft paid back that same day, I climbed to the roof to get a better reception, the noise from the shelling was intense and every sentence had to be repeated several times, yes they completely understood and sympathized with my predicament but business is business. Calling them back proved harder than you may imagine, I was sure having conversation with someone in my branch familiar with my account history etc would solve the issue; did I mention the absurdity of things just now? Try as I might the only people I managed to speak to using premium rate numbers were on the sub-continent, the war in Syria didn’t seem to register, the sound of bombing in the background didn’t seem out of place, I probably did lose my temper and may or may not have said things I may or may not now regret.

Merjeh Square Damascus Syria
Merjeh Square Damascus Syria
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18 thoughts on “Damascus The Beginning of the End (pt5)

  1. Oh men , your life is really adventure living and work on place we know only brave men can handle the pressure in a place you don’t know what will happen next.i really admired your gut and you are able get out . Good luck and be safe

  2. Your account of living and leaving Syria is a great story accompanied with a heavy heart. While I never lived in Syria, I visited it many times due to my Iraqi Dad’s family living there after fleeing Baghdad and the terrors that lie within.

    Syria was always a special place to me, the history, the culture and the people always made it hard to leave after the many quick trips. So when the rug was taken under the country it caused me a grief that I never felt before. Lord knows it must have been far more impact full for someone who lived in that amazing land. Your stories do not only offer perspective but a human aspect that can be lost on those who only take political jargon or a full outsiders point of view.

    Keep up the good work and keep safe.

  3. John,I cannot begin too imagine how you must be feeling. There is no logic, emotion or even common sense in situations like this. I am so sorry for the people who are stuck in this cross fire as well as a country that’s survived so much and is now brought to its knees. I don’t know how current this blog is but I hope you are safe. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you. I live in London so happy to call banks etc.for you. I never thought to ask until now bit it sounds like you are sans family there. As awful as it sounds, I hope that’s the case . ARSHIA

  4. This really is an awesome account, John. Your style is so fluid and your wry sense of humour, intentional or not, makes this such an outstanding story. I can totally relate to the absurdity of the faceless and safe person from the bank leaking through into your world where bombings are order of the day. It’s been nice to see you visiting my musings from time to time. Best wishes from the forest gods and goddesses.

  5. Your words made me nostalgic! I miss walking in Hamidiye souk, having a coffee in Shaalan… I miss Damascus! I still hope it’s not the beginning of the end but… It seems the hope has became an illusion!

  6. Compared to yours my life is downright frivolous…other than when my son was in the military in the middle east back in 2004 I’ve never actually personally known someone whose life was being threatened every day. Stay safe and thank you for visiting my WordPress blog today!

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